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It’s hard for me to tell this story because I was so shamed and distressed by it, but it’s good too, to share.
This happened a long time ago, but I think it’s helpful because it shows how this sort of harassment can hurt for a long time.
When I was 12 I was at the Winter Fair at Landsdowne Park in Ottawa with my 6th grade class. We were all running around being silly, having escaped teacher supervision. At that age I had already developed as a woman. As I was running past this old man who looked like a farmer, he yelled at me, “Nice tits!”. I felt like I had been punched in the stomach. It scared me and I still feel scared as I type this. The rest of the day was blur, except when he yelled it at me again, about 20 minutes later. That night I went to a family gathering at my Grandma’s and I felt depressed, anxious, withdrawn, dirty, moody and ashamed. I honestly felt like I would never feel safe and comfortable with my body or my self again. It took time but I healed from this; however, my body still feels the fear and shame today when I think of this.
I was sensitive as a pre-teen about my sexuality and it’s taken me a long time to become confident in it; it’s something I’m still working on at age 31.
I don’t know why a man would need to say something like that to a young girl, but anything we can do to stop this sort of action is important and valuable. I want the world to be a place where people feel good, confident, safe and respected. Thanks for creating this site!!
Submitted by Charlotte
1. I was 17, well before cell phones. Walking down the street in Cambridge with two girlfriends. A car slowed behind us, rolled along for a short while. There was a bar up ahead and we thought perhaps they were going there. The car pulled into a parking spot in front of the bar and two men got out and began walking behind us. “Hey, what’s your name? Where are you going? Hey pretty…” non-stop, though we brushed them off. Crossed the street, they did too. Soon we realized we were headed towards the Charles River, not a good place to have two creepy men follow you at night.
Kept crossing streets, turning, picking up speed, and they just kept up with us, calling after us. We came across a cab at a streetlight and dove into the back, asking the driver to drive anywhere.
2. Walking to school in London, 8am. A van pulls up at a traffic light and a man opens the side door, “hey beautiful, get in!” “No.” “You ugly bitch, get in the van.” “Fuck off.” “Awwww, c’mon pretty. Don’t you want to go for a ride?” My cross light turned, they were stuck at the light, I managed to slip away.
3. Also walking to school in London. Pass by a buss stop with a group of middle school boys waiting at it. “Hey gorgeous, nice legs.” Are you kidding me? A child!? I asked him where his mother was, which shut him up.
4. Late night London, two men in a car pull up as a friend and I are walking to the bus. They say all sorts of nasty things and try to coerce us into the car. Follow us along for blocks until we found an open kebab shop to duck into. One followed us in. We watched our bus stop and made a run for it when the bus pulled up.
5. Also was followed home in London, no comments, just followed and then he banged on the door of the apartment building for awhile. After that every time we were followed (not uncommon) we kept walking up the street to a night club where we knew the bouncer.
6. Seattle: Waiting outside a bar for a friend. A man walking down the street swerves towards me, comes right up in my face and hisses: “pull my panties off with your teeth…” Ugh.
7. Seattle: Walking to the bus (again!). Man standing on street: “Hey, are you a guy or a girl?” I opt not to respond. As I get closer, “oh look, a girl. Hey, you’re really pretty.” I stay silent, keep walking. As I pass him, “Hey, you should grow your hair out.” Keep walking; hear from a distance as I go, “hey, you should gain some weight though.” Thanks man.
8. Seattle: A man is standing talking to a another man, who I know. I give them a look as I pass by them as I caught them talking about someone being cute. As I pass the man says to my acquaintance, “she’s cute too.” My acquaintance says, “yeah she is. She’s married though.” (Thanks. I love being talked about like I’m not even there.)
9. Seattle: A man starts hitting on a friend outside a club. Won’t take no for an answer. Grabs her arm and tries to pull her into a cab. I jumped in, pulled him off her, yelled, and the two of us retreated back inside. A crowd of people watched this, including a bouncer. No one said anything.
