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I am a cis-het white female and I acknowledge that 1) I have benefited, and still benefit, from white privilege 2) we DO NOT live in a post-racial society and 3) my experience pales in comparison to others’. But I think it’s important to share this story.
I’m new to the Atlanta area so when I caused the mirror to fall out of one of my side-view mirrors, I called up the nearest shop to order a new one. It came in at noon today, so I went over to pick it up. When I arrived, I noticed a large group of older men were in and around the entrance.
As I got out of my car, someone yelled something obscene at me. As I walked in the door, someone else made a crude comment to me. As I was waiting in line, someone else attempted to strike up a conversation with me, starting with asking where I was from. All of these men I ignored.
While still waiting in line for my new mirror, the last guy started commenting on my height, my hair, something about a “tall drink of water.” I was fed up and furious with all this unwanted attention so I turned around, looked him in the eye and asked him to “please leave me alone” in the most deadpan and unemotional voice I could muster. He pretended not to hear me, so I had to say it again. His response: “Racism is alive and well!”
I was so angry. How dare he turn the fault of this situation on to me. HE decided making crude comments towards me about my appearance trumped MY desire to go about my business and be left alone, which I made perfectly clear by not responding to him initially. And he took it for racism on my part rather than owning up to his own actions.
An employee rung me up a few minutes later, and I wanted to stay and ask how him I should go about installing my new mirror. But I was so angry and upset, and felt so unsafe, that I got out as quickly as I could. But not before another man tried to hand me his card despite me telling him “no thank you” repeatedly.
After experiencing street-harassment on a daily basis, and heavily researching it throughout the day, I’ve been feeling pretty inspired to speak up. I have another success story to share from this afternoon.
The past two days have seemed laden with honking, whistling, smiling, and other unwanted invasions of my personal and mental space. I work in an industrial neighborhood in Hayward, CA, and sometimes I could swear it’s a breeding ground for this.
And just because I feel that it needs to be stated and emphasized, I can personally confirm that IT DOES NOT MATTER WHAT YOU ARE WEARING. YOU ARE NEVER “ASKING” TO BE HARASSED. Yesterday’s weather was stormy and cloudy. I was in a jacket all day, and still was harassed on the street. Today was warm and sunny. I was in a blouse, and was still harassed on the street. THERE IS NOTHING “WRONG” WITH WHAT YOU CHOOSE TO WEAR. THE HARASSERS ARE THE PROBLEM, NOT YOU.
I take a walk every day during my lunchtime, all in the same neighborhood, on the same route. Today included the usual startling honks, hollers, etc. that cause me to feel tense about every single car and human that passes by. It’s a feeling of bracing myself for impact. That’s really what it is. You never know when it’s coming, how long it will last, and how frequently it will happen during one “round” of walking outside of four walls, into public.
With all of the harassers being in passing vehicles, it was difficult to do anything other than give them the finger, or yell obscenities back. I don’t usually shout back, but I was feeling overly frustrated and objectified today. I even ran after a truck when the driver was stopped at a light, to write down the plate number. Enough is enough.
For the past month or so, there have been a group of men working in the gravel yard of a metal-structuring company. There are always massive metal beams that are being loaded onto truck beds, by the use of cranes and forklifts. These men have stared at me every time I’ve passed by since they’ve begun working there. I’ve walked by this place for over two years, with no incidents until now. They will literally stop what they’re doing and freeze, their eyes boring into me like fucking lasers, I tell you. And that smiiiile. I’m sure you know the one.
Today was different, because I got fed up with it. They’ve been saying things to me in Spanish (“Hola, bebe,” for example), and then pretending that they’re conversing with the other men when I look at them. They don’t know that I can understand them, and it’s hilarious.
I don’t remember what it was they were saying at me today. All I see are gums flapping at this point, to be honest. As I was approaching, I counted three of those smiles, and I couldn’t count the stares. One of the men driving the forklift closest to me said something as I passed, so I slowed my pace and stared back at them. Two of them continued to stare and smile, even looking through the gaps in the metal beams when I was out of sight for one split second. Since they continued to stare and talk at me, I decided to video-record them with my phone. I wasn’t actually recording anything, but they didn’t know that. The one in the forklift asked, “Oh you want a video?” To which I replied, “Yep!” and held the phone pointed at him. HE was now the focus. HE was the one being watched while he was simply minding his own business. He laughed nervously, looked away, and went back to his work. Not another word to or about me. For one second, I WAS INVISIBLE TO HIM.
Once I returned to my workplace, I called the company that the men work for. The receptionist listened intently to the problem I was reporting, and I could swear she sounded happy that a woman chose to speak up. I was then connected to the manager, who was incredibly understanding. It blew me away. He said, “Wow. Those guys work for me, so I’ll be sure to talk to them about this.” He even gave me his name and cell-phone number, and told me to call him immediately if this ever happens again. He apologized that this was happening to me, and truly seemed disgusted at these people.
Neither the receptionist nor the manager seemed aware in any way that this was happening. And that’s part of the problem. Workplace harassment happens out-of-sight of authority. These men knew that the manager couldn’t see or hear them, and they’ve had a field day with it. It’s a game of power-play that I chose to end.
I was walking to Starbucks, trying to cross the road and a car of guys started yelling at me to fuck off, that I need to die and that I was a whore.
