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98 Responses

  1. Juke
    Juke November 9, 2011 at 3:09 pm |

    Good article, but…how did Ralph Nader damage our political system?

  2. 1ceuponathyme
    1ceuponathyme November 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm |

    Good article, but…how did Ralph Nader damage our political system?

    Seriously. He did a hell of a lot of good before he even ran for President, regardless of your views of his candidacy for the presidency.

  3. Past my expiration date
    Past my expiration date November 9, 2011 at 3:59 pm |

    If the post is about Herman Cain and sexual harassment, and the first two comments are about Ralph Nader, does that count as derailing?

  4. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 4:00 pm |

    1ceuponathyme: Seriously.HedidahellofalotofgoodbeforeheevenranforPresident,regardlessofyourviewsofhiscandidacyforthepresidency.

    I’m going to ask that this not devolve into a food fight about Ralph Nader.

    It is my opinion that Nader destroyed his own legacy by playing a crucial role in the 2000 coronation of George W. Bush (hence what I wrote) – but that is not what this post is about. Feel free to seek me out on Twitter to yell at me about that if you really feel the need, but please: This post is about how invisible women’s experience with harassment and assault is. Please do not make it invisible in the comments to this very post.

  5. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 4:09 pm |

    I think it is a wild generalization to say that all women have faced sexual harassment or assault. I am a woman and haven’t ever been “harassed” or assaulted. Cat called in the street, sure, but that’s not harassment. If it isn’t acted upon, its relevance to my life is completely insignificant. When you boraden the definition of “harassment” to be so all encompaassing, you diminish the experiences of women experiencing REAL harassment. It turns us into a culture of women who cried harassment.

  6. EG
    EG November 9, 2011 at 4:12 pm |

    Katie: Cat called in the street, sure, but that’s not harassment.

    It is, legally speaking. When I was walking to school with my best friend’s big sister at the age of 9, and some old guy yelled “Fucking n—–s” at us and swung his cane at us (he missed, because we ducked and ran), and my mom took me to the police station to file a report, it was listed as “harassment” (apparently, if we hadn’t ducked, and he had hit us, it would have been “assault”; that seemed massively unfair to me, because the only reason he didn’t hit us was because we ducked; it certainly wasn’t due to any restraint on his part, and I didn’t see why he should benefit from my good reflexes). Why is catcalling different from slinging around racist epithets? Especially when it’s sure not something men have to worry about.

  7. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 4:15 pm |

    EG, I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience. But your experience of being attacked does not equate to my experience of having someone wolf whistle at me. There is nothing dangerous or that makes me feel unsafe about having a stranger whistle or make a harmless comment about my appearance. They just aren’t the same thing.

    1. Jill
      Jill November 9, 2011 at 4:51 pm | *

      Katie, harassment isn’t just judged solely by how it makes you feel, and “harassment” isn’t just a legal concept — one bonus of sexual harassment suits has been to open up the cultural consciousness to the fact that attempts to make a situation hostile for another person is harassment. Yelling sexual things at a person on the street is dictionary-definition harassment. It’s not workplace harassment that you can sue your employer for, but that doesn’t make it not harassment.

      And ditto what Jadey said about policing the borders of “real” harassment. You may not feel threatened when you get cat-called on the street, but I’ve had nights where I’ve been walking home alone without anyone around, and a dude has decided to leer and make a sexual comment and it is legitimately scary. His intent is to be threatening.

  8. semi regular poster
    semi regular poster November 9, 2011 at 4:17 pm |

    Posting anonymously for this one:

    My first experience of sexual assault/harassment (I am a cis woman): I was 13, and was inappropriately touched by an adult male friend of the family (who also attended the same church as my religious family). I knew in my gut that telling anyone about it would be futile and possibly cause me more harm than had already been done to me, so I told no one.

  9. Jadey
    Jadey November 9, 2011 at 4:18 pm |

    I think it’s important not to turn around and define specific women’s experiences for them and respect their agency in defining their own life experiences, but it’s also important to recognize that although some women may not feel that certain of their own experiences were negative for them, this does not diminish how harmful and hurtful similar experiences have been for others. One person’s lived experiences and right to self-define do not trump another person’s lived experiences and right to self-define.

    I do agree that the argument that cat-calling is not a form of harassment is generally false on its face for the reasons EG pointed out, which is not to say that every person who has been cat-called felt harassed at the time. But policing the borders of “real harassment” is another way to minimize and erase the experiences of people who have been harassed.

  10. Andie
    Andie November 9, 2011 at 4:22 pm |

    I’ve never felt a ‘victim’ of harassment, as such, but I can say there have been incidents in my life that definitely fell into the ‘not okay’ territory, from the guy in grade 9 shop class that made sexual remarks to me under his breath, and walked by my desk, grabbed my hand and touched his crotch with it, to the older man in the Legion that went to kiss me on the cheek and turned at the last second and rammed his tongue in my throat (which my mom, who is usually awesome, defended by saying he’s of a ‘different generation’… no, he’s a drunken lech, mom).

    If we’re sharing stories, maybe a Trigger warning may be in order for this post? Are we sharing stories, or just talking about how it’s cool to share stories and that we should do it more?

  11. Jadey
    Jadey November 9, 2011 at 4:23 pm |

    Which is to say, because maybe I wasn’t clear, many women have reported being intimidated, terrified, and psychologically attacked and harmed by pervasive street harassment, and that this kind of harassment does exist on a continuum with more direct forms of physical violence. (Although the psychological violence of being objectified, intimidated, invaded, and made to feel unsafe and disrespected on the streets still can’t be understated in its effects, whether or not it leads to direct physical violence.)

    Here’s one such example from Racialicious: Kill Me or Leave Me Alone: Street Harassment as a Public Health Issue

  12. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 4:25 pm |

    But the borders also infringe on the free speech rights of others so it is critical that the definitions of harassment be clear and well defined. Whose rights should be trumped between the rights of one person to speak freely and the rights of another to avoid feeling mildly uncomfortable. Broadening the definition too far pulls attention away from the problem of real harassment.

  13. Jadey
    Jadey November 9, 2011 at 4:28 pm |

    Katie: But the borders also infringe on the free speech rights of others so it is critical that the definitions of harassment be clear and well defined. Whose rights should be trumped between the rights of one person to speak freely and the rights of another to avoid feeling mildly uncomfortable. Broadening the definition too far pulls attention away from the problem of real harassment.

    Free speech does not cover threats and hate speech, which is what this harassment often amounts to. I’m sorry, but I don’t see where people are being unduly harmed by being told not to make sexual and/or violent comments to fifteen year old girls waiting for the bus. The fact that you continue to speak of “real” harassment and assume that your experiences trump other people’s is insulting. If a wolf whistle doesn’t bother you, that’s fantastic – I’m genuinely glad. But not everyone can say the same and it doesn’t provide a justification for sexually-threatening behaviour overall.

  14. Andie
    Andie November 9, 2011 at 4:30 pm |

    Katie: But the borders also infringe on the free speech rights of others so it is critical that the definitions of harassment be clear and well defined. Whose rights should be trumped between the rights of one person to speak freely and the rights of another to avoid feeling mildly uncomfortable. Broadening the definition too far pulls attention away from the problem of real harassment.

    This is true in a legal context, because when you’re prosecuting harassment the definitions need to be clear. However, in the context of sharing experiences, I think it’s important to let people interpret their own experiences. If you’ve been whistled at or cat-called and felt not the least bit intimidated or harassed, then you’re welcome to interpret your experience as you see fit, but if someone else interprets their experience same situation differently, it’s not your place to tell them their experience is invalid, just as it wouldn’t be anyone’s place to tell you that you SHOULD feel victimized.

  15. Nicole
    Nicole November 9, 2011 at 4:35 pm |

    My worst experience with sexual harassment occurred some years ago while I was working as a cashier in a supermarket.

    During a lunch break the manager arrives, takes a look at me and says “Is that a new haircut because you look very pretty today”

    My stomach quickly sank at the thought of this man who has power over my finances objectifying me. I filed a human resources complaint with the corporate office the next day. Thankfully, the company has a very strict zero tolerance policy in place on sexual harassment.

  16. EG
    EG November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    Katie: There is nothing dangerous or that makes me feel unsafe about having a stranger whistle or make a harmless comment about my appearance.

    But there’s no way of judging what somebody is going to experience as harmless; there’s certainly no way for the man making that comment or whistle at a woman he has never before who is walk down the street to know how she will experience it. Is it harmless to her, or is one more damn thing that makes her feel perpetually on display and judged by her sexual appeal? Or one more thing that makes her feel that being out on the street is unsafe because of the way men perceived themselves as entitled to her sexual attention without asking permission? Or one more thing that makes a thirteen-year-old feel exposed and humiliated by a man who, a year ago, might have looked at her in a fatherly way? I have a friend who was told by a random dude on the street to “Smile! You’re too pretty not to smile!” when she was on the way back from the funeral of a friend who died of AIDS. This would never have happened to a man, I feel safe in saying, given that I’ve never met a dude who was even aware that strange men tell women to smile all the time. The bottom line is that just because you experienced it as harmless does not mean that the action can be called harmless in and of itself, and that there’s no way for the man making these comments to know how they’re going to be taken. If what they want is to pay a compliment, there are plenty of polite and non-sexual ways to do so.

    Katie: I’m sorry that you had such a terrible experience.

    That’s kind, but honestly, don’t worry about it. Not only was it a long time ago, but it was more startlingly weird than anything else. Guy was old, as I recall. Probably dead by now.

    Katie: But the borders also infringe on the free speech rights of others so it is critical that the definitions of harassment be clear and well defined.

    Well, only if we’re calling for state action. That’s not what I understand Emily to be calling for, here, but for open discussion by women nationally about the experience of being harassed. My own experience of discussing the “You’re so pretty, why don’t you smile?” phenomenon with my students year after year is that plenty of men are genuinely unaware that this shit is happening every single day. If you don’t experience being catcalled as harassment, then you don’t have to talk about it as such, but neither do you get to make a blanket statement that catcalling isn’t harassment and that nobody call it harassment lest we turn into a culture that “cried harassment.”

    Katie: Whose rights should be trumped between the rights of one person to speak freely and the rights of another to avoid feeling mildly uncomfortable.

