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I was standing outside a restaurant near Back Bay station after closing, waiting for someone who worked there to come out. I was looking at my phone, acting busy.
A man came up and told me my hair was nice. I didn’t respond. He told me my hair was nice again, this time adding that he was jealous (he was bald). I didn’t look up from my phone. He stood there a minute and tugged on the locked door. He asked if it was closed I nodded. Then he asked me to smile for him so he could “see my teeth.” I did not respond. He tapped my arm twice, as if we were friends, and said, “You’re beautiful. Just beautiful! Let me guess: 23!” I said, “Stop talking to me.”
He called me a bitch and walked away.
The creepiest part was that he was actively hitting on someone that he thought was 23, and even though I’m older than that, he couldn’t have been younger than 50. There was a part of me that wanted my (male) partner to come to the door at that moment to save me from this guy, but it shouldn’t take another dude to make someone stop harassing me. And who the fuck thinks it’s okay to touch someone that they don’t know? I mean, really.
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This morning on the Red Line I noticed a guy staring at me a couple of times. I didn’t think much of it (if we thought anyone looking at a person on the T was creepy we’d all be creepers), but the third time I looked up he had his penis out and was masturbating. We were sitting facing each other in the single seats at the very back of the train, and there were only 2-3 other people in the car at the other end. Thankfully we’d just pulled into JFK so I immediately got off the train and reported him to an MBTA cop. The cop called ahead and found the train was at Field’s Corner by this point, and the officers there were going to look for him. I was really shaken and grossed out, but now I’m mad that I didn’t think to take a picture. I’m not confident there’s anything they can do unless he was still at it when the train pulled into FC. Ugh.
It’s always surprising how riled up cis, straight men get when, as a woman, you decide how to present yourself to the world. It all started when I got off the 36 MBTA bus line. I had noticed that this older male was looking me up and down as I was seated, but I didn’t really pay attention to it, because (sadly enough) I am used to people looking at me in a sexual manner. He proceeded to call me “sweet thing” and comment on how much he liked my all-black outfit on me, even after I wasn’t having it. This verbal harassment then continued onto the orange line, on my way to work, when this random guy gets on the train and just assumes that I am “rolling my eyes” at him because I looked up and down. He continued to get uncomfortably close to me, and continued to say that I “did it again” (rolled my eyes), and then tries to add in “oh, but you have pretty eyes by the way,” as if that would make up for his own idiocy. He then tries to continue some sort of vapid conversation by asking me “What am I?” in regards to my all black clothing, and questions if I had “just came back from a rock concert.” I retort with, “NO. I just like black,” and then he goes on his merry way, trying to find his friend, who has clearly left him because even he is aware of how much of an idiot he was being. As if I wasn’t already mad, another guy decided to approach me (as I was coming out of work in Copley Mall), and decides to comment on how I “captured his heart,” and how much he liked my outfit on me, and then decides to bring up that he would be interested in “short-term dating,” even after I said I wasn’t interested. He tries to continue the conversation by saying he will “be here for a while,” because he “didn’t get into Harvard” (GEE I WONDER WHY), but is going to “try and get in later.” I try and be nice and say “you’re adorable but I’m just not interested,” but he persists and says, “Oh, I’m adorable okay…this is what I get for wearing this stupid hat, I guess I’m not good enough for you,” and then walks away.
On my way home I was fuming, but I’m really happy my sister decided to tell me about this website, because at least here I feel like I’m actually being heard by people. I am sick of worrying about being victimized or harassed just because of the simple fact that I am a woman. I am sick of men, who are highly insecure and ignorant, questioning me on my choice of clothing or mannerisms. I am sick of being asked out on dates by random strangers who I have no obligation to appease, and then being made to feel bad about it because society considers them to be “nice guys.” We shouldn’t have to go through this on a day-to-day basis. It’s simply disgusting.
Hi,I went to your Downtown Crossing location yesterday to get a salad. I have the receipt from my purchase that I can send you as well. At the salad counter, I was helped by a male staff member who appeared to be a manager. When I approached the counter, he told me to smile. When I did not smile for him, he told me, “Smile so that I can start making your salad.” This is completely unacceptable behavior for a) an employee to exhibit towards a customer and b) a male to exhibit towards a female. It is objectifying and condescending. It is sexual harassment as well, as women should not be obligated to look a certain way for someone. My service at your restaurant should not have been predicated on whether or not I smile for the person serving me. I also witnessed this same manager call several female employees “honey.” I cannot imagine what working in that environment must be like for women.I then walked up to the counter to pay for my salad and was greeted by the male employee working the register with a, “Hello, beautiful!” When I did not smile at him after this unsolicited comment on my appearance, he asked my why I wasn’t smiling and then called me “pretty lady.” Again, this interaction is harassment.I am quite sure that neither of these interactions would have happened this way if I had been a male customer. And why should female customers be treated any differently? I did not go into your restaurant to be hit on by employees, sexually harassed, or treated like an object. I went in to get food. To answer the questions of your employees as to why I wasn’t smiling, it was because of the way they spoke to me. It was because they told me I should be.I expect a response from your company about this incident. Furthermore, I have to wonder what kind of sexual harassment training, if any, your employees receive. I am the site director of an organization called Hollaback! Boston and we are fighting harassment in public space in the Greater Boston area. We have a Safer Spaces campaign, and I’d like to propose that your company participate in the campaign. We would come in and provide a training to your employees about harassment, between employees, between customers, and from employee to customer. We would ask you to take a pledge to not allow harassment in your establishment and to take it seriously when reported to you. You can see more information about our campaign here.If I don’t receive any response, I will assume that you condone the harassment of your customers by your employees and I will write about it publicly on the Hollaback! Boston website. Again, I ask you to consider my offer to allow me to come into your company and train your employees about sexual harassment. The behavior that your employees exhibited is unprofessional, disrespectful, and unacceptable. I imagine that I am not the first female customer that has had to deal with harassment from your male employees and I hope that you take the right action to follow up.I did not see nametags on either employee. My receipt was run up at 4:10 PM, my SvrCk is 96 and the number at the top is F-0869a.I look forward to your response.
