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It has become a regular occurrence for me to get cat called as I walk to work, go home, or go about doing my business. I am a 29 year old Asian American woman who graduated from Columbia University with a Masters in Urban Planning. I find it deeply demeaning and offensive for men who are ignorant to call out to me in Chinese or some other Asian dialect, as if I don’t speak English. I hate being whistled at, called baby, being asked out jokingly on the street. It is disgusting, and there have been times that I have gotten hostile (throwing my ice cream at someone, or yelling at them) because their remarks just got to me so. How can I go about doing my work, when my day is interrupted by sexual hostility? This is a real problem, especially in a city where smart successful independent women are so visible. These cat calls need to stop. Men need to be made aware that this is an issue. It is not our culture here, and they need to know that what they do is abusive, and uncivilized. It is not enough that NYC is a hard place to find a good decent man to date, but that we have to be subjected to men we aren’t even dating as well?
Submitted by Diana
While walking to my car this morning a man who was driving slowed down his vehicle just to make “smooching” sounds to me. I gave him a disgusted look and got in my car. I sat in my car for a moment, and then realized that the man had driven back around and was sitting in his car, stopping traffic to stare at me. I was very scared because I was trapped between two cars, and him, and had no way of driving away. He eventually left, but it was not the best way to start my day.
Submitted by Desiree
He leered and hissed at me, and said inappropriate things. I asked if he did not have a sister…he was ashamed. I reminded him that God could see him…he averted his eyes. I chided him that his mother knew…and he was embarassed.
Do we really need a law regulating cat calls? Why don’t we as mothers, sisters, aunts, cousins, and friends help to teach both our daughters and sons, nieces and nephews to be respectful of themselves and others? To not be worried about saying “Stop!” To be empowered and emboldened to speak the truth, “The words and sounds coming out of your mouth make you sound like fool!” Carry pepper spray.
I live in a region where female circumcision, honor killings, and child brides are accepted, even if not legal. Catcalls are the least of my worries. A council’s decision will not carry as much weight as your own words and actions. If you want to help women, speak up for yourself and work to end domestic violence, female circumcision and honor killings, they all occur in your city of New York.
Submitted by GypsyRose
NOTE: Although it has been picked up in the press that we are looking for a “law” to end street harassment, that’s actually not what anyone at the hearing asked for. We asked for education, research, and police sensitivity, among other things. To read Hollaback!’s testimony, click here.
The story today on page 19 in the New York Post made me think of a business trip I made this summer with a female co-worker. Me, a male co-worker, and a female co-worker were walking to the train after our meeting. A police officer paused and leered at her as we walked by and he said, “How are YOU doing today?”
It sounds innocent, but the tone and the way he was looking at her was pretty obviously a weak come on. It was like out a 1950s movie. Very creepy. No wonder people don’t make eye contact or smile in the city. Very sad. Thanks for calling wanted attention to it.
Submitted Chris, Plantsville, CT
Male Students in the hallways at this school are constantly yelling “suck my dick!” at females. They even use the same vile language to female teachers in the classroom. New York City DOE Administrators allow them to get away with it. It is disgusting. How will these male students be acting when they are in the workforce? What message are we sending girls about how they can be expected to be spoken to at work when the graduate?
Submitted by Marie
Earlier tonight (around 7:30/8), walking down 33rd after running some errands. Dressed in work attire (for me, a shapeless pair of tan pants, white shirt, and cardigan) and carrying bags.
Two men in a work-type van pull over to the side of the street a little ahead of me, and motion me to come over. I’m about to ignore them, but one says “Directions?” and I figure that since they look like they’re from out of town (Connecticut plates) and they’re in a WORK van, they must be really lost.
“Can you give me directions to (mumble mumble)?”
“What?” (and I move a little closer, to see if I can hear better)
“Can you give me directions to Pussy Avenue?”
At this point I kind of stared at them in shock, and the passenger unlocks his door and moves like he’s getting out, so I turn around and book it in the opposite direction (it’s a one way, so they couldn’t drive towards me).
I was so angry at myself for not saying anything. This is why I’m so rude to strangers in this city…99% of the time, a man talking to you on the street is actually a creep.
