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Walking from my house to my car at about 10:30 at night to grab something from my car I hear “Excuse me, beautiful lady” I didn’t turn around. “Excuse me”, the male voice insisted. I turned around because he had been polite and I thought he maybe just needed directions. “How’d you like to come here and bounce that sexy ass hole on my dick tip?” he yelled from across the street. He had 5-6 friends with him. I responded by telling him that I’m sure that kind of comment usually just slays the ladies. His friend responded “apparently not you!”
They were all walking away from me during this entire interaction do by this time they were pretty far away and didn’t warrant a response.
I had walked out of my house in pajama shorts and a t-shirt to my car that was literally 100 feet from my front door. The rage I feel, and in some ways, am still feeling is unbearable. I feel so helpless and violated. I caught myself thinking that perhaps my shorts were too short to have walked out of my house in. I know this wasn’t my fault and I’m glad that these stories are being heard. Keep your chin up, fellow hollabacks.
It seems that whenever I wear anything but pants, I get street harassed. Especially when I’m riding my bike, but honestly, I can be walking or bus-ing or anything. Its just a thing that happens and will continue to happen until I perhaps get my face plastered on every single wall in Portland that says “don’t harass this person, she will beat your face in with a ULock”, or until patriarchy is officially smashed. Whichever comes first.
I keep my Ulock hanging on my handlebars as I ride for this reason. Not because I actually beat people’s faces in, but I have fantasies about it, and often wish I wasn’t so nervous in the moment to hold it up and ask them to repeat their proposition. I wonder sometimes if carrying around my pocket knife or mace would be better. (I also do that in case a car cuts me off or does something deserving of a dent in their car- beware drivers, treat the bikers nice or you may have a dent in your car).
This morning I was biking to school, wearing one of my favorite dresses. Not that I feel the need to really explain myself and what I was wearing because I honestly feel that I should be able to ride around fucking naked if I so wished and still not be harassed, but its one of my more “conservative” dresses. Its button-up and I have it buttoned all the way up today. It goes a couple inches above my knee, but I guess maybe a little higher when I’m riding. I’m wearing high socks and thigh garters- I’m doing the trick where I safety pin my dress to the garter so my dress doesn’t fly up. So I come up to Broadway and Grand, and I see these two dudes approaching me and kind of eyeballing me from the sidewalk. There was another biker in front of me. One of them got SUPER close to me, and way in my space, like within 5-10 inches of me on my right (bear in mind, I was a couple feet away from the sidewalk, they had purposefully walked into the bike lane), and one said, “hello young lady…” My heart was already pounding at this point, not sure what their intentions were or what would even happen- when the light turned green. I said, “hello…” in a really irritated/nervous tone I’m sure, as I sped off on my bike, pedaling as fast as I could while also being conscious that I was super nervous and need to be alert while riding on a busy street like Broadway.
On the way to school, I was considering all of the things I could have done. I’m done considering that I don’t wear dresses or skirts anymore. I like wearing them. Particularly on my femme days, of which I have a lot, especially in the last year or so. They’re comfortable and for me, they’re expressive of how I feel in a way I can’t quite articulate but in how I adorn myself. I think that’s how fashion and gender works…? So I spent most of my ride flustered and wondering how I can deal with this- except for the part where I had to do a high-speed-dodge of the stupid car that stopped in the bike lane, and ring my bell insistently before yelling at the post man with the huge dolly of crap that I was on his left (read: get the fuck out of the bike lane, asshole, you have a whole sidewalk for this). A lot of my thoughts were trying to convince myself that its not my fault for wearing a dress, and trying to deal with the fact that if it is their fault, and it is, then what does that mean if I have to enter the world with a barrage of boundary-crossing people who, while always being mental and emotional threats, may or may not be physical threats. How do I go into the world feeling safe in dresses? Or I guess, at all for that matter?
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I live in the outer SE of Portland – a good 45 minute bus ride home from work for me. So the last thing after a long day I want is to be dealing with street harassers. I get off the bus at SE 136th & Powell and a few blocks to where I live. Unfortunately this means walking by two strip joints, a pawn shop, bar and two mini-mart type stores. In the last week I’ve been harassed by the same man outside of the Plaid Pantry.
He starts with “Hey Baby.” I don’t respond and keep walking.
“HEY BABY!” (getting louder) I don’t respond and walk faster.
“HEY LADY!!!!” (practically screaming at me) I don’t respond and walk even faster.
