See that snot mark dripping down my shirt in the attached photograph? It is a crying booger. It came from my nose and landed on my $4 turtleneck from Rainbow. I tried to hold the darn thing in, but alas, it got the best of me with all of the Sprint store on 5th Avenue and 22nd Street to witness the snottage action.
Today is November 11th, 2014. Veteran’s Day. Around 2 o’clock PM, I was on my way to the Sprint store. I happened to be in the Madison Square Park area where all of the excitement surrounding the Veteran’s Day parade was happening. I removed my giant, retro headphones that I wear every day for a specific reason so that I may hear the joyous “sounds of the streets” (I rarely listen to music; I usually just tuck the cord into my pocket, not hooked up to any sort of device).
I’m sure you know what is coming next. I’m a female in my 20’s writing an entry in my blog with a sad-faced photo attached, so of course it is about street harassment (or what some people may not categorize as “harassment”). Typical.
It will never end. People will never agree on the topic, or most topics in general (to be very vague and non-descriptive), and that is okay. Bad things in the world will never end, because not everybody views them as bad things. But, referring to this pathetic picture of myself, the aggression shown towards me and my body did indeed evoke negative emotions in me. It made me uncomfortable, and the comments were unwanted. It plain-old ruined my day. I have lived in this city for almost 6 years, and I try not to let these comments mean more to me than the $USD worth of a processed-cheese sandwich; I have a wonderful family, and my career involves me getting paid to run around in fields like a forest elf; But, some days I break. If this picture is not proof that “street comments” are unwanted and fall into the category of harassment, then I do not know what is.
That pasty sliver of skin where my pants meet my $5 turtleneck from Rainbow was me “asking for it”, according to my assaulter, who was working crowd control at the parade (the turtleneck got more expensive as this entry continues). He didn’t think that stepping in front of my path in an intimidating and aggressive manner and commenting on my belly was disrespectful and wrong. He is entitled to his opinion. And that’s why things will never fully-change in the way that many of us dream of, despite the recent, valiant efforts by “Hollaback!”.
That catcalling video with the modestly dressed woman walking around New York for 10 hours was made by “Hollaback!” for a reason, educational I’m guessing, and I am truly sorry that the response to it included parody videos about NY Jets fans. People love their parody videos. Come up with your own goddamn ideas.
My main reason in writing this entry is to thank the people that stood up for me today. Thank you to the man in the white button-down that took off his headphones and yelled with me. “Good for you!”, he said. And thank you to the woman in the Sprint store that consoled me after 5 minutes of me poorly pretending that I wasn’t super sad and angry. “Stay strong, girl.”
I now feel ridiculous and selfish posting this sappy picture of myself on Veteran’s Day, but I am doing it anyway because today I decided to speak (and write). Thank you for listening.
I need to stop having meltdowns in Sprint stores.
I attended college in a different county back in 2008, Miami Dade College. I would take the Miami bus then I would transfer and take a Broward county bus. When I first got on the Miami bus to go home I was with my bestfriend. As we got to our seats and sat down, she told me that this old man keeps staring at her. She got off her stop first, and then I later got off to walk to my next bus stop. That same man got off and started to talk to me in a very low voice. He had brown rotten teeth and messed up dirty hair. He looked like he was in his 50’s and was around 6ft tall. I’m only 5’3 and was 22 years old at that time. The man asked me, what was the next bus I was going to take? He then said how I look good, while sizing me from the back. The man also kept asking me for my number. Bus number 2 came and I quickly got on and sat next to a young man, so that the older guy won’t sit next to me. That young man eventually got off the bus and that old man sat down right next to me. The old guy again kept asking me for my number. My stop eventually came and I quickly got off that bus. Now I was a 40 minute walk from my house which is about 2 miles. I could easily take a third bus home or walk, but since I just missed the third bus I decided to walk. I didn’t know I was being followed at that time. I called my bestfriend and then all of a sudden the old guy started walking behind me. He walked so close to me that he was brushing up against my back. He kept saying, “Take my number or I will follow you home.” A lady around my age watched from behind along with a middle aged man. They kept saying out loud, “He is following her.” I yelled at the old man that was following me to leave me alone please. He walked away from me and turn back around. I was still jumpy so I walked to the McDonalds since it was right there. I stayed there for 20 minutes until I felt safe enough to walk home.
