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There’s a volunteer group going around – I saw them in a T station a few weeks ago – that’s actively trying to encourage people to smile more. “For a happier Boston!” What cracked me up about these people is that so many of them are women. Really? No one ever told you, unsolicited, to smile? Do you not get the problem with this?
I don’t smile on the street because when I do, I get hit on. In fact, when I was giggling to myself ABOUT this group and the absurdity of it all (so they achieved their goal, congratulations?), the man I hadn’t noticed coming out of the Dunkin’ Donuts promptly said “How YOU doin’?” Scowl was back in place within seconds.
The other recent time I mistakenly smiled in public while walking alone (I know, how dare I?), I was promptly accosted by another “Well, hello there. How YOU doin’?” Sure, it could (and has been) worse, but what really got me about this guy was that when I didn’t respond, he started in on how he was just trying to be polite. Really? Then how come I didn’t see you greet the two guys walking in front of me? No, you are not being polite, you are not being friendly. If you were being polite, you would have left me the hell alone.
I was walking home, when someone ran up behind me and threw me on the ground. I had my headphones in, and was holding dinner from Uburger, which I crushed. My glasses broke and fell off. I cut up my hands, my knee, broke my glasses, and my shoes and jacket ripped. I don’t know of someone spooked the assailant, or if I did by yelling, but he ran away from me without stealing anything. I was very lucky.
Note from HB Boston: When Anna posted this to Tumblr, the Allston Rat City Tumblr asked her what happened. In her repy, she mentioned that the detectives informed her that since last Halloween, there has been a man in Allston that pushes women over that are wearing skirts or dresses. The moderator of Allston Rat City asked, “He didn’t take a picture of you did he? That’s what he’s been known to do previously.”
Has anyone else had this happen to them in Allston? Does anyone know anything about it? Let us know! And let Anna know that you have her back my clicking the green button below.
I walked into a Boston-based social services agency for a meeting. As I approached the door, a throng of men stood outside. It was an intimidating sight, making me feel apprehensive about walking in for the meeting. I can’t imagine how it must feel for a woman going in to receive services. The men commented on my hair, told me they liked my glasses, said, “hey, ma.” I smiled tightly and walked inside.
Once inside, I stood away from the clients of the agency, out of the way while I waited for the person I was meeting. A man approached me. He said, “Where you been?” I didn’t understand the question, and thought that maybe he had mistaken me for someone else. I said, “Excuse me?” He asked my name, which I gave, and then he said something else that I couldn’t make out. I felt uncomfortable but tried to remain polite, as I was there for business. He walked away but sat behind a glass panel and stared at me for the next several minutes. I felt really creeped out.
About an hour later, I was on a different floor of the building in a “women only” area. He opened the door to the room and motioned for me to come over and speak to him. Again, I looked around, thinking he was talking to someone else. He wasn’t. I did not get up from my seat, but asked him what he wanted. He again motioned for me to come over to him. I stood up and walked over and again said, “What?” He tried to get me to exit the room and come into the empty stairwell that he was speaking to me from. I refused. He said, “Let me holla at you, ma.” I politely told him that I needed to get back to what I had been doing before he started speaking to me. At that point, he again tried to get me to come into the stairwell to speak to him. There was no one else in the stairwell and I knew the door would lock behind me if I stepped out. I felt cornered but I stood my ground and told him that I couldn’t do that. He said, “Aren’t you even going to shake my hand?” I did because it felt like the least bad option, turned around, and walked back to where I had been sitting.
Later, I saw him again. I was leaving the building and he kept trying to call after me. I just kept walking. It was such a tough situation because I was in an environment to do business, and so I needed to temper my reaction to the man. On top of that, it was a space he was familiar with and I was not. While I felt that I stood my ground and shut down the advances that were made, it was very frustrating to feel like he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. When I declined his advances once, that should have been enough.
Recently I was walking downtown with my friend and a young man passed us, smiled and said, “Hey, ladies.” I said hello back. I was pleased with the seemingly non-sexual encounter with a man. Or at least, if he did think we were pretty, he kept it to himself and out of his remark.