    But again, why do you assume that what women who have been harassed via catcalling are feeling is “mild discomfort,” as opposed to exposed, unsafe, and threatened?

  17. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 4:39 pm |

    “Free speech does not cover threats and hate speech, which is what this harassment often amounts to. I’m sorry, but I don’t see where people are being unduly harmed by being told not to make sexual and/or violent comments to fifteen year old girls waiting for the bus. The fact that you continue to speak of “real” harassment and assume that your experiences trump other people’s is insulting. If a wolf whistle doesn’t bother you, that’s fantastic – I’m genuinely glad. But not everyone can say the same and it doesn’t provide a justification for sexually-threatening behaviour overall.”

    Jadey, that’s just it though, a wolf whistle isnt a threat! And frankly, I found it insulting to be told that ALL women have been a victim of harassment which is what I was responding to in the initial comment. I haven’t and in talking to my friends, they don’t feel they have been either. It was and is inapporopriate for Emily to try to define my experience.

  18. Andie
    Andie November 9, 2011 at 4:40 pm |

    Andie: This is true in a legal context, because when you’re prosecuting harassment the definitions need to be clear.

    I should mention that Jadey provides a pretty clear definition for harassment, from a legal standpoint.

    I think when one starts saying things like ‘free speech’ they’re buying into the argument of the straw-harassment-victim who sues over a sincere “Hey your hair looks nice today” type compliment (not accompanied by creepy up-down leer). Which probably happens a lot less than the media and such would like us to believe

  19. 1ceuponathyme
    1ceuponathyme November 9, 2011 at 4:42 pm |

    I’m going to ask that this not devolve into a food fight about Ralph Nader.

    Look, I’ve never even voted for Nader and have never supported him, but if you don’t want derails in the comment, you might not want to start your article out with a diversion from your whole argument. I’m not going to look you up on twitter or whatever to “yell” at you, but your tiny little jab at Nader seems totally out of place with the whole article and more like an attempt to sneak in your opinion on Nader.

    That said, I totally agree that we should take the allegations against Herman Cain as an opportunity to talk about the spectrum of sexual violence. I think we tend to see these big cases as something out of the ordinary because we don’t talk about what ordinarily occurs with any real frequency. Sexual harassment isn’t talked about as a real issue until some major figure is accused of it.

  20. Andie
    Andie November 9, 2011 at 4:44 pm |

    Katie: And frankly, I found it insulting to be told that ALL women have been a victim of harassment which is what I was responding to in the initial comment.

    In fairness, she actually said ‘Every woman I know can tell a story of harassment or assault. Every single one.’. She DID say that harassment is a THREAT every woman lives under, but she didn’t say every woman has been a victim, just every woman she knows.

  21. Tina
    Tina November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    I have to say the author is way more optimistic than I am. Haven’t there been a million high profile cases of sexual harrassment and yet we’re still not even close to solving the problem? I say keep chipping away at it, but it will likely take more than a Herman Cain or two to get there. We’re lucky Cain is just there to pull the Republican nominees more to the right, and won’t actually hold political office, but who is sitting on the Supreme Court right now? That particular case didn’t keep a man guilty of sexual harrassment from becoming a very powerful person in the US. And we’re still fighting the same rhetoric that was used back then.

    Katie:
    I think it is a wild generalization to say that all women have faced sexual harassment or assault. I am a woman and haven’t ever been “harassed” or assaulted. Cat called in the street, sure, but that’s not harassment. If it isn’t acted upon, its relevance to my life is completely insignificant. When you boraden the definition of “harassment” to be so all encompaassing, you diminish the experiences of women experiencing REAL harassment. It turns us into a culture of women who cried harassment.

    So, according to you, if your boss says give me a blow job and I’ll give you a raise, you say no and he leaves you alone, then it’s relevance to your life is completely insignificant because it wasn’t acted upon? Or how about someone on the street threatening you with assault? If they just threaten you but don’t actually act upon it then is it still insignificant? So you have to wait to see if they follow through with the threat before you can call it harrassment? Why is your bar for harrassment so high? Why can’t women call men yelling rude things at them on the street harrassment? Isn’t that the point of the rude yelling, to harrass?

  22. Brian
    Brian November 9, 2011 at 4:55 pm |

    But the borders also infringe on the free speech rights of others so it is critical that the definitions of harassment be clear and well defined. Whose rights should be trumped between the rights of one person to speak freely and the rights of another to avoid feeling mildly uncomfortable.

    The issue isn’t your right to say whatever, but your right to an unwilling audience, which doesn’t exist. Harassment can’t exist outside of the context of an unwilling audience.

    When you boraden the definition of “harassment” to be so all encompaassing, you diminish the experiences of women experiencing REAL harassment. It turns us into a culture of women who cried harassment.

    It really does work to change people standards over the timeframe that such standards change (i.e., a generation.) And when you use those kinds of standards, things like harassment become pretty not very gendered anyhow. Every woman I know has been subject to sexual harassment, but so has every man. And the “Come together to fix a problem we all have” approach is way more effective than the “Divide and fight” approach.

  23. JD
    JD November 9, 2011 at 4:56 pm |

    Katie: Jadey, that’s just it though, a wolf whistle isnt a threat!

    TO YOU. To other women it DOES come across as threatening.

    And Andie’s point that the OP states “Every woman I know,” not “all women,” is a good one. It leaves room for your experience among others. So how about leaving room for the experiences of other women who for whatever reason do not experience verbal harrassment as harmless, instead of giving us this BS about “real harrassment” and “only mild discomfort.” Please. The only thing such rhetoric does is indirectly support the misogynist asshats who take advantage of it to excuse their continued harrassment and assault of women.

  24. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 4:58 pm |

    Ok, Jill, I have a legal question. How are “sezual things” defined? Would saying “looking good” or “nice dress” be harassment? How about whistling?

    1. Jill
      Jill November 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm | *

      Ok, Jill, I have a legal question. How are “sezual things” defined? Would saying “looking good” or “nice dress” be harassment? How about whistling?

      That’s absolutely not my area of law, so I can’t really speak to that. I also think maybe we’re conflating some terms here? Sexual harassment is not always a crime — at least not most of the harassment that Cain is accused of. It is something you can sue your employer over, though, in a civil suit.

      If we’re talking about street harassment, the laws will vary from state to state. The NY penal code is here, and it strikes me as a pretty reasonable one. It’s not just focused on sexual comments; it considers harassment to be basically anything that repeatedly puts another person in reasonable fear of physical injury. So context matters. A reasonable person probably does not fear injury by hearing “nice dress” in a public place in broad daylight from someone far away who doesn’t appear to be following them and who doesn’t repeat the conduct. But a reasonable person might fear injury by hearing “nice dress” when they’re alone at night, and then the person making the comment is following them and making that comment repeatedly.

      So it’s not just about “X act is harassment, X act isn’t.”

      1. Jill
        Jill November 9, 2011 at 5:09 pm | *

        And again, talking about harassment is a different beast from legally enforcing ant-harassment statutes, or bringing a harassment-related civil suit. When Emily says that most or all women have experienced harassment, I don’t think she’s saying that every single woman has an actionable civil suit, or that every woman’s experiences meet the legal definition of harassment in New York (or whatever state). She’s recognizing the fact that the word “harassment,” like the word “assault” or “murder” or “loitering” or “nuisance” or many other words, means something colloquially and isn’t just defined by statute. So we can talk about harassment without being all, “But that doesn’t meet the legal definition! You’re violating the First Amendment!” the same way we can call someone a “nuisance” without having to cite the penal code.

  25. piny
    piny November 9, 2011 at 5:01 pm |

    Jadey, that’s just it though, a wolf whistle isnt a threat! And frankly, I found it insulting to be told that ALL women have been a victim of harassment which is what I was responding to in the initial comment. I haven’t and in talking to my friends, they don’t feel they have been either. It was and is inapporopriate for Emily to try to define my experience.

    I get it: you’re that kid with the cardboard sign on tumblr who’s paying for her college education by slinging slurpees on the weekends, right?

    I do not believe that you and all of your female friends have never suffered any kind of harassing sexualized behavior. I can believe that it hasn’t happened very often; I can believe you’ve never been subjected to unwanted touching; I can believe that you’ve never been afraid. But the idea that none of your female friends have ever been subject to a crude and insulting sexual remark from a strange man beggars belief, commenter with a janedoey handle who doesn’t seem like a regular. It really does.

    Wolfwhistles can be harassment. If you’re a teenager walking past a crowd of adult men and they start telling you what nice tits you have and how much they would like to fuck you, then you can very reasonably feel bullied. If you’re a middle-schooler sitting at your desk and you hear two boys sniggering about your bra size, you can very reasonably feel demeaned. If you’re a woman walking alone late and night and a drunk man hollers at you to get in the car, you can very reasonably feel threatened. If you’re a woman who has just started a new job, and one of the higher-level male managers working on your floor stops you to tell you how gorgeous you look in that skirt, you can very reasonably feel isolated. If you’re a college student attending a mixer event and an older professor tells you how beautifully you ornament the department, you can very reasonably feel humiliated. If you have been arrested, and the officer leers at you or makes a comment about your body, you can very reasonably feel absolutely terrified.

    I find it inappropriate that you’re attempting to use your situation, which is at best exceptional, to tell women that they have no right to be annoyed by the sexual harassment which for most women is a steady–and not remotely flattering–buzz in the background.

  26. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm |

    Tina: <P.So,accordingtoyou,ifyourbosssaysgivemeablowjobandI’llgiveyouaraise,yousaynoandheleavesyoualone,thenit’srelevancetoyourlifeiscompletelyinsignificantbecauseitwasn’tactedupon?Orhowaboutsomeoneonthestreetthreateningyouwithassault?Iftheyjustthreatenyoubutdon’tactuallyactuponitthenisitstillinsignificant?Soyouhavetowaittoseeiftheyfollowthroughwiththethreatbeforeyoucancallitharrassment?Whyisyourbarforharrassmentsohigh?Whycan’twomencallmenyellingrudethingsatthemonthestreetharrassment?Isn’tthatthepointoftherudeyelling,toharrass?

    No Tina, this is clearly an example of quid pro quo harassment as it is legally defined. Don’t deliberalty misinterpret what I was saying.

  27. Katie
    Katie November 9, 2011 at 5:02 pm |

    Sorry, I clearly am a fail at trying to block quote.

