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I was sitting on the 2 train going from Brooklyn to the UWS this morning and quietly writing in my journal. I noticed an older man get up from the end of the car, look at the subway map, then take a seat adjacent from me. It’s always a red flag for me when men move closer to me on the train, so I kind of read him, but didn’t see him as a threat, probably because of his age. Yet, something in my gut felt weird.
I continued to write, and didn’t see that he moved directly across from me. For some reason, I looked up and noticed a weird tattoo on his leg, not really dawning on me that he had moved again, and then it occurred to me that he was wearing shorts and kind of weird stocking like things. That’s when I noticed that his erect penis was completely out. I had to do a double take, didn’t know what to do, then quickly moved to the other side of the train. We were just at my stop, so adrenalin pumping, I just left.
That’s when the guilt set in. As I got off the train, I realized that he was going to do this to someone else, and if I had said something, I could have perhaps stopped him. I live my life according to feminist values, and yet, when I’m confronted with this kind of sexual–I want to call it violation–I am totally speechless. Now I feel kind of sick and I can’t get the image or the feeling of being a pawn for his perversion out of my head.
Part of me feels stupid, b/c he didn’t touch me or say anything, so why do I feel like I was assaulted?
I’m grateful for a place like this just to write about this, b/c I don’t know what to do with these feelings right now. It makes me so pissed off that women and gay people have to deal with this so much more than straight men do, and I’m pissed at myself for not having a voice.
I took the train home today feeling hyper vigilant and worried, not to mention nauseated. I just hope that if this ever happens again, I will be well armed to say something, and I hope the feelings of guilt go away. Thanks to all the people out there who have shared their voices and stories- I hope to take strength from you.
Being a single mother in her late thirties, I feel that no girl has
been spared from being a victim of street harassment and I’m sick and
tired of it. Specially in my town, Dover, New Jersey.
I have recently moved to this small town and it’s lovely the people
are friendly – but the men sometimes are overtly sexist and I’m sick
As these events seem to occur on a daily basis to me in my hometown of
Dover New Jersey I am compelled to write them out and share them with
I have a few stories of my own, where I have actually HOLLABACKed at
them. and the look on their faces is really one of astonishment and I
plan on answering right back at them so they can feel a little ashamed
One day, apparently I had woken up on the wrong side of the bed,
because I was snapping at everyone- including my 15 year old son!( who
was with me at the time of the incident). I was crossing the street
and so was this man (looked about mid 30′s) he was crossing the street
and slowed his pace to look at my behind. I looked at him in the eyes
and said “Apparently you’ve never seen a woman in your entire life-
WTF!!”. He didn’t notice my son was coming behind me a few feet away.
My girlfriend said I screamed at him and that his reaction was that of
a person who didn’t expect to be screamed at. My son saw how mad I was
and did not say a thing. Let it be known my son is way taller than
me, he’s 6’3″ and Im 5’10″. So the guy just got into his car and
I was walking with a girlfriend of mine and she has pretty boobies.
She was not showing any cleavage whatsoever, she was decently covered
up. This man turns the corner and without being discreet starts
staring at her boobies. As he walks pasts us, I say out loud
“you should look where you’re walking or you might fall”. He looked
back and I was staring and motioned to him in a funny way “look where
your walking” and my girlfriend started laughing out loud. We both
could tell he felt embarrassed.
A man who works at the building where I live did not even bother to be
discreet and was staring at my girlfriend’s boobs so I say really loud
too “You should be discreet about staring at a woman’s boobs” and I
closed the door on him in his face, because if I left the door open he
would follow his vulgar staring all the way up the stairs. - that
reaction turned positive as the next days he would greet me but with
Another recent account,
I was paying a parking meter and a guy passes
by in a bike and says to me “hey baby you’re beautiful” and I answered
back so quickly “and you’re so freakishly ugly– dammm you ugly” and I
made a puking face. He looked back again, as he thought he might get
another glimpse at my behind and I was staring at him with the same
puking face “uuueeww you’re ugly”. He disappeared.
Its like the men have no respect for the women that pass by on the
sidewalks everyday. Girls are never spared in the streets or
I am so sick and tired of having to face these men .
A vulgar stare, a lingering look at a vulnerable time, a
sleasy comment, a sly whistle, a wink, cheap gestures, passing by in
slow moving cars blasting loud music with many eyes inside measuring
you up … all these are typical examples of such sexual harassment
and I tired of bumping into these types of men in this town.