I expressed to my friend that it was refreshing to have a pleasant interaction with a man when out in public that didn’t leave me uncomfortable. She wasn’t left with the same understanding. “Why ladies? Why not just ‘hello’ or ‘hi there?’” I hadn’t seriously thought about that, since in my experience with men on the street, I am happily able to adjust the standards to what was an acceptable and respectable way to approach me. Sure, greeting me like you would greet anyone else on the street, gender not included, would be ideal, but my expectations are lower. As long as you (read: men) don’t ogle me or use sexualized terminology, I can exhale after I pass you on the street.
But why stop there? In a world infused with misogyny and patriarchy, what is my ultimate goal with Hollaback? What would public encounters look like, in my ideal harassment- and gender-based violence-free world? Should gendered nouns be left out of it completely?
If you think about it, it’s strange for a woman to address a group of men as, well, “men”, as men are the default. “Hello, men.” It has a strange ring to it. It sounds inherently sexual, as I’m reading it aloud in my head, because obviously if a woman is addressing a group of men she doesn’t know she interested in them sexually. A group of men are “guys,” a group of women are also “guys,” and a group of women with one man are “girls” and “guy.” Be careful not to lump the lone man when addressing the group as “girls.”
Is “ladies” too sexual? Is “girls” too demeaning to those who are female-identified above the age 18? Is “women” too stern? Is “folks” too PC?
I’d like to know your thoughts about gendered nouns (not gender slurs, such as bitch, cunt, slut, and all of those colorful words that have been shouted at us) in public interactions with strangers. I’ve only focused on a few of the main ones for the sake of brevity. What do you prefer to hear? What leaves you feeling icky? Would equal treatment on the street mean leaving gender out?
Share your thoughts below!
Hi, hollas! We just stumbled across this note from a reader in our inbox that we missed a couple weeks ago. She sent us a valentine and we thought it was so wonderful that we got her permission to share it with all of you. She writes:
I spent a bunch of time on the phone today with the deputy director of… aCambridge-based organization [redacted]. We were talking about social media at one point, and she asked me what my favorite social media outlet was. I told her it was Facebook, especially for organizations like hers, and as an example I talked about how I don’t have to go “hmm, maybe I should go to the Hollaback website and see what they’re doing over there,” because whenever I check Facebook I get these little updates. Getting little updates every day, with no effort on my part, keeps it fresh in my mind so that when someone makes kissy faces at me on the T I remember that it’s totally okay to glare at them or tell them to go away. And I hope that maybe, just maybe, that guy will be less of a dick next time. Which maybe in a tiny, tiny, tiny way helps make the world just a teeny weeny bit better.
And SHE said: “oh my gosh, I know! I LOVE Hollaback!”
Anyway, thanks for all you do!
Happy Valentine’s Day!
We want to thank Liz for sending this to us! It’s feedback like this that helps keep us doing what we’re doing. All of you awesome holla supporters help, too, of course! Happy belated Valentine’s Day!
image credit: Feminist Armchair Regime
I’ve always been somewhat of a fiesty person. I was never the person to shut up and take it when I felt someone had wronged me in some way. In fact, when I was younger and still drinking and full of piss and vinegar, it wouldn’t have been unusual for me to dump a drink on some dude’s head or go off on him in a bar for touching me or being a creep. I’ve always felt that if I didn’t stand up for myself, no one else would. With a little bit of age and some perspective, I can clearly see that I didn’t always hollaback in the most effective way, but I still feel that I was in the right to not stand idly by while some dude groped or harassed me. Unfortunately, many of the men that I have dated in my life have not felt the same way.
Today I have a wonderful partner that I know would stand up for me if someone was to do something inappropriate to me in public. But it was not always that way. I’ve dated a lot of guys along the way that blamed me when I got assaulted or touched in bars. They would say to me, “Britni, are you going to get me into a fight tonight? Because I’m really not in the mood for that.” I would be so livid at this for so many reasons. I’d never asked or expected anyone to fight! I believe that violence is never the answer. I never threatened physical violence, I would simply (and sometimes loudly) call out the person that had just reached under my dress and grabbed my ass in the crowd for sexually assaulting me.