  28. Merely Academic
    Merely Academic November 9, 2011 at 5:05 pm |

    Katie:

    Jadey, that’s just it though,a wolf whistle isnt a threat!

    Katie, apparently a wolf whistle isn’t a threat to you. That does not mean that it is not a threat for other women, or in other contexts, and they have an absolute right to define and interpret their own experience; you don’t get to do that for them.

    I’m very happy to hear that you personally have never been harassed; that is wonderful, and I wish we could all say exactly the same. But we can’t. Almost all of us can’t. Actually you’re the only woman I’ve ever heard from who has never been harassed, but perhaps there are others. For all of my friends, without exception, once we start to talk about it we can all tell story after story after story of objectionable comments, behaviours and actions, things that have happened to us again and again over our lives.

    Now, I say “once we start to talk about it”, because usually we don’t. Usually we don’t think about it. We shrug it off, normalize it or forget about it, protect ourselves as best we can, and get on with our lives, and try not to let it affect us.

    But it does affect us. It makes us protect ourselves; live our lives so as not to draw this down upon ourselves; and blame ourselves when, inevitably, we are harassed anyway. And that is wrong. I have a daughter growing up now and I don’t want her to have to live perpetually protectively hunched over, perpetually trying not to draw attention, trying not to draw their fire.

    I’m delighted that you have never once experienced any of this. Someday I would like to visit your planet. I hope my daughter gets to live there.

  29. piny
    piny November 9, 2011 at 5:06 pm |

    Ok, Jill, I have a legal question. How are “sezual things” defined? Would saying “looking good” or “nice dress” be harassment? How about whistling?

    Yeah, and what about those old men who hand out red flowers to hapless women passersby? Should they be clapped in irons and hauled off to jail? Why do you hate veterans, Gloria Allred?

    Why should any of these things be excluded from the definition of sexual harassment? Are you hoping to get us to commit to some ridiculous and arbitrary line around certain words and topics so that you can go on to tell us all how language works? Hey, how about that time three men followed me down the street making complimentary remarks about my dress? Did that count? Freedom of assembly and so on. Of course none of them meant to make me feel humiliated or threatened.

  30. Jadey
    Jadey November 9, 2011 at 5:12 pm |

    This discussion also puts me in mind of Amp’s Street Harassment comic from a while ago (TW for depictions of street harassment).

    Context, context, context, and more context.

  31. piny
    piny November 9, 2011 at 5:16 pm |

    Now, I say “once we start to talk about it”, because usually we don’t. Usually we don’t think about it. We shrug it off, normalize it or forget about it, protect ourselves as best we can, and get on with our lives, and try not to let it affect us.

    Yeah, this too; I was talking to a male acquaintance a few weeks ago and mentioned that I’d only been subjected to unwanted touching once here; then later on I mentioned another incident that made me really angry and uncomfortable, and he was like, hang on, and I was like, oh, but that was somebody I knew. We were only talking about stranger harassment.

  32. superior olive
    superior olive November 9, 2011 at 5:36 pm |

    I think I understand what’s happening: the term harassment is being put under the glass. You know, the “break in case of emergency” glass, along with racism and sexism and other things that Are Very Bad, and therefore you can’t just use them for everything! It cheapens the word! You can’t just call someone racist/tell them that thing they did was racist! OMG, why are you so mean? And hate freedom of speech/assembly? And it would never hold up in court, so it doesn’t count.

    So, anyway. When I’m riding my bike down the highway in the summer, and some scrub is hanging out the passenger side yelling at me, it makes me feel unsafe. Or when a car/truck/fucking semi honks along with whistling, that makes me feel unsafe. It also pisses me off, and scares the crap out of me because, dude, you’re going, like, a hundred km/h and I’m on a friggin bicycle. Pay attention to the damn road! And for the love of god, don’t fucking honk at me, it makes me think you’re about to hit me.

  33. Kathleen
    Kathleen November 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    hah ha ha haha — that “break in case of emergency” metaphor is awesome, superior olive. IT reminds me of Chris Rock’s joke about people multiplying strict restrictions on being allowed to call an action racist: “what do you have to do, shoot Medgar Evers?”

  34. piny
    piny November 9, 2011 at 5:53 pm |

    I think the rapid shift from descriptive to prescriptive is meant both to make women feel like oppressors for talking about stuff that bothers them and also to make women feel like talking about stuff that bothers them is pointless. I don’t think it should work.

    I have no problem with women who like catcalls, although I don’t think they’re all that representative–especially in societies where women are very frequently subjected to escalating harassment. But I really don’t see why it’s so dystopian a vision, this society where catcalling is frowned-upon. Are the wolf-whistles really that precious? I like not to get yelled at out of cars.

  35. PrettyAmiable
    PrettyAmiable November 9, 2011 at 5:56 pm |

    Glad this thread devolved to one woman effectively choosing to silence the stories of other women and a surprising number of “OMG, BUT DID YOU HAVE TO MAKE A SIDE COMMENT ABOUT THIS ONE WHITE GUY.”

    Makes the post more meaningful if you choose not to be a complete asshat.

  36. Jjuliaava
    Jjuliaava November 9, 2011 at 6:23 pm |

    Emily L. Hauser: I’mgoingtoaskthatthisnotdevolveintoafoodfightaboutRalphNader.

    ItismyopinionthatNaderdestroyedhisownlegacybyplayingacrucialroleinthe2000coronationofGeorgeW.Bush(hencewhatIwrote)–butthatisnotwhatthispostisabout.FeelfreetoseekmeoutonTwittertoyellatmeaboutthatifyoureallyfeeltheneed,butplease:Thispostisabouthowinvisiblewomen’sexperiencewithharassmentandassaultis.Pleasedonotmakeitinvisibleinthecommentstothisverypost.

    DERAIL BECAUSE IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH YOUR ARTICLE’S SUBJECT MATTER: Youngins need to google Nader– or better yet READ CRASHING THE PARTIES. You cannot have the nerve to compare the man who you can thank for live-saving consumer-rights advocacy such as (as such…) speed limits, who has done a whole hellofalot of good no GREAT things for us US citizens to the likes of cain perry palin bachmann ™. But hey– they want you to compare what is real with what is fake; a point you started out with in this very article.
    GEORGE W BUSH STOLE THE ELECTION through the vehicle of voter fraud in the state his own brother was governor of and W’s campaign manager was the FL state attorney general. Also Bill Clinton did not publicly support Al Gore. I feel this lost him the election along with the hanging chads. FYI Gore won the popular vote.
    Ralph Nader campaigned on a GREEN JOBS INITIATIVE *gasp* 13 years ago! What if we had listened to him– would we be in such dire straights right now in our economy? Would we be less reliant on OIL– I think so. Would we be engaged in OIL WARS? Nope, probably not.
    The reason what I say here is directly related to the Cain harassment article is because the Republican party tea party GOP people love to rewrite history– WHAT SETTLEMENT? Someone like Cain or palin has absolutely zero credentials whereas someone like Nader should be ideally a viable candidate with much experience and education and no harassment charges or back pedaling, a real man of the people, not a man of corporate gains like cain. However, Nader is seen as a palin or Cain! Further, the palins and bachmanns are templates offered by the MRAs for all women to emulate! Women are supposed to hate women, doncha know! Cain gets more campaign donations by the millions the more allegations come out!
    Sexual harassment allegations of the 15 minute famers like Cain are looked upon by the media as rape apologists look upon victims, with suspect and blame. Maybe she shouldn’t have been doing xyz or maybe she shouldn’t have settled out of court and was then subject to gag orders, et c. It is disgusting.
    I clicked on your article because I am so so tired of watching the world BLINDLY on the side of a phony politician, who will (mark my words) fade away in no time. I thought the article would debunk the myths, but instead I couldn’t get past the myth that Ralph Nader is similar to Palin!! Omit the paragraph and I am down.
    I just don’t know. Hope you don’t think I’m trollin’. I am more that ready for feministe.us to cover the cain sexual harassment allegations; specifically to show a point by point clear explanation of why it is wrong how the mass media handled this one. Reminds me of the Women vs walmart and Jaime lee jones raped by haliburton or the dsk case, not of Nader and the 2000 elections…

  37. superior olive
    superior olive November 9, 2011 at 6:31 pm |

    Thanks, Kathleen, it’s not mine but I can’t remember where I got it from. I like though, it’s succinct and gets the point across: you can’t just save these terms for the most egregious examples. It gives room for a lot of shit to pile up before it gets to some indeterminate “emergency” level. “What? I just think your ass is awesome and looks so grabbable in those pants. It’s not like I actually grabbed you. It’s not harassment, geez.”

    And as far as wolf whistles on the street: why should I have to evaluate whether every single one might be the one who decides to follow and escalate? Most don’t, but I’ve heard of plenty that do. What skin is it off your nose to keep your yap shut when women walk/run/cycle by?

  38. Kat
    Kat November 9, 2011 at 6:37 pm |

    Jadey, that’s just it though,a wolf whistle isn’t a threat!

    I’d like to call bullshit on this. I have felt very threatened by wolf whistles, especially when I lived in Chicago and experienced such a high level of street harassment that, at times, it became difficult to leave my apartment because of the constant catcalling and whistling from the apartment building across the street.

    Quit belittling other women’s experiences. Like several other commenters have said, it’s not necessary for you to feel personally threatened in order to acknowledge the validity of other women’s lived experiences.

  39. piny
    piny November 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm |

    Personally, I feel that my employer should have access to all of my medical records. It’s useful information. And how can we define a broad and subjective concept like privacy? Job applicants have to volunteer all sorts of personal details, such as their hobbies and salary expectations.

    Ergo, HIPAA is for losers.

  40. Sarah
    Sarah November 9, 2011 at 6:46 pm |

    EG: But there’s no way of judging what somebody is going to experience as harmless; there’s certainly no way for the man making that comment or whistle at a woman he has never before who is walk down the street to know how she will experience it. Is it harmless to her, or is one more damn thing that makes her feel perpetually on display and judged by her sexual appeal? Or one more thing that makes her feel that being out on the street is unsafe because of the way men perceived themselves as entitled to her sexual attention without asking permission?

    PERTAINING TO CATCALLS: Great points, EG. While I agree with all the comments that women should be able to interpret their own experiences, I think this simultaneously takes attention away from the men who do these things and places all the emphasis on how women respond.

