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I was riding the Brooklyn bound L train when I noticed a man in his 50s got on the train at Union Square and stand unusually close to a young lady in her early twenties near the door. He started blatantly staring down her shirt and then started staring at me. So he would switch between us. After a few moments, I looked at her with a “are you OK look?” and she, wide-eyed, looked back. Then she took out her ear buds, and said, “What are you looking at?” He just kept staring down at her. Then I said, “What the f** are you staring at, Dude??!!” And he kept staring at me.
Then the guy in front of me said, “Enough, Dude, enough.” And then the train stopped at Bedford, and I acted like I was getting out so I could try and stand in between him and the girl, but he wouldn’t move. I was still like- “Stop staring at her, you’re being fucking disgusting.” And he responded and said, “I can stare at who ever I want. I’m a vet” “So am I supposed to feel bad for you because you’re a vet?” He responded, “You’re a fucking lunatic, I’m not moving!” as he pressed up against me harder.
Then another woman on the train said to him, “Be the bigger person and stop talking”- which I still can’t figure out if she was trying to help him, or me. We went back and forth and finally he got off the train at the Morgan Ave stop. When I turned around to check on the girl behind me she was visibly shaken up, but kept saying thank you. I hugged her as she broke down, and thanked the guy for stepping in … a little bit, and then hiding behind me.
I was 8 months pregnant with my baby girl, on my way to a weekly pre-natal appointment at my clinic. I would take two buses to get there. The second being on Chicago and Franklin. Although I ride the bus everyday I have to say, when I have to walk this particular street alone, even in broad daylight I get anxious. I live in the the not so nice part of South Minneapolis. So I get off the first bus and wait to cross the street, standing next to an older, (let’s say 40’s) greasy haired, fast talking man who also got off the same bus. He turns to me and starts asking the usual questions I’ve answered a million times the past 8 months, “How far along? A girl or boy?” I politely answer him with a smile… which I honestly regretted immediately after.
Yes, I regretted having common courtesy and politeness because he took it as an invitation to violate my personal boundaries that I assume everyone has, and stepped closer to me. Then he comments on my pregnant body by saying something about how I must have been “eating a lot of cornbread and collard greens.” It gets very hot during the summer months here in Minnesota and I was wearing shorts and a tank top. Not that it matters much but I got the crazy idea that maybe people wouldn’t be as interested in harassing a pregnant lady in shorter shorts, seeing as how I got even hotter than usual, carrying an extra body and more blood inside me as all.
I begin staring at the light willing it with my mind to change when he asks me “Can I touch your belly?” Without any hesitation I say “No, I do not like being touched.” Before I can even finish my sentence he reaches out and puts his big dirty hand on my belly and takes no time to move it downward.. I push his hand away and start walking across the street and he follows right next to me. Before I can take 5 steps I hear my name! I turn around, right in front of the bus, and see my friend Jessica. The greasy asshole stops too and tries to get me to keep crossing the street with him by warning me of the idle, giant bus, as if I didn’t notice it..
I walk over to her and she walks with me across the street. Funny, he lost interest in me when I was with my 5 foot 10 friend, her children and her friend. I felt angry… I’ve been raped a total of 4 times in my 21 years, assaulted many more. Why is it I don’t have a right to my own body? Why was I ignored? I felt the most beautiful and respectful of my own body being pregnant with my baby girl. To hold a life inside me, I felt gave my body and life more meaning.
Why did his actions and violation anger me more than my previous assaults? I am a Native American woman, I grew up in South Minneapolis, in modern society, without a father, brother or even cousin to protect or teach me what my mother couldn’t. I was and still am seen as vulnerable prey, my mistakes came with such a precious and great cost. I was only 15 years old when I was first raped and sexually assaulted. I was in a physically, sexually and verbally abusive relationship for 2 years. This was only a very small part of my story. I just want to be heard.
When walking into a store in Sacramento, a worker approached me and told me that I “better not steal anything”. I am Hispanic so I found it incredibly rude & irrational as I was only looking at some makeup, and did no such thing to provoke her comments.
I just got cat called to by 12 year olds. That is wrong on so many levels.
I was walking home from work when a group of college-aged guys drove by. One of them yelled “Pussy!” out of the car window.
Then just a minute later, I walked past an older man getting something out of the trunk of his car and he looked me up and down and said “Heeeeeeeeeeeey.”
Here are the “highlights” of my day yesterday:
I had three men catcall at me (“Hey baby,” “Hey little lady,” “hey pretty girl”).
I had two men I don’t know at all wave at me accompanied with a smug face.
I also heard a whistle.
I heard some mansplaining at work also (“Why don’t you smile more? You would be so much prettier if you smiled.”)
Here’s the stupidest part of the whole story- all of this happened in my car. I didn’t even look particularly cute yesterday. This just goes to show that it doesn’t matter what measures you take, men who catcall at women are pigs.
On a sunny Thursday morning at 10am, I was walking my bike to the bike shop. A guy walking toward me stepped to the side to, I believe, let me pass but instead he stared at me and said, “Smile. Smile!” I said, “don’t tell me what to do, asshole.” So he stood there screaming, “Bitch! Bitch! Bitch!” Until I was a block away.
