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I was volunteering at a bbq fundraiser. The front of my pants was pressed up against a table as I was pricing items on that table. I heard a voice behind me and became suddenly aware that a man was right behind me. He was so close that if I moved the slightest bit my body would touch his. My whole body tightened in fear. The stranger asked if I had come there with anyone and when I said “yes” he asked “Well, where is he then???” I nervously pointed out my girlfriend who was standing a distance away in a crowd. I laughed nervously waiting for him to move so that I could relax again, but he didn’t. He was too close for me to walk away or even turn around without touching him. I silently prayed that his next move wouldn’t be to touch me. Finally, he walked away laughing.
An hour or so later, I was helping my girlfriend sell raffle tickets. I was walking behind her slowly and suddenly someone was pressed up against the back of my body. His chest was against my back, his hand was on my arm, and the front of his pants was pressed up against my butt. I nervously looked back to confirm it was the same stranger. My whole body froze. I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak. Why wouldn’t any words come out??? I was so angry at myself and so scared and violated.
My girlfriend looked back and noticed what was happening. She yelled at him and he walked away and high fived one of his friends and him and his friend laughed. Tears started to flow. I ran outside crying. I felt so humiliated and dirty. I was so angry at myself for not knowing what to do. I cried and cried and couldn’t stop thinking about it for days. That man is probably going about his life and not thinking about what he did at all and that just makes me angrier.
I was later told that, after the first time he came up to me, he laughed and joked to another person about how terrified I was and that my arms and hands were shaking out of control. He knew how terrified he made me before he ever actually touched me! This is not “flirtation that just went too far”. He touched me with the intent of making me feel scared and violated!
I was running errands this morning and stopped at Kroger for a little while. On my way out, some creep got really close to me (I could feel him so close it made my skin crawl) and say, “Dam! you look good today! Good morning!” – I have been harassed in the past, as unfortunately, most of us has, but it has never happened to me so close to home and in a space that is normally so quiet and even friendly. I rolled my eyes, took a deep breath and kept walking. My blood was pumping, me heart was at my throat and even though I had a thousand comments lodged in my mind and throat, none of them would come out. All I could do was walk faster and hold onto my keys, remember I had heels on and hope to goodness I didn’t have to attack this freak of nature.
It all seemed to happen in slow motion and it baffled me to see, only a few paces away, a couple of women staring at me, at us… at the whole thing! Just standing there, listening, watching and staying silent.
This too felt like a blow to me. I would like to think that we, as women, heck, as human beings, can muster more empathy than that and stand up for someone when they are being demoralized, belittled, hurt or threatened in any way. But no, the “hear no evil, see no evil mentality” or simple fear took hold of them and rather than helping me, they stood in silence, smoking away.
As soon as I got to my car (which was not that far away) Internal screams of “How dare you!” and “I do not dress for you or your enjoyment, nor do I appreciate or feel in any way attracted by your words, your attitude or your presence.” and “If you think women like this sort of brutish, disgusting and down right chauvinistic attitude, you are wrong! You are nothing but a pathetic little man, trying to look impressive when all the while you are insecure, stupid and useless” – all these thoughts and much more were pouring into my mind.
A big part of me feels disappointed that I stayed quiet, another part knows that I simply went to “default” mode and did what I have done since the first time some idiot harassed me as I tried to get home from school at age 12.
This kind of behavior is unacceptable and I hope that we can all stop this epidemic and make a change, because feeling threatened, unsafe and vulnerable is no way to live our lives.
I walk in my neighborhood a lot. The other day I was trying to cross the street in a residential block, and I was waiting for an SUV to finish backing out of their driveway so that I could walk behind the car to the other side. But instead of driving forward, he continued to drive backwards until I saw that he was grinning at me and trying to force me to walk in front of the car. He wouldn’t stop backing up so I had to walk in front. He turned on his lights when I crossed, at 4pm, and followed me at like 3mph for the rest of the block. He was laughing the entire time, while I wondered if he would ever stop following me. He turned the corner where I did and laughed when I shot him and look and switched directions. Then he took off, probably still laughing at how funny it is to intimidate women.
In high school, I was befriended by a male who was always nice and said hi to me in the hallway, but one day while walking alone to my car, he rushed to my side and asked seriously, “What color are your panties?” I was freaked out and felt violated and betrayed. I never expected that from him. There was tension immediately. Later, his friends, including girls, would laugh at me when they’d see me (who knows what he told them) and he even egged my car shortly afterward.
On my way home from work some creep in a luxury SUV followed me on my bike till we hit a light then rolled down his window to say, “Mmmm damn girl. I love driving behind you.”
It was about this time last year that I had an unsettling experience on my way to class at U of H.