I’m tired of not feeling safe walking home. I’m not sure how angry this man will get by my not responding. I’m going to be looking for a new way home today – even if it means an even longer commute.
Hollaback! has a new campaign geared towards encouraging bystanders to intervene when they witness street harassment. We are partnering with The Green dot to encourage people who see street harassment to fight back with us.
A green dot is just a moment in time when you make a choice to be actively and visibly intolerant of street harassment. A green dot is your chance to show that street harassment sucks and isn’t OK with you, to show targets of street harassment that you’ve got their back, and to show everyone in your life that you expect them to do their part to make the community safer.
Here are some ideas for “green dots” you can use if you witness street harassment taking place:
*Image from: http://livethegreendot.com
In my freshman year of college, I lived at the PSU dorm on SW 6th. Since PSU has a campus that literally has streets running through it, students are always walking around that part of town to get to classes, get groceries, and so on.
Well, one evening I was walking down 6th avenue going to class when I noticed an odd figure following me. There were other people around, so I dismissed it and went into class, and pretended like nothing happened. But the next day, I was out again and noticed him following me again. It was hard to get a good look at him because he stayed far behind and was hiding behind buildings and around corners. But throughout that whole week I noticed him following me.
Finally, I got a good look at him one time, when I turned around suddenly just outside of a McDonalds on 6th. He was dirty, unshaven, and had short, scraggly, unwashed-looking hair. His clothes were very dirty and he appeared to be homeless. He had a big, orange backpack on. As soon as I saw him he turned around and lurked off in the other direction. I went back to my dorm that evening and called the police. They said they’d send a squad car out to look for him and call me back.
I got a phone call about 20 minutes later, saying that they had sent one car out to look, and they had driven up and down a couple roads in the area looking for the man and didn’t find him. They gave up.
That was it. 20 minutes was all they had spared for trying to find my stalker. After that I saw the man around town but always went into a building when I saw him. It’s ridiculous that I had to do that just to be safe on my college campus.
I’ve always been one of those people who the weirdest, creepiest person around will pick out of a crowd to harass. I think I must be extremely nonthreatening. Nothing I do seems to change this.
On this particular day, I needed to get to the Greyhound station from downtown, and I missed the MAX. Unfortunately, walking to the Greyhound station from downtown Portland means walking down 6th, across Burnside and through Chinatown.
As I was waiting for the light to change so that I could cross Burnside, a couple of guys walked up to me. I tried to ignore them, but one of them got in my face to ask me what my name was. I told him and he said “I’ve always wanted to meet a ‘Lauren’. You know why? Because Laurens are faithful.” (I don’t think I ever got this guy’s name, so I will just call him “the guy”.) At this point I was visibly uncomfortable, but he either didn’t notice or didn’t care. The light turned green and he ran to catch up with me. He motioned to the other guy, who fell back and then went another way.
The guy, after managing to fall into step next to me, asked me to be his girlfriend. I said “no”. He asked me if I had a boyfriend. I said I did. He seemed discouraged, but kept walking next to me. At this point, he got around to telling me that he was both very drunk and had just gotten out of eleven years in prison. He complained about ex girlfriends, demanded to know if I were manipulative or a cheater, told me about how he was a tattoo artist, and then proceeded to tell me that after he got out of prison, he spent hours online learning how to “please women sexually”.
At this point, he asked me some very forward, very intrusive questions about sex and went on to offer to have a secret hook-up sex relationship “for my sake”.
He asked me how old I was. Usually between my age and having a boyfriend, people decide to leave me alone, but being 18 and half his age didn’t sway him.
At some point, he asked me if I wanted him to leave me alone… but I was so uncomfortable, and I have dealt with (and dated) enough crazy people and enough drugged out people to know better than to start any kind of conflict with someone who is drunk and just out of 11 years in prison for some unnamed crime.
Once I got to the bus station, he sat down next to me and spent a good five minutes talking about my boobs, practically ripped his shirt off to show me his tattoos, and pointed at his visibly erect penis. This time he noticed the visible discomfort, but he laughed.
The bus finally loaded, and he asked for my number, at which point I panicked and left him with my boyfriend’s number (he has not called).
From running into this guy to getting on the bus lasted over an hour and not one person said anything, tried to make eye contact with me, or even looked remotely concerned.
I have lived in Portland since August 2011, and I have been harassed so much that I am moving to Corvallis on Thursday (March 22).
A great post on feministing by Holly Kearl about what you can do this week during International Anti-Street Harassment week!