I was on my way from to Duane Reade at around 8pm, and this man who was sitting near the edge of the side walk started shouting ‘Hey Hot Stuff’ repeatedly. I had just moved to NYC this past Saturday, so I’m not really used to this stuff. I’m overweight and not very attractive so at first I didn’t realize it was even directed at me. I had completely ignored the offender, I heard them call me a bitch under their breath as I passed. It made me uncomfortable even when I thought it wasn’t directed at me.
I had to walk past them on my way back to my dorm. This time I had my phone out but I could tell they were snickering. It just left an all around bad feeling in my gut. I don’t even think I was dressed proactively, Just a knee length jade dress with some white lace trim and sandals. I think that’s what made it even more unnerving. If it happens again I think I’ll report it to Security.
I was waiting at the light rail station on Tukwila International Boulevard, a very troubled stretch of road near Sea-Tac Airport where there’s been a rash of seedy motel activity in recent years. On my way home from work, I had just gotten off the train and just missed my bus home, so I had to wait half an hour. I used to walk home from there because I love walking and it’s only two miles, but walking there by myself proved extremely dangerous and stressful. There is literally CONSTANT harassment, not a moment’s peace. And not just harassment but stalking and following.
A man in his 20’s approached me, and welcomed himself to sit right next to me in a plaza full of empty seats. He had one of those fake gold teeth, pants belted around his mid-thighs with his flannel boxers on proud display. I have never, ever, ever understood the appeal of this.
“Hey girl”, he said (of course). “Hi”, I said (sheepishly and making a point to appear busy with my phone). He asked me if I would join him on the 128 to the Admiral District. I cringed. That was my bus. I told him, politely, that I was engaged (at the time), flashing my ring for added credibility. He smugly declared “Girl, that’s not real! I’d get you a real one!”.
I was a little fed up with his ego. I said “Really.” flat and sarcastic. Not that it’s anyone’s business, but after doing my research, I directly asked my now-husband to get me a stainless steel, cubic zirconia ring, because it’s still very durable and I can’t make sense of spending thousands of dollars that at the time we didn’t have for something that’s value should be largely sentimental anyway.
Mr. Underpants kept going on, about how my fiance must have been a cheapskate, how a fine-ass bitch like me deserved diamonds, and how if I had a brain I would leave my husband and get with Boxersface (you can see that the underwear thing is a hangup for me).
While I do realize that the reason we women must reveal our relationship statuses because the only way to nullify strange mens’ “ownership” of us is to already be “owned” by a man, my relationship has very serious, significant meaning to me. I have only been with one man (which was not a religious decision), and, ever since, I have never had one iota of interest in going out with anyone else. The thought doesn’t even occur to me, whatsoever. Men=not interesting. So having a man, not to mention one who belongs to a subculture I’m PARTICULARLY turned off by, tell me that my relationship is meaningless to him and if I don’t let him destroy it, I’m “stupid” is in actuality a personal attack on my independent life decisions as a woman.
So I told him, “Gross, you’re gross, leave me alone”. And he said “Bitch, you’re just such a fine bitch, I just wanna show you how a bitch like you is supposed to be treated”. So by now, I’ve been called a “bitch” about sixteen times in my entire life and every last one was by this guy. I don’t think I want this guy to teach me how I’m “supposed” to be treated.
Thinking I was finally going to tell one of these losers off, I took a deep breath, and was interrupted by “Hey, what’s going here? Leave her alone, she doesn’t have to put up with this.”
I looked up and saw an older man, maybe in his 30’s, with a lovely wife holding a lovely little girl with might I add, the most adorable little afro. Think Blue Ivy =) Never you mind how he was dressed because his character is more the issue here, though I feel compelled to share that he was apparently confident that people would know he was wearing underwear whether they saw it or not. I thought, there, look at that, THAT’S a man. Of course, Pantyman mouthed off to him, told him to “Stay out my business.” Funny. Staying out of other people’s business is a virtue for wannabe homewreckers, I guess.
I thanked the family man. He offered to trade seats with me (at this point all the seats were now full). I was so grateful that I gave his family the leftover cookies that I had baked for my coworkers that day. He gave the seat to his wife and child, though, and stood right next to them (what a guy). From across the way, I could see and hear the man lecturing (insert underpants-related nickname I can’t think of any more of here). I was completely sold.
And finally, the bus came and the jerk thought we could reconnect or something. He was saying, “C’mon, c’mon, just go home with me one time, your fiance doesn’t have to know!”. I said “Are you kidding me?”. He said “What? What? You can’t have your own life? Your fiance doesn’t let you kick it with other dudes? What are you, his pet?”. I said… “Are you kidding me…?”…
And then, suddenly, everyone in line to get on the bus started putting him in his place, telling him to give up, leave me alone… He kept trying to bother me on the bus and the driver made him sit in the back. He raised some civil rights argument, and had the nerve to compare his lowly self to Rosa Parks (fighting for his right to harass women is totally the same thing as fighting for equality, not like, the opposite or anything), and I’ll admit it was a tad awkward, but no one else seemed to be offended.
