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I’m invisible when I walk down the street alone. I get cursory glances from some people but hardly anyone looks up. I’m readily identified as male-bodied. The second day I met two women from Britain at my hostel and it seemed like the creeps came out of the woodwork. Of course, they were there all along, but they don’t feel the entitlement to harass a white male – yet when a woman passes…
From Downtown Cairo to Dokki to the pyramids we endured catcalls and hisses. The worst was when we got back to Talaat Harb Square. A young guy hissed at my friends and followed us. As we were crossing the street he was getting aggressively close to one of my friends and telling her really disgusting, rude shit. I moved to help block him off and he started swearing at us, calling me a “fucker” (“you fucker, I saw you with other girls last week!” – sorry, I just got here yesterday) and them “American bitches”.
Ah, right. Then, he tried to invite us to buy some scented oils at his shop! Yay! … (north side of Talaat Harb immediately to the west of the square – avoid this shop).
Finally, we fought him off at his shop and went back to our hostel. The experience was rounded out so perfectly, I feel, when the doorman for the hostel stopped us to tell my friends that, “look, you’re in the right, you’re very respectful – you are well-covered and you have a male escort. He is a fucker.” Clearly, dressing modestly and having a “male escort” is no protection against harassment.
In the six months I’ve lived here since I’ve heard it repeated by the women who live here: you’re told to conform to standards of dress and movement (male escort, use the female-only car on the metro) to avoid being harassed (and worse) but they’re useless in the face of a determined, self-entitled fuck.
Submitted by Daetan
My friend and I were grocery shopping. She was off looking at veggies and I was alone in the back corner grabbing some bread. As I set off to meet up with her I paused to pull up my tights. Some tall creep rounded the corner, laughed, and said “Somebody’s going to get laid tonight” and kept going. It didn’t register for a moment and when I finally managed to say “fuck you” he was out of ear shot and my voice was so, so small. It made the rest of the night weird.
Submitted by LO
I was walking a dog about 3:15 this afternoon on Prospect Park West between 11th and 12th streets a male, about 6’2″, middle aged with gray facial hair carrying a new york times and a bottle of water says to me,”she’s looking for you.” I gave him a weird look and saw a female dog walker behind him. I approached the woman because she looked distraught and asked if she’s was ok. She said, “that man spat on me.” I saw this man once before jogging in the park near the 11th street entrance, and he shouted “white trash” in my direction. I dismissed it at the time because he was wearing head phones. now I see a connection between both incidences: both of his targets were women, and both dog walkers.
Submitted by Tina
Walking on West 16th street at 2pm in the afternoon, I crossed paths with a man who said “hey, sweetheart” and reached out to grab me. I dodged out of the way and yelled, “Who are you? Get away from me!” I kept walking, but he said, “OK bitch, no wonder you’re by yourself.” I turned back and responded, “You tried to grab me, do you really think that’s ok?” He said, “Nobody tried to grab you.” (oh, gee, I guess you just extended your hand out towards my chest because you needed to stretch???)
I fished my phone out of my purse, and pointed the camera at him. For some reason he pulled his phone out of his pocket and put it to his ear (even though he hadn’t dialed anything). He said, “Whatever, I’m an attorney, so, what are you going to do?” I’d already gotten a picture, so I said “I’m going to put you on the internet with other assholes who harass women on the street.” Again, I started walking away, but I guess he still couldn’t let me have the last word, because he launched into a diatribe, calling me fat, ugly, a bitch, and a kike. Classy.
During this rant, another man came by pushing a cart full of construction supplies. He said to me, “Don’t worry about what he says, you’re beautiful.” I appreciated that he was trying to be nice, but I couldn’t help feeling that he was kind of missing the point. I think one of the driving impulses behind street harassment is the assumption that women desire/need/are required to build our identities and sense of self on men’s opinions of us. But you know what? Good OR bad, a stranger’s opinion DOESN’T MATTER to me. If I don’t know you, I don’t care what you think of me.
