Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Fredericksburgh VA, Jacksonville NC, Los Angeles, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Palo Alto, Portland ME, Richmond VA, Rutgers University, San Francisco
I used to work in a hotel, It was an less than brilliant job but I had made good friends (or so I thought) with a couple of colleagues.
There was an ever-changing cycle of kitchen staff, we went through 4 head chefs in the 3 years I was there, each one more insufferable than the last. The 4th one made me feel uneasy as soon as I met him, but everyone thought he was great.
He had brought a sous chef with him, who was even creepier! They used to say really sexual, and quite ridiculous things to the female staff in the hotel, who either laughed it off or joined in the “flirting”. I never knew if they were as weirded out as me by it so I never brought it up.
One day the sous chef kept asking me why I didn’t like him, unsatisfied with my answer of “because you annoy me” I eventually ignored him thinking he might give up and go do some work. My manager (female) said “she won’t like you if you don’t leave her alone” To which he replied “It’ll make it easier when I’m raping her then” (seriously!) and my manager laughed along with him (yes, seriously!)
That coupled with the daily bum gropes and growls in my ear from the two chefs, I left my job pretty soon after.
I got on a train after a work event in Fife and there were a lot of men drinking clearly on the way to a big night out in Edinburgh. My colleague and I decided to keep moving through the carriage to try and find a less rowdy coach so we could relax a bit after the event. The minute I stepped into the carriage I could see the first table of guys looking at me, and as I walked past they all went silent and started giving me really sexualised looks. It’s quite disturbing to have four drunk men looking solidly at you like predators, and you’re automatically tense and self-concious and feel really aware that they’re probably going to (in my experience) start saying sexual things about you or commenting on your appearance either to your face or after you leave (experiences in the past have included really degrading stuff like guys commenting on how they’d like to ‘give her one’ etc). It’s scary, and it is embedded in and perpetuates rape culture. Anyway, I thought to myself: this is my space too, I have a right to walk through a train and not feel like I have to hide away and look at my feet, I was raised to hold my head high and I’ll do just that. So I just looked back at them with my best ‘you got a problem?’ face. They looked massively shocked, which was hilarious, as it’s always nice to disturb their assumed power. My colleague was a bit ahead of me at this point and I continued walking and a few rows – literally seconds- later there was the second table of guys drinking. One of them shouted at me (in front of a packed train): ‘You are absolutely beautiful’. It was a man old enough to be my father surrounded by his four friends egging him on all drunk VS me single young woman already having been harassed by four guys just for the priviledge of inhabiting a public space.I looked him straight in the eye and, without even thinking, said: ‘You’re not’. It’s not my favourite comeback, but in the heat of the moment you can’t really think fast enough can you? His mates thought it was hilarious which is neither here nor there for me, but again the shock on his face that I’m not an object for his approval, but that I have a voice and use it to speak for myself, was something to behold. After we exited the carriage we realised the only place to go was first class. My colleague asked if I was okay, and I really didn’t want to walk back past the drunk guys as sadly, as many people know, street harassment is almost always accompanied by an undercurrent of a threat of violence. So instead I explained to the train guard what had happened, and he let us to sit in first class for the rest of the ride home. Cheers East Coast!
I’ve been wearing my hijab for two months and had been pleasantly surprised that I hadn’t had any abuse in the streets, I’d definitely anticipated it. However that didn’t make it any easier 3 days ago when it first happened or today when it happened again.
I was standing waiting for the bus at 6.15pm. Two men came from behind me and starting shouting at me, asking if I was a terrorist and had a bomb in my bag. I replied ‘I beg your pardon?’ hoping they would be too ashamed to say it again. I was wrong. One of them held the other back from me as he became more aggressive. He shouted and swore at me and threatened to slap me and rip off my hijab.
More hurtful than any of their words, was the silence of all of those around me. Even after the men had gone and I stood crying in shock, no one came to ask if I was okay.
