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When I was 14, I worked at our local library. I didn’t know what street harassment was, but I knew what it felt like when I took the most indirect routes possible walking to and from work to avoid three houses where I knew there were men waiting for me to walk by.
“Walk a little slower next time – I want to look at your longer.”
“What? You think you’re too good for this? You’re a cunt.”
“Look at that ass.”
When I first experienced the comments, I was confused because everything I had learned from TV, movies, and magazines had taught me that I should feel flattered about this; this is what I was supposed to want from men. But instead I felt scared, dirty, and upset with myself that I always thought of the perfect comeback when I was two blocks away (and arguably, less scared).
Since then, I experience street harassment regularly. When I’m walking my dog, when I’m getting coffee, when I’m walking into the gym, when I’m walking from the parking garage to the bar to go get drinks with my friends. Street harassment is not only an irritating and difficult part of my day; it makes me feel unsafe. I’ve been followed from the sidewalk outside of my house all the way up the door to my apartment. When that happens, I know that it’s not that I just “feel” unsafe; I am unsafe.
I’ve formulated comebacks to have ready and I find myself often defensive when perhaps I don’t need to be. But the issue is that it happens so often, I often don’t know when I don’t need to be defensive.
I learned about the most perfect comeback when I was doing some research for work and came across Hollaback! Hollaback became something I could use to channel the stress, anger, and general “why do I have to deal with this bullshit?!” feeling I get when someone harasses me. It’s not only a space where I can post about what happens to me (and yes, although we are wearing parkas here in Maine, it happens during the winter, too!), but the Hollaback! community also provides support for my wanting to do something about the harassment I experience. I can have a response; there are people who have my back because I want to have a response.
And having a response with a community behind me is perhaps the best comeback of all.
So, welcome to Hollaback, Portland Maine! This is why I hollaback. Why do you?
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