I just left my gym class at 7:30am and was walking to work. A man walking towards me started coming close to me and speaking in another language with a gross look on his face. He started making those kissy sounds (over and over) and then kept talking. I wanted to punch him in the face. But I didn’t. Because he was bigger then me and because what if he was crazy? Who gave him the right?
Was catcalled at about 21:10 tonight as I was headed home from lab by some asshat in a white work truck. He just kinda screamed loudly out his window, clearly intent on startling me. This happens pretty much every night on this street, whether I’m alone or with my friends, so I wasn’t surprised. I just flipped him the bird and kept walking. It’s getting REALLY old. This was on South Road right before the driveway into the Park and Ride or Josephine Butler College and after I had passed Collingwood.
I was out with my friend in the city that I love so very much, and I experienced the most real sexual harassment in my 24 years, twice. We were at a bar and this guy came up to us and asked if we we wanted a drink and I said, “I’m sorry, but we’re good.” Which he didn’t like at all and didn’t understand why we didn’t want a drink. I tried to explain to him that he needed to respect the fact that we didn’t want anything, we didn’t want to be talked to or touched. He proceeded to call me a bitch because I didn’t want to talk to him, so I told him he needed to back off.
I think no one would be surprised that he wasn’t pleased by that, so he threatened me with, “What are you going to do, anyway?” And my friend and his friend said to just walk away, so I did, to not cause a scene. Then we went to another bar where the EXACT SAME THING HAPPENED! And I told a bouncer at the new bar that I had been assaulted and I didn’t want to file a complaint, I just wanted to know that there was someone looking out for the other women there, because when I left to go find a bouncer the new assaulter had a girl by the neck. The bouncer seemed to think I had made it up. More than I hate to think that women are being assaulted in the hospitality state, I hate to think that women are being shamed for sticking up for other women. I worry because I had to ask two women if they were okay because I wasn’t comfortable with the appearance of the situation, and they were both so shocked that someone would pay attention enough to be concerned.
At approximately 6pm, a car honked and pulled over while I was out for a walk in a “nice” tree-lined neighborhood. Now, I’ve already had the experience of a man stalking me in his car in this area (demanding that I drive him home, which I’ve since interpreted to be an attempted abduction), but I thought, well, maybe he’s lost or — well, basically anything other than what happened next. Here is the exchange in full:
HIM, sitting in his car: You wanna make some extra money?
HIM: You sure?
ME: [wtf] No. [turning to walk away]
ME: … [walking away]
HIM: You’re beautiful!
Fortunately he drove away, but he could have had any number of violent reactions to me turning him down, which is very scary. But guess what? My day of harassment was not over!
I was still outside, and had to get back…on the way, I was honked at twice. Also, a guy hanging out the window of his friend’s car shouted, “heyyyyy” at me as they drove by. I shouted back my crass thoughts, but who knows if he heard. It was particularly frustrating because after the “heyyyy” guy passed by, an older man walked by with his dog and gave me the usual nod of acknowledgment you give passers-by. ALL WAS NORMAL. Women pushing babies in strollers, men jogging. But all I can think about is how terrible my experience out in that same exact public space was…it seemed like everyone was having a lovely time except me, the Female Human in Public.
May 12th, walking down Margaret St. towards Koffee Kat. A man in a turquoise shirt, blue hat and red shorts was sitting on a bench across the street from me (corner of Brink and Margaret). I’m just minding my own business, walking near JCEO and hear, “Hey, want to come sit with me?” then, “Damn, you’ve got a nice tight ass, mmm.” He then proceeds to sing aloud and yell at others who went by in cars. I had to walk by again to get to my car, an hour later. He was still there.
This man was always calling out to me when I walked by, every single time I walked by.
I haven’t read all of the stories on this website, so maybe someone like me has already shared a similar experience. (Also, I’m disappointed there isn’t a Hollaback in DC.)
I live in the Columbia Heights neighborhood in Washington, DC, which is very diverse – a lot of white, black, and Latino residents–but not many Asian residents. There aren’t many Asians in DC to begin with, as they mostly live in the MD and VA suburbs. I am Asian American and female, and I believe the street harassment I experience is not only sexist, but also racist.
One time last summer, after a friend and I had drinks at a local bar, I walked home by myself around 1:00am. The neighborhood is pretty safe, though mostly deserted. I passed by a man parallel-parking his car and he yelled out the window, “You’d make a great concubine!” It was bad enough that he would yell anything at me to begin with, but I know I never would have gotten the “concubine” comment if I weren’t Asian. How am I supposed to respond to that?
I kept walking and ignored him, but I felt so angry that 1) he did that to me and 2) more importantly, I couldn’t do anything about it. I wish there were laws on the books about street harassment, particularly in DC, where it is rampant, so that I could have taken down the guy’s license plate and reported him to the police and he could have been fined or something. But no such laws exist. Yet…?
Another incidence of street harassment happened a few days ago. I was passing a construction site on the way to a meeting, and one of the construction workers tried to say hi to me and get my attention. I just ignored him because he said it in a way that I could tell he was trying to flirt or otherwise sexually/inappropriately harass me. But because I chose to ignore him and keep walking, he yelled after me, “What, you don’t understand English?!” Again, had I not been Asian, I would not have received such a comment about not understanding English. Does that mean if I could understand English I would automatically be willing to respond to him??? How does that logic make any sense? Again, I felt furious that there was nothing I could do in response.