Anyway, I let the construction guy get in between me and the ranting guy, and took advantage of the distance to get another photo. During his rant, I realized this guy was actually slurring his words. Since he was so interested in listing all the things he thought were wrong with me, I asked him “Do you really believe I care what you think of me?” Then, as he continued on, I said, “You’re slurring your words. Are you drunk?” Strangely, this was the comment that actually made him angry. He came towards me and yelled “Bitch, I will fuck you up!” This would have been scary if it weren’t for the fact that he couldn’t walk without stumbling back and forth. Instead, it was just funny. I laughed, and said, “you are really funny.” He said, “Funny? You’re jewisss.” I laughed again, and said “You’re hilarious!” then, since there were a couple of other people on the block watching the whole thing, “look everyone, it’s Mel Gibson!” I kept laughing as I walked away.
Submitted by Nancy
Today I was walking with a friend (who is a girl) to grab a bite to eat. We had already made plans to hit the gym afterwards so we were in gym wear/sweats and a sweater. As we were walking down the street there were a group of men in a circle talking amongst themselves. One of them had turned around and I had made eye contact with him. As we passed by he said “hey ladies” about 3 or 4 times but we just ignored the bunch and kept walking. Then he was like “ok, hey men” about a couple times. His other friend said something about “pulling our dick up” or something of that nature.
I flipped them off and we just walked away. My friend wasn’t phased by it (or maybe she was) but I was so tempted to go off. I was pissed. As I’ve read on this site, the only consolation we have as women is to speak up and put men in their place when these instances occur. Most times I just have so much rage that I wouldn’t be able to have a calm dialogue with these so-called men. My reaction is to cuss at them or something along those lines. I know that doesn’t solve anything, but it makes me feel a little bit better.
This has happened on several occasions and one time I had to involve the cops because the guy had grazed my breast, trying to get my attention as I was listening to my ipod.
I just wanted to share my story that even in open-minded San Francisco, CA, shady stuff can still go down. This behavior is universal and sometimes it’s hard not to be disappointed in humanity. I will truck on and have promised myself to work on using my voice in a productive way when these situations happen, cos sadly, I know it’s going to happen again and again.
Submission by Madeline
I work nights and one night on my way in to my job,
I was verbally assaulted by a horrific man on Market St.
I heard someone make a noise and looked up, which was
probably a mistake. I try to never make eye contact w/
men who harass and just keep walking.
This guy was almost pure evil in the way he was talking,
though. He made racist comments, and then called me an
ugly bitch and a c**t. I kept walking. It felt like
someone took a knife and stabbed me. He tried to engage
me in some kind of argument sparring with this taunting tone of voice, and I just kept on going. I was tired and
had a long night ahead of me, and felt like breaking down
for real. This was the worst experience of harassment I’ve
ever had happen to me. As I walked away, this psycho
kept screaming the word c**t over and over, and I thought
he was going to chase after me or try to hurt me physically.
This may not have happened during the daytime, but my job
is at night, and I can’t avoid that. Also, I don’t have a
car. This was horribly disturbing. I dont think I’ll ever
walk down Market St. at night ever again.
Submitted by Trina
My two friends and i were waiting for a bus to get back to my apartment, and a guy sitting next to us starting talk to us, he started out asking normal questions then went right into asking if we were single, and we politely said no (at this point with the way we responded it’s clear we didn’t want him to talk to us again, however he was relentless) He proceeded to ask if we were lesbians, we replied no, then as we stood up for our bus he says “damn you girls look good standing up!” then my outspoken friend says “look that’s enough, stop” he says it again, and my friend then says “no really stop, you’re crossing the line” and by the time we got on the bus he sat all the way in the back while we sat in the front. It just goes to show you can’t be afraid to put creeps in their place when they’re harassing you. I know that if i was without that friend of mine i would have stayed speechless and allowed the man to continue harassing me.
