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I come from NYC where cat calls are bad, my comfort was there are people everywhere. Now I’m in Pittsburgh and I feel so vulnerable I don’t like to even leave my apt. I am always nervous walking, at bus stations, and on the bus.
Yesterday, when I was walking towards the train after a meeting in a gentrified and generally considered safe neighborhood in Brooklyn, a young white construction worker started harassing me. He was walking right toward me, arms outstretched, asking me where I was going looking so beautiful. This made me feel threatened and irritated–I was already in a bad mood.
“Women are not just objects to be ogled at.”
“Who’s ogling you? No one’s ogling you! I don’t even like white chicks! I don’t even like white chicks, you ugly bitch!”
“It’s mutual. Get a life! Get a life!”
Of course, those last two transcribed lines were largely yelled at almost the same time, but he did walk away defeated. I don’t care if I’m called ugly right after being called beautiful by a racist sexist construction worker. I felt empowered, and I hope that he doesn’t just assume one can harass any girl walking down the street–she might be a “crazy bitch” like me!
Construction men working on Jared Jewelers in the Target shopping center on Putty Hill whistling and waving at me and a number of other women walking to and from their cars.
I had parked a bit farther away from them and they still proceeded to call attention to themselves. Ridiculous grown men.
I am running with the gang – the rest of my university’s women’s cross-country running team. We’re warming up, heading along a downtown street toward the track for our workout. We pass a group of boys who look like fellow students. No one in our group acknowledges them.
They would have been just a few random strangers among the hundreds I pass every day, except then I hear some noise – garbled talking that I can’t make out, and what might have been a whistle.
And then I can make it out, can tell exactly what it is, and I’m furious but we’re past them and it’s too late to say anything without getting left behind.
I resign myself to doing nothing and moving on. But these guys aren’t done yet. The vocal one and his “pack” follow us around the corner, and I hear him shout “can I get a number ladies?”
Because clearly those of us on the VARSITY WOMEN’S CROSS-COUNTRY RUNNING TEAM have NOTHING better to do than stop to exchange contact info with some stranger in the middle of our workout. Clearly.
I keep running, afraid of what might happen if I stop – for whatever reason. And I don’t yell back, unwilling to start something and involve the whole team. But I refuse to roll over completely. Without even looking back, I raise my hand high and I give him the finger.
I don’t know if he sees, or knows what I’m trying to convey, but I feel better after taking some action. I doubt I changed anything today, but it’s not about that – it’s about there being a record of someone having said: this is not okay.
I was walking to campus from Walgreens when some guy with his hands shoved in his sweatpants pockets started following me. He followed me almost to the park, at which point I was basically running, yelling about how big his dick was and how much I’d like it. When he stopped following, he started calling me a bitch and an assortment of other great names. I’m just glad he didn’t follow me any further.
I was groped by a man on a bicycle two days in a row in Astoria. Considering I have lived here for 3 years and have felt very safe, this is really shocking and difficult to comprehend.
The first incident happened on the corner of 43rd Street and 30th Avenue around 3:30 while I was walking to the gym. A man on a bike was riding on the sidewalk towards me. He stopped directly behind me while I was waiting for the light and smacked my butt. I was so shocked that I did nothing as he sped away. No one else on the street seemed to noticed what had happened. I daydreamed all of the obscenities I could shout at this perv if I could go back in time, thinking that that this was a fluke and would never happen again.
Oh no, the very next day I was walking down 46th street around 6:30 pm and a guy on bike sneaked up behind me, whispered “nice ass” and grabbed me. He then sped away. I screamed “Asshole!” but really, does this affect a person like this? I got a better look at him and assume he’s probably the same guy.
I called the local precinct and the cop who I spoke to said that other women in Astoria have complained about this guy, near the locations I was at. He told me I could file a report if I wanted to. I went but a different cop said that it would be a waste of time. “These things happen,” he told me. Thanks buddy, that sure makes me feel safer.
