Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
It seems unreal but as a woman your day really does revolve around where can I go, what can I wear, can I run in these if I have too, look down don’t make eye contact, always be prepared to run, keep your head on the swivel. It feels like 70′s sometimes! I had gone away to college and in my few years there I’d been chased, followed, groped, sexually harassed and intimidated and I was at the end of my rope. I was young and didn’t understand so I began to blame myself. What am I doing, what am I wearing, how am presenting myself to make men think they can treat me this way? In your own mind you know you’re a person, a human being, you are your own but as a woman you’re constantly being told the contrary.
A few weeks ago a friend’s girlfriend was savagely knocked unconscious and raped on the side walk on her way home from class. That day my friend and I were biking to our school building when a guy screams out as us ‘Bitch I got something for you!’ and whips his penis out as us. We looked away and biked faster, the rapist that attacked my friend’s girlfriend was never found. When class ended I was headed home alone and I see this guy coming up to me, at first I look down trying not to catch his attention but still I hear him say ‘Ooohh shit..’ and he starts coming up to me making whispering noises. I remembered earlier that day and I remembered my friend’s girlfriend and I get angry and I’m tired of this. I’m tired of the constant fear and look up right in his face as he gets closer to me. ‘Look, I don’t deserve this! I’m just trying to get home like everybody else and I have a right to do that.’
He gets kind of startled like he was shocked I could actually speak, like you would if your shoe rack suddenly yelled at you for putting your shoes on it. ‘Don’t deserve what?’ he starts looking confused and cautious. ‘I don’t deserve this! This is sexual harassment, I don’t deserve you running up on me when I’m just trying to get home!’ He gets this weird look on his face at the word ‘sexual harassment’ and actually has the nerve to sound righteous, ‘How do you know I was hollering at you?’ I look around stunned. ‘We’re the only two people here! You have a mother, you might have a sister, would you really want someone running up on them when they’re all by themselves talking all threateningly to them like this?’ He throws the righteous game out the window when he’s called out and just goes straight to anger.
He sticks his chest out like he’s getting ready to hit me and gets even closer, I stand my ground and look straight back, I’m not running anymore if he beats me up he beats me up. ‘Bitch you wouldn’t get it if you weren’t advertising! You advertising!’ He might as well have hit me for how it felt. I didn’t really have a reply because I wasn’t advertising anything, whatever he actually meant by advertising but I had an idea. That’s when it all made sense, the surprise when I had the audacity to speak, the righteousness when I dared to spurn his threatening advances and the anger when I continued to assert myself. It had nothing to do with what I was wearing, what I was doing, how I looked, or me at all.
Because I wasn’t a person. I was a hole, an object, a shoe rack with no vocal chords, no face, no wants, no right to itself. I was a shoe rack and how dare I object to having shoes placed on me. Is that not why I was created? Is that not my singular purpose in life? The law doesn’t apply to shoe racks, what rights does a pile of wood and rubber have? There was nothing I could say to him, because where I was arguing about my right to be treated as an equal and he was arguing the legitimacy of my very humanity. I biked home as fast as I could and still heard him yelling after me ‘You adverting! You advertising!’ I got home, shut my self in my room, and sobbed for the rest of the day. I wasn’t a person, I wasn’t a survivor or a victim, I was just a woman and that’s practically nothing. I had thought maybe the sexually harassment stemmed from men not knowing women find it threatening and demeaning. Maybe if I stood my ground and let them know I hated it, maybe the surprise and shame would stop it. It never really occurred to me that they simply don’t care if we hate it because they don’t even think about it.
Another instance, a few years later I was walking down the crowded main street of down town San Diego in the afternoon. Four men are walking towards me on the side walk, I look down and side step but the biggest one follows me. I’m about to just run when he grabs me by the arm and pulls me into him. I yell ‘NO!’ and ‘STOP!’ and trying to get away but his friends just laugh and he starts grinding his groin into me in broad daylight in the middle of a busy sidewalk. People actually have to walk around us as I’m struggling. No one does anything, they just look down and keep walking and at last I’m able to shove my way out of his grip. He and his friends keep laughing and making kissing noises and cat calls. I start crying on the street on no one stops. It was witnessed by everybody, men, women, police, children. It just didn’t matter. Its the worst feeling in the world of something to seem so devastating to you but matter so incredibly little to everybody else. If it doesn’t matter to anyone then does it really even matter at all? It matters. It means everything! I want every woman and girl to know that we deserve better! We deserve the right to safety, life, happiness.