I will start to document every account from now on, as I have noticed
I have so many accounts to tell.
I was biking with my friends and fell a little behind when we were going up a hill. A car pulled up next to me and the driver yelled “you have a great ass” a few times. I ignored him and he started honking at me…maybe like five or six times. I turned towards him, gave him the finger, and said “hey man, I’m just biking here, leave me alone”. He pulled up closer and started catcalling me some more, like he didn’t even hear me. I biked through the red light to get away from him.
When I told my (male) biking friends, they thought it didn’t matter. I was freaked out, I wanted to GET AWAY from that intersection, but they just stood there. One of them implied that because I “stood up” while I biked, that guy probably thought he was entitled to yell at me, follow, and continually disrespect me.
Sometimes standing up against people makes me realize how terrible it actually is – that they don’t even see me as a person enough to listen to my anger.
As a friend and I sat in Washington Square Park enjoying the sun on Saturday afternoon, two men approached us and told us we were beautiful and began asking questions about our lives. One man seemed to be “helping” the other by speaking for him (e.g. “my friend here is from Texas, where are you from?” or “what would you guess my friend’s passion in life is?”). They began asking questions rapid-fire, and I begrudgingly answered, even though I felt they had no right to demand to know about my life. When I mentioned I had a boyfriend in Texas, the man that was doing most of the talking said, “You didn’t say anything about a boyfriend, is he still alive?” then asked if I was going to move back to Texas after I graduate so I can get married (as if a woman’s only aspirations are marriage!). Eventually they realized that I was angry and said “we should go,” but asked for a hug. I said no and that I prefer not to be touched, and he told me I should “get that fixed.”
Then we watched them retreat back to a group of about 15 men. We watched them for a while and realized that they were all going out in pairs and talking to random women in the park. It appeared to be some sort of instructional class on picking up women, maybe? It was very odd. And here’s the worst part–they were filming some of the interactions.
This harassment may not be as obvious as cat-calling, groping, etc, but I still felt violated. These men should not be pressuring random, unassuming women to answer intrusive questions about their lives, let alone filming the entire interaction. If you ever see this group of men in WSP, I hope you are more proactive than I am in telling them that using women like that is wrong.
As a realtor, I was out with my clients on the 4/5 train. And this guy was standing behind me and says, “You have a nice body for a little girl.” I should have ignored him and walked away. But I said, “I’m not a little girl, I’m a grown woman”. But then he started to banter with me, “No, but you’re a little girl.” So, I put on my jacket. Then he says, “I want to see how you look in that too.” And I ignored him. So he leans down and says, “Yo, I wasn’t expecting you to have such a nice butt, and you’re rocking the Amber Rose too”. I was like, “Look, I’m with my clients.” And he points to his male co-worker who’s sitting down in front of me and says, “I’m with my co-worker too.” They’re both wearing the same blue t-shirt. And so fed up, I walk away. To which he responds, “Oh, you must like white guys.” So I walk over and stand on join my clients, standing on the other side of them next to the door. So a couple minutes later before I get off he goes, “You should say thank you, I gave you a compliment…. So I said Thank you to get him to shut up and leave me alone. And he says, “It takes a lot of courage for someone to say something nice to someone.” as he’s walking away.
And I’m thinking, I shouldn’t have said thank you. “Thank you?!?” You mean, you talk to me off kilter, and you expect a thank you! You made me feel like a piece of meat, and I’m supposed to say, “Thank You.” You draw attention to me, embarrassing the shit out of me. (Mind you, I’m wearing a black business suit and flats). And you expect me to say “thank you.” I was fuming afterwords, thinking I should have said something else. It’s like now I’m fuming, and replaying over and over in my head what I should have said. But it’s like that guy had a lot of nerve! It was the first day I’d taken my jacket off in months, and to get that kind of attention while I’m with my clients was just really uncomfortable.
I keep going over what I wish I could have said… and it just makes me more and more angry to think we live in a world where people think it’s okay to just say anything to anybody just cause you think it. Not everything is meant to be said. I wish I had taken his picture. What a jerk!
The parade grounds on Caton Ave. harbor many disgusting men who hang out on the benches in groups during all times of the day. I used to walk my dog in this direction a lot because it tends to be OK during the winter. However the second the temperature warms up these gross men tend to congregate here and get drunk.
