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I was on the TARC bus on my way home from class at UofL. A man sat across from me and began to hit on a woman who had been there since before he got on. She eventually got off the bus, and my stop was also coming up. When I got up to leave, the man stood up and came up very close behind me (he was a good foot or so taller than I am) and started breathing down onto the top of my head. When I tried to move away from him, he shouted, “Damn, you’ve got some big-ass legs!” I didn’t turn around because the bus driver hadn’t done anything so far and I doubted I’d be assisted if I tried to defend myself verbally and he retaliated physically. The man turned back to another man who had been sitting behind us and said, “Aren’t they some big-ass legs?” The other man grunted in agreement. The men had gotten on at different stops and hadn’t interacted until this point, so I’d have to say this was my first experience with two men who didn’t know each other working together to harass and humiliate me.
I don’t have a car and it gets too cold for me to ride my bike in the winter in Louisville, so the TARC is often my only option. I wish I could say this type of interaction is rare, but really I get harassed the majority of the time I take the bus. I also get harassed on my bike (most recently by a father taking his kids out of church– charming), so there’s no entirely comfortable way for me to get to school.
I wish I had just one story that I could share, perhaps ten years ago I would have had just one. Now that I am in my 20’s I have hundreds of them. I have had guys call me every name in the book from beautiful to hey your lips would look good on me. I’ve had strangers grope me and demean me in front of on lookers who do nothing. I’ve been at work and had to tolerate comments from contractors all while being told if I say anything it’ll be my job not theirs all while maintaining a professional front. It’s really hard to be professional when a guy whom is 10+ years older than your own father looks you square in the eye and tells you “You look good enough to eat” or “those legs look good now but would look better around me”. My skin crawls and my stomach churns. All I can think to myself is how can men say these things when in all reality they would kill a motherf*ker for saying THE SAME EXACT THING to their Mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, best friends, grandmothers.
P.S the picture I uploaded is my best friend whenever i go out! Every girl needs one!
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.