    As EG pointed out, this is about the sense of entitlement these men feel. If we can simply agree that some women feel threatened, uncomfortable, upset, etc. by catcalls, and others are not bothered—then that still means that some women are bothered when this happens to them. The catcaller who perceives his behavior to be non-threatening is feeling entitled to disregard the chance that he may be shooting a catcall to a woman who WILL be bothered, and thereby contributing a sense of menace and threat to her world—in which case, he will scorn her for not complying with his perceptions of his actions.

    This is about men feeling that they should be able to define how women should (or should not) respond to their actions.

  41. piny
    piny November 9, 2011 at 6:52 pm |

    And as far as wolf whistles on the street: why should I have to evaluate whether every single one might be the one who decides to follow and escalate? Most don’t, but I’ve heard of plenty that do. What skin is it off your nose to keep your yap shut when women walk/run/cycle by?

    More importantly, if a statistically significant proportion of women are frightened and annoyed, and virtually no woman ever actually turns around and climbs up on that, no matter what she thinks of you as a prospect, why are you so fucking committed to doing it all the time, numbnuts? You like making women angry and upset? You like sexualized interactions designed to go absolutely nowhere? Why? And if so, why do you enjoy that more than all the other reactions you can inspire in strange women, like trust, lust, and a willingness to leave the HR department out of it?

  42. EG
    EG November 9, 2011 at 7:57 pm |

    piny: But I really don’t see why it’s so dystopian a vision, this society where catcalling is frowned-upon.

    Right? It’s not like any feminist I have ever read has advocated imprisoning all men who are found guilty of saying “Hey, nice hair!” to a woman he doesn’t know. What is so wrong and threatening about raising awareness about the gauntlet many women run every day, and trying to create a culture that discourages men from thinking that catcalling women is a good thing to do?

    Juliaava, thank you.

  43. nathan
    nathan November 9, 2011 at 8:09 pm |

    I’m sick of people blaming Ralph Nader – a man who has stood up, spoken out, and actually gotten a hell of a lot of positive shit done over the past 4 decades – for the 2000 Presidential election. It’s an obnoxious bit of anti-democratic propaganda, and seriously weakens your post Emily. You brought it up, so don’t expect people to stay silent!

    In fact, I would further argue that suggesting Herman Cain’s candidacy isn’t “a serious candidate” because you view him as clownish and “a shiny object” demonstrates just how wedded you are to the corporate money driven system that tells us there can only ever be two legitimate parties, and also that the only candidates worth paying attention to are the ones anointed by the power elite in the Democratic and Republican Party. Cain is a serious candidate, regardless of how utterly obnoxious his views on just about everything are.

    With that said, I completely agree that this is an opportunity for people to speak out and make clear the reality of how commonplace rape, sexual assault and harassment are. Frankly, the mainstream media already has been playing the old game of offering far too much “evidence” about at least one of the women coming forward. The repeated references to her financial troubles, including specifics about home foreclosure and whatnot, mostly serve to undermine her credibility. People really should be filling the in-boxes and phone banks of media outlets telling them to stop this kind of bs, and start reporting in a manner that actually focuses on relevant facts.

  44. bleh
    bleh November 9, 2011 at 8:57 pm |

    My experiences with harassment are minimal compared to some, but I’ll never forget riding my bicycle around the neighborhood w/ a friend in 9th grade and noticing this car was following us. When he passed us and then stopped at the stop sign so we had to go past we saw him busily whacking off while looking directly at us. I’ve only been that creeped out a few times. We rode home very quickly (breakneck speed), so yeah, we were scared.

  45. librarygoose
    librarygoose November 9, 2011 at 9:40 pm |

    EG: I have a friend who was told by a random dude on the street to “Smile! You’re too pretty not to smile!”

    I have that happen all the time, and I hate it. What? Am I not smiling for you, random stranger at the bus stop? How silly of me to be listening to my music and thinking my own thoughts, how could I let myself seem serious for one goddamn second? Fuck that.

  46. konkonsn
    konkonsn November 9, 2011 at 9:59 pm |

    I honestly don’t remember how this started…I feel like I might have told my friends I thought some boy was cute, and they told him, or he might have just started looking at me. Anyway, he was a grade or two above me, and we didn’t even share the same social circles, thankfully, because I didn’t have to see him outside of these few incidents:

    1.) In the lunchroom, not while we were eating, mind you, but just as we were standing around before the bell rang for the next class, he kept approaching me and trying to talk to me. I actually didn’t like him, even if he was pretty, so I kind of ignored him. I would skulk away if he came near me.
    2.) So at one point, he grabs my wrist, and I twist out of his grip and run away.
    3.) So then he thinks it’s ok to walk behind me and whip my butt with his sweatshirt.
    4.) And finally, passing his friends in the hall, I hear, “Hey, watch this.” And then he starts shouting, “Hey! Hey, come here!” at me and laughs with his friends as I run away.

    Like I said, after a few weeks, he never bothered me again, so that was it. But I tell you what, every time I saw him in the school, in my heart, I hated him so much.

  47. konkonsn
    konkonsn November 9, 2011 at 10:14 pm |

    Oh, and reading through some of the links posted above got me thinking about the first time I knew I was considered sexually available by certain men.

    This had to be sometime before the fourth grade. My aunt babysat my siblings and I, so the three of us and my cousins were playing in a kiddie pool in her front yard. And I had gotten tired of my swimsuit and decided to wear an old one that was waaaaaay too small for me and kept giving me wedgies. And when my parents came to pick me up, my aunt told them I probably shouldn’t wear it anymore because men were slowing down as they passed her house. And I remember she was saying this all in like a joking tone, talking about how she wanted to shout at them, “She’s only 6, for godsakes!”

    I kind of wish she had shouted, tho.

  48. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 10:18 pm |

    I’ve been away from my desk for several hours now, I’m now I’m here and catching up on everyone’s comments.

  49. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 10:26 pm |

    As I have already failed at blockquote once today, I’ll say, re: Jill at #32 – yes, that is exactly what I was driving at.

    Also, it’s worth noting that I said “Sexual threat or violence, or fear of same, is a constant in the lives of all women and girls.”

    Even when we do not directly experience these things, the threat of them shapes our lives and the choices we feel safe in making, or are taught that we’re safe in making, or are even allowed to make in some cases — all the time. It’s like the horrible evil twin of privilege — its the very air we breathe, and so we are hardly even aware of it some days.

  50. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 9, 2011 at 10:27 pm |

    Let’s see, I’ll stick with the harassment stuff…assault/abuse is a whole other comment for me.

    But, starting at about 9, 10, 11 years old, when I’d walk to the store a couple of blocks away for ice cream, men driving down the highway in same direction driving very slowly and staring at me, a few driving the other side of the road (or after passing me) would make a u-turn to slowly drive by me and stare. Scary stuff, because after all, little kids are told not to have anything to do with strangers, no?

    Age 11, public masturbator while I was playing in the back yard.

    Age 12, butt grabbing by classmate at my junior high while walking back from student council meeting,
    Age 12, butt grabbing by adult man at flea market, followed by disgusting smirk

    Age 14, at grocery store with mom, old man tells her that if he were 20 again he’d marry me…also accompanied by disgusting smirk

    Age 17, street harassment incident that escalated into a sexual assault with multiple perpetrators

    In the 13 years since then, there has been way too much bullshit to list. And the man who waited for a bus at the same stop as me today prolly wondered why I didn’t pull out my iPod earphones and chit-chat with him. It’s because of all of that bullshit.

  51. Merely Academic
    Merely Academic November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |

    Wow, I’d completely forgotten about the subway flasher when I was in high school. I was 14. My friend (also female) and I had taken the subway to the downtown library to research a history project. This was a big deal and we were proud of ourselves for negotiating the trip and the stacks. And on the way back we took the very last car in the subway and the very last seat so we could watch the tunnel receding behind us. There was hardly anyone on that car, and mostly they were at the other end. So the creep who decided to lean up against the pole near us and whip up his dick and massage it while looking directly at us, waiting for us to look his way, didn’t need to worry that anyone would see him but us.

    Thanks for making me feel unsafe on my way home from a fucking library, you disgusting creep. Thanks for making me feel out of place because I’d dared to set foot outside my house. And I hope it fell off.

  52. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |

    Thanks for the Amp, Jadey! I’d forgotten about that!

  53. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy November 9, 2011 at 10:28 pm |

    Being harassed by adult men as a pre-pubescent girl was the WORST. Because I had no idea what was happening until years later. I just knew I felt humiliated and ashamed.

    What kind of man makes sexual overtures to a child? I encountered more than one. Sometimes I wonder, were they all pedophiles? This was done in public, in daylight, when I waited for my mom to pick me up after school. I looked my age. I wore shirts with disney characters on them, and jeans and sneakers. I had braces. I’m curious to this day – were these men actually attracted to my non-developed body, or were they just trying to scare and upset me? Awful either way, of course.

  54. bpbetsy
    bpbetsy November 9, 2011 at 10:31 pm |

    trigger warning…

    I was also harassed by guys my own age when I was in high school. I remember a group of them once held me down and started groping me. They pinched my stomach and told me I should “lose weight,” even though at the time I was under 100 lbs. I haven’t had a healthy relationship with food since then.

  55. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 10:44 pm |

    What is so wrong and threatening about raising awareness about the gauntlet many women run every day, and trying to create a culture that discourages men from thinking that catcalling women is a good thing to do?

    Precisely what I’m trying to be a part of doing. Thank you!

  56. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 10:45 pm |

    (Oops, my comment at # 58 was intended for EG. Thanks!

  57. Emily L. Hauser
    Emily L. Hauser November 9, 2011 at 10:49 pm |

    Thank you to everyone who is sharing their stories here.

    I honestly think that the more we talk about it, the more we say: “Yes, this is the damn reality” — the more empowered we are to push back and make real change. All day long on Twitter I’ve been asking men to turn to a woman who loves and trusts them and ask about harassment, and then to just sit and listen. I really hope a few have — because I know a lot of them would be very sadly surprised by the answer.

    Thank you, all of you.

  58. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 10, 2011 at 12:37 am |

    Also at age 12, I was present when the 12 year old butt grabber asked a classmate if she needed help measuring her breasts (we were doing an assignment that involved measuring height, waist, etc.). What can I say, they learn early…he was already an expert harasser.