I received a response from UDG about this matter. Here it is.
Ms. de la Cretaz,
I am sorry to respond via email but I did not receive your phone number. I was quite dissappointed [sic] to hear of your experience on Wednesday at our Summer Street location and have begun an investigation into what occurred and who was involved. We take these issues very seriously and apprecitate [sic] the fact that you took the time to share this with us so that we may investigate and take action to insure [sic] that our employees understand and can demonstrate appropriate behavior between them and our guests
Thank you again for bringing this to my attention and allowing me the opportunity to improve our performance.
Vice President, Uno Dué Go
100 Charles Park Road
West Roxbury, MA 02132
I appreciated the response but deemed it not good enough. I asked for follow up and I asked to be notified how, exactly, the incident would be handled. I also inquired again as to whether or not their staff receive sexual harassment training.
Thanks for responding, Chris. I would appreciate a follow up as to how to incident was handled, as well. I’m also still curious about what, if any, sexual harassment training staff at your company receive. If you’d prefer to contact me by phone, my number is [redacted].
So far, I have not received any kind of response. It has been several weeks and I have not received an email, phone call, or tweet. Needless to say, I will not be eating at Uno Dué Go any longer. It’s a shame, too, because their salads are awesome.
When I was a teenager I experienced street harassment in the form of a verbal attack. An older male was leaving the coffee shop as I was going in and he held the door open for me. I thanked him and he called me “sugar bunch.” I brushed it off, but when I was leaving the shop he began yelling at me from his car, asking for sexual favors. I was taken aback both by the fact he was yelling such graphic things at me, and also by the fact that there was literally no reaction to it from others around the area. It was during daylight hours in a heavily populated area, so the fact that NO ONE said anything was very disturbing to me. I tried to walk away without being noticed, but he followed me in his car for a few seconds, and his language turned from sexually graphic to homophobic and I was almost brought to tears. The man ended up speeding off, probably not thinking anything of what he had done, but I was profoundly hurt by what had happened, and I felt as though it was entirely my fault. I now know this is not the case at all, and I know that what he did is wrong and should not be tolerated.
There is a crosswalk between my office building and its parking lot. This morning I was verbally harassed after crossing the street on the way to the door of my building. I was almost at the door when I heard a truck stop in the crosswalk behind me and a male voice yell “Nice Heiney!” at my back. I turned around as the truck was pulling away. No one else was around. I stood there for a few seconds trying to figure out what to do; I normally try to respond to verbal harassment, but in this case the person was already gone and I hadn’t even gotten a good look at them or their truck. I went inside and told the only coworker of mine that was around what had happened. I expressed my frustration to him that I never know what to do in these situations because responding to the harasser often gives them the attention they are seeking (and can sometimes be dangerous), but not responding normalizes it and makes it okay for them to behave in this way. He said he was sorry that it had happened to me. I have no other official place to report this incident that will really do any good, so I am writing about it here in the hopes that I can take back my body, not feel like crying anymore, and maybe get some work done today.
Earlier this summer as I was walking to grab coffee with a friend on Tremont, I noticed a man walking straight towards me, eyes glued on my chest. Normally, when people are walking towards you, at one point, either you or that person will veer off as to avoid walking into that person…but this man did the opposite. As he was getting closer, I wanted to avoid walking into him, so I started to walk to the right. As I did so, he changed his direction to match mine. I was on the right side of the sidewalk and I couldn’t go further right since I was already walking against a building. Seconds later, as I was trying to avoid him, he walked right up to me, swooped his head down, and put his face an inch away from my breasts. I pushed him off me, yelled, and went on a powerful feminist rant as loud as I could. He walked away from me like nothing had ever happened. He didn’t even look back when I called him out. I was so shaken up and still am, that even now, I am on the look out for him down Tremont.
