Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
About two months ago on a Friday afternoon, I stopped at the BP gas station on Cary St to fill up my car. As I was sitting at the stop light before I pulled into the gas station, I saw a group of guys just sitting on the edge of the sidewalk hanging around and caught them staring at me which I didn’t think much of it at the time, other than the fact that I felt a little uncomfortable. I pulled up to the gas station and parked my car, got out, and started pumping gas as most people do, little did I know that the group of guys from across the street were watching me. Two of them decided to walk across the street, through traffic, to approach me. His friend went in a different direction, and he came up to me in a really unsettling and aggressive way. He observed my body as he was talking, as if I was completely oblivious. He asked me what my name was and said “so baby, you come round here a lot? You wanna come over sometime? I had to come over to talk to you girl, you’re so damn beautiful”. I told him I had a boyfriend at VCU and I was going to visit him later. Even after I told him that, he proceeded to try and persuade me to come over to his apartment, I told him I wasn’t interested, he said “can’t we be friends?” I shook my head and told him no. He said “I can take you out sometime, get drinks, you can come over after and who knows”. I ignored him. There were two people at the gas station pumping gas, both of them were men. They completely disregarded the entire situation. He asked me for my phone number, I frantically gave him my actual number in a moment of panic. I could’ve made up a fake number, but it was difficult on the spot when all I could think in my mind was “how long does it take for my car to fill up?!” It felt like an eternity. He continued talking to me, asking me weird questions about where I lived and what kind of girl I’m like “at night”. Once my car was full I quickly removed the nozzle from my car and walked to my car door, he stood there staring at me as I was getting in the car and said “see you around baby girl” as he walked away looking as though he had accomplished something. After that, I told my friend what had happened and he asked me what I was wearing, I told my friend I was wearing high waisted black pants, and a crop tee shirt with my midriff showing. My friend then told me, “maybe you should be more careful with what you wear”. I was offended and bothered by that response. I know what I wore attracted unwanted attention, but was that my original intent of wearing tight black pants and a tight crop top? No. I wore that outfit that day because it is what I wanted to wear. It doesn’t mean I was “asking for it”. I shouldn’t have to make excuses for the outfits I choose to wear that don’t cover my entire body. The event made me take a harder look at misogyny. I had been cat called and harassed by men so much throughout the years, and I never thought it was a big deal. I thought it was normal and it’s what women should expect when they walk around the city alone. Women should be able to walk freely as men do when they’re walking in the city by themselves. But because I am a woman, I have to fear for my safety and be more conscientious of what I’m wearing. And I hate that. I want to feel safe and I want to feel like the clothes I wear won’t jeopardize that safety I deserve. Women are humans, just as men are, so then why can’t men treat women as such? I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable and undermined.
This happened to me when I was in a ice cream shop last year. I just felt like I should share my story because it has been bothering me for a while now. I went to go get ice cream at a small shop on the southside of town one evening on my way coming home from the city. As i was walking in a man came up to me walked right up to me and kissed me on my cheek. I was scared. He told me he had not seen me in forever. I had no clue who he was so i was assuming he confused me with someone else. I told him i do not know you. This kiss happened so sudden i did not have time to pull away it was a total shock to me. I walked inside the shop and i figured he would leave me alone once i told him I did not know him. but i was wrong. he followed me inside. I thought maybe if i just get in line he wont come up to me again but he did. He asked me how my mom had been doing and once again i told him i do not know you! he asked if he could buy me a ice cream i told him no i have money i dont need anyone to buy me anything. at this point i wanted to walk out but at the same time it was getting dark outside and i did not want him to follow me out to my car so i was really stuck on what to do. now that i look back on it i should have told someone who works there that the man was bothering me but i wonder if they would even care. anyways, i bought my ice cream and the man followed me so i just decided to sit down at a table near a bunch of people because i was too afraid to leave my car i thought maybe if i stay here long enough he will go away. he took a seat at my table and started to talk to me and i just ignored him and told him that i have a boyfriend and he was on my way to meet me at the shop. he told me he did not care and that we could be friends. I told him i dont want to be friends with him. he would not leave my table so i finally just decided to get up and run to my car. of course he followed me outside and followed me to my car. i sped off at this point and he still stood in the parking lot while i had already drove off. i was afraid he might follow me so i went to another public place and waited a while until i made sure no one was following me. I should have told someone but i was really nervous and scared at the time and was not thinking clearly because i was panicked. since that incident I have majorly limited going out anywhere by myself. its sad that i have to do this and that i can not go places alone freely like a man would be able to because i have to live my life in fear all of the time.