  59. Juke
    Juke November 10, 2011 at 3:13 am |

    I’m really sorry for starting this Nader derail, Emily. Should have held my tongue.

  60. igglanova
    igglanova November 10, 2011 at 4:24 am |

    I’m fortunate enough to live in a city with very low levels of street harassment (except during frosh week and homecoming, jfc), but workplace harassment is definitely still an issue. As with many manifestations of discrimination, I was never certain that my fellow coworkers remained indifferent to me in part because of my dykey gender presentation or if the whole building was just full of dicks, but that kind of chilly environment made it difficult to endure the creeptastic comments I would occasionally receive from this one guy who was probably as old as my father. I’d be bent over mopping the filthy-ass floor and he’d say something like ‘You can come sweep my floor anytime.’ With a wink. OH MY GOD. That fucking wink – it’s just stupid enough to make you sound like an idiot for reporting it, but damn did he know I hated it. It was essentially shorthand for ‘hey I was just checking out your ass teeheehee whatchagondoaboutit?’

    Uh brb, off to punch something

  61. aboat
    aboat November 10, 2011 at 7:17 am |

    @bpbetsy

    I remember reading an essay online which was an extract from the ‘Yes means Yes’ collection. The essay was great, but the comments were both sad, and also very interesting to see shared elements of experiences. One thing that came out was that quite a lot of people experienced sexual harassment – catcalls, propositioning from strangers – when they were pre-teen and obviously looked their age like you described, and many found a decrease when they were older and had ‘developed’. One commentator theorised that this was a clear indication of how this sort of objectification is about power and control.

    What I find so upsetting about catcalls and the like is that it totally shifts my context, it forces me into a situation that i didn’t choose. For instance, in the last two weeks I have experienced two separate incidents while I was with my children, both of whom are under 5. One was simply a man making sure he caught my eye so that I would be watching while he deliberately looked me up and down and leered at me, the other a man calling out his window as he drove past us while we were out for a walk. I know how trivial this would seem compared to many experiences. Even of my own experiences with sexual harassment or assault they barely rate a mention. But I am so annoyed that people think they have a right to sexualise and objecitfy women over and over again. I look at people and think they are attractive as well, but I don’t feel I have the right to violate them emotionally by forcing them to become and object that is defined by my thoughts and gaze.

  62. Anonymous This Time
    Anonymous This Time November 10, 2011 at 7:58 am |

    God I hate that this call for us to share stories about harassment immediately becomes someone (this time, Katie) deciding that we’re all complaining too much about harassment, since she’s never experienced intimidation from harassment. Never heard that one before.

    Trigger warning–

    Leaving assault aside. I was sexually harassed as a kid at school, from elementary school to high school, probably over a hundred times, once repeatedly by a teacher, and usually by other students–often in front of teachers. My most vivid memory of this is having to run laps around the outdoor track to make up days I’d been absent; a boy stood next to the track and called me a whore every time I went by. My gym teacher heard it and did nothing.

    I complained about several incidents to my parents. Once when they talked to the school about it, my guidance counsellor blamed me and said I dressed provocatively. The only thing that ever helped was calling the police on a couple of kids when they tracked me down outside of school. But in large part my parents blamed me too.

    The I’ve been sexually harassed as an adult by two employers.

    And I’ve been cat-called and otherwise commented-upon by strangers on the street too many times to count. As an assault survivor this is very intimidating.

    To anybody who doubts that this is reality for most women, you need a fucking reality check.

  63. speedbudget
    speedbudget November 10, 2011 at 8:19 am |

    The most recent example I have is from a few months ago. I was putting change in the meter before I ran into my office to drop some stuff off and pick up some other things. I was counting out quarters. Two men were walking down the sidewalk in conversation with each. As they neared they, they said something along the lines of “looking really good.” I never assumed they were talking to me, since they never broke their conversational tone. I just figured I overheard a part of their conversation. I continued with what I was doing.

    That was when the berating started. They both started policing my non-reaction, telling me how rude I was being for not acknowledging them. The sad part is I had to maintain composure, not react, act like I had a hearing problem. That was, from my assessment, the only safe way for me to handle this situation. My stomach literally dropped. I was terrified. But I knew I couldn’t let them know I was, so I calmly turned and walked as quickly as I could without breaking into a run into the nearest open building.

    So you can take your “street calling isn’t harassment” shit and shove it.

  64. Ice Princess
    Ice Princess November 10, 2011 at 8:37 am |

    You know, for a long time in my young adulthood, I thought I was really fortunate, that I’d never experienced any real harassment or abuse, certainly in comparison to a lot of my friends.

    Then I started telling those friends about stuff I’d experienced.

    Like the male vice president of the company where I worked as a receptionist at the beginning of my career who would talk about how great my ass looked in a certain pair of pants, and make jokes about locking himself in the supply closet with me, and who acknowledged at my exit interview that he was glad I was leaving “because I’d get myself into trouble pretty soon.”

    Like the man I interacted with a few times a year at volunteer events who barely ever said three words to me, who got drunk at a party and went off at me about being a “stuck-up bitch” because I didn’t seek him out to talk to and I deserved to be hurt for that.

    Like the man who said hello to me in a convenience store and, when I didn’t respond, said loudly, “I SAID HELLO TO YOU, BITCH, YOU GONNA ANSWER ME?”

    Like the man who noticed me at a rest stop somewhere in Montana when I was moving cross-country all by myself, and waited at the side of the road about a mile away so he could expose himself when I drove past.

    Like the boy who sat behind me in English class in high school and snapped my bra straps and tried to unfasten my bra, but if I took any action to stop him I was the one who got yelled at by the teacher.

    Like the class bully in fifth grade who was annoyed that I was smarter than he was and got more attention from the teachers, and who responded by telling me he was going to hold me down and force me to kiss him on a bus during a field trip.

    And like all the men on the street over the years who have told me I need to smile, which might seem like just a sweet gesture meant to compliment me or raise my spirits (never mind that they have no context at all for why I might not be smiling), except that I’ve never seen a single person say this to my husband, when he–a combat vet with PTSD–walks around with a near-permanent scowl in public; if the “smile” thing was just about cheerfulness, why wouldn’t they say the same to him too?

    All of this is harassment. All of it was meant to assert control, make me fearful, put me in my “place, ” or some combination of those things. I buried most of these incidents for a long time, didn’t tell anyone, didn’t acknowledge how unsettled and uncomfortable they made me feel, because, well, didn’t this stuff happen all the time and maybe I was overreacting? It was the context of other women’s stories and other women’s reactions to my stories that made me realize that while it does happen all the time, I wasn’t overreacting. And I’m grateful for that, because it means I have far more awareness of how prevalent this all is, and why I have good reason to be an angry, frustrated feminist.

  65. becks
    becks November 10, 2011 at 9:32 am |

    Trigger warning:
    I’ve never commented here- but I read this blog a lot. I’ve never been raped or brutalized- but I have been harassed. It started when I was very young.

    As I was reading the earlier comments, it’s obvious- as female- starting at a very early age- there is so much we have to put up with and listen to and deal with- that males never have to handle. It so fucking unfair.

    I grew up in a nice small town, lived in safe, middle class neighborhoods, went to good schools and yet, here is my experience. I can’t imagine what girls have to put up with who don’t come from my privileged background…

    1st grade- friend’s dad made me touch his crotch.

    4th grade- old man on the way to school- making comments and gestures to me and my friend as we walked to school. We had to walk 4 blocks out of our way to avoid him- but we never questioned that avoiding his block was the safe thing to do.

    8th grade- followed along route home from a friends house- 3 boys calling to me- telling me how nice my titties were and how they wanted to feel them up. I remember feeling very afraid. I also remember that I didn’t walk home alone from that friend’s house any more.

    9th grade- fellow classmate tells me all about how he wants to do very specific sexual things to me- all said during class- within the teacher’s hearing. She called him out- sent him to the office- he threatened her. I felt unsafe in that class for the rest of the year. I’ll never forget his name, his face or how he looked when he said those things to me…and all I did was go to school.

    11th grade- a male teacher, A TEACHER, made me feel very uncomfortable and scared with comments about my figure and attractiveness on several occasions where he would speak to me when no-one else was around. I avoided him and his attention for the rest of the year. Other girls were not so lucky. It all came out when he got one of them pregnant.

    And what about all the crap a woman has to deal with as an adult- as she navigates a life for herself. A boss who looks down your shirt, a co-worker who says creepy things to you and gets mad when you aren’t flattered. A flasher at the mall who waits for you as you leave the building to show you his awesome package. A guy at the bar who won’t leave you alone and gets mad at you for not being interested.

    It’s always there. The never ending string of men who objectify and humiliate and harass women. And the absolute worst part is that if you were to ask them- no, they have never harassed a woman. Heck no- I like women- I would never treat a woman unkindly or make her feel uncomfortable. No, I have never made a lady fear for her safety.

  66. Jessica Isabel
    Jessica Isabel November 10, 2011 at 10:27 am |

    I’m glad that a space like this exists for people to share their experiences. I think that when we can find solidarity amongst each other, the pain of this collective violence can be lessened. I know that when people honk at me or make comments out of their car, I respond with anger. I yell back. Same thing goes for guys who comment about my appearance. One guy said to me once as I was walking to a date, “Wow, pretty dress. Want to show me what’s underneath?” I actually stopped, looked at him, and said, “Shame on you. What would your mother say if she heard you say that?” He looked abashed that I’d responded.

    I know that in many cases, your (meaning women in general) safety hinges on you not escalating the situation. But use your judgment and if you feel you can respond, I think you should. I don’t remember where I read about this, but there was an article that said that by remaining silent and not shaming these people, we are silently consenting to this treatment. That it becomes acceptable. It is unacceptable and I make it my mission to embarrass and shame anyone who talks to me like that when I feel like I am in a safe enough position to do that.

  67. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat November 10, 2011 at 11:28 am |

    I still remember, with crystal clarity, the combination of bone-deep fear and anger and confusion that accompanied the first filthy comments I received as a kid. Of course, my current reaction is about the same–just vastly more anger–but that first horrible moment when you realize that someone sees you as an object to be claimed and dominated, rather than a person with feelings worthy of respect, cuts deep and leaves a scar. Even if you are too young (or just not ready) to understand or verbalize why, the icky this-is-wrong-leave-me-alone feeling is grossly unique and doesn’t go away.

