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I was 18 in the spring semester of my freshman year at college. I crossed the street on the way to drawing class and a man stopped on his way to stare at me.
“OOOH DO YOU SPIT OR SWALLOW?!” yelled the man.
Unfortunately, he did not stick around for long to watch me drop my portfolio and go ape-shit with obscenities.
I acknowledge the fullness of my lips and have gotten teased about them while still feeling completely unaffected, but this was the most demeaning thing said to me.
And men on the street ask me why I don’t smile…
A couple years ago I was living in Victoria and was going downtown to meet a friend for a show. I was probably 17 at the time, but my round face, short stature and plain clothes made me look 14 tops. My dad intended to drive me straight to the theatre, but I was thirsty so I asked him to drop me off at 7-Eleven so I could get a drink (he was uncomfortable, but since I was only a few blocks away from where I was going, I told him I’d be fine). When I came out of the convenience store there was a creepy man loitering outside, staring at me. He got fairly close and stepped in front of me, glaring unapologetically at my chest. He told me my “necklace” was pretty, and asked if he could get a closer look at it. He kept inching closer and it was obvious he intended on touching/molesting me. I smiled politely (an instinctual reaction), said “no thanks”, and went on walking. As I walked away he continued asking me if he could take a closer look at my necklace, and once I’d put enough distance between us to deter him from talking to me, he continued to follow in silence. He stalked me for two blocks until I finally met up with my friend, then he left. I told my friend what had happened, and we awkwardly laughed about it before brushing it off and going on with our night.
I find it disturbing that someone would behave like this towards someone who was so obviously underage, and uninterested.
I was walking over a bridge with narrow pavements either side, on my way to work. I saw three young guys walking towards me, as we got closer he stopped abruptly in my way, and said ‘do you want to move out of the way, you slag’. I was infuriated, I stared him in the face but my heart was pounding so hard because I was so angry that someone could talk to a stranger like that. I actually remember that I said ‘no, I don’t’ (I now know that wasn’t the best thing to do but I was so angry). They looked at each other, smirking and walked around me, shouting abuse as they walked away. I turned around and replied with my own array of insults, but for the rest of the walk to work and back I was on edge and frankly, a bit scared.
I was walking back to my house when I saw two builder types each old enough to be my father walking towards me sniggering, and my instant reaction was ‘they’re going to say something to me, I should cross the road’, but foolishly out of some kind of mad hope that the human race might not be full of wankers I stayed, and of course as they walked past one of them made kissing noises at me. Was so angry that I shouted ‘Dream on mate’ at them, cue much fake laughter from the two. The one silver lining is I then passed another man who I think overheard who gave me what might have been an encouraging smile. Unfortunately my sense of what was going on was so warped by my anger he could have been another pervert for all I know…Shame that I have to question even possible acts of kindness because of all the horrible idiots.
I was on my way home from work yesterday – a sunny and pleasant afternoon – when I alighted from the Capitol Theatre Light Rail stop (in Sydney, Australia) near a busy intersection in the CBD at around 4.30pm.
The sunlight was quite bright and I’d forgotten my sunglasses, so I raised my hand to block the sun from my eyes and started to make my way towards the intersection.
Out of the corner of my eye I saw a normal-looking man walking towards me (he was wearing a collared green shirt and black pants) and he locked his eyes on me and changed his walking pace and even side-shuffled a little so that he could force himself into my path.
I tried to move out of his way but her kept blocking me, then said quietly in my ear so no one else would hear: “sexy armpit.”
My face automatically scrunched up in disbelief, and my the time I processed what this perve had said and done, he was starting to power walk off. I turned around and yelled at the top of my lungs and called him a wanker in front of the small crowd that was waiting to cross the road at the same intersection I was standing at, but he didn’t look back and kept briskly walking away like nothing had happened.
Of course everyone looked at me like I was a psycho, because to them it would look like I’d yelled at him simply for walking into me, they wouldn’t have heard what he said.
It wasn’t that confronting or lewd, but I felt shaken up nonetheless and spent the next few hours going over it in my mind and what I wish I’d said/done.