I’ve had many uncomfortable situations occur in this area, but my most recent went as follows:
I was walking my dog back when a gross man got much too close to me and he said he liked my legs. I was wearing a trenchcoat and flats and because of the warmer weather, a skirt.
His proximity upset me, so I said “Fuck off you piece of shit”.
He wasn’t intimidated by my mean face or words, so this just resulted with him yelling at me “I need your pussy” up until I was a block away.
I noticed a man following me on the subway platform in Grand Central while waiting for the downtown 6 around 12:30pm. When it came the man sat next to me and slid down to be only inches away from me on the empty bench. His odor was offensive enough, but when I saw him licking his lips I felt very uncomfortable. He proceeded to take his puffy coat off and put it on his lap and began masturbating. I ran to the other side of the car and before my stop came I made sure to speak my mind.
Earlier today on the subway (5 train) there was this creeper dude, who got on the train and I had my huge sunglasses so he probably thinks no one saw him or noticed, but this dude kept getting SUPER fucking close to women (like even if the train was empty behind him he would walk to somewhere that was crowded and stand right behind a chick using the same pole as her purposely) and this dude would pretty much get so close to them that hes pretty much grinding on them “accidentally” (even thou the train was empty behind he always acted like he had to stand behind random women) and he’d keep looking around making sure no one was looking at him and he’d sniff the girls hair… this man did this to around like 9 women by the time he got off the train at like 42nd street. I’m so glad I was standing with my back against the door, but you women out there should realize that creepers… are out there… and they exist… … mad fucking weird….
I always fancy myself one of the bros. I’ve struggled with the idea of being transgender, but have a deep rooted belief in loving my body no matter what. I’ve done pretty well taking gender out of the way people see me and just being myself. This spring break I was in LA walking to a taco truck with three of my male friends. I was having a great time, just chillin. As we walked down the sidewalk we were forced to walk in the middle of a group of men who were hanging out on either side of the sidewalk. As we passed one guy said “How are you doing beautiful?” which I tried to brush off with “I’m doing just fine.” “No, you ARE fine!” he responded. He didn’t touch me and because I was with a group I didn’t feel fear. WHat I did feel though was humiliation and disconnect. In one comment a complete stranger disrupted my place in my group. Our gender differences that I try so hard to hide were in a few words dragged to the surface. I tried to make a funny comment to my best friend, “Wil, he was talking to you.” haha. But it was all to obvious that it was only to me. Who catcalls a man?
On April 13th, Hollaback! organized a rally for International Anti-Street Harassment Week! The rally drew more than 300 participants who raised awareness on what street harassment is, who it affects and how to fight it.
Within the event, a skit illustrated by a group of children depicted why street harassment is harmful, and a chalk-walk party where participants wrote positive messages against street harassment in and around the park allowed the large group of attendees to raise awareness for passersby.
City Council Members joined their voices in the fight against street harassment: “As Chair of the Women’s Issues Committee, I am very concerned about street harassment and the effects it has on many women,” Council Member Julissa Ferreras said. “By joining in the annual rally against street harassment, I am proud to send a public message both to those who harass and those who have been harassed – this behavior is not acceptable. I will continue to work with our partners in leadership to ensure the safety of all New Yorkers on our streets.”
“Street harassment is the most prevalent form of gender-based violence and the least legislated against,” said Emily May, Executive Director of Hollaback!. “I am proud to come together with our co-sponsors and fellow New Yorkers to demand a city where everyone has the right to feel safe and confident when they walk down the street.”
As defined by STOP Street Harassment, a nonprofit organization dedicated to ending gender-based street harassment worldwide that co-sponsored the event, street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender.
Gender-based street harassment, such as catcalls, sexist comments, public masturbation, groping, stalking and assault, makes public places unfriendly and even scary for many girls, women and LGBQT individuals. Street harassment limits women’s peace of mind and freedom, making it a gender equality and human rights issue.
The mobility of all members of the LGBQT community is often restricted as well because of harassment and hateful violence motivated by the person’s actual or perceived gender expression or sexual orientation.
On an international level, countries refer to street harassment by different names. In India and Bangladesh, it’s termed “eve teasing,” and in countries like Egypt, it’s called “public sexual harassment.”
International Anti-Street Harassment Week, marked as the second week in April this year, provides an opportunity to collectively raise awareness that street harassment happens, and that it is not acceptable.