I’ve been followed a few times after that incident, but never again to that extreme. Now I have pepper spray and a stun gun.
Buffalo, especially the west side, is a breeding ground for sexual predators. I go to a local college in this area called D’youville and all the young women who go here are subjected to harassment daily. It’s so regular for us that it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore. Every day when walking home or around campus men openly stop their cars to stare at us, whistle at us to get our attention, stop in their tracks to turn around and stare, and yell “compliments” it needs to stop.
I was recovering from a painful/traumatic medical procedure, wearing a baggy sweater, loose coat, sunglasses and hat, not in the mood to be bothered. I came to Coney Island to volunteer with an elderly man who lives there, as I do every week. The man pictured here was hanging out outside where I parked my car and began loudly commenting on my appearance as I fed the meter. I really wasn’t in the mood, and just ignored him, going about my business. When I came back to leave, he was still there and continued where he left off, but when I didn’t acknowledge him, he began angrily shouting for me to “have a nice day.” Finally he yelled “don’t suck too much cock!” as I was getting in to my car. I snapped at that point, flipped him off and said fuck you, took this picture and drove away.
The first time a man exposed himself to me I was 11 years old in Cinncinnati, Ohio.
I am now nearly 50 and I have gotten so used to ignoring street harassment that I stopped thinking about it years ago.
The list of serious street harassment experiences I have had is so long that it is pointless to list them all. Everything from the city worker in city uniform in a city truck wiggling his tongue through the crotch of his fingers, to men brazenly grabbing my ass as I walk down the sidewalk, to the every day “you’d look good on me”, and nowadays:”You still lookin’ good for an old lady, you a cougar baby?”….and the kissing sounds, those are the most revolting.
I’ve learned to ignore them, stay aware from those parts of town, and not to use the train or bus because of the harassment. It’s just not worth it to deal with it.
Sadly: it is just become a background factor in my life. I just live accepting that this is the way it has always been and will always be: no one has ever done anything about it, bystanders often laugh or jump in and join the harasser. You can call the cops, but they do not take reports. I have even had them say “Why do you want to report this and ruin the poor guy’s life?” or some other version of “boys will be boys.”
Now I watch the same thing happening to my daughter and I am furious.
Night time in the Mission, I’m leaving dinner to meet up with a friend at a bar 8 blocks north. It was later in the evening, most businesses were closed, and the amount of people walking on the streets were fading with each passing block. I was near my destination, and after spending the entire day in Mission, I felt comfortable enough walking to my next destination alone. In San Francisco. I thought, I’m from Detroit and feel safe back home, how sketch can SF be?
It got to the point to where I needed up put my hood up. The only people left roaming the streets were those severely intoxicated to the point of not being able to hold themselves up, groups of men, and the occasional cooky stung out homeless character. Having my hood up and hands in my pockets you think would indicate I am not walking around to have a chat. This man walks up to me and starts walking the same pace as me. Comments on the weather and continues to try to make small talk. I do what Detroiter’s do: look him in the eye, give him a civil head nod, and continue on my way. Apparently this isn’t enough of an indication to this man that I am NOT trying to have a chat.
He asks me if I’m going home, and tells me how beautiful I am (I’m wearing a freaking hood, you can barely see my face). I pick up my pace, so does he. I slow down, so does he. We are the only ones on the street and there are barely any cars driving by.
Finally I look at him and put my hands in front of me to suggest “halt” and say look, I’m not trying to talk. He makes a couple more comments about my hair and my legs and continues to follow me (mind you, I am wearing jeans, sneaks and a baggy coat).
Suddenly he is gone, as if to duck behind an alley. I put my hood down to ensure my peripheral vision is clear. Then luckily see a cab across the street dropping someone off. In a bit of a panic I run across the street to catch the cab, and went back to where I was staying. There went my comfort zone, my plans with a friend I hadn’t seen in over 2 years, and my ability to feel safe in this beautiful city I was visiting.