Ultimately, it was both an exhausting and wonderful experience. Having so many people come to my aid was amazing. So often this kind of harassment goes totally unnoticed. In fact, in areas like Tukwila, you can be so surrounded by jerks that they’ll all just cheer a harasser on. It was great to see that there are people on that street who are willing to say it’s not okay.
It seems that the primary form of harassment I endure is being followed by car. I love to go for long walks, with my iPod, with my headphones. It’s discouraged because you’re supposed to be ever aware, lest you’ll be spirited away by one of what seems to be a massive army of would-be ax murderers. I resent that, though, because walking with my iPod is something I enjoy and I feel entitled to doing what I please.
It does seem to happen to me a lot, a man slows down as he drives past me, gives me a looong, hard, unmistakable look, and drives away, only to mysteriously reappear minutes later, drive off, and reappear again. Sometimes they try to talk to me, and still return even if I wave them off. Perhaps more disturbingly, sometimes they don’t try to talk to me at all, and are probably just monitoring my movements until I hopefully take a turn down a more secluded road. Sometimes they park on the shoulder and try to force me to pass by them, mere inches from their car doors, forcing me to cross the street where there isn’t a safe place to do so, or to turn back and not get where I’m trying to go.
In Bellevue (where I used to live, and where my husband works) this only happens about the half the time I go out. But in Tukwila (where I live now) it *always* happens, so I don’t go out on foot, or shop, in my own neighborhood, ever.
I’m not a confrontational person by nature (I mean VERY not confrontational), so it can be very difficult for me to puff myself up and argue with people.
But the most recent time, I found myself becoming angry. I had just been followed around 148th by a man in a pickup truck who passed by me exactly eight times, even stopping in driveways and waiting for me to walk past so he could plead with me to get in his car. My protests didn’t seem to deter him. Eventually, my heart was racing, my knees wobbling – frankly, I didn’t have much confidence in my ability to walk anymore. So I hid in the bushes, my old trick I pull out when what was supposed to be a peaceful, enjoyable walk is turned into a terrified jog toward the nearest store or bus stop, wondering if the world is really so horrible that these men could actually be thinking what I think they’re thinking.
After the man in the pickup crawled at 15mph down a very busy 35mph road nearing rush hour, craning his neck and cursing loudly through his open window, I emerged from the bushes with a spider in my hair, feeling defeated and whipped into submission. Naturally, I was planning my return route to my car, abandoning my “fun” walk altogether and wishing I hadn’t already gone a mile and a half, even though the plan was for five or more.
Of course, seconds later, a different man in a Lexus nearly rear-ended a BMW staring blankly over his shoulder at me. Then, he scurried into the U-turn lane and tried his luck. I was completely emotionally drained and stressed to the maximum. I furiously waved him off, glaring, no mistake that I wanted nothing to do with him. He passed by me, and, of course, jumped right into the next U-turn lane (148th is full of them). He passed by on the other side and yelled out his window. I held up my hands like “What!?”. He got in the U-turn lane. Shouted at me again (each time, I believe all he said was “Hey!!”). I started to cry. He got in the U-turn lane. I wondered if these men have, I don’t know, lives? Places to be? Personalities? Suddenly I realized that the most pathetic, degraded people were these men who seemingly had no souls and no morals and no concept of the damage that this selfish, disgusting behavior causes to their personhood.
What was this, the fourth time he had turned around to yell at me? Sadly this is a small number in my experience. Finally, uncharacteristically lusting for blood, I screamed, “I’m gonna call the cops!!!”. He sped off. The two older women walking a few yards ahead of me stared at me as though I were insane.
I did feel stronger. Often times, I feel that my freedom is being taken away from me, that the streets aren’t as open to me as they are to men, or worse, that if I want to enjoy the streets, I must thereby accept that I’m subject to whatever treatment the men, whom “own” the streets, see fit. It didn’t seem possible to me that there was any way to deter one of these more persistent harassers. They buzz around like flies. You can swat them but they won’t relent.
I couldn’t help noticing that, after scaring off the last guy, I was free to walk the rest of the way to my car without incident. I’m sure it was because I was storming down the sidewalk looking like Satan, and it must have frightened any potential stalkers. I’ve been told that the probable reason why I in particular am harassed so very, very much is because I have an “approachable” demeanor. But I don’t want to have to be upset before I’ll be allowed to enjoy myself. I won’t be able to enjoy myself if I’m upset.
Since then, I found the whistle that my dad gave me in my desk drawer. At time time, I thought he was being paranoid. He’s lived in the slums of LA and I have not. But apparently these thugs crawl all over the place. For fun, I taught my dog to respond to the whistle with tricks. I’m thinking from now on I’ll just blare on the whistle whenever a man makes me feel threatened, see if I can train them like the dogs they are.
DISCLAIMER: No offense is intended to dogs. My dog is actually much, much better behaved than a lot of men =)