A few weeks later, I was walking with another friend of mine and we spotted him coming towards us. As we walked down Tremont, he was walking towards us. I whispered to my friend that this was the guy who assaulted me on the street. She and I veered as far right as we could, almost to the point of being in the road. As we did this, he matched our direction and as he came closer, he swooped his head down again and got close to my friend’s breasts. I turned around and started yelling at him again and just like the time before, he didn’t even blink an eye or feel any sort of guilt for what he had done. This man is traversing up and down Tremont, finding women to make feel uncomfortable, and getting away with it. It only takes a few seconds for him to get close to you, violate your personal space, and get uncomfortably close to your chest…but in those few seconds I felt significantly unsafe and mistreated. I watched this man violate me and my friend and I’m sure he is doing it to so many other women in Boston. Despite me asserting myself and confronting him, he ignored me and made me feel objectified and worthless. We need to protect the women so that this doesn’t happen again.
“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!
Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I’m into snacks, R&B, science, cuties, feminism, crime movies, saying “hi” to dogs, and my family.
Define your style: Minidress and combat boots is my go-to look.
Favorite Boston fact: So this one’s a little gruesome, but: there’s a book bound with human skin at the Athenaeum.
Your favorite place in Boston? The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum and Georges Island are my two favorites, but really anywhere on the water makes me happy.
Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? So much! It’s so frustratingly pervasive and everyday that it’s hard for me to even remember individual incidents, except when it’s particularly funny or outlandish. The one that makes me laugh most to think about is once when I was wearing some low-cut jeans, a guy yelled “I can see your undies! (long pause as I continue walking by silently) … They’re blue!” (Reader, they were.) That said, of course, usually it’s not very funny, just exhausting.
What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? Mostly I ignore it to save energy and avoid confrontations, though occasionally I give the middle finger or a withering glare. But my favorite is when I am able to think of something to say that gives the harrasser pause or connects with them in some way. Once a guy called me mean for ignoring his “hey beautiful, come over and talk to me for a second”, and I responded “If I stopped and talked with all the guys who hollered at me, I’d never get anything done!” He seemed amused and taken aback and said he had never thought of that before. I think that a lot of harrassers have never given too much thought to what they’re doing (not that that lets them off the hook, of course!!), so if I have the energy, sometimes I try and catch them off guard and encourage them to think about it a little more.
Your superpower is… Being irresistibly attractive to bugs of all kinds.
What are you excited about in 2013? I have a break from school coming up and I can’t wait to just read a book and drink a beer on my porch.
What inspires you? I’m unbelievably blessed to have a lot of impressive, brilliant and compassionate people in my life, with my family foremost among them. Their love makes me better.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Do you! Nobody’s keeping score. Also, this is two, but it’s important: put some grapes in the freezer, they make a really good snack.
Lily, thank you!
image credit: Lily Benson
Here’s one story. On a bus was reading my cosmetology book studying for state boards. A teenager gets on looks drunk. He sits next to me asks what I am reading. Is in my face. I say I am busy and don’t want to talk. He starts yelling at me loudly. Says, “ha well you ain’t all that anyway,” and insulting me over and over. The bus driver ignores him. Everyone else on bus looks the other way. By the time we get to the train station I lose it and scream at him. I look for help, I just want him to get away from me and leave me alone. Some women commented they thought he and I knew each other and were fighting. I tell them no I never met him.in.my.life. He was screaming at me because I didn’t want to talk to him on the bus. No train conductors came out of their booths. No bus drivers told him to move his seat or get off. I felt like I was in the twilight zone among zombies. I couldn’t believe this was happening.
Story two. I walk by a group of guys near construction site near Wonderland. One sees me walk by I feel his eyes on me and know he is going to approach me. I look straight ahead and keep walking with phone to ear, pretend to be on the phone. He says hey whats up or something. I ignore him with phone to head. He trots faster alongside me to keep the pace. He then repeats himself and this time is now screaming. I continue to avoid eye contact and keep looking atraight ahead and ignore him. I walk faster, he waits a minute, falls back. Out of blue he bolts after me running to catch up to me and screams, “Hey hey what the f@/!# why won’t you talk to me” and goes on this rampage screaming at me in my face basically. He had a bunch guys with him and they were all lingering near a rather scary area where you could get pulled away and raped easily. A lot of big construction containers were everywhere.
I am used to it it happens so often. Very often the guys that approach me become extremely hostile and aggresive and loud when I don’t talk to them. I actually found that being friendly, saying thank you, acknowledging the person is more successful than the being dismissive and ignoring them all together. Believe it or not. All men are just little boys and get their feelings hurt when they can’t play with the toys they want. I just look at them like little boys and be nice and they back off faster that way. I say thank you, make eye contact, show respect. And keep it moving. After all I should be flattered, not offended when someone is trying to be friendly. Maybe I am not interested but humans are humans and I feel in people’s own childish minds this is how they try and approach women. You have to feel sorry for them but there is also no reason to be rude to anyone.
I was maybe a block or two away from my home when a bunch of guys in a car started shouting at me. “Hey beautiful! Wanna ride? Hey! Hey!” I didn’t realize they had followed me (very slowly) until I got home, heard a bunch of shouting and laughing and tires squealing. They actually followed me TO MY HOME. I have never been so creeped out in my life.
So what am I supposed to do, never leave my house?