As usual, I was on my bike and headed to an early afternoon class. While waiting to turn left onto Cullen at the light on Holman, I hear a man voice yell out to me from the car in the lane to my left.
He said…”hey girl, can I get witchu?!”
In no time, my intenal feelings go from….dang it’s finally nice out! I love today! Hooray!!…to GRRR!!! ANGRYRAGEY WANT SMASH!!!
It’s not like me to act out on the smashy tendencies, so I tell little hulk in my head to chill and decide to completely ignore the request just yelled at me and not even look in that direction. I just want to get to class and forget this. So I continue to look ahead and squint my eyes at the stop light and imagine that I have the telekinetic power to change it to green right now already!
He noticed I didn’t respond so he tries again, louder…”hey girl, can I get witchu?!”
AAAAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!! C’MON LIGHT!!
Finally, both lanes make their respective turns and I can now see his car as he passes me up. At the same time I also see a styrofoam cup filled with liquid somersaulting towards me that was hurled through his passenger window. ACK! EW! Because I generally ride my bike in the center of the lane, I have some room to maneuver over to my right and avoid his rude, projectile retort to my silence.
This definitely made me feel pretty uneasy for quite a while the rest of that day as it also brought up terrifying-worst-nightmare feelings from remembering a recent report about a student who was assaulted by a man hiding in the women’s 2nd floor restroom at Agnes Arnold Hall earlier in the semester.
It also made me mad considering that all because I didn’t respond to Mr. Canigetwitchu, that he put my safety in danger. There were so many “what if’s” floating around in my head after that. What if I had said something immediately, would I have met that cup sooner? What if that cup+liquid combo had hit me while I was riding, startled me and caused me to swerve into the curb or what if the car behind me hits me because I lose my balance and they can’t brake soon enough etc etc…
Hey boy…I’m at a stop light waiting for the green. I’m not waiting for you to ask me out. I have more important places to be.
For those of you that don’t follow us on Facebook, here’s a much needed recap of Hollaback! Houston’s latest activities:
Across the globe, during the week of March 30th – April 5th, activists hosted various events to get the public engaged in ways to end the acceptance of street harassment in their communities. There were so many creative ideas that sparked much needed conversation such as chalk walks, twitter discussions and wheat pasting. Click here for the complete rundown of events from meetusonthestreet.org.
Hollaback! Houston is proud to have this collection of prints from Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. Originally intended as wheat pastes, we wanted to have as many people see these powerful images as possible and decided to ask permission of local businesses to display the posters inside to reach a broader audience.
In a city like Houston where car culture is dominant, those who use public transportation, are pedestrians or cyclists tend to experience public harassment at a disproportionate rate and therefore it is not a frequently discussed topic. Our goal is to bring awareness to Tatyana’s project, support those who have had traumatic experiences with harassment and get people to think differently about the normalization and misconceptions of street harassment in our culture and internationally. Each location will host the prints for one month.
Contact firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to show the prints at your space.
Updates on locations will be posted here on our website and our facebook page.
Stop Telling Women to Smile is an art series by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. The work attempts to address gender based street harassment by placing drawn portraits of women, composed with captions that speak directly to offenders, outside in public spaces.
Tatyana Fazlalizadeh is an illustrator/painter based in Brooklyn, mostly known for her oil paintings. Having recently branched out into public art as a muralist, STWTS was born out of the idea that street art can be an impactful tool for tackling street harassment.
STWTS started in Brooklyn in the fall of 2012. It is an on-going, traveling series and will gradually include many cities and many women participants.
Street harassment is a serious issue that affects women world wide. This project takes women’s voices, and faces, and puts them in the street – creating a bold presence for women in an environment where they are so often made to feel uncomfortable and unsafe.
Many thanks to everyone that helped us have an amazing first International Anti-Street Harassment Week! We are thrilled to have so many new supporters and friends WOOHOO!!
I just finished with my interview at one of the nearby stores (which tells you I was dressed professionally, like it should matter) and was heading towards Richmond Blvd down Kirby Dr to catch the bus home. I’m walking past a car and I hear someone make the ever-popular kissy noise at me. I identify the source and flip him off and curse him out and keep walking.
I’m a couple blocks down, and in my peripheral I see a black car in the driveway/parking lot of a business going pretty slow. I look and it’s the SAME GUY with his PHONE OUT taking pictures and grinning. I again flip him off and shout at him and of course he drove off. I yelled that I’d call the police (will that do any good?). I got his plate, a basic description of his car and what I could see of him.
It was a black sedan and he was a little heavy set from what I could see shoulders-up and probably mid 40+, with short greyish hair wearing sunglasses.
I’m marking this as stalking because he followed me to get the second look, and other because he took pictures.
Admin note: Below is a helpful link to info on stalking and the process for reporting and finding assistance in Houston.