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I’m fourteen and a freshman in high school. This incident happened in seventh grade. I’m a bit young for my grade, so I was eleven at the time, and every day I would walk home from school. It was just a few blocks, and school ended at 3:30, so at the end of the day, I’d grab my bag and walk to my apartment.
One day, I was walking down the street, with no one else on the sidewalk but a young blonde woman and her two year-old daughter. Suddenly a white van full of maybe four or five guys between the ages of twenty and twenty-five drove by and slowed down.
“Hey bitch!” They yelled. The three of us kept walking, ignoring them.
“Bitch, I’m talking to you!” Another one of the guys yelled, while the others laughed.
When we continued to ignore them, they drove off, laughing, and I heard one say “Man I just fuckin’ pissed that bitch off!”
To this day, I don’t know whether they were addressing me or the mother walking behind me, but it was not okay, and I ran home crying. I also can’t bear to imagine that little girl being exposed to such misogynistic slander at just two years old. It really shows what living in a city is like as a girl.
This year, I experienced worse sexism, although not directed at me. I’m in the Gifted/Honors program at my high school. To my dismay, this does not mean the guys in my classes are any less ignorant and rude. A few weeks ago, the guy who sits behind me, was talking to his friend, and I overheard this conversation:
Guy 1: I hate when ugly girls say they’re ugly, ’cause you can’t really disagree with them, you know? Same with fat girls who know they’re fat.
Guy 2: Yeah, but you should never tell a fat girl she’s fat.
Guy 1: Why?
Guy 2: You know, ’cause she’ll, like, become anorexic or get an eating disorder or something.
Guy 1: Well anorexic is kinda good…
Guy 2: HOW?
Guy 1: At least they get skinny before they die.
I hear conversations like this on a daily basis and it makes me sick. Pittsburgh, meet your city’s “future leaders”.
Submitted by Maude
I was walking home after getting off the streetcar on a nice day in late spring/early summer. A middle aged man in a convertible drove past and honked his horn. A few minutes later, the same man drove up slowly alongside where I was walking and started talking to me “hey, you’re beautiful, you look so good today. You should come have coffee with me, etc.” I politely told him no thank-you, repeatedly, until I finally had to tell him that I had a boyfriend (because I don’t deserve to be left alone otherwise, right). He finally drove away. But I was so disturbed by it, and because I was going home to an empty house, that I walked past my house and through a secret laneway, making sure not to go up my stairs until I was sure that the car was not in sight. Needless to say I locked the door.
Submitted by Angela
I was verbally sexually harassed by a train conductor while I was on the platform of the Marble Hill Metronorth station. My train arrived on the southbound side at 4:40pm on Feb 8, 2011, the harasser was the conductor in the center car with his head stuck out of the window on the northbound track as his train was departing. His train was in motion and he shouted “Hey there sexy!” at me. As though (1) a train in motion meant he had a clear getaway. Guess what genius? The trains are timed to the minute, and you are on the clock! (2) I had no recourse. I’ll keep you posted on how the MTA responds to my complaint. This is completely inappropriate, unprofessional, and moreover illegal.
And for the record, he is in his 30s-40s, and is on the MTA payroll so he can ride the trains and shout at women who are commuting. DO I PAY TO RIDE & GET HARASSED?? No.
Submitted by Sophia
When I was around fourteen or fifteen I went with my Latin class to Italy, and we took a day trip to Pisa to see the tower and cathedral there. From the train station you have to take a bus to get to the more touristy attractions, and it was on that bus on the way back when I noticed a man standing a little too close to me from behind.
Every time the bus lurched he would press into me, and I could feel his erection – he was wearing baggy sweatpants of a thin material. I kept inching away from him but the bus was crowded and I couldn’t move much. I was completely petrified – although I was already used to men making comments about me (which seemed to happen especially frequently in Italy, although I was living in a small town at the time where I was kind of an “alternative” kid and didn’t “fit in” so maybe it’s an unfair contrast) no one had ever touched me like this before. I didn’t know what to do. Luckily, one of my friends’ mothers was a chaperone on the trip, and she caught on to what was happening and offered to switch places with me.
I have been lucky enough to have traveled extensively, but almost everywhere I’ve been it seems like someone is going to harass me – including the time, during my second trip to Italy, a young man told me he “loved my boobs” – while I was walking with my mother.