Submitted by Liz
I was followed from the subway this afternoon. A man walked about 10 feet behind me, chanting in a sing-song voice, “helloo sexy legs! hey, cutie! hellooo, sexy legs, sexy legs.” I was wearing a knee-length skirt and flats. Yes, I have legs, I am a human who walks upright. He followed me for about a block, chanting the whole time, non-stop. I got my phone ready to take a picture in case he caught up to me and started something else, but after a few minutes I didn’t hear him anymore. I snapped this pic backwards over my shoulder to see if he was still there.
Submitted by Anne Marie
Well dressed young man, for no apparent reason assaulted me as I was leaving the subway train this a.m. shortly after telling me “you aren’t in Oklahoma anymore.” He had given me the finger while I was on the train, and I had asked him why, he never answered. I was peaceful, and didn’t leave after the gesture, because the train was crowded. When we got to my stop (Fulton street/ Broadway Nassau on the A train)I gestured for him to go in front of me, he refused, and then I walked in front of him to exit the train, at which point he shoved me. I still do not understand the reason for the attack, but it may have been racially motivated.
Submitted by Guelda
Hello, my name is Grace. I live in Brooklyn and am in 11th grade in high school. Thank you so much for holding this hearing today to listen to the stories and issues faced by so many New York girls and women every day.
I cannot remember the last time I walked out of my house and returned home that night without being sexually harassed at some point during the say. Be it the slimy grin and the threatening eyes, or the erection digging into my back in a sardine-like packed train.
The subway is where I experience it the worst. My phone does not work on the subway. I cannot quickly move away or off the train. I am completely alone. But this should not have to mean that I am completely vulnerable.
The moment which I have felt most degraded, belittled, and humiliated was at 6pm on a Saturday getting onto the 1 train at Chambers heading Uptown. I got on and noticed everyone on one side of the train. I didn’t think too much about it and sat down on the two-seated bench furthest away from everyone. The doors closed and the train moved away from the station.
I suddenly noticed a man sitting across from me I hadn’ t seen before. He was white, old, and wearing a big tan jacket and a baseball cap. He had a friendly face.
His eyes flashed up to meet mine and I quickly dropped my gaze into my lap. I didn’t want to make eye contact with him, just like with any stranger; I was worried he would misinterpret the eye contact. But it is ridiculous, really, that I feel I cannot look a stranger in the eye because it would give them reason to think I may be provoking or leading them on in some way. Has it really gotten to the point where I have to watch and reserve every move I make to ensure he doesn’t make any of his own?
He shuffled his hands in his pockets.
The train stopped at Franklin Street.
No one got on.
The train doors closed and started on again.
He was fidgeting again, from what I could see from the corner of my eye.
I glanced up at him, against my better judgment.
The hands I thought were in his pockets were not. They were under the big sides of his tan coat.
I can’ t even remember what I felt at that moment. It was such a rush of so many emotions; it all washed over me and made me feel smaller than ever.
“ Don’ t look at his eyes,” I told myself, trying to keep calm, telling myself this wasn’t really happening. How could someone possibly comprehend doing this? I tried to concentrate on my hands. They were turning ghostly blue as I squeezed them so tightly for any sense of comfort or release of pain, whichever one it was. I did look up, only to realize the one thing I wished above all was not true. He was staring right back at me.
I guess I must have been angry. I don’ t think I could feel it though. My fear and shock overpowered everything else such as the shame and embarrassment. The vulnerability and victimization. The fact that I was frozen. Unable to say a thing. Unable to move. Unable to fully comprehend or at least not letting myself. The train stopped at Franklin.
“ Why me? Why now? What do I do?!” I screamed at myself inside. I thought I was going to explode. I knew that I should move or say something, anything.
The doors opened to the platform.
I wanted to get off then. I wanted to run off the train so badly. I wanted to scream at that man, who was so sick in the mind and inconsiderate, I just wanted to hurt him. I wanted to yell at the other people on the train, all huddled on the other side. They knew something was wrong, I could read right through their poker faces. I was in despair, and they did nothing. They didn’t even glance in my direction. I was in an incomprehensible state.
I stared longingly at the platform. My eyes fixated, yearning to drag my body out of this nightmare, off the train, or even onto the next car. But I was stuck. Crushed.
I did not move. I did not say a thing.
The doors closed and the train moved away from the platform again. I stared down at my hands, concentrating on their wrinkles and creases.