My story is not specific, because it happens too many times a day to count. I currently live in Medellin, Colombia, currently one of the most notorious hubs for sex tourism, street trafficking, and child prostitution. Before I decided to come here to start a vegetarian food project with a friend, I traveled mostly solo or with one female friend throughout Colombia and Ecuador. Traveling on your own has its challenges, but traveling as an independent female is another story. You are always on the streets, and thus, are in a constant state of harassment. Before you set foot out of your own city, you are constantly reminded of ‘how dangerous’ it is for you, how you ‘should travel with a group, a boyfriend, or a male companion’, how you should ‘never walk alone’ because ‘you never know what horrible things could happen to you… as a woman’. Sometimes men (and women alike) like to take additional steps in making sure you don’t venture out to foreign streets. They say ‘you are being naive’ (thank you for completely undermining my intelligence), they say ‘there are safer ways to do it’, they say you could ‘just save up more money, and go someplace else’. Before I left on my trip, I had many people do everything they could to strip me of my confidence, condescend my abilities, and essentially tell me that I was setting myself up for a horrible demise. Me. It would be MY fault, if something terrible happened to me somewhere in which ‘wasn’t my place’.
Meet Colombia and Ecuador, two of the loveliest countries on Earth. Meet Colombia and Ecuador, where I didn’t manage to escape unscathed. I cannot make less than a 5 minute walk without being catcalled, hissed at, or looked up and down in any city I have been in. 5 minutes. That’s about 3 blocks. And I’m a fast walker. I have been called (translated from Spanish): my love, my heaven, my life, my sky, my little thing, my princess, my queen, my sweet, baby, girl, white girl, beautiful, pretty, delicious, and ‘wow’. While those might sound like more than compliments to some, I am not a fan of the comments. I did not ask for them. I do not want them. I do not have a choice. These men disgust me.
That’s the cakewalk. Then comes the hissing. You know that sound you make to call your dog? Well they use the same one for women. Hissing. Don’t worry, they still call their animals the same way. There’s not much of a difference. And there won’t be later either. It is symptomatic, and no one does anything about it. Women are dogs here.
What do the comments turn into? The hisses? Oh it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been followed for blocks multiple times. I’ve had to hide. I’ve had to turn around and yell at men stalking me. They smile. Or laugh it off. Or ignore me. Or point at me and say how much they’d like to fuck me. Or ask if I have a boyfriend. Or if I will marry them. But it still doesn’t stop.
I’ve been groped in the metros. I’ve had my hips, my arms, and my ass squeezed. I’ve had every inch of my body purposefully pressed upon. I’ve had stiff dicks and sweaty hands invade my space too many times during rush hour. It never stops.
The winks, the catcalls, the hissing, the squeezing, the stalking, the sexual comments, they are everything that signifies the complete lack of respect for women where I currently reside, and that is on all levels.
At one point at a festival, I was drunk… like almost everyone else. I was talking to a guy whom I had never met. I do not know him still. I do not remember his name. I don’t know what we talked about, and I don’t know how any of it happened. I remember flashes. I remember walking into a filthy bathroom with him. Horrible things happened. One flash I have was of him pulling his pants down. No condom. My feeling of fear, disgust, entrapment, helplessness, isolation. I could do nothing. The friend I was with had no idea… I never had the heart to tell him. I was crushed. My soul was gone. I was dead for a long time.
I was so traumatized, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. I didn’t want to exist, or move, or speak. I was a changed person. I went from vivacious, funny, friendly, and wild, to a shell in moments. No one knew what happened, but the friends I was staying with knew it was something terrible. I didn’t know if I would find any part of my old spirit again. That was the worst part. But a different me is back.
I refused to be defeated. Before, I almost always reacted to street harassment. I would yell, I would silently put up my middle finger, I would fight back. I was strong. I was vigilant, careful, and conscious. No one thought I would be the one, but 1 out of 5 is pretty staggering.
For women, going out into the street is a gamble. I lost just one time. But honestly, I’m glad it was me, and not someone else. I still react, but in different ways. I harness all of my intensity to shock men, to scare them, to let them know without a doubt, that what they are doing is wrong. Often, I am successful. But It doesn’t stop. You can’t get everyone. Street harassment is a gateway to vicious assault, denigration, and decimation of female integrity and safety. If there is anything that I have learned, it is this: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR PLACE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOUR BODY, YOUR VOICE, YOUR DIGNITY. It belongs to you. Be strong, fight back. This is your world as much as it is anyone else’s. You might not be next, but someone you love will find their time… it’s always when you least expect it.
A man (who had harassed me once before) started following me and asking many personal questions – do I have a boyfriend? well ok you have a boyfriend but you’re not married right? etc.
As I’m walking home a man pulls up to the sidewalk with his car and in russian asks me to get in. He then drives off but I see him turn so he drives past me again.