We are proud today to share the fourth annual blog list of 16 memorable stories of women dealing with street harassment which has been kindly compiled by Holly Kearl, Founder of Stop Street Harassment and one of our 16 Female Role Models of 2010.
Almost 100% of women and girls experience street harassment in their lifetimes, ranging from the uncomfortable to the downright dangerous. Holly receives many stories of women fighting back against street harassment by themselves or with the help of friends, family, and bystanders. She shares them on the Stop Street Harassment website and Facebook page to help raise awareness of this particular type of violence against women as well as provide inspiration and ideas for everyone on making public places and spaces safe for women.
This list provides a starting point for all to learn about and discuss the impact of street harassment. We hope it’ll inspire you to take action.
It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.
– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project
Empowering Response #1: As Anna was walking to the grocery store in Seattle, two men in a parked car harassed her. She felt safe and decided to respond back. She said, “I gave them a look, yelled back, ‘Don’t harass me!’ and kept walking. A few seconds later I heard a car about to drive past me, and a ‘Sorry!’ called out. I said thanks to the man in the passenger seat who apologised, and he told me to have a good day and I reciprocated.”
Empowering Response #2: Lise was running in a California park when she realised a group of middle school boys was harassing female athletes. After they harassed her, too, she decided to talk to them. Addressing the leader, she said, “Girls don’t like it when you talk to them that way.” She said she used a regular voice, one human being to another: “You see men talk that way, but they aren’t getting anywhere are they?” His friends fell silent and they all listened. She continued, “If you think a girl is pretty just talk to her like a regular person. Say hello, start a conversation. You’ll do a lot better that way.” The leader thought about the grown men he had been imitating. “Then why do they do that?” he asked. Lise said, “They don’t know any better. The ones who act that way are kind of dumb.” One boy called out from the back of the pack. “Yeah, it’s a dumb thing to do.” The leader said thanks – and there were no more inappropriate comments from them that day.
Empowering Response #3: Robbie is in her 50s and lives in Colorado. She says she does not experience street harassment anymore, but she won’t stay silent when she sees it happening to someone else. When she saw construction workers harassing a young woman, she checked in to make sure the woman was okay. Then she asked the men why they harassed the woman. They were dismissive of her, so she called 911 and the company they work for. She made both calls in front of them saying, “I think I gave them a tiny scare.”
Empowering Response #4: After a construction worker catcalled her during her walk to work, Anonymous confronted him and asked him why he thought that was appropriate to do. His colleague stepped in and apologised. She said, “Afterwards, I felt empowered for sticking up for myself.”
Empowering Response #5: Lee is frequently harassed and decided to start pushing back. After a man at a bus stop near her house harassed her, she walked up to him and let him know that this was where she lived. She told him this was her home and asked, “How dare he come to her neighborhood and disrespect her and make her feel less than safe?” She said, “I scared the crap out him and he seemed to decide that he didn’t need to wait for the bus, to skedaddle on home as he backed away apologising. Boy, was that satisfying. Speaking out then became something I could do (if I felt safe to) and it was empowering. It was like a first step toward taking back full ownership of my own body.”
Empowering Response #6: Anonymous was walking home from college in Utah when a man called out to her. She was tired of being harassed so she said, in a firm voice, “Excuse you?!” The man and his friends were silent and she walked home. She says they have never bothered her again when she’s walked by.
Empowering Response #7: S has been harassed on three continents and in her frustration one day, penned this letter to men. She concludes it by writing, “This dehumanisation of women based solely on their outward appearance is sexism. We’re people, not objects built solely to display clothes or sexually please men, so please do not treat us as such.”
Empowering Response #8: After experiencing street harassment in Edinburgh, Scotland, Anna called the police. The police looked into the incident but the officer who called her back said it was “probably just men being men.” Anna was frustrated by that comment and so wrote to the Chief Constable – and shared her letter online – to highlight the harmful attitude and to ask for more sensitivity around street harassment and related issues.
Empowering Response #9: Eya was shopping with her family in Tunisia when a man harassed her. She at first pretended to ignore him, but when she saw him laughing about getting away with it, she turned around and screamed at the top of her lungs, “YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF!” He was really shocked, she said, “as if he didn’t realise I actually had a voice and could stand up for myself. He then simply turned around and retreated back into the shop, and I felt very proud of the way I had reacted.”
Empowering Response #10: SSH board member Lindsey launched “Cards Against Harassment” as a way to use messages on cards to respond to harassers. “I decided that a card would be the ideal middle ground, allowing me to provide feedback that harassment is unwanted without necessarily sticking around for an extended encounter.” After launching the cards, some of her male friends doubted she experienced street harassment as much as she does, so she started filming her harassers. Her videos were featured on numerous media sites over the summer, receiving hundreds of thousands of views.
Empowering Response #11: Greta was walking through the Scottsdale Hilton in Arizona to meet a friend staying there when two men whistled at her. Tired of dealing with harassment, she decided to talk to them about it. “Hi,” she said. “I notice you’re the only two people out here, and I’m the only person walking past. I just wanted to let you know when you whistle at women, it’s incredibly offensive and demeaning. I am a human being, not an object that exists for your viewing pleasure.” They retorted, “It’s okay, you’ll get over it.” So she continued to educate them: “Well actually, no, you’ll get over it. Because as straight white males with enough money to stay at the Hilton, you have the privilege of being able to choose how you address people around you. YOU get to make the choice. I don’t. So no, I won’t get over it. I’ve been dealing with it for years.” She then left, saying, “it felt really good to be able to call them on it.”
Empowering Response #12: SVN in Massachusetts as walking home at night when he yelled out to her. No one was around and she feared for her safety. “Yes?” She asked him. “How you doing?” he asked, crossing the street to get closer to her. She held up her hand saying, “I’m going to need you to leave me alone – I’m a woman walking by myself at night, and this is a little scary.” She said he stopped in his tracks, and said, “Oh, I didn’t mean it like that!” “That’s okay,” she said, “I’m going to keep walking, and you can go back to whatever you were doing.” And he sat back down, and she kept walking.
Empowering Response #13: As Anonymous was walking away from a bar with friends in Washington, a man grabbed her butt. She grabbed his shirt and slapped him and yelled, “You cannot touch me! You cannot just grab someone’s ass. That is not okay!” He ran away.
Empowering Response #14: An older man in Italy yelled, “Hey baby” to EZ as she walked to work. She pretended not to hear. He continued: “Hey, need a ride? Come here I’ll PAY you! How much is it?” She decided to fight back. She turned around, a big smile on her face, and said with loud voice, “Hey you! How old are you? 80? Your life is very near to the [natural] end, so why don’t you think about your health instead of bothering young ladies?” His face turned from red to purple. She walked away, smiling.
Empowering Response #15: After never responding to street harassers, A in Pakistan took a stand when a man touched her hip on the pedestrian bridge as he tried to walk past her. She screamed out “Beghairat” (“shameless” in Urdu). “I did something about street harassment,” she wrote. “After all these years, I finally did it tonight. I took a stand.”
Empowering Response #16: As Anonymous entered a New York subway car, a guy on the left of her pretended to “help” her into the train by grabbing her lower back and grazing it saying, “Here you go, sweetie.” When she told him, “Please don’t touch me,” he proceeded to insult her body, saying, “There’s not much to touch,” and laugh with his friend and make insulting comments about her race loudly so everyone on the train could hear. When he and his friends continued to harass her, she took his photo. He was surprised and stopped.