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Being stared at, catcalled, greeted by a random male stranger is a regular occurrence as I walk through the streets and parks of the small city where I work. The two most particular comments that I hear are that 1) I have pretty eyes and that 2) I should smile. I quickly realized that the best strategy is to carry my Iphone in my hand and stick in my earbuds. Even if I’m not actually listening to music I can pretend that I don’t hear anything.
However, two recent incidents still upset me when I think about them. The first: I left my house to walk the short distance to the bus stop. Between my home and the bus stop is a convenience store; outside of which was a man standing by his motorcycle who I could tell was waiting for me to walk past. How could I tell? Because he had just pulled up to the store as I stepped into the street and instead of going in he stayed outside and stared at me as I walked toward the store, making what takes less than 30 seconds feel like an interminable length of time. As I walked past attempting to ignore him because I already felt uncomfortable, he spoke, so I spoke and kept going. Here’s where things get scary. I got to the bus stop and a split second later the man drove past, turned around, and pulled up to me on his motorcycle. This man followed me to tell me that when I speak to people that I should smile! My first reaction was anger until I realized that he was so close that if he had wanted to hit me I couldn’t have avoided it because I was stuck between him and the edge of the road, which fell away into bushes and brambles. I quickly edged away, told him to have a nice day, put in my trusty earbuds and ignored him until he drove away. And this was not the first or last time a man that I did not know pulled up to me on a motorcycle at that bus stop way too close for comfort.
The other incident makes me seethe because, although not scary, I was with my son at the time and the impotent feeling of having a strange man touch me, suddenly grip my arm in front of my boy and I wonder how that affected him to see my anger and frustration and shock and I wonder if he was scared or angry. I have never talked to him about it. I just swept it away so that we could continue to enjoy our day. Also, because my child was with me, not being able to respond the way that I would have if I had been alone or with another adult, foul-mouthed and possibly committing an assault of my own on this man. The fact that I still occasionally see this wastrel as I walk through the city and remember his incredulous response when I yelled at him not to touch me, as if he had the right, that it was okay because he didn’t mean it in a negative way. How dare he?! HOW DARE HE?!
In numerous occasions when men would stare and say harassing things, I found it most effective to look them in the eyes and say Ina clear, strong voice:
“Didn’t your mama teach you not to stare?”
It was last year, my sophomore year of high school and I was 15. Class was in session and I was in my art class. I walked out during some free time I had in class and went to go ask another teacher a question. Like I said class was in session so there really wasn’t anyone in the halls. When I walked out of the class I had to go down a hallway. While I was walking down the hallway I noticed about 5 boys and a few girls sitting on the floor in the hallway doing class work. I kept on walking. Then one of the boys muttered “sexy bitch” under his breath. It was obviously directed toward me. I was wearing a nice dress but nothing revealing and even if it was, what right does he have to say that! I kept on walking but on the inside I felt really uncomfortable, and kind of ashamed. Never has anyone referred to me in this way ever! I don’t swear, and to be called that terrible word hurt. It made me feel insecure and like a bad person. Even though I know I’m not. I didn’t catch a good look at his face, so I don’t know who it is but that incident really affected me.
This incident is over 25 years ago but it is still is relevant today. Since I was 12, catcalling by random men was daily fact of life. I remember feeling so frightened and confused by the comments made. Over time, you keep your head down, make no eye contact and learn to ignore it. Then, I became a mom…my first daughter.
She was only 3 years old…still in diapers. We were at an intersection waiting for the traffic light to let us cross the street. A man walked up beside us. He asked me to smile, etc..the usual. I ignored it. Then he looked at my child. “Beautiful baby” he said. He licked his lips and remarked, “she’s gonna be delicious when she 16″.
My rage was unstoppable. After my rant, he just put up his hands. No problem babe, he said. You’re delicious too. I never felt more afraid for my and my child’s safety. My sense of security was damaged forever.