I’m definitely more scared after today, but also more defiant.
I was at a gig at henrys cellar bar and decided to go get some food. My friends asked if I would be alright and said yeah yeah, no problem. I was in the chippie and a guy passed the window outside holding a big stuffed material willie. He started gesturing to his own like it was his, started pointing to me and gesticulating for me to suck his. At the beginning I was like “what? What do you want” I had to shout this accross the chippie to the door where he was. Then I realised what he was doing and I shouted “fuck off!” He carried on so I said it again even louder and angrier, gaining the attention of the everyone in the chippie. I was so appauled, but the guy ran away after the second shout. I turned away and started chatting to the girl beside me, she was bearly 18 alone and very dressed up which made me worried. I said I hope that guy doesnt come back and she said I thought he was your friend. The guy at the chippie desk asked what had happened, I told him and he laughed and said he did didnt he. A man went out of his way to embarrass me and sexually harass me in front of a full chip shop and everyone thought it was funny or at best normal.
After arriving in the bus station from a friends ‘halal hen do’ in lovely Manchester, I ventured out to find a taxi. I walked onto Princes street where a drunk man sat at a bus stop with his friend. He shouted ‘hiya’ and I replied hi and kept walking, not wanting to risk a confrontation. However obviously my hijab was a provocation in itself as he shouted at me ‘get back on your boat you fucking little shit’.
I didn’t say anything. I’m a woman, alone in the street at night. What can I say? I only have to pray that his anger doesn’t escalate from verbal to physical abuse.
Some people might say I shouldn’t wear my hijab as it makes me a target for this. I know for a fact that even before I wore hijab I would have been subject to street harrassment from this kind of man, probably of the sexual nature.
Jacq has been doing some ad hoc work for us since we launched, and we’re very excited to announce she’s now a proper, official committee member. Here she introduces herself.
I’m Jacq and I’ll be doing some public affairs work for Hollback! Edinburgh. I’ve been asked to write some words about why I’m interested in the campaign and why I want to be involved. After thinking about it probably too much, I’ve realised that it’s quite simple really. I’d like to be able to walk down the street in peace.Street harassment is something that I’ve learned to live with – or not. I actually moved away from one part of Edinburgh because I was sick of the constant everyday abuse I received as a visibly disabled person. I don’t actually enjoy being shouted at, having things thrown at me or being assaulted, so I thought that, in addition to whining about these events on Facebook, on twitter and in the pub at every available opportunity, I should also try to do something positive to make things better. Although I’m a pissed off angry person with a short fuse, I do actually believe that people can be better – we just need to give them the opportunity to be. So that’s why I’m here.
Hi there! Tell us a bit about what you do
I am a Site Manager for a main housing developer, based in the South East region of England. I manage the whole process of the construction of new housing developments. I work with workers from various sub contractors involved in the process. I have worked within the industry for 10.5 years and have worked with this company for 5.5 years.
What do you think of street harassment?
I don’t think it’s fair that anyone should be harassed when they are out and about or made to feel intimated, sexually harassed or verbally or physically abused. Everyone deserves the right to go about their daily business without fear or worrying about running the gauntlet when they step outside their house, office etc.
Builders get a lot of stick for street harassment, what are big companies like the one you work for doing on this?
When new people are inducted onto a site I explain to them that any form of sexual harassment or bullying will not be tolerated. There is a zero tolerance policy and anyone caught doing this will be removed from site. There will be an internal inquiry as to the appropriate measures to be enforced on that individual.
Is it enforced?
Any issue will always have back up from senior managers and all the way up to the Chief Executive. The company I work with will talk to the sub contractor and make them aware that the individual will not be allowed to return to work on that site. There may be room for mediation if a sincere apology is offered to the person affected. However, a stiff stance has to be taken to deter others from thinking they can get away with it if they just apologise. A loss of wages is often the biggest deterrent for many people as they do not want to lose their jobs.
Have you ever kicked someone off site for