It usually went something like this: “You just sexually assaulted me. You touched my body without my consent and that is sexual assault.” I always felt it important to name the behavior for what it was, because I felt that the guy needed to know how serious and violating what he’d done was. I never expected the men with me to fight the guy, but I had expected them to be upset that someone would treat me that way. To be angry that some guy had violated their girlfriend. To stand up for my right to walk through a crowded public space without being groped. But more often than not, the men I was with would tell me not to be so aggressive. To just let it go. Why did I have to be so combative all the time? Can’t you just go out and have a good time for once in your life, Britni?
While it says a lot about the kinds of men that I was dating, I think it says just as much about our society and the way we look at sexual assault and harassment. We live in a patriarchal society with misogynist attitudes. We blame victims for their assaults because it’s what we’re taught. The men I dated were just doing what they’d been taught to do by the culture we live in. When I think about how betrayed I felt in those situations, how angry I was that they weren’t angry, it still makes me angry today. These were not bad men, but they held shitty core beliefs about women.
I hope that by doing this work, by having tough conversations with the men that I know, by writing posts like this, that just one man will read it and empathize and realize that maybe they can do something about the way women and girls are treated in our society. I can yell and scream all I want but until the men that care about me and the women in their lives join their voices with ours, we’ll only be able to get so far. Until the guy that’s with me gets angry on my behalf and says something, too, I will just look like a crazy girl making a big deal out of nothing because that’s what us overly emotional ladies do. So I challenge all the men out there to stand up and let your dudes know: we’re not crazy and we’re not overreacting. That shit’s fucked up and they really need to cut it out.
A man approached the counter of the food service booth I work in and ordered a smoothie. While I was preparing the drink, he looked at my coworker and said to her, “Why are you wearing leggings with that?” (She was wearing a pair of jean shorts with leggings underneath). She said something about how it was still kind of cold out. He told her that her outfit would look better without the leggings (with the fact that then she would be showing off her legs being the implication).
I finished his smoothie and handed it over. “Will that be it for you?” I asked him. He looked me in the eye and said, “I don’t know, will it?” I didn’t blink and said one more time, “Will that be all?” And again he replied, “Will it?” At this I simply gave him his total and took his money.
When he left I turned to my coworker and asked, “What did he think I was going to do when he said that? Drop to my knees and give him a blowjob right here? I mean, really.” She told me about a time that a man walked up to the counter and said to her, “Damn girl, you cute. You gotta boyfriend?” She told me that she usually gets the (male) manager when things like that happen, but he’s not always here and then it’s super uncomfortable.
The tough part about being verbally harassed when I’m at work is not knowing where the line is. If that man was to speak to me like that on the street, I most certainly would have said something back to him or at least given him attitude. At work, I’m still trying to figure out at what point it is okay to say something about it. For now I just try not to respond but also try not to get angry, which is easier said than done.
@solikearose: “I once had a guy tell me he wanted to ‘oil me up.’ Disgusting.”
@katiathemick: “Gotta be the tongue between the y-shaped fingers. Random tongues are gross.”
@nikkif610: “while walking with a female friend of mine near the Fenway area a man shouted that he could satisfy both of us at once.”
@caulkthewagon: “one time a street harasser told me that I ‘have the kind of hair a man wants to put his [you-know-what] into.’ GROSS.”
@raptor_math: “Tossup between guy who hissed ‘TITTIES’ at me on Newbury & guy who grabbed my arm late @ night on Park St.”
@nikkif610: “hey girl you want some food stamps cuz I like my bitches thick and you gettin there.”
@annmariebrok: ”Hey girl, you looking for a boyfriend?” I kept walking. “[yelling] WHAT? YOU DON’T LIKE BLACK GUYS?” That wasn’t just an awful catcall, but he yelled the implication that I’m racist to a busy downtown street. I felt humiliated for ignoring street harassment, which is something that no one should ever feel bad about.