We deserve more than to live our lives on the perpetual Rape Clock! Its up to us to demand more and demand more for those that aren’t able to do it themselves yet. It’s not about hating men or villainizing men because the people we want better for are the daughters, mothers, sisters, girlfriends, and wives of men. No father should constantly have to tell his daughter to be safe every time she leaves the house and worry until she comes back because this shouldn’t be a world where the contrary would cross his mind. As women we need to support each other because we all know what it was like to be beaten down and dehumanized and left to deal with the aftermath all alone. I also want to thank HollaBack for making it easier for us to reach out to each other and share out stories and our support.
We were standing in Times Square when we had lost our friend. We decided to stay where we were in hopes she would see us. So we were standing there trying to find her when a guy in Spiderman costume came up to us. He asked us if we needed help and we said no. He kept coming closer as we kept trying to telling to go away. He kept going on about how he could help us. As I held my bag closer to me, I had never felt so scared for my life.
Invasive pat downs are always in the back of my mind when I fly. I can’t relax until I hear the engines start up.
So, going through PDX security alone and having a TSA agent stop me by the first class lane, look at my id and boarding pass, and ask “You first class or just beautiful?” scared me. I was kinda shocked and said “What?” maybe a little sharper than I needed to. He quickly handed me back my boarding pass and id and waved me over to the line I’d been heading for to begin with without saying anything else.
I was terrified I’d be subjected to a pat down (groped) because I’d been snippy with him and maybe embarrassed him. It’s a miracle I didn’t look suspicious to someone just because I was scared of that happening.
First I should explain myself and how I’ve come to realize unwanted attention is not OK. I live in the South, where ladies are said to be gentle, and I know they put up with a lot of crap. My mother always loved unwanted attention from men, she flirted back and fed off of it.
I myself am much more modest and uncomfortable with such encounters. I grew up thinking it was OK for the attention and that I should bask in it and consider it a validation of my attractiveness and womanhood.
Fast forward to present day. My sister and I decide to go out one weekend for drinks and dancing with our Dad. Two men join our table that dad knows from the bar he frequents. They seem harmless enough, but one constantly lies to me about his age and agonizingly comments on how beautiful I am. No conversation had.
Dad leaves, my sister and I decide to dance, leaving said men at the table. All of a sudden the guy who lies about his age comes up behind me and starts dancing. (Note: I hate dancing with dudes. It’s gross). I try to move away and he immediately smacks my ass. It’s over, but I’m enraged. I give him a verbal lashing how that is never OK and force him to apologize. Although I did get an apology, I have a feeling he didn’t get the message.
On June 23 around 9 p.m., I was at my job supervising an outdoor volleyball game on campus. When I was on my way back to the game after taking a bathroom break, I had to go through an alley to get to the other side of the street. A man said hi to me as I was exiting that alley. I was nervous because he seemed sketchy, but I quickly replied hi to avoid a nasty response and kept walking. He then asked me where I was from, and when I ignored him and crossed the street, he kept shouting at me trying to guess.Then he mumbled something I couldn’t make out. I normally feel very safe on my campus, even at night. However being harassed near a dark alley when I’m just trying to do my job and mind my own business shook me up. Even though I know harassment isn’t acceptable not matter a woman’s appearance, I certainly didn’t expect to be harassed while I was wearing my uniform.
I was walking home at night the other day. I saw a group of men in their seventies who said, “Hello, beautiful.” I’m a seventeen year old girl who didn’t know them at all, so I thought they might have seen someone they knew. But no, those seventy year old men were talking to me, and since I hadn’t answered them the first time, they just came closer and started saying, “Hey, beautiful, hello!” louder. Since they kept getting closer and wouldn’t stop, I eventually said, “Hello” and then went away as fast as I could.
I just can’t understand how those men thought they were complimenting me. I just can’t understand why a group of seventy year old men would harass a teenager and think that’s perfectly fine.
I have probably gained about 8-10 pounds since the holidays, so I am just now getting back into working out, running, and just becoming healthier in general. After the gym one day I came straight back to my house. This was on a particularly hot day (I live in Savannah, GA where it can easily reach temperatures in the 100s), so I was wearing a tight (thanks to my 8-10 lbs) pair of soffe shorts and a loose tank top. As I was just approaching my door a group of middle aged men in a white pick up truck stopped right out side of my door. They proceeded to scream loudly, making harassing comments about my body. I could not unlock my door fast enough. As soon as I got in my house I did not want to leave for the rest of the night.
First off: this isn’t about a particular incident, but rather about the sum total of incidents that have happened to me lately and the way many people (not only men) react when i tell them about being harassed.
