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The first time I remember being harassed was when I was about 12 years old. I was walking along 7th avenue in Brooklyn, NY and a man yelled at me that he would love to pop my cherry. I was with my mother at the time and she reassured me that the harassment was not personal, elaborating that even my grandmother gets yelled at. Though she did not encourage me to confront the man or speak up for myself it was immensely helpful that she told me not to internalize it. I continue to wear whatever I want even though I now live in an area of the city where I regularly get commented on 2 to 6 times during my five block walk to the subway each day.
I feel very privileged to live in a city that holla’s back. The October hearings against street harassment were inspirational regardless of the public backlash. Especially in my neighborhood I regularly see sassy badassy women delivering loud retorts to men who comment on their bodies. Seeing other women speak up gives me the courage to do it too. What really gives me hope is the idea that very young girls will follow our example and no young girl will ever have to bear street harassment is silence if she does not want to.
This idea that women of all ages can start a movement and impress upon very young girls just what it can mean to be a woman has started to guide me more and more in my actions. Recently a group of five female public health students at Hunter College (including myself) made a short film following young women activists who are leading actions to combat the sexualization of women in media and on the streets. These young women work with organizations such as The Line, Hollaback, Hardy Girls Healthy Women, About-Face, and SPARK and are doing great work; I recommend that anyone interested in issues of objectification, sexualization, and harassment check them out!
Submitted by Rebecca Pisciotta
On the way home from a camping trip last summer my boyfriend and I stopped at his work so he could pick up his pay check. We parked way in the back of the parking lot, and I got out of the car to stretch my legs. This guy ran up to me and asked me for my number, and of course I said no. He motioned to a group of guys standing around a car a distance away and said his friends didn’t think he was “fresh enough” to get my number and he wanted to prove them wrong. I said, “You’re NOT fresh enough, and my boyfriend is coming back any minute so just leave me alone.” But he kept hounding me. He even said I could write a fake number to show his friends, so in order to get rid of him, I did. I regret not making more of a scene- yelling really loud to embarrass him in front of his friends, or writing 1-800-fuck-you as my “phone number.” This encounter didn’t make me feel threatened, just annoyed that I was forced into being a pawn in their little dick-measuring contest. Submitted by Brittany
We got on the N Judah MUNI line at around 7:00PM. The woman sat in front of me. The harasser sat across from the woman. He started to verbally harass her immediately and another woman beside him. The second women got off the train immediately.
The woman ignored him at first then made a comment in hopes of him stopping. I did not hear her exactly but she politely said no to his request. He called her a racist and other words when she did not respond favorably. He continued, NON-STOP telling her how pretty she is, then giving her the finger, and saying rude comments. Sticking his hand in her face and against her wishes taking her picture with his cell phone. Much of this happened very quickly.
Mind you this train is packed full of mostly people in business attire going home from work. Most were men. Several much bigger than the harasser and in a perfect position to assist the woman.
The woman beside me spoke up first. She asked him to leave her alone. The guy turned on her and said a few rude things then returned his attention to the first girl. A minute or two went by and the guy gets more agitated and verbal. Several times I though he was going to actually physically assault her. Then I spoke out to the entire group of men around us. That there must not be any men with any balls on this train to say anything. Not a SINGLE one of them even tried to help that woman. they simply watched the guy verbally harass and stick his hands and camera phone in her face.
“I said there must not be a single man on this train” rather loudly to the woman that had confronted the guy. The guys in the seat right beside the woman and her “attacker” turned and gave ME the dirty look and then continued to ignore the situation.
While the guy was still for a few seconds I took his picture. The girl very quickly exited the train I made sure he was not going to follower before exiting myself. As the train sat there I went up to him and took a picture as he looked right at me. Just as he had done that girl. I should have done more.
NOT a SINGLE man on that train lifted so much as a finger.
I discussed reporting it to another passenger. They said the MUNI security would do nothing and likely would not even care. I have only been in this city 9 months. I have been verbally harassed before and did stand up for myself. It is freaking scary since you do not know if the people around you will even bother to help. Likely they wont from my experience.
The picture is of the guy, in a red jacket, who was harassing the other woman. I have a second picture but not as clear of him looking directly into my camera. I got home still shaking and disgusted.