@RebeccaThandi: “Wouldn’t respond to a man winking at me on a bus. As he was exiting he elbowed me hard in the back of the head then smiled. …I’m going with “gross over-the-top wink” as “silent catcall.”"
@nikkif610: “Get those big tits over here sexy, I want them in my face, I love you chubby ladies.”
Gross! We hate that anyone has to deal with things like that. If you’d like to share your experience with catcalls with us, comment on this post or submit your story to the site. Because you don’t have to take it, you can hollaback! And, of course, thanks to our Twitter followers for adding to the conversation and supporting what we do!
I’m waiting at the gate for United flight #853 8:20 am flight (2/17/13) from SFO to Boston and I pass two older men (stocky, non descript, aging bros, 40′s?) on the way to a seat in the lobby.
As I walk past (right past to sit in the terminal) two men are seated next to each other. They are just aggressively staring at me and my ass. As I see them staring and I stare the one man right back down. As I pass I say, angrily but not too loudly, “what are you staring at??” I just was so mad! He turns to his friend and they start laughing to each other in response to me (isn’t sexual harassment hilarious!) I sit down a few seats away-my blood is literally boiling and I couldn’t see where to go so I just sat down closer than I wanted. They were still staring at me and snickering. I said again, more loudly, “what are you staring at??” The other dude sitting with him shouts “A PSYCHO WOMAN!” I can’t remember how I responded or what happened-nobody said anything to me or them but I was SO MAD my hands were shaking.
I called them out and I get put down! I imploded and sat there-rigid- questioning myself and then I finally get up and wheel away from them. I felt myself “tiptoeing” around them as they were still going on how “PSYCHO” I was. I was embarrassed to be in this situation and felt like I was going to get labelled by these dickheads “unstable” and detained by some covert air marshall. Even right now, I’m half furious and half saying “you are making a mountain out of a molehill.” Except, I’m not…
About 10 minutes later, I couldn’t stand it-I still had to get on the plane. I was thinking that fate would make me sit in between these two. I told the United attendant and she was just so kind. She was like-NO! NOT ON MY FLIGHT! You don’t have to deal with sexual harassment. Men do that to my middle school aged daughter and I tell them right off!” The other attendants asked me to point out these losers but they were gone.
It’s funny how when you get so angry-I was genuinely feeling afraid. Especially if you’ve ever been attacked before.
I never know how to respond-they were intimidating, shameless, and huge. I almost didn’t tell anyone because I thought (as with all victim blaming) TSA would find a way to say it was me and that I was overreacting.
I should’ve gotten out my phone and taken a picture but I didn’t want to antagonize the situation. Just imagine any old misogynistic bro (a la the irresistible charmers that crawl around Chicago, Boston, Atlanta…)
I know this is standard run of the mill men checking women out, woman gets mad, and men think it’s funny. I’m just still really mad-as always-but it’s 14 hours later! With recent headliners of gender based violence from Delhi, South Africa, Massachusetts about gang rape and brutal sexual violence. I don’t mean to wax poetic, but these men would never acknowledge their behavior or the way they treat women as in anyway directly related to sexual violence.
I’m rambling because I’m still rattled. I mean, an altercation in Boston is one thing-in the airport the stakes feel so much higher! I’m just trying to observe how the real issue is that (like cat calls, etc.) it’s not outed and named as a serious form of violence. That makes me so EFFING MAD and un-hopeful.
Rhea and I were standing in Harvard Square, on the corner across from The Pit and in front of the Coop. She was on her phone and I was texting a friend, both of us distracted from the people swirling around us. A man walked by us and loudly said, “Are you girls that cute or am I just that hot?” He then laughed hysterically, like is idiotic non-joke was the funniest and most clever thing that anyone had ever said.
That part didn’t surprise or really even bother me. I’m used to it by now. What shocked me was what happened next. A second man (that did not know the first) heard the horrible joke and yelled, “I got that joke! But that one girl isn’t even cute. Hell, both of them ain’t cute!”
The two men then high-fived each other and walked away in separate directions. Two men who were, from all appearances, strangers to each other had teamed up to harass us. It was absolutely appalling.