I was loading my car with boxes, moving out of my apartment. While I was bent over trying to stack a box near the front, a young man in a red not-quite-sports car drove by and catcalled. I ignored it. Maybe fifteen minutes later, a guy in his forties was walking by and stopped to comment on my ass. I got out of the back of my car, looking him straight in the eye and said “Your comments aren’t helpful and you’re sexually harassing me. Leave me alone.” He called me a bitch and strutted away. This is not my first time being harassed in my college town of Bowling Green. I’ve gotten stared at and ‘spoken about’ among groups of men just walking down Main street. One time, I was riding home on my bike on the street (it’s illegal to ride on the sidewalk), and two young guys nearly ran me off the road in their car and shouted “Get off the road slut!” to me as they drove by. In Cleveland when I was in eighth grade, I was walking home from the bus stop and a group of construction workers- on my home street, just three or four doors down- started catcalling me and asking me where I was going. Now that I’ve got both experience and education on my side, I’m going to the neighbor in the red car (I know who he is, idiot) and leaving a nice note on his car.
Two young guys on a train in Boston, MA. They’re probably drunk, we’re probably heading from the same baseball game. They’ve been hitting on/sexually harassing some college-age girls on the same train car as me without getting any responses.
Next they start glancing over towards me, a butch woman with short hair, and I overhear one of them mutter about my haircut. The other speculates whether I’m a man or a woman. Then the first starts asking “are you a lesbian” first quietly, then a little louder and again, a little louder. Like he’s trying to poke me, force me to react.
I stay silent and plan what to do or say next. I estimate how drunk they are, how heavy they look, and whether I could shove one enough to knock him down if I needed to. My heart’s pounding and I realize this is the third time in as many weeks I’ve faced harassment or derogatory speech for being visibly gay. At the next stop, the guys get off the train and I am relieved, but still angry. I decide that when I get home, I will post this on Hollaback and hopefully my story might help others, or at least make me feel less helpless.
We’ve been sending personal responses to all our donors thanking them, and this reply really struck a cord with us. The writer anonymously agreed to share it with us.
Thank YOU for everything you do. I only wish I could contribute more. I live in New York City and when I was working in an office I would get harassed almost every day going to or from work. Now I’m a freelance writer and I work from home so I encounter it less on the street but have started experiencing truly frightening things in bars. In the last few weeks, I had a man walk in on me in a bathroom stall (the lock was apparently broken) in an empty women’s bathroom, and just stand there and stare at me for a good ten seconds. He didn’t say anything or act surprised that he’d walked in on me or that he was in the wrong bathroom, and then he just calmly left. A week later, I was at another bar with all male friends and a guy who was alone at the bar, only about five feet away from me, was turning around to look at me every 30 seconds. Sometimes he’d turn his chair around completely and stare for a solid five minutes and listen to what I was saying as though he was in the conversation. When I took my phone out at one point to check my texts and Facebook and such, he took his phone out and pointed it directly at mine, so that it was only like two feet away, and then immediately spun his chair back around as soon as I put my phone away. (That was one of the strangest things and really scared me.) He was completely undeterred by me and all of my friends and my very angry boyfriend giving him nasty looks, and he did all of this for over an hour until I was so uncomfortable that I had stopped talking completely because I didn’t want him listening to me and didn’t want to leave the bar for fear of him following me anywhere, even if I was with other people. I’ve lived in cities before, but have never experienced anything like this, or the level and frequency of street harassment that occurs in New York. I lived in Baltimore for college for four years. I was harassed on the street ONCE, and another man sitting near him got up and started yelling at him, “How dare you speak to her that way?! Have some respect!” So it actually ended up being a rather endearing experience. I’m constantly harassed in New York, always in front of plenty of people, and no one has ever come to my defense here. Not that I can’t fight my own battles, but the acknowledgment of others who witness it that it is not okay would be nice. (What a cruel joke it is that I pay SO much more money to live here than other places and I’m not even treated like a human being when I walk around the city.)
Sorry for venting all of this to you completely unsolicited. I just really hope you know how important this is to so many of us. If you ever have those days that are frustrating or hopeless, we appreciate what you do so much.
A guy in a white car: The ubiquitous ‘hey baby,’ something else I couldn’t make out, a jacking off gesture.
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