Submitted by Nichole
I went to Walmart to get pajamas for my daughter. This guy came up to me and said “Can I holla at you?”. I thought he wanted to know the time or some money. I couldn’t understand him cuz he looked high. I turned around to walk away. Then he ran up behind me and started grinding into my butt. I turned around to punch him and he disappeared. I told an employee. He said “Oh. He’s been doing that here for awhile”. He told me he would look for him and tell security. He came back and said “We can’t find him”. I ran around the store and found him. They didn’t do anything about it.
Submitted by Lisa
This was about 7 years ago when I was working at a small gas station. I worked 2nd shift, so I was all by myself and would have to close the store at midnight. I had plenty of winners show up, like the old man who snuck up behind me as I was refilling the sodas one night, ran his hands up my thighs and told me I had sexy legs, and the hundreds of men asking rude questions about my “big tits,” but the worst was this guy who kept coming into the store every night for hours on end to bother me. He hit on me constantly and demanded to know if I had a boyfriend or any tattoos (he didn’t want me getting any tattoos because it would mess up my “beautiful body”). If another male customer came into the store he would glare at them in a hostile manner, to the point where some of them would ask me if I wanted them to call the cops, who never did anything. Every time I tried to kick him out of the store he wouldn’t leave. One night he hung around past closing time and when I told him to leave he became angry and told me “I know where all the cameras in this store are and I could take you in the back room and do whatever I wanted with you.” This scared the crap out of me. Just then a car pulled up to the door and before I could react the guy was screaming, “We’re closed!” and waving his hands around, so the car drove off. I called the cops and as usual they laughed off my story about his threats, acted all buddy-buddy with him, and offered to give him a ride home. I put in my notice after that. Thankfully this loser lived in town and only rode a bicycle, so he was never able to follow me home to the boondocks in my car.
Submitted by Brittany
I was a crew-member on a cargo aircraft. We had just arrived at our Honolulu hotel at 3am, and I was hot, tired, dirty, and pissed off because I had just started my period. I didn’t have any tampons or pads, so at 3 am, I had to walk 3 blocks down the street to a 7-11. Rather than take a shower and dress nicely, I just pulled on a pair of jeans, sandals and the dirty, smelly t-shirt I had been wearing under my uniform. As I passed the first cross street, I saw police tape blocking off the street, and a body, covered with yellow plastic, lying in the middle of the street. I have no idea what happened, but the cops were all over that block. I continued toward the second cross street when I saw several people waiting at a bus stop. One guy, sitting on a wall, made the “Hey Baby!” attempt on me, but I was on a mission to get tampons. The 7-11 was in the middle of the third block. I got my tampons and some chocolate, and headed back. As I passed the bus stop, Romeo hopped down from the wall he was sitting on and fell into step beside me. “Hey baby….how ya d…..” was as far as he got. He made the mistake, the BIG mistake, of putting his hand on my elbow, as though he were escorting me somewhere. I totally freaked out. I started screaming at him, “Get your Fu**ing hand off of me! Who the Hell do you thing you are!! I’m not your Fu**ing BABY!! Do I look like one of your Fu**ing whores? What the hell is your Fu**ing problem. Get away from me or I’m going to kick your balls so far up your ass, you’ll have to cough to masturbate!!” I swear, those were my exact words! I have a very loud voice which the guys I work with will attest to. No one has any trouble hearing me. As I yelled those words at this cretin, I was advancing on him like I was ready to kill him. I was. He, seeing the danger he was in, held up both hands in front of him, and as he was back-pedaling, said something to the effect of ” I just wanted to know when the bus was leaving!” At full volume, (loud enough to strip paint!), I told him “Look at the Fu**ing schedule, Ass Hole!” I then took my tampons, and resumed my walk to the hotel. As I crossed the last (cordoned off) street, I started to laugh. The look on that idiot’s face was hilarious! And I could only imagine what those cops would have thought if they had had to pull me off this guy. I laughed all the way up to my hotel room. When I saw myself in the mirror, I laughed even harder! I was so dirty and greasy, he must have thought I was a waif. I’ve never forgotten this.