I blame myself for the event. I could have moved to the other side of the train. I could have yelled at the creepy man. I could have gotten off at Franklin or Canal. I could have asked for help. But in the moment, I just could not do it. I ignored the masturbation five feet in front of me and suppressed my feelings. I clenched my jaw and carried on, just the way all girls and women seem to react to the harassment they face every day.
I got off at Houston, as quick as possible. I was relieved to even be that far away from the stranger. But at the same time the relief settled in, a wave of anger and regret panged inside my chest. I almost instantly wished I could have gone back on the train and had the courage and power to stand up to the stranger and let him know, in any way possible that he was sick, that what he did was messed up, that I shouldn’t be blaming myself for it. That he was in the wrong and should be punished. It’ s basic morals, taught from when you’re a kid. He had no right. Yet he got away with it.
I walked up to the street that day and continued on. I did not think to mention it to anyone because it didn’t seem to matter. Who would care? And if they did care, what could they possibly do about it now? I cannot tell you how many times I have wished I could go back in time and done something.
I did not know what I would do for a while. But once Hollaback came to visit my class, I knew there was something I would do. I did not know that what happened to me was not unusual. That men frequently masturbated openly to girls and women on the subway. I was one of many cases. I did not experience anything out of the ordinary life of a girl living in New York City.
But how messed up does that sound? How morally contorted are we that young girls are normally subject to such degrading public embarrassment? How messed up is this system that if I hadn’t heard about the Hollaback organization, that if I hadn’ t heard about this hearing, I would still be burying these feelings inside, internalizing my pain and blaming myself for all the wrong that strange men have done to me.
I was not wearing anything that day to provoke him, just jeans and a T-shirt. But that should not have to matter. As my right, I should be able to wear what I want without having to worry about men taking advantage of me. I shouldn’t have to leave social outings early just because it’ s past 9:30 PM and it’ s considered too “ late” for a girl to be taking a long train ride by herself. I should not have to worry about the man at the Chambers Street station who every morning compliments me with a sexual subtext in his words.
Once, I was walking once just behind the playground of my school courtyard. I was not 3 feet away from the school premises when from behind, a man came up and pressed his body against mine. I could feel the heat off his skin, I could smell his hot stale breath as he blew my hair. “ NICE ASS,” he yelled in a loud, rude, and hostile voice. It was like he was putting me in my place, hammering me down, and reminding me of his authority and control over me. I felt helpless, a feeling I knew was exactly his goal, consciously or not.
I want other girls to know about organizations such as Hollaback. I want girls to know how to handle the terrible situations they encounter on the subway. I want people on the trains to help when they see something happening. I want to be able to ride the subways without having to be so constantly alert and cautious. I want to be able to wear what I want without it being an instigator for harassment. I want to be able to live in this city without having to feel below or undermined simply because I’m a girl.
I thank you for hearing me out. I thank you for listening to my stories that I have shoved to the back of my mind for so long, keeping them bottled up and disregarding them.
Please remember, that the experiences I shared are not unusual. They happen on a daily basis. I do not know one girl or woman in my life that has not experienced some form of sexual harassment in their life. I’m sure that this is true for almost every female you all know too. It is happening every day here in our city. I am only 16, and already I cannot remember half the traumatic experiences I have experienced due to male harassment. Thank you for listening, and please remember how great a help you all can be.
Hello, I would like to thank you for taking the time to listen to our testimonies for an issue that we all find very important. My name is Olivia. I am fifteen, and a junior in high school, currently taking a feminism class.
I come to you today to discuss the issue of street harassment. Having lived in New York City all my life, I have been receiving some form of harassment since I was eight. I have had a man insinuate that I am a prostitute, and that he would like to “ purchase” me. It has never escalated further than a man following me for about a block, but even that is too much. Almost every woman I know has experienced a man masturbating on the subway, or other public place, or has been stopped against her will on the street so a man can talk to her.
The worst part is, although street harassment is illegal, nobody gets caught. Rarely anybody on the street helps the woman being harassed, neither standing up for her nor calling the police. And what would happen if they did tell the police? Most likely nothing. There must be a change to this. The threat of street harassment is escalating, because men know they can get away with it. This city has to begin taking the issue more seriously. Posting signs in the subway is not enough, clearly. Men need to know that if they commit the crime of street harassment, they will receive punishment, as will any person who commits a crime. Thank you.