To aid in the end of street harassment in New York City, several elected officials, including Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer, Council Member Brad Lander, Council Member Stephen Levin and Council Member Darlene Mealy, attended the rally and spoke about the importance of International Street Harassment Week.
“Everyone deserves the right to walk the streets of our city free from fear,” Manhattan Borough President Scott M. Stringer said. “International Street Harassment Week reminds us that we must continue to fight for this right by bringing the issue of street harassment into the spotlight and breaking down the cultural forces that support it. I commend Council Member Ferreras, Hollaback!, STEPS to End Family Violence, Let Your Voice Be Heard Radio and their partners for organizing such an important awareness-raising event. By working together, we can end street harassment and gender-based violence once and for all.”
“Everyone has the right to walk the street without the intimidation of street harassment,” Council Member Brad Lander said. ”We all have a responsibility to speak out, but thank you to Councilmember Ferreras, Hollaback!, and all the other advocates for leading the charge toward safer streets for us all.”
“All women and men deserve the right to walk down the street in peace,” said Council Member Stephen Levin. “Street harassment is bullying and cannot be tolerated – there are no exceptions. I want to thank Hollaback! for their tireless efforts in making sure New York City is free of street harassment.”
“Issues of power and the over-sexualization of women in our culture are what drive street harassment. We live in a culture that perpetuates male dominance and the notion that it is somehow OK to overstep boundaries of decency,” Council Member Darlene Mealy said. “We need to spread awareness of this very real issue for all women in New York City and combat the problem.”
In addition to the elected officials who attended the rally, several individuals who have experienced street harassment first-hand as well as representative from more than 20 organizations highlighted the importance of presenting a unified voice to stop harassment from occurring not only in the City, but in the world.
The organizations in attendance included STOP Street Harassment, RAPP Truman Peer Leaders, STEPS to End Family Violence, Girls for Gender Equity, Coalition for Gender Equity in Schools, The Brooklyn Movement Center, UN Women, One Billion Rising, Sydnie L. Mosley Dances, Center Against Domestic Violence, New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault, Cornell University ILR School and The Center Against Domestic Violence.
“The Growing movement against sexual violence and harassment in public spaces is one of the most important new global movements of the decade,” said Anastasia Posadskaya-Vanderbeck, Global Manager of UN Women Safe Cities Global Initiative.
“The Brooklyn Movement Center is not here to continue the criminalization of Black men,” said Marly Pierre-Louis, Communications Organizer of Brooklyn Movement Center. “We’re here to organize women of color in Bed-Stuy to start a community dialogue about how we can make public spaces safe and free of intimidation.”
“In our 38 years of helping people prevent, counter and heal from all different types of abuse, we have seen first-hand the devastating effects of violence perpetrated specifically against women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals and youth on NYC’s streets. At CAE we believe everyone has the right to live free from violence, to walk the streets and follow our pursuits without being harassed, denigrated and traumatized,” Tracy Hobson, Executive Director of The Center For Anti-Violence Education, said. “Young people in particular, harassment turns life experiences that could be enriching and strengthening into ones that erode their confidence and self-worth. CAE actively helps young and adult women and LGBTQ communities feel strong, safe, and independent. We believe that street harassment is a community issue and we must address it with a strong community response. When we stand together, we are stronger.”
“Street harassment is the most common way a person experiences sexual harassment around the world,” said Connie Márquez, Deputy Director of Steps to End Family Violence. “STEPS to End Family Violence is honored to stand with our national and international partners to highlight and help reduce this social epidemic and bring safety to our communities, schools and homes.”
“Sisters in Strength Youth Organizers are participating in the Stop Street Harassment rally to represent young women and bring awareness about street harassment,” said the Sisters in Strength Youth Organizers of Girls for Gender Equity, a youth leadership program for young women of color. ”We believe we and all people have the right to walk down the street without being hollered at and disrespected. We hope that our actions can help put an end to street harassment, that it will no longer be a norm in society, and that our children will not have to be victimized by it.”
As the event closed with participants leaving positive messages written in chalk around the park, such as “My name is not ‘Baby’” and “I am not a dog, do not whistle at me,” Council Member Ferreras reflected upon the success in broadening the awareness of street harassment.
“This rally successfully embodied the message that street harassment must be stopped,” Ferreras said. “As people walk the streets around the park, I hope the chalk messages left by the participants resonates with them. Everyone deserves respect.”