    A lot of people seem to be really invested in free speech meaning “I can say whatever I want and you lesser beings should just let it slide.” Not cool. It skates dangerously close to the legal silencing that freedom of speech was supposed to prevent in the first place. Sure, you can say whatever you want. But if it hurts me or I disagree, I have equal right to speak against your words, no matter how trivial they may be. That’s how it works. If you didn’t mean harm, the mature response is a simple apology, not angry blustering justifications that heap more hurt on the other person. WE CAN HAS SOCIAL LOGIC!

  68. Norma
    Norma November 10, 2011 at 11:42 am |

    Jessica Isabel: by remaining silent and not shaming these people, we are silently consenting to this treatment.

    Nope, we’re not. We’re really, really not. Harassment is not our fault.

  69. semi regular poster
    semi regular poster November 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm |

    @Jessica Isabel:
    I’m glad that you feel assertive and empowered and safe enough to call out and verbally shame those who harass you. But fuck that shit about silence equaling consent. Seriously, fuck that kind of shaming the victim logic.

  70. speedbudget
    speedbudget November 10, 2011 at 12:10 pm |

    Jessica Isabel @69:

    If that is true, if the case really were that women not responding is giving implicit permission, why don’t these men say and do these things when we are out and about with men?

  71. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat November 10, 2011 at 12:30 pm |

    And in the spirit of sharing, I bring you the tale of the first really gross thing a guy said in my presence. (I’m sure there were previous incidents, but I was seriously naive and sexual comments just flew way over my head until college.)

    I was barely 14, at a high school football game with my marching band. The flute and clarinet sections (98% female) were lining up for halftime, when this alarmingly large blonde jock calls “Heeeeey baby, what’cha doin’ tonight?” at us in the most lech-tastic tone imaginable, complete with a crotch-grab. The second row of bleachers is only about ten feet from the field. We were suddenly Very Not Safe.

    The first chair french horn, an eggs-out awesome senior, also happened to be in his line of fire. She whipped around, hands on her hips, and bellowed back “NOT YOU!” at top volume in the most cock-withering tone I have ever heard. Everyone in that section of stands started laughing and the dude turned beet red as his buddies mocked him.

    Not only was the situation diffused by an excellent role model, the resulting story is funny enough that I can use it to make the “harassment isn’t cool” point in even the most conservative of circles. And the memory of Ms. Fearless French Horn has gotten me through many a sticky situation, including myself and the girls I was chaperoning all being followed by four men on a cruise ship years later.

  72. Verity Khat
    Verity Khat November 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm |

    Obviously, not every situation can safely be diffused with confrontation! It’s often safer to just get the hell out of there. Honestly, as much as I relish the satisfaction of shutting a jerk down, I’d rather we lived in a world where we didn’t even have to think about this shit.

    1. Jill
      Jill November 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm | *

      No one wants to live in a society where we “snitch” on each other for things that are largely harmless. But I also don’t want to live in a society where reporting child rape is considered “snitching.” And if you can’t tell the moral difference between raping a kid and not speaking English very well, I’m not really sure where to start with you.

  73. Anon for this
    Anon for this November 10, 2011 at 12:45 pm |

    Trigger warnings…

    Kate demonstrates why it is people don’t like to talk about this. Someone can always discount your experience by pointing out that it could have been worse, or drawing some arbitrary boundary around what is “real” rape, harassment, etc. Sometimes it’s a genuine attempt to make you feel better about an experience, as when my boyfriend and several other male friends assured me that I should only feel complimented by a guy on the subway pressing himself against me while playing pocket pool.

    In my own experience, there is a lot of context that goes into whether actions are perceived as threatening, and it boils down to whether I think the person in question sees me as a person who they are trying to flirt with or an object they are considering using, without any regard for my feelings.

    When I was about 20, I used to work in a warehouse environment with a lot of men. In some cases people could say really filthy things to me and I would just find it funny; in other cases a mere look was threatening.

    For example, I was bending over to retrieve something against a wall when someone walked into the office. I turned around while still bending over to see who it was. It was a 40-something guy who continued staring at my ass despite the fact that he must have been aware that I was looking at him. However, he didn’t see me as a person to be acknowledged. This was creepy.

    Another 60-something guy who came into the office a lot would always say the following, with a big friendly/joking smile, looking at my face the entire time: “Well hello! You sure are looking pretty today!” I’d say “thank you” in a respectful, nonsuggestive way. He’d then look at me sideways, impishly, and say “You wanna fool around?” I’d laugh, shake my head and say no. He would then say, with tone and body language that implied he knew it was over the top: “Will you hold still while I do?” I would then laugh even harder and say “NO!” and then he would move on to talk or joke about something else.

    His words are potentially offensive, but the delivery was such that he acknowledged that they were potentially offensive, the line of questioning preserved my right to consent, and he moved on when I said no, so I perceived it as funny and not threatening.

    Another important element of context is how other people react. It’s really scary when someone shows you undue attention and other people don’t notice or don’t care. I was freaked out when my friend’s older brother (who had a serious girlfriend and who I thought of like a brother—he was 18; I was 13) started pawing me one night, but my friend’s reaction of “So?” when I told her about it was even more alienating.

    At age 15 I went on a trip with a friend who was like an older sister and normally very protective of me with respect to guys our own age. One of my goals on the trip was to keep her company so that a creepy older relative couldn’t grope her. A different relative took a strong liking to me, constantly hugging me, kissing my cheek, talking about how cute I was, asking me to sit on his lap, massaging my shoulders, asking me to take off my swimsuit cover because he wanted to “see what I looked like”, etc. Everyone acted like it was just so cute how affectionate he was, smiling and making the “that’s so adorable” face as I looked at them pleadingly. My friend, right there in the room/car/beach, didn’t notice that anything weird was going on. I was obviously uncomfortable with the touching, like the cat in Pepe le Pew, and nobody noticed. I was too freaked out to say anything to her at the time—I told her years later and she was shocked and horrified that she hadn’t noticed.

    These are just a few examples—like most women, I’ve had many. I think the first was a pediatrician who aggressively fingered my labia during a routine visit at around age 5-6 while my mother looked on and didn’t say anything. I’ve had several creepy experiences with doctors, one of whom was a resident I complained about. His supervisor (a woman) praised him as being really “thorough.” I’ll say! I endured one “breast exam” for a employment physical that consisted of a “honk honk” groping, while a nurse looked on (office job). I got the job and later noted that men felt violated by this doctor as well—one of them joked “hey doc–your hands are on my shoulders, what’s that you’re checking my prostate with?”

    These kinds of reactions (or nonreactions), like Kate’s reaction to women speaking on this thread, lead you to believe that you’re invisible and don’t matter, and that there’s no use in speaking up. Couple that with socialization that your main purpose in life is to serve others, and you may not even see anything wrong with it. There’s also a line of thought that men are just like this—boys will be boys, shouldn’t take it personally, just move on with your life. Well, it’s not inevitable. If every cat-caller got negative attention from others every time he did it (e.g., weird looks or “dude, have some class”) it would stop.

  74. Bridget
    Bridget November 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    I learned the hard way what can happen when you report someone for sexual harassment.

    When I was 18 I had a co-worker who would stay after his shift to follow me around on my shift and ask me all kinds of sexual questions. I didn’t answer, and would say things like, “don’t you want to go home?” etc., but he wouldn’t stop. So I finally went to HR and they seemed to take me seriously, and told me he was definitely out of line.

    But then after they “investigated,” they informed me that they’d decided he didn’t mean me any harm because he seemed to them like a really nice guy. Also, he’d provided a “witness” – who was never there when he was harassing me. The witness was a male co-worker whom I’d sort of been friends with for a while. That co-worker told HR that he and I had had a jokingly sexual conversation OUTSIDE OF WORK once, and HR used this as evidence that I was supposedly putting out a message to all my male co-workers that no topic was off the table.

    They put a letter of reprimand in my file for my “false claim.” When I started crying from anger and frustration, the HR woman actually told me I had nothing to be upset about because I was pretty, and that would serve me well in life.

    That was 12 years ago and still makes me so mad when I think about it.

  75. josh816
    josh816 November 10, 2011 at 1:03 pm |

    Cain is innocent.

  76. emkfeminist
    emkfeminist November 10, 2011 at 1:07 pm |

    This has pretty much been covered, but I wanted to contribute anyway. Re: Katie’s comments: It seems to me that if you experience cat-calling/wolf-whistling/whatever on the street and you don’t feel threatened or define that as harassment, good for you! It’s great that you don’t feel victimized and hopefully nothing will ever happen to you that changes that. I mean that sincerely. BUT, it would also be worthwhile to examine your own privilege and how that might factor into you not feeling threatened. We do not all have the same experiences and levels of privilege and these things definitely factor into how safe we feel on the street, as well as how we might interpret being yelled at by men.

    Also, the other issue I see with street harassment and all of the many other examples shared here by other commenters is that many (most? all?) men and boys feel a certain sense of entitlement when it comes to talking to women and taking up their time and attention. Even if a strange man makes a comment to me that he doesn’t mean as threatening, it still says to me that he thinks he has some right to interrupt my day and force me to interact with him. I think this sense of entitlement is highlighted by the violent reactions many women receive when they don’t respond to a man’s comments.

    Finally, I agree with Emily’s argument that we need to talk about these experiences. Reading this post and all of the comments have brought up a number of experiences that normalized and pushed out of my mind. Enough, in fact, to merit a blog post. So thanks to everyone for sharing and breaking the silence about sexual harassment.