It’s been a while since I’ve been street harassed, but it was a familiar feeling; like I’d had my dignity snatched away against my will and I felt like a piece of meat there to be judged and commented on by men.
I’d started reading Hollaback a couple of months before this incident occurred, and I thank this website for giving me the courage to turn around and yell at this perve to let him know it wasn’t ok – normally I would have just stayed quiet with shock and scampered away, but not anymore. My only regret is that I didn’t get a photo of the prick.
Thanks Hollaback for making me a braver woman!
I actually have two situations that seemed harmless, and perhaps I would be overreacting but I think it keeps me alert and on my toes.
The first incident happened Fall 2010. I usually go to BP, the gas station near my university, before I go home (two hours away). I gave the cashier my money to gas up. He had this really happy look on his face, like way-too-happy-to-be-working-at-a-gas-station look, but I shrugged it off, thinking he was probably one of those people that smiled all the time and were polite. For some reason when I went back to the pump, it wasn’t letting me gas up. I went back in as the cashier for some reason was coming out. I stopped him and he recognized me saying “Yes, sweetheart?” I was taken aback by this but ignored him and explained what happened. He asked me which pump it was and as I turned to point at it, I felt a hand on my shoulder, too weirded out (the man was at least twice my age). He told me to move forward and take a another pump. After I gassed up, I called my then boyfriend and explained what happened. It doesn’t scare me today because he doesn’t work there anymore but it is creepy and made me feel uncomfortable.
The second incident happened last weekend. My boyfriend and I were at the movie theater. After we saw our film, we went to the arcade like always, and I head straight to the Galaga machine. There was a group of teenage boys around the area where the game was but I didn’t pay them any attention. My boyfriend went off to refill our soda and I began to play. Not soon after he left, this kid (and I say kid because I’m nearly twenty and he looked and sounded like he was 13) came up next to the machine and poked his head out to watch the screen as I played. He was blocking my view so I said “Do you mind?” He looked at me and goes “I just wanted to watch. Am I allowed to watch?” He was very cocky and reminded me of guys I went to high school with that had that tone of voice to pick up girls. I ignored him and he went away, talking with his buddies about me.
It came to the challenging stage which if you’ve played, means no enemies shoot at you. I keep the joystick in the middle and just kept pressing the fire button. All of a sudden this kid come back and starts moving the joystick back and forth and messing me up. I grabbed his wrist and passed him away telling him to stop. I wondered why he was acting so rude. As I continued to play, his other friends would be on either side of me and behind me, making comments about me and my purple bunny hat (“Are you going to a sleepover later?) Lame insults but all I could think about is why me? Why are they targetting me when clearly I’m a lot older than them and I definitely wasn’t wearing anything to give me unwanted attention (aside from the hat, which is my favorite hat). All I could say to these kids were “Kids today”.
Luckily my boyfriend came back and I explained to him the situation, loudly so the kids could hear I was talking about them. They soon left.
It makes me angry that kids are acting like that at such an early age. Just because I’m a woman, minding my own business playing an arcade game makes me vulnerable and perfect target? It’s bullshit.
When I was 13, and a nerdy bookish 7th grader, I was picked on by the other kids from my neighborhood because I was a) overweight, b) smart than them, and c) didn’t shave my legs yet. At one point, they called me “Congo” and told me to go shave my legs. This went on for about a year or so.
One day, a boy said, “You should shave your legs!”, and 14-year-old me looked him straight in the eye and, without missing a beat, said, “Why are you looking at my legs?”
They never bothered me again.
I’m 48 now, and I’ve been dealing with this crap for well over 30 years. So much so, that it’s become second nature to me. If I walk past a group of workmen, I automatically tense. I keep my eyes down as I walk past, I try to be invisible. It’s just ‘what we do’ right? But recently it was all brought home to me. The utter wrongness of this state of affairs, the injustice of it, the fact that in all my years in the women’s movement, many things have changed but this, this daily attack on our civil liberties, remains the same.
My then 12 year old daughter (now 13) came home from school one day complaining about “all the men who shout at me in the street”. At 12, TWELVE, she already deals with daily catcalls, car horns, leering looks and unwanted attention. And what could I tell her? Sorry honey, this is now a part of your life. You’re becoming a woman and, wherever you go in the world, whatever you do, however you look, there will be a certain type of guy who considers it ok to force his way into your personal space to tell you that you do/do not meet with his ‘approval’.