I’m now attending college in New York City, which isn’t really a reduction in the harassment. I love New York but I’d really like to be able to go a day without a wolf whistle or a comment.
Submitted by Li
An open warning to all street harassing males,
Not all of us exist to make you feel like strong, powerful cavemen who could drag us by our hair and rape us at will… some of us are LESBIANS who find you UGLY. Yes, I know, in your pea-brains, the only homosexuals in existence are the gay men who you also torment (many times because you WISH you could actually be with a FELLOW MAN you respect rather than the women you hate, yet refuse to explore your gay side because in your idiot brain, it means you would be…*ewww* more like a woman). You see, you street harassers are very, very damaged. Your definition of manhood is despising women as anything other than envelopes for you to screw/bang/pork/nail (notice the violence of these terms?) In your world, gay men are insufficient males, and lesbian women don’t exist. So when you yell something at me, or me and a date of mine, you assume that we are just dying to add you and have a “threesome”. In your mind, “lesbian”=either “woman who can’t get a man” (as if any woman can’t ‘get’ one of you desperate, ugly, hairy backed Neanderthals) or a woman just dying to add your ape-face to a threesome with her girlfriend. When one of us declares our sexual orientation, you usually come up with the original line “whyncha try some DICK, bitch?” And if I happen to be walking with a friend who is a dyke who doesn’t fit your narrow ideals of beauty (which, for some reason, you only extend to women–you MEN can be as repulsively ugly as you wanna be), my pal has to hear that she’s “too ugly to get a REAL MAN.” I wish I could gather a whole army of dykes of all shapes and sizes, from butch to femme, cissexual and trans, and tell all of you nasty street harrassers how we’d sooner do Sarah Palin than any of you…and that, by the way, “lesbian” does not mean we want you drooling while we do to our girls what you could never do to yours (ie give them orgasms, instead of STDs and unwanted pregnancies), but that we want you to leave us the hell alone.
Submitted by Gloomyboi
I was out in the mission with my friends for a birthday bar crawl and my roommate invited this guy she’s dating. He shows up with 3 extra friends in tow and they join our party and go with us to the next bar. I could tell the guys were sizing me up the whole time that we were at the bar together, but I tried to ignore their advances and just have a good time with my friends. Later on in the evening, one of the guys walked by and said in my ear- I want to taste you. He looked me in the face as he said it and kept on walking. I could not have been more disgusted. That behavior is NOT acceptable.
Submitted by Chrissy
Not more than an hour ago, I was outside in my front yard watering my vegetable garden when I noticed a man in a dark blue truck stopped in front of my house. I waved at him, curiously, and he waved, and looked forward- a move that I thought was indicative of him waiting for someone, perhaps further up the block. I continued watering, and he backed up the truck a little. I looked again, and he waved. I walked to the other side of the yard, and he pulled forward, leaned toward his passenger seat, and told me that I had nice breasts- though at first I misheard him, and said ‘Thank you.’ The next thing he said to me made me quick to realize that I was mistaken, as he asked me “Can I see them?”
I replied, “No.”
Angrily, I said, “I’m not for sale, sir,” and moved to walk inside.
“No, I mean just to see your breasts! Bra?”
At this point I slammed the gate and the front door.
How could something like this happen in my own front yard? The guy was there for a good two or three minutes! Did he take down my address? Is he going to come back?
Submitted by Allison
I was on a family vacation in Las Vegas, being 15 at the time and i always looked really childish with chubby cheeks and a baby like face and i was going down the escalator with my mom talking on the phone right next to me!! I’m looking away towards all the stores and I hear “Hey,Hey,Hi,Hi” I look to my left and the guy riding the escalator up is waving at me and saying hi so I look around and noone seems to notice him and he’s staring straight at me, not my mom or anyone else. I make a weird look and he still is staring at me and i run down the escalator being so scared. My mom had no idea what that guy wanted and she thought he mistook me for someone.I doubt that. But he gave me a stare that looked so evil and like he wanted to harm me. I feel like I can’t even be safe with my mom next to me. He looked about 40ish and was balding. I can’t get the mental image of him out of my head.It still scares me so much. What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas…or not.
Submitted by Vicki
I studied abroad in Holland and loved almost every second of my semester in the country of gouda, tulips and tall, tall men. Almost. It’s sad that I’ve grown to accept the fact that verbal street harassment will forever be a part of my transit. I reluctantly came to terms with their format – usually verbal and often racial. I learned that the word “ni hao” meant “hello” in Mandarin, not through a book or friend, but because from an early age, it was so often shouted at me in passing. Of course, I no longer expect any of these men to suspect that they actually coexist with a diverse range of Asian Americans, but that never prevents me from responding with an forceful, “I’m not Chinese!” or keeping it sweet and simple with a flip-off.
It’s true that aggressively responding to such harassments can be reckless and lead to escalated incidents, but I’ve never been able to shut up the voice inside my head, which tells me that no man should be allowed to make a woman uncomfortable in her own city and not at least have his stupidity met with clear resentment. This is weird, but I seriously think about my nonexistent/hypothetical daughter during each catcall and refuse to think about her growing up in an environment where these actions aren’t met with some consequence. I don’t want her constantly on guard and uncomfortable in her own world when the only thing she should be thinking about is getting from point A to point B.
So, I might have not been fine with the state of street harassment, but for the most part, I felt physically safe when confronted in public areas and city streets. Unfortunately, my perceptions were skewed when my mom and sister came to stay in Amsterdam and my sister and I were making our way back to the hotel. We were taking a very crowded tram when I noticed that a man was staring at me from across the car. I glared back at him as he continued peering around people to continue smiling at me, raising his eyebrows up and down, etc. When it got to the point where I felt the need to mouth something obscene to him, his smile faded and he became noticeably irate. My sister and I exited the tram on one of the busiest tourist spots in the city and were immediately followed by our new friend, who began shouting obscenities and things like: “What’d you say to me, China?!” He followed us down the street until we took refuge in a theater venue. We made the decision to ask for security when we saw him pacing back and forth outside the box office and were directed to a back door exit. We made our way back to the hotel with our eyes darting around faster than our feet and never relayed the message to our mom.
I may not be proud of my gut reactions and the situation wasn’t all that bad in retrospect, but what if my sister wasn’t there to back me down or what if we had chosen a more desolate tram stop? Words cannot describe how disparaged I feel when faced with the harsh reality of what my gender so often deals with on a day-to-day basis. Much of my frustration is rooted in the simple fact that we cannot retaliate without taking at least some physical risk. I hope websites like Hollaback! continue to act as a channel for women who want to retaliate with a cell phone photo or simply share their story. I remain optimistic that more people, both women and men will empathize and understand the need to shed serious light on the issue. After all, I’m not the only one with a nonexistent/hypothetical daughter in mind, right?
Submitted by Melanie
This is on the tamer side but worth a mention here. I sell vintage clothing online and I was having a photo shoot with a friend, who looks young and is 21, at the town beach playground of the rural New England town I grew up in. Around this playground is a road and fence and a couple houses at the far end away from the beach. We were standing by my car parked on the far end while I was picking the next outfit and a man who looked to be in his forties was walking a dog and started to chat with us. He didn’t say anything obnoxious, just kinda being annoying continuing to talking to us and we were like ‘go away’ in our heads, and being short with our answers to him. So he continued down the trail and we went back to taking pictures. A while later he comes back around while I’m taking pictures of her and is leaning over the fence and says ‘that’s the one right there’ (like that shot you just took) as I’m shooting and she’s modeling. Needless to say, who asked for commentary? So annoying. So then he asks me ‘Hey, do you ever take any bathing suit pictures?’ So I had had enough of him at this point and said ‘Dude, that’s creepy.’ And he said ‘It is?’ And I say ‘Yeah, you KNOW that’s creepy. Asking if we take BATHING SUIT pictures? come on” and I was pretty snotty about it because I could not be sicker of older men that are delusional enough to chat up younger chicks and interrupt our day with it. So he kinda put his head down and and ambled away. He definitely got the point. Me= 1, Creepy Guy= 0! My friend was relieved as you can imagine how uncomfortable she felt having this guy ogle her as we were minding our own business trying to have fun and get a job done. I intend to always speak up for myself, my friends, and any woman being harassed. When it’s safe, creepy guys need to be called out!!!! You have a voice, so use it and you might just embarrass some a-hole who will think twice before harassing some girls in the future!
Submitted by Sara