  77. Anon
    Anon November 10, 2011 at 1:57 pm |

    Anonymizing to share a selection if that’s OK. Trigger warning:
    -At 12, man on bus asked me what stop I was getting off at “so that he knew what stop he wanted to get off at too”. I got off a stop early and went to a friend’s.
    -At 15 a flasher broke into the school grounds and teachers said we all had to go around campus in groups of 3 for a while. They never found him.
    -At 15 the art teacher put his hands on a classmate’s shoulders then moved them down her chest. She froze up then he said something about painting technique and went off as if nothing happened. Nobody spoke up.
    -At 17 groped by a boy at a school disco. Happened to all of us one time or another.
    -At 18 explicit comments while walking dog past a worksite. Walking the same dog 8 years later I was leered at by 2 guys in the woods. Both times they stopped INSTANTLY when my giant Labrador popped out of the bushes and growled. Dogs always know who is the bad guy!
    -At 20 some girls in my school called a girl a slut because they said she’d passed out drunk at a party and two boys had performed sexual acts on her (fortunately not full rape). I said this was assault and instead of shaming her they should be supporting her. To be fair, they were mortified.
    -At 22 called a tramp in the street (while wearing huge bulky hiking clothes? more confusing than scary).
    -At 25 saw a man screaming at and pushing a woman in the street outside a pizzeria and joined forces with other customers to escort her inside – his g/f, it turned out. The screaming man said “don’t be a hero” to one of the men in our rescue mission. We barricaded the door and he threw a trashcan into the road and screamed a while outside, then stormed off before the police came.
    -At 26 reassured a friend approached by a man who’d said, “You’re beautiful” (ok) “I’ve been following you for 12 blocks” (um what?) and refused to leave without her number. She gave a fake number then hid in a deli near the security camera til he left.
    -At 27, man in street asked my friend to share a drink. She said no (OK). He followed us saying “Oh come on” as she kept saying “no thanks, I’m tired” etc (not OK). I shouted “Oh fuck off you fucking fuckhead!” and he did.
    -Recently groped on subway. Got in the guy’s face and said if he touched me again I would rip his nuts off and stuff them down his throat. Not the nicest thing to say but scared him off.
    -Recently saw two doormen tell a girl about 14 “hey baby” and they wanted to tap that etc. She shrank away with tears in her eyes. I got in their faces and shouted, “You are sexually harassing a young girl. You’re pathetic! I can see this is where you work, so if you bother her again I will call your manager.” They muttered “sorry” and the girl gave me a big smile.

    I wrote out more (still not comprehensive) but edited for TLDR and left out the worst half dozen to be careful of the privacy of friends who have been raped or smacked around. With over 20 stories coming to mind, I still consider myself someone who has encountered less of this stuff than average.

  78. dj shiva
    dj shiva November 10, 2011 at 3:06 pm |

    1ceuponathyme: Seriously.HedidahellofalotofgoodbeforeheevenranforPresident,regardlessofyourviewsofhiscandidacyforthepresidency.

    Yeah, I don’t mean to detract from the awesomeness of this post in general, but this continued bashing of Ralph Nader, a person who has continually had relevant and meaningful insight into our broken system, simply because he did what should happen, and introduced an outside candidacy into a 2 party system that does plenty of damage…well, it’s tired.

    The 2 party system, with its failed posturing of a difference between the parties, is what is damaging. Not 3rd party candidates. Say what you will about the 2000 election; Nader didn’t lose the presidency for the Democrats. In fact, Al Gore received more votes than George W Bush. But in that particular case, people would do well to aim their blame where it counts…the Supreme Court, and quit whining about a candidate who had more knowledge, more honesty, and more relevance to what real people need than either of the corporate tools that were offered at the time.

    As to the real points of your post, I heartily agree.

  79. Katya
    Katya November 10, 2011 at 4:32 pm |

    Guys I know sometimes comment on how women shouldn’t judge all men as possible predators, because it’s unfair and sexist, and it drives me up the wall. No, I don’t think all men are predators, I don’t even think a majority of men are predators. But if I don’t know you and I’m not in a place where I feel safe, I do kind of have to assume that you might be a threat and be prepared to protect myself.

    No, I don’t think all men who give compliments to women on the street are harassers. I’ve received non-sexual compliments (men have complimented an outfit or a dress or a coat in a totally non-leering/non-sexual manner) and I didn’t feel remotely threatened. I think it is perfectly possible for strangers to say nice things to each other in public. But I don’t think it remotely minimizes “real” harassment to say that catcalls are not compliments. Making sexual comments to someone you don’t know is just not cool. Getting mad because a woman doesn’t respond to your comment and calling her a bitch is not cool. Following a woman is not cool.

    One of my scariest moments of harassment was when I was about 25. I was walking during the day in a relatively quiet urban neighborhood. A guy said, “Hey, baby, looking good,” and I ignored the comment. He proceeded to follow me for a block, yelling that I was a “stuck-up white bitch.” There was literally no one else on the street

    Another was when I was about 21. I was walking home, and I passed a bus stop where several older men were sitting. One of them said, “Oh, man, if I was a few years younger….” I didn’t respond, but one of the men got up and followed me. I hurried to my apartment building and ran to the building manager’s office. He hung around outside for a minute, but then left.

    I used to go jogging, and men in cars would follow me and roll down their window to yell sexual comments. Honestly, it was not about me actually looking sexy, because when I run, I am a sweaty, wheezy mess. Guys would do this even if I went running with one or more of my female friends.

    When I was 12, one of my classmates signed my yearbook, “Have a great summer. Grow some tits.”

    Yesterday on the subway, I heard one young woman tell another about an incident in which a cab driver repeatedly asked her out, and when she refused, he stopped at a gas station and locked the doors so she couldn’t get out. What struck me was that she felt the need to justify her outrage, assuring her friend that she normally didn’t mind “stuff like this,” but this was just “inappropriate.”

  80. EG
    EG November 10, 2011 at 5:26 pm |

    Katya: Guys I know sometimes comment on how women shouldn’t judge all men as possible predators, because it’s unfair and sexist, and it drives me up the wall.

    I hate this too, because, what, do men think that rapists and men who are violent against women walk around with a special mark tattooed on their foreheads? I should take the risk of giving you the benefit of the doubt so I don’t hurt your feelings? Your fucking feelings are more important than my safety?

    When I was in sixth grade, a man exposed himself to me on the subway. When I was 16, I went to the public library to get a book on the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, and while I was kneeling in the stacks, some guy started beating off next to my head. I was flashed when I was alone in a foreign country when I was 19. I’ve been followed home. When I was in 8th grade, our French teacher used to sit behind my friend when the lights were off for movies and rub her shoulders; he also made lewd comments to her. And he knew how to choose his victims–not me, who would have gone to parents, who would have had his ass in the principal’s office the following morning, but my friend, whose parents had died the previous year and who was being shuttled from uncaring relative to uncaring relative. When I was 11 or so, I very proudly went out by myself with my own money (allowance and payment for chores) to by a birthday present for a friend and then had lunch at a local restaurant. The waiter gave me free ice cream and then asked for my phone number, which I felt pressured into giving him, and then he kept calling and keeping me on the phone asking to come over and meet me. (Finally I got up the nerve to confess to my parents; despite my fears, they were not angry at me, and just told me that next time he called, I should just pass the phone to my father. I will not forget what ensued when I did; I felt very taken care of.) I’m not even touching on the stuff that happened after I was 21.

    When my sister was 13, her body had changed but her mind/perspective hadn’t yet. It was that awkward period when you haven’t quite realized that you look different, so you dress the same as you did when you were a kid, only now…well, you don’t quite look like one. So we were walking down the street (I was 21), and she was wearing short jean shorts and a cropped t-shirt, and becoming more and more uncomfortable as man after man kept ogling her and staring at her up and down, until finally I got really pissed off. I turned around and shouted at some guy in his 20s “Hey, you! Yeah, you! Yeah, that’s right, you better turn away! She’s THIRTEEN YEARS OLD, ASSHOLE. Yeah, you OUGHT to be ashamed of yourself!” Then I asked my sister if she wanted to come over and borrow a long skirt.

    A year or two later, some asshole felt her up on the subway on the way to school.

  81. Katya
    Katya November 10, 2011 at 5:46 pm |

    I hate this too, because, what, do men think that rapists and men who are violent against women walk around with a special mark tattooed on their foreheads? I should take the risk of giving you the benefit of the doubt so I don’t hurt your feelings? Your fucking feelings are more important than my safety?

    One guy actually told me that thinking men were potential predators was just like thinking all black men were potential criminals. I honestly was so mad I couldn’t formulate a response, but I really think there is a difference. I don’t judge black men based on race–if I’m trying to decide if someone might mug me, I can take into account their age, demeanor, grooming, dress, location, and behavior. With sexual harassment, there are no non-gender signals until the moment they start leering or commenting or following you. I’ve been harassed by a guy in a suit in a courtroom–when the judge was out of the room, the guy started talking about having sex with me. I mean, how could I see that one coming?

  82. EG
    EG November 10, 2011 at 6:04 pm |

    Katya: One guy actually told me that thinking men were potential predators was just like thinking all black men were potential criminals.

    I HATE THAT GUY. Sure, That Guy. Being a dude is totally just like being black. Because of the way ladies are in control of the power structure of your society and perpetrate these terrible stereotypes in order to disenfranchise you. It’s just like how whites relate to black people. You are so oppressed. I am going to have buy a pack of matches so I can look inside and locate a teeny-tiny violin on which to play your sad song of discrimination.

    Not having one’s overtures welcomed by strange ladies on the street is totally just like the oppression black men face. He should tell his tale of woe to all the black men he can find, so that his brothers in oppression can welcome him with open arms and provide him with manly support for the long, hard, stoney road of oppression that constitutes his life.

  83. petpluto
    petpluto November 10, 2011 at 7:51 pm |

    I used to go jogging, and men in cars would follow me and roll down their window to yell sexual comments. Honestly, it was not about me actually looking sexy, because when I run, I am a sweaty, wheezy mess. Guys would do this even if I went running with one or more of my female friends.

    Yeah, this happens to my best friend. She really only gets catcalled when she’s running, or walking her dog. It’s hard to look at that and say, “Yes, this is happening not due to any level of attractiveness I’m presenting to the world, but because I’m simply doing things out in the world for my own pleasure and enjoyment”. She generally doesn’t get harassed when she’s obviously going some place, when being out in the world has some kind of purpose; it’s only when she’s outside to be outside.

    And that pisses me off almost more than the fact that until I moved to New York City, I could pretty much bet on getting harassed at least one time in my day if I put myself out there in the world, for whatever the reason. Me, I used to get equal opportunity harassed, and that sucks. But her? It’s more targeted. It is all about restricting her, and making the world an unsafe place when she is trying to just live in it and enjoy it. I mean, it’s about that for me as well, but at least I know that if I’m going outside and walking to have some fun or enjoy myself I’m going to get the same crap for it I would if I were walking to the store to buy something I need. It made my world small, but at least I didn’t have the added pressure of feeling like I could do something to prevent it from happening – like not go running.