When I moved to Spain about five months ago, I was shocked about how frequently I got catcalled, even though I thought I knew the country well enough to be prepared. I wasn’t prepared. A month into my stay, I was completely and utterly sick of it, and as a foreigner with a noticeable accent in the local language, I found it hard to bring up the courage to say something to make them stop. I started taking notes instead. Ever since, I have been carefully registering every single man who invaded my space with the date, location, and what was said and/or done. This is how I know that in the past four months I have been harassed by men more than 30 times. Most of the incidents were verbal and harmless in nature when taken for themselves (like passers-by saying “Hola guapa”–”hello pretty”–and then turning away). But there have also been others–men trying to physically block my way, men moaning and breathing into my ear or making kissing sounds, men calling me a whore and commenting on my butt while walking behind me. On my worst day, I counted four independent incidents–and I was only out in public for 40 minutes total that day.
When I mention being harassed, others (men and women and all nationalities alike) often defend the harassers, saying things like, “It doesn’t really happen THAT often” or “Your fault for moving to Spain” or “I told you you shouldn’t have rented a place in that particular part of town.” I can’t even express how sick I am of hearing this.
FIRST: YES, IT DOES HAPPEN THAT OFTEN. I know because I am experiencing it, and it has been bothering me so much that I felt forced to keep track of it in writing. If you think that being harassed 30 times in 4 months is acceptable, you should probably seek professional help. And even if it didn’t happen that often (or effectively doesn’t in other places), how does that make it any more acceptable when it does happen? SECOND: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A COUNTRY OR A PART OF TOWN WHERE STREET HARASSMENT IS SIMPLY TO BE TOLERATED. I like where I live just fine. I would just like to be able to walk to the supermarket without having people honking, yelling, or whistling at me, and no, this is not asking too much. I am not doing anything wrong by living here. The harassers are doing things wrong by harassing women who live here.
I would like to finish this on a good note, so I’ll say that keeping records of all the men who have harassed me has really helped me to see that I have more than enough reason to complain, and more, it has given me the confidence to holler back. Yesterday, when a particularly invasive harasser told me repeatedly how “guapa” he thought I was, I told him firmly that nobody asked his opinion. It shut him up, and an elderly man walking in front of me who had overheard both the cat-calling and my reply gave me a smile, congratulating me for my response. This time, I won. And next time, I will win again.
I am a 20-something living and working abroad.I live in a small village and must travel to a neighboring city to shop for food. Every time I go to this city I am hollered at in multiple languages and men make kissy noises at me. I have been followed on numerous occasions and grabbed by strange men a few times. I am in public areas during the day where other people see this happen, and no one does anything. No one says a word when I am running down the street from a man who keeps grabbing me and “wants to just talk.” Locals laugh it off as “well of course, you are foreign and they want to get papers.”
The organization I work for tells me not to travel alone and to just ignore it. I hate feeling afraid and having no allies near me to help me in this situation. I hate that I cannot have any kind of relationship or even a simple conversation with a man without him thinking I want to have sex with him. I have a male friend who lives a few hours from me and has offered to come shopping with me to hopefully reduce the amount of harassment, but I do not want to have to have a man with me for other men to leave me alone. I just want to be able to get food and go places on my own and not be afraid.
I was walking down the street at 2am. I was in the middle of London, which can feel like a really huge place when you’re walking by yourself late at night. I wasn’t wearing anything particularly racy (though of course that’s no excuse for harassment); black dress, black tights and a sweater. I was just trying to find a bus home.
As I was walking along (I’m a pretty fast walker), I realised I was catching up with three pretty huge guys. I couldn’t hear what they were saying, but I was instantly on alert, as I’ve had men catcall me before, usually when they’re in groups of two or more.
The one in the middle suddenly turned his head to look behind him and saw me. Then the other two looked behind them. The one in the middle nudged the guy on the right, who I distinctly heard say, “No, no…” I knew I’d have to just walk right through them. But as I caught up with them, the one in the middle started speaking to me. He said, “Hola.” I ignored him. He said something else in Spanish. I said, “What?” Then he said, “Oh, you don’t speak English?” I know, I didn’t get it either. I clearly and loudly responded “No, I don’t” and marched away as quickly as I could away from them.
It’s not a particularly dramatic or awful story, but as I was completely alone at night and outnumbered, it would definitely have been easy for someone to overpower me. I was extremely frightened. Even more so when someone did try and engage with me.
A second guy that night, in the middle of a Burger King, which I went into to ask directions, saw me, gave me a weird smile, and said “Hi.” before walking away, as if he knew me or something. Not a particularly terrible encounter either, but to be honest, I don’t want ANYONE talking to me when I’m in the middle of a city at 2am and I’m completely alone. It makes me frightened and uncomfortable. I was relieved when I finally got home knowing I’d made it in one piece.