Do you know how that makes me feel, as a mother, to have to tell my beautiful, innocent daughter that this is the way the world works?
So I’m teaching her to hollaback (and how to do that and keep herself safe) and maybe her generation will do what mine failed to do, and make this shit unacceptable.
I’ve given her the link to this site and it’s inspired her. She’s even sent in her own story. So keep fighting the good fight.
When I was in high school (one of the many private, Catholic, single-sex high schools in Cincinnati), I was very involved in theatre. Our adult staff was on the small side, so we occasionally hired outside people to do additional music, tech work, etc. Several times a guy named Rick (who happened to be a friend of the director’s) was a guest musical director, and all the girls dreaded having to work with him. He very much gave off that creepy old man vibe and often made borderline inappropriate remarks. He was the kind of man other men brush off as “quirky,” but who women recognize immediately as being a threat- we could tell from the way he undressed us with his eyes. I tried to stay away from him as much as possible and to be cold if he ever tried to speak to me, so for awhile my experience was secondhand. That didn’t last.
He was walking by a group of us as we were listening intently to our director; it happened so fast I didn’t say anything, and I couldn’t leave to confront him without attracting attention. He “dropped” something on the floor next to me and, as he was bending over to pick it up, put his hand on my hip, letting it linger there for a few seconds after he’d already straightened up. Then he went on his way like it was nothing. I was so shocked- I had no idea what to do. As soon as I could I told a few people what had happened. They were sympathetic but thought that maybe he was just steadying himself so as not to fall over. Um, excuse me, he was NOT old enough to have to do that, and besides, that’s what walls and chairs and other OBJECTS are for, not people. Since I didn’t know how to respond, I just stayed away from him.
Later that day a friend told me she’d had a run-in with him too. She was standing backstage and could hear Rick and the director talking. He pointed to my friend (who has pretty large breasts) and said, obviously not thinking she could hear, “Girls like her are why I could never teach at this school.” That was enough to push me into taking action. I knew I couldn’t complain to the director about him- he responded to this remark with an awkward laugh and nothing more- so we went to the assistant director. He listened carefully and then told us that, while he shared our concern, we were a week away from opening the show and he couldn’t possibly find a new music director in time…. surely we understood his predicament. I was taken aback but asked him if that meant he would take it up with him, the director, and our principal after the show was over. He promised he would.
Almost four years later, he is still doing shows there.
That is what baffles me- that a man so universally unnerving, with a history of inappropriate remarks (and touching!), is allowed to stare at underage Catholic school girls to his heart’s content. If that isn’t a lawsuit in the making, I don’t know what is. How was that not taken more seriously?? I wish I had had the courage and foresight to take this further, to push until something happened to him, but I didn’t. He still does music directing and sound mixing for schools all over Ohio- if you happen to run into him, PLEASE report any inappropriate behavior so that it gets documented. He needs to not be allowed to be around underage girls.
One night I was walking home from the campus gym, caught up in my own head. As I hit the last sidewalk intersection on my way home I started hearing calls of “hey blue shorts…” the first three times I thought “god, I would be livid if someone was talking to me like that!” and looked in front of me for the blue shorts girl, but she wasn’t there. So I looked back, just a rowdy group of 6′ plus men hollering for Blue Shorts. Then it hit me. I looked down. My shorts were blue.
They kept it up, 5 and 6 times, calling out my hair style, asking if I was too good to talk to them, so I got pissed off. I spun around and let fly one of the nicest flows of cusswords I’ve ever made. I asked them how their mothers would feel, to know that their money was sending them to college so they could scare girls on the way home from the gym. I asked them if this was some f*cked up game to them, and then told them, with gusto to f*ck off. As I spun around they got irritated and told me that “bitch, I couldn’t talk to them like that” so I turned back and said “bitch yes I can! You yelled at me like a dog. I can say anything I like to you!” and stormed off to my dorm.
I was still terrified the whole last block, but I’ve never been harassed like that again.