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I was walking through a new neighborhood midday to see if it was any less harassy than the place I used to live. Sadly, in a 30 minute walk, I was harassed twice. Both times there were bystanders, and both times the bystanders did NOTHING AT ALL.
First, on this side-street, a man on a motorbike slowed down and stared at me. I mean really slow. And staring right in my eyes. It felt really threatening. The man walking in front of me with his little dog didn’t react at all. After the guy on the motorbike rode away, I commented, “Man, I wish I could walk down the street like you and not have to be harassed all the time.” The guy turned around and looked surprised and said, “Oh I just thought he was slowing down. I didn’t know what he was doing.” He looked at me like I was crazy for thinking that counted as harassment.
Then literally a block away, a group of guys were hanging out on the street corner, and one of them hollered at me, “Hey big girl, can I walk with you?” I said “No” and he and all his friends had a good laugh as he told them I said no. This is both absurd and infuriating. Just because I’m a large girl gives you no right to comment on my body or ask for something that is obviously intrusive. How can we make this stop???
As I was leaving Kroger with my groceries at 9pm on a Sunday night, the parking lot is nearly empty. A man walks up out of the darkness and suddenly asks me what kind of perfume I’m wearing. I hadn’t showered because I was sick, and I was wearing gross gym clothes. I certainly wasn’t wearing any perfume. Doesn’t really matter, but it made me feel especially uncomfortable that clearly even what he was saying didn’t make any sense unless he was trying to offend me.
I ignore him and keep walking to my car. I keep him in the corner of my eye because he starts flailing his arms, saying “All I asked was what perfume she’s wearing!” as he walks back to his two male friends in the dark. I rush to my car and get in as fast as I can because he keeps yelling about it and sounds like he’s getting really mad.
What makes him think he has the right to approach a stranger in the dark and demand that she respond to his questions? I did hear his friends telling him to calm down, so at least the bystanders were a little helpful. But I wish they would have kept him from approaching me in the first place.
Almost every day walking to work, I am just walking along Carlton avenue as all of the construction workers are driving to their jobs in their trucks (this is not an assumption – these are pickup trucks with the contractor business names on them and construction supplies in the back), and at least 2 or 3 of them will slow down next to me and stare like wild dogs at me with their tongues out. I will glare right back and look them in the eyes and they seem to get a kick out of the fact that I’m offended and clearly want them to stop gawking. Every once in a while they make comments.
When I pass someone who is not in a car, I can preemptively look them in the face and give a stern “hello” and that tends to keep them from harassing me, at least most of the time. But when they’re in a car/truck, there is nothing I can do and they drive away before I can write down their license plate or call their boss. It’s infuriating. It makes me not want to walk anymore and instead drive my car to work, which goes against what I believe in both for my physical freedom and well-being as well as the environment. I’m so sick of this. It has to stop.
This happens at least twice every time I walk more than a block in this town. It’s not surprising that so many people are being abducted and murdered, that so many are raped every week here, when harassment is so common.
It was 8pm, but already getting dark, and there are still folks walking around on The Corner, which is an area that is part of the UVA and Charlottesville culture. I’m just walking home from a great event about women in church leadership, and twice in the dark come out different grungy men, talking to me, and pissed when I don’t stop and smile and chat with them.
What makes them think they have the right to expect a stranger, just because she’s female, just because she’s a big girl, etc. to have to talk to them? The entitlement is disgusting. As I walk away, I hear them getting angry and commenting about how rude I am for not talking to them.
I just walk on because it’s not my problem and I just want to get home safely. But it’s terrible that we have to be afraid, treated like subjects…
(Quick comment- I live in Reston, Virginia, so this is the nearest Hollaback location to me, and I wanted to share my story with people who live near me and experience similar things, possibly even from the same people.)
On a run in my neighborhood today, a man in a car passing me wolf whistled. As a minor, (I’m only 14!), it was my first negative experience of such a kind.
It made me feel unsafe to be running alone because I knew other people with more physical power (a man in a car) were looking at my body sexually, and I could do nothing about it, even if they chose to pursue me further.
I am also deeply disturbed to realize that even as a minor running in a family community, I can be made to feel unsafe.
I want to end street harassment because it makes me feel unsafe and unhappy, and that is no way for any person to feel!