  84. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 10, 2011 at 7:54 pm |

    Yeah, I don’t mean to detract from the awesomeness of this post in general, but this continued bashing of Ralph Nader, a person who has continually had relevant and meaningful insight into our broken system, simply because he did what should happen, and introduced an outside candidacy into a 2 party system that does plenty of damage…well, it’s tired.

    Goddamnit, let it fucking go already!

  85. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 10, 2011 at 8:11 pm |

    Ok, I can’t believe I forgot about this, but…
    Age 18, my first appointment ever with a psychiatrist. Based on his eye contact, it was my breasts that needed help for bipolar disorder and PTSD. He also blabbed to the receptionists that I come from a family that had been skeptical about psychiatry and that’s why it took me so long to get help…

    A few years back mom opened to door to a knock by a pizza delivery woman who was in tears….the men in the space next to the space in our trailer park where she had gone to deliver a pizza had told her they would rape her. She had come to mom because we ordered frequently so she was familiar with us, and because mom is the manager. Mom was able to apparently get them to stop that crap NOT by telling them it was a repugnant thing to do to a fellow human being (that would not have worked), but that they would not have very many fans in the trailer park if the pizza places in town refused to deliver food to anyone in the trailer park on account of their behavior.

    Some more recent personal examples:
    - A man pulled over at the bus stop I was waiting at to ask for directions…he decided to take advantage of my politeness and try to get my phone number. Inside I was fuming because the bus stop in question is along the highway and I feel very vulnerable there because of the highway and its proximity to the freeway.
    - I was sitting all by myself in a city bus waiting for the driver to come and start the route, very few people around. A man startled me by riding his bike right under the window I was sitting by and waving. I waved back even though I was uncomfortable. Seconds later he’s standing in the only exit of the bus saying I’m a pretty little thing and asking for my number. Said I’d rather not, and before finally leaving he says he will “keep after” me.
    - There is one man who is constantly staring at me whenever I on the bus with him. The one time we both were in the library was extremely uncomfortable. He followed me through the aisles, when I went into another room in the library to get away from him he followed me there too, and just when I thought I’d lost him when I went outside to call a cab, he came out there too.
    - During my first week of work I was at the bus station waiting to transfer to another route, and a man standing at a bench meant for the county transit just stared and stared and stared and stared at me. He started walking towards me which made me extremely uncomfortable, and I was infuriated to realize that he had no intention of taking the county transit or ANY of the other buses you can board at the station. He appeared to only be there to stare holes into me or something.

  86. Dane
    Dane November 11, 2011 at 2:44 pm |

    Here are some of my experiences:

    When I was in grade 6, I was chased around the schoolyard by a bunch of boys daily after school, some of which were carrying sticks shouting “Poke her in the Virginia!” (because grade 6 boys can’t pronounce vagina I guess). I was overweight and couldn’t outrun them, so it would always end with me curled in the fetal position in the middle of the field, holding my uniform skirt down, while they punched and kicked me and made disgusting comments till they got bored or a school monitor told them to stop “horsing around”. I went to the principal eventually, who had the boys suspended for a day. I also got detention for a week for running into off-limits kindergarten playground to hide. Mind you, we hadn’t had sex ed yet at my school so I didn’t realize how fucked up this was until much later, but I never told any teacher about the sexual part, just the physical abuse.

    When I was 14 I was verbally sexually harassed by my best friend’s boyfriend for almost a year, before he crashed a party we were drinking at and raped me because I was too trashed to defend myself. I told my parents and they grounded me for drinking and told me I must’ve been asking for it. I never went to the police.

    Last week I had to break off a friendship I used to treasure because my “friend” refused to intervene when her boyfriend made leering comments about my body and sexual orientation, and got angry at ME when I slapped him for grabbing my breasts. (“he was drunk, it’s not his fault”) There is now no way to see my friend without also seeing the boyfriend because they’re literally always together, andI have no doubt this creep would have escalated if I hadn’t gotten myself away from that situation.

    All of these things started with simple verbal harassment. I have also been in situations where it was “only” verbal harassment that never got worse, but my point is you can never tell, and because of these experiences it makes me feel very unsafe when I get catcalls and whistles from strangers.

  87. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 12, 2011 at 12:35 am |

    Here’s another personal one…

    When I was 11 years old I was the most popular target at my school for bullying, and one thing that happened was a boy in my class started a rumor that I had had sex with him somewhere in a parked car.

    My mother’s suggestion to deal with that particular problem was to write “you wish” on a valentine to put in his valentine mail box during the class Valentine’s Day festivities, but still…

  88. igglanova
    igglanova November 12, 2011 at 1:39 am |

    Annaleigh: My mother’s suggestion to deal with that particular problem was to write “you wish” on a valentine to put in his valentine mail box during the class Valentine’s Day festivities, but still…

    That was totally crap and all, but your mom sounds awesome.

  89. Emily
    Emily November 12, 2011 at 10:01 pm |

    I didn’t think I had a story and was about to get angry at other Emily for saying that everyone woman did and ask, aren’t I a woman too, then I realized I do have one. (Though mine isn’t a violence or threat of violence story. More a humiliation story.)

    I have a high tolerance for cat calls and crap. I also spent a fair amount of time living in an area when men were much more brazen than I was used to. None of it phased me.

    In my third year in law school I had to take a trial advocacy class that was taught by lawyers in the community. We broke into small groups and acted out parts of the trial with the community lawyers acting as judges. When the lawyers told stories of being in court, it could be interesting. I noticed one lawyer referred to every women in his stories as either hot or a b****. Anyway, when he was play acting as judge and it was my turn to try to introduce evidence, he gave me such a hard time. The purpose of the exercise was to introduce an exhibit and to use it, but he wouldn’t let me introduce it. I was one of the last people to go, so I had heard all the arguments for admission before and used them (and my own) but he just kept on saying it was almost time for lunch (it’s true it was getting close to break, but we had enough time for the exercise) (and he didn’t say it in a “let’s break for lunch then get back to this” sort of way). The language and voice he used with me was aggressive and unlike the tone he used with any other student.

    So we had a break, and I came back to the classroom first and sat down at the table and started writing on something. He came back into the room, saw me, and joked “tampering with the evidence, I see,” as he walked past me, running his hand along my back. I know this might sound harmless. It’s really hard to explain exactly how I felt and what happened and why what happened made me feel the way I felt. But the next time I had class (with two different and good “judges”), I broke down crying when it was my turn.

    Reading these comments, I’ve come to really understand that one of the reasons why women might not tell their stories is because the stories are so hard to understand. They are hard to describe and put in to context. I mean, so the guy touched my back, so what? And tampering with the evidence? What does that even mean? When telling the story to other people, they have commented that the attorney was pretty heavy. Maybe he didn’t have enough room to get past me without touching me. No. It wasn’t just weird comments and weird touching. It was humiliation and degradation, but the events alone don’t describe the result.

  90. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 12, 2011 at 11:50 pm |

    igglanova: That was totally crap and all, but your mom sounds awesome.

    Thanks, I think so too! :)

  91. Annaleigh
    Annaleigh November 13, 2011 at 3:15 am |

    Yes, I have more stories…

    Awhile back when I was trying to get some good exercise by taking the bus to the city fitness center, I had to deal with a bus driver who looked a little too interested when he realized that I was freshly showered and in different clothes when I got on the bus to come home… Eventually he started commenting on how my visits to the gym were working… He got Mr. Follow Annaleigh Around the Library making similar comments too, and eventually I lapsed on gym visits period…

    In 2003 I took the class from hell…I was taking World Religion. Not only was the professor a horrible lecturer who was never on topic and rambled incoherently, he subjected numerous women of color in class to humiliating rants about women of color. I commiserated with the two Black women in the class when he talked about knowing a mixed race woman “who looked like Miss Sweden” but had the stereotypical big butt of a Black woman, and when he pointed out the two Black women to the class. When he got started on my ethnic group (Native American), he talked about how slutty we were, how we brought European men disease, how some Inuits offered an Inuit woman to a friend of his, etc. I felt two inches tall then and wanted to disappear. Luckily he never pointed me out to the class the way he did with the two Black ladies.

    Compounding that situation, I was suffering PTSD symptoms because there was a student in the class who I knew was a convicted rapist. He was an older brother of a classmate of mine and when he was a teenager he took part in the rape and murder of a teenage girl. Just being in the room with him was very overwhelming and distressing and triggering. But knowing the professor’s opinion of women, I knew there was no way I could express my concerns to him and I eventually couldn’t take it anymore and dropped the class.

  92. Amy
    Amy November 13, 2011 at 9:31 pm |

    Reminds me of today when I was walking up the street and some random dude outside a pizza place said ‘hi, how you doing?’ and when I ignored him he yelled ‘no need to be such a snob!’ after me.

    It reminded me of why I always wear my iPod walking down the street- to ignore random douchebags who yell crap at me.

  93. Tricia
    Tricia November 26, 2011 at 11:19 am |

    I lived in a downtown. I could not leave the house after dark and walk without being harassed and/or assumed to be a prostitute, even if wearing jeans, boots and and an over-sized man’s coat. Men sometimes argued with me when I told them I wasn’t interested and/or wasn’t a prostitute with comments like “Hey, it’s o.k. I got money.”

    Then I adopted a dog that was on his way to the pound. I started taking him for walks. “Hey, that’s a good-looking dog.” “Hey, I like your dog.” “Hey, what’s your dog’s name?”

    “Dog. That’s Mr. Dog to you Buddy.” That’s his full name.

    Or, sometimes I say, “Friends call him Dog. You can call him Mr. Dog.”

    Mr. Dog is an American Pit Bull. Mr. Dog is an Urban Walking Dog. Mr. Dog is the nicest, cuddliest dog I’ve ever met and is devoted to me. Mr. Dog turns anything he chews on to dust, quickly, snap, crack, rip.

    To anyone who wants and can have a dog, I recommend it: Get yourself an Urban Walker.

  94. terry
    terry November 29, 2011 at 2:56 pm |

    The blogger could not be more wrong. The weeding out of incompetents and clowns like Cain has been a valuable part of the system since day number one. I give you Aaron Burr as as example. VP but not the big chair.

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