I’m 55 years old now. The catcalling doesn’t happen anymore and my family has long since moved out the area. I have grandsons and new granddaughter is on her way. I worry about her and what she will face.
My husband is the exemplar of a gentleman. He would never do that to any woman. If you did it to one his daughters, you’d risk your life.
Gentlemen, help us!
I was walking up a semi-suburban/retail area, in the early evening, on my way to meet my parents for a dinner out. I was just dressed in jeans and a sweatshirt and passed by a group of men hanging out in front of an apartment complex. I walked by, hood up, and one of them said, “Hey miss, how you doin’?” When I didn’t respond, he followed up with, “Alright then, have a nice night.” I heard the rest of his group laugh. I don’t know if it’s something that I should have been afraid of, but I was, and I can never get anyone to understand why I was afraid – they always say, “But he didn’t do anything, and he didn’t try to touch you!” But I didn’t know that. I don’t want to engage in a conversation with a group of men as I’m walking to dinner – I just wanted to go to dinner. I walked fast the rest of the way because I didn’t know if I was being followed, and I didn’t want to turn around in case that only caused things to escalate.
I’m living in Calama, Chile which is effectively the shit- center of the universe. It’s a mining town occupied by double the amount of men as it is women. I’m white, I’ve never been a minority until I came here to teach English short term. I walk 6 blocks to the school in the morning, and in that time I get stared at, kissed at, honked at, and talked to in every type of way. I absolutely hate it. I hate more that people don’t think it’s a problem, and by people I mean men and women. It’s sick.
I have had over 5 instances of people on my streeet asking me for drugs, saying “hey gorgeous” “smile baby” or “God bless dat ass” as well as someone attempting to pimp me out while I was waiting for my lunch order to be ready at a local hallal deli a block from my apartment. I am angry. This needs to stop. It is not okay to start a conversation with a woman you do not know with unwanted, unwelcome sexual intent. No you weren’t just innocently complimenting me or attempting to start a conversation. You know better.
Short and simple. Walking down the street on a hot summer day, wearing a tank top because its 95 freaking degrees, not to get cat called at. This huge built man walks by, looks straight in my eyes and says “nice titties”. I couldn’t believe my ears. I forever hate that word now.
I had gone with my girlfriends to rainey street in austin and I was waiting outside the club in line talking minding my own business, when behind me I hear screaming of someone saying OH MY GOD this ass !!! this is perfection its the perfect ass, you are beautiful girl. I was not aware this yelling was directed to me until I felt a hard slap on my ass it hurt so bad that I turned around so angry, the guy saw I was not happy and just said ” Sorry I had to” and left.
Let me point out that even if I was wearing a short skirt or dress this is not ok, but I wasn’t I was wearing pants and a long shirt. Who thinks it’s alright to slap someone ? cuz you “had to ” ?? really ?
I can’t remember the street because I was a tourist and it was 29 years ago, but it was the most blatant I’ve experienced of street harassment short of back ally.
I was six months and obviously pregnant. There was no mistaking it. I waddled. I was wearing a maternity sailors dress to my midcalf.I was not in anyway in a “come hither” fashion so any detractors can tuck that argument away. As I climbed the metro subway stairs to get to the sidewalk it was crowded but one man kept jostling me and I was afraid I would fall. He was very rough and I had to keep gripping the banister. I glanced back over my shoulder and he just looked at me and as we hit the top, he darted around me grabbing a fistful of my ass as he did so. He was gone into the crown before I could even get over my shock and humiliation. I just stood there feeling naked.
Something about being pregnant and alone made you a target for lewd behavior. I was asked to spend the night, things like, “Hey, don’t act so innocent. We know your aren’t.” and told by one guy “At least I can’t get you pregnant.” as he laughed with his friends. A drunk man at a cafe began talking to my belly and rubbing it and tried to kiss it before a Coast Guardsmen pulled him away from me.
Between these and some more personally deep history, people wonder why I believe in certain laws, or give my teen daughter pepper spray.