Submitted by Chris
While flyfishing in my kayak in the northern location of Lake Champlain in Vermont, I realized a fishing boat with two middle aged men was circling my boat and watching me as I casted my line. I was wearing my bathing suit, a one piece. I continued to cast and I heard catcalls, whistles and unnecessary comments such as “hey sweetie, fish for me”, “let’s make it a threesome”, The two men began to speed up there boats obviously making waves which made caused me to stop fishing and pick up my paddle to head my boat safely into the waves to prevent me from tipping over. Every time I stopped and began to fish when the waves settled, the men began revving up the boat, making waves and causing me once again to stop fishing. The men would then call out to me that they could give me lessons, to come to them and hop on for a “fishing orgy”. finally I put down my pole, quietly turned my boat in there direction and called out as loud as I could so other nearby fishing boats could hear me. I yelled to them there boatname Boat ID, and took my camera with a zoom and waved my flare yelled out that if they dared harass me any more that I would set off the flare. I yelled out to the other fishing boats that I greatly appreciated the assistance and announced these men were harrasing me. Three boats located on the other side of me stopped their fishing started yelling at the “bad guys” and all three began to come to my rescue. I yelled to the two bad boys that if they dared approach me again that they would be in deeper trouble than the depth of the lake and their pocket books would not be able to afford such a boat that they were in.
Submitted by Katra
This happened so long ago I can hardly remember the year. I’m fairly certain I was six years old. Yes, six. I went down the street with my brother to his friend’s house for a visit. My brother’s friend had some older siblings who were in junior high at the time. They got my brother and I into a shed in the backyard, shoved some porn under my nose and asked me to disrobe and mimic the poses. I said no-I’ve always been stubborn, and being raised in a feminist household meant I knew I didn’t have to take this, even at such a tender age. They threatened to beat up my brother if I didn’t comply, and continued to verbally harass me, but I didn’t buy it. My brother and I went home and told my parents, who were horrified. I got an apology from my brother’s friend, but to this day this memory hurts me. I’m twenty years old, and it still hurts me. And now, when I walk down the streets of my college town and get “Hey baby, where you going?” or “you’re sexy” or “how old are you” or “those are some nice boots *insert leer here*” or even “now THAT lady looks like she needs to get FUCKED,” it just all seems like an ongoing story, one that I wish would end. What devastates me the most is the knowledge that I’ve actually been one of the lucky ones, because I haven’t been assaulted or raped, “just” harassed and lightly touched. If this is what privilege looks like, what being lucky looks like, we have so much more work to do. Thanks so much, Hollaback, for providing this space, for a sense of solidarity and community, and thanks for letting me get that off my chest.
Submitted by Tep
I live in NYC, and have experienced street harassment many times, both here and in other cities. However, the past few years have mostly been pretty free of issue, since I have a fairly tough ‘don’t mess with me’ aura. I’m rather more aggressive with strangers now, and men in general, especially after I was sexually assaulted by the host of a party I was at.
And none of it (the street harassment) really scared me. It pissed me off, but I kind of dealt with it. I figured, I was in public, so I was ok. And considering the man who assaulted me was someone I knew, I was aware that strangers aren’t necessarily the biggest danger or worry.
However, a few months ago, over the summer, I was coming home kind of late. I got to my bus stop in around midnight, 12:30. It was a weekend, so plenty of people were there, as usual, and my specific stop is right in front of a deli that I go in quite a bit.
This night, there was some (possibly) drunk guy there, bugging people. I ignored him, and was watching a movie on my ipod in the line for the bus. This guy came RIGHT up to me and invaded my personal space, asking about what I was watching. I put up and arm and told him to back off, and he did for a bit. But then he started trying to come closer, and saying things like ‘hey mohawk, hey!’ and then saying ‘I just want to put my hands on your hips baby, just want to put my hands on your hips.’.
I tried to ignore him, but then he actually tried to touch my hair (the side of my hawk was nicely fuzzy. Lots of people thought they could try to touch my head…) and to touch my waist/hips! I got so pissed off, I backed up, put up my hands and yelled at him to back the f- off and leave me alone, or else. (I had pepper spray on me, but I’d rather not use it if I don’t have to.) He didn’t, and I moved further down the line, closer to the deli. He tried to come closer and I glared at him, and then he went into the deli. My bus came a bit later, and I went home. But I was both scared, and pissed off. There were TWELVE men in that line with me, and others around. I was the only woman there. Now, I don’t expect other people to fight my battles for me, but seriously, not ONE person was willing to step up and say something to this guy. I was really scared going home, and I didn’t like that this guy knew what bus I was getting on. He hung out at the subway station near the stop for a few weeks after that, but either he didn’t remember me, or decided not to bother me again. Wish I knew about this site/movement before, so I could have have photoed him and holla’dback.
Submitted by Wendy.