Submitted by Marissa
For some reason I thought that starting a Hollaback! in Baltimore (launching later this month!) would make me invisible to street harassment. Like, for the greater good, karma would do me a favor and let me pass. Well, I was wrong. A young-20’s guy looked me over and said “sexy” right as we passed shoulder to shoulder on the street- while I was FLYERING FOR THE HOLLABACK BMORE! LAUNCH PARTY. Ugh. I change it up, but my first response this time was a forceful “Shut Up!”. Then he says, “you shut up, bitch!”, then I say “let me take a picture of you so I can show everyone what an asshole is..(silence while walking away)…don’t worry, I got it” (my phone sucks, so I didn’t get it, but I made the gesture anyway). I felt ok about the whole thing b/c Hollaback has given me the confidence that the streets are mine just as much as they are his, but then later I passed by a bank security guard who saw the incident. He asked exactly what the guy said and made sure I was ok, which I thought was pretty cool, but then he gave me that same old, “you gotta watch what you say to people so you don’t get hurt”. I’m not an idiot, it was the middle of the day with plenty of people around and I’ve taken a self-defense class. If the situation escalated and someone did get hurt, it would absolutely be the HARASSER’S fault, not mine. Really tired of the victim-blaming mentality. Perhaps if the other two women on the street and that security guy had all responded to that jerks rude behavior, then HE would have to worry about what he said to people, not me.
Submitted by Shawna
My neighborhood in Astoria is quiet, mostly. It’s safe, mostly. And for the most part its residents have never given me any kind of trouble.
One day I was walking home from my friend’s apartment along 31st street. It was summer so I was wearing cut-off jean shorts and a tank. I know that my outfit had nothing to do with it, but for a while I stopped wearing tank tops in public thinking this was the cause.
It was the middle of the day so the street was almost empty except for a largish (5+) group of young teens sitting outside an apartment building. Now, I try not to profile, but in my experience groups of teenage boys are trouble, and I am usually right. I put on my sunglasses and walked past them, avoiding eye contact.
Well, to my surprise I made it past them without any trouble when I heard that sound that will make the hairs on most women’s arms stand on end. The kissy noise. What happened next you could say was my fault, I should have kept walking, but I had had it. Here was a group of kids almost half my age with the nerve to make that awful sound at me. So I turned around and said, “are you f*cking serious? How old are you?” To which the larger of the group said “Old enough to f*ck you like a grown man”. At this point one of his friends says, “Girl I am gonna f*ck you with some chopsticks”. I’m half-Chinese, and was appalled that this brat had added racism onto the growing pile of sexual harassment. Various other insults followed, “skinny b*tch”, “dumb c*nt”, etc. I always wonder why, if I’m such a dumb etc., etc. why they tried to “holla at” me in the first place…
There were over five of them, and just one of me, so I decided to walk away. I called the police and told them a group of young men had verbally assaulted me and threatened me with sexual abuse. The officer offered his condolences but told me that since they had not physically assaulted me there was nothing he could do. While I agree that the police probably do not have the resources to investigate every instance of harassment, it made me feel alone, weak, and even slutty. I felt that because I was wearing a thin tank top I had somehow brought this onto myself.
When did it become okay for young boys to talk to older women this way? To threaten them in their own neighborhoods with this kind of sexualized, and sometimes racialized, violence? I was so disgusted, so horrified. And honestly to this day I have not walked down that street again.
Submitted by Jen
So here I am, a 17 year old girl, black (it matters) in her school uniform, just going to the mall to get some stuff, and I hear it.
“Hey-o, pretty girl, lemme holla! Why the long face? I got some stuff to make you smile!”
I was actually about to spin around and tell him to pop off, but when I looked at him, I saw he ran one of the vendors selling lotions in the hallways of the mall.
Why is it cool to act this way towards me? I watched this guy ask other women “Hey, miss, would you like to buy some lotions?” But as soon as a black girl walks by you switch up your game? And you don’t even care that she’s obviously underage? FUCK YOU AND THE HORSE YOU RODE IN ON.
I just wanted to the MAC counter and get out, so I gave him the dirtiest look that I save especially for scumbags like him and kept walking.
Submitted by Mariel