10. Bonus, San Francisco style: Walking with my husband. A man says “hey, why you with that guy? Why don’t you give this a try?” My husband thought that was pretty rude. I wrote it off as yet another day where I left my house.
And those are just a start. Reading this site I am flooded with memories over the past 20 years and how angry, vulnerable, and diminished it always makes me feel.
Submitted by KM
This story isn’t recent, but three years later I am still annoyed and disgusted thinking about it. I wish Hollaback had been around then, so I would have thought to get a photo of the jerk who verbally harassed me or in some way react to the guy rather than just letting it happen. I can’t go back, but I can at least share my story and think about how I’ll respond next time.
In 2007, I worked for a big company in northwest Washington, DC. I lived in Arlington, Virginia and commuted every day by walking, through a pretty nice residential neighborhood to the metro.
One morning, about 7:30 AM, I was taking my usual walk to the metro near the Court House station (orange line). I was dressed in pretty formal business attire, with a heavy coat on over my clothes because it was spring and still cold. I had huge sunglasses on that seriously took up most of my face. Nothing was tight-fitting, hell, I barely had any color on. I was pretty much dressed in all black with my black peacoat and black slacks on. That, the fact that it was broad daylight, or that the sun had barely been up an hour, or that I was walking through a nice family neighborhood and right next to an elementary school, didn’t stop some jerk from harassing me. (But we’re always “asking for attention,” or these things wouldn’t happen, right? Ugh.)
Just a few blocks from the metro, a guy pulled up next to me in a red pickup truck. He slowed down, rolled down his window, and proceeded to whistle, hoot and holler at me. “Hey baby! What you doing? Hey baby! Looking good!” [Smooch noises, kissy faces.] I just looked straight on and kept walking. He kept at it another minute, then revved his engine and drove off. I flicked him off and kept walking to the metro.
It bothered me all morning. I felt angry, violated, confused, embarrassed. It was so unexpected that early in the morning and in the kind of setting I was in when it happened. I felt completely caught off guard and like I was powerless to stop it. If I felt all that just from some creep yelling at me from his vehicle, I can’t imagine how violated other people must feel when men choose to actually physically violate them, flash them or direct hateful slurs at them.
Submitted by Angelina
Last summer I was at the park by Valley River Center (the local mall) babysitting my two year old nephew. I was pushing him in a stroller when a man on a bike started to coast right next to me. I tried to speed up my walking, but since he was on his bike there was no way to lose him. He was asking me all sorts of questions about the child I was with, such as his name and if we lived nearby. Finally he asked me if he could touch my boobs and I instinctively stopped and said no. In less than a second he grabbed my breast and rode off. It was so fast that I had very little time to react.
Obviously I wasn’t physically injured, but the fact that he had asked me before groping me is sicking. He was getting off on the non-consensual aspect of it, and that is terrifying. It was also terrifying because I was with my two year old nephew. He had specifically targeted a woman with a baby.
Submitted by Barbara Ann
I was inspired by the woman featured on Jezebel, but frankly as a feminist I’m sorry to say that I regret standing up for myself.
I was in the car, my ID badge from work still on, then a young Latino teenager (I mention his ethnicity for a reason) asked me a question and started reaching into his pants and pulling out shoplifted objects. I walked away to the other side of the car. He yelled extremely vulgar insults across the car – “SIERRA CUNT WAS A WHORE IN HIGH SCHOOL! SHE SUCKS DICK!” making hand gestures. I thought to myself “Hey, if that girl can stand up to harassment so can I!” I ran towards him and said, in a very classy and calm, though strong voice “You can not speak to any woman that way! I’m going to follow you. This is harassment. I’m going to tell the police and the conductor” To which he replied “It’s free speech. I’m an American. You don’t even belong in this country, bitch” (I’m visibly Indian American). No one did anything. He continued to hurl insults at me for quite a while, then when he got off the train, I followed him.
Only to have him run back into the train as the doors closed, laughing and yelling “HAHA HAHA YOU FUCKING BITCH!”
My biggest fear, besides not saving face, is that I will be a total FAIL viral video. Worse, no one did anything. I really wish John Quinones from ‘What Would You Do?’ burst in to show everyone how their complacency sucks.
Worse, I blame myself. Why was the girl on the train with the flasher successful and I wasn’t? What could I have done, changed trains (I’ve never done it/am afraid to). I yelled to the conductor as the train went away but he just stared at me.
I don’t know what I should have done. PS – I’ve always stuck up for myself from ‘Eve teasers’, living in South Asia for two years. I feel as though I give off some pheromone that tells these creeps that they can mess with me and that they will ultimately feel dominant with their successful taunts.
Submitted by Saira
Sadly this was in 2003, shortly before I had a cell phone, and definitely before I had a camera phone, so I don’t have pictures of the perps, but I LOVE this website, and I felt it was worth sharing the story because I made a huge scene and embarrassed the s*** out of a couple of creeps who street harassed me.
So: Back in summer of 2003, I was walking to get lunch in the middle of a workday – so about 1 pm, broad daylight, and in the middle of Harvard Square – and I walk by a couple of guys sitting on some steps with their shirts off drinking tall boys out of paper bags. A little unusual for the demographic of Harvard Square, but whatever. They weren’t doing anything more creepy than that, and I kind of think open container laws are pointless anyway, so I went on my way. Then one of the dudes comes after me and says “Hey, uh, my friend over there wants to make babies, and he was wondering if you wanted to make babies with him.”
I looked at the guy and said, in a very pissed off voice, “Really? Which friend is this?” And the guy is like “Uh, no, uh, never mind…I probably shouldn’t have…uh…” So I say “No, let’s go meet this friend of yours RIGHT NOW” and march over to where the other guy is sitting and start yelling at him. I forget exactly what I said but I do remember calling them both disgusting classless creeps, and then he was like “Come on, it wasn’t a big deal, relax, we were just joking around!” At which point I really blew my stack and start yelling “REALLY? IT WASN’T A BIG DEAL? YOU JUST SAID A COMPLETELY DISGUSTING THING TO A STRANGER BECAUSE YOU LIKE TO LOOK AT MY BREASTS AND IT’S NOT A BIG DEAL? LET’S PULL ASIDE SOME OF THESE NICE PEOPLE GOING TO LUNCH AND SEE WHETHER THEY AGREE WITH ME THAT YOU’RE A DISGUSTING CREEP, SHALL WE?” So I start pulling strangers over and saying things like “Excuse me, may I take a moment of your time? This gentleman just said a disgusting thing to me and now I’d like to share it with you.” They finally start begging me to stop, saying things like “Come on, don’t make a scene, you’re embarrassing me,” things like that, and I told them maybe they should have thought of that BEFORE they sexually harassed me, and that they should think of me and the world of pain I, and thousands of other women like me, would be only too happy to unleash whenever they thought of acting like pieces of slime in the future. Then I said I was going to get a goddamn sandwich before they ruined any more of my lunch break but if I saw them on the steps when I came back I was calling the cops and reporting them for open containers, sexual harassment, and being generally lousy people. When I came back, they were gone. To this day I am 100% certain I did the right thing by publicly humiliating them, and I would do it again in a heartbeat, though this time I’d want a videophone handy and I’d use it to file a police report.
The weirdest thing about this story, though, and the one that bugs me most, is that I told my (supposedly liberal/progressive) boss about this when I came back (leaving out the profanity for obvious reasons), and explaining that I was feeling a little shaken up but thought I’d dealt with it responsibly, and he reacted by becoming VERY uncomfortable and treating me like some sort of hysterical loose cannon for the rest of the week – it’s like my standing up for myself made him more uncomfortable than the fact that I’d been a victim of gender-based violence and was feeling pretty gross and shaken up about it. I guess this shouldn’t surprise me because he had some serious issues with women (including stuff like giving men offices and women cubes despite the fact that they were in parallel positions?), but it still really gets to me – how many people react with discomfort at angry responses to harassment and would just rather that we ignored it and remained silent. Thanks but no thanks.
Submitted by Diana
Like every other woman, I have been harassed countless times, but this particular instance really creeped me out. I was on a fairly full L train headed to Brooklyn when I noticed this old guy sitting across staring very intently at me. There’s a lot of creepy guys out there, but this one, I kid you not, looked like he would be a creep from a movie. I have never seen a more disturbing looking individual with burning, glazed over, angry-drunken eyes in my life.
So as the train pulls into the next stop, he gets up and sits down right next to me. This would be the day that I actually don’t have my iPod with me. Then, he says “You’re very pretty.” I ignore him, and he escalates it louder, “I SAID, you’re VERY PRETTY.” Again, I ignore him. At this point, he is leering right up in my face and follows with, “What do you SAY WHEN SOMEONE GIVES YOU A COMPLIMENT? HUH? ANSWER ME!”
To stop his banter I finally say “Thank you.” I’m looking around the train and everyone is just staring, and watching this all take place without, of course, doing anything. The guy is getting more enraged by the minute, and I am trying to hide my physical shaking. He continues bantering me with “I GAVE YOU A COMPLIMENT! YOU COULDN’T EVEN SAY THANK YOU, YOU FUCKING BITCH! YOU GONNA TALK TO ME? YOU GONNA TALK TO ME?” This man is shouting in my face. I was torn as to whether it was safe for me to even get up and move to the next car, since he was getting increasingly irate but I just couldn’t take it and got up a ran off the train when it pulled to the next stop, and as I look back he’s still screaming at me and running to try and follow me, but luckily the doors had just shut.
Like I said, I’ve been harassed plenty of times before, and I’ve been chased for a short distance, but never have I been so frightened like I was in this incident.
Submitted by Leah
I parked my car 2 blocks from Miami’s opera house. I was walking along the street, in a knee-length dress with long sleeves. Miami is among the worst places I’ve ever been for street harassment but I figured guys saved it for women in revealing clothing.
The guy on the hot-shot motorcycle revved his engine as he came up to the stoplight. I was almost at the intersection when I heard his lecherous voice, “Hey baby, you’re looking so good tonight! What a beautiful woman!” I looked up and was glad to see a police officer in the intersection just ten feet away, directing traffic. He motioned me forward, holding the cars to wait while I crossed the street. I was so relieved: here was a cop to restore my sense of safety in front of the motorcycle-creep. I’m halfway across the street when the cop say, “Wow, you are really tall!”
And at that moment, the comment was not innocuous. Commenting on my physical body made me feel like an object, when I’d just been objectified 30 seconds earlier. In that moment, I was something to be evaluated and assessed, something to be critiqued and hopefully fucked.
I’m going to HOLLA BACK — both when it happens and here online — when it happens. Because yes, I am tall and blonde and fit many stereotypical notions of “beauty,” but that does NOT give any man the right to comment on my body.
Submitted by Tricia
My two girlfriends and I were walking toward the Hotel Rivington on Friday night. We passed by a group of three guys who were catcalling at us and one of them grabbed my arm as I walked by. I said, “Ew” and shook him off. When we walked away, one of them shouted, “Go study for your SATs fucking Chinese bitch.”
I marched up to him and his friends and told them not to call me a bitch. The one who called me a Chinese bitch, who was probably about 6’2″ and over 200 pounds (I am just over 100 pounds) shoved me two or three times – hard. I was yelling things like, “Oh, you’re going to push me? You’re going to push a girl?” He kept threatening to hit me, and he threatened to sic his professional boxer friend on me who he said would basically beat me to a pulp.
Then he spat in my face and bolted.
My biggest regret is not getting his name or photo.
Submitted by Andrea
I was walking to the subway, down U Street NW, and a man stared at my chest and made kissy-noises at me. I was so disgusted, I lost my head. I looked at him in disgust and said loudly, “Fuck you.”. I’m sure everyone around us heard and he just kept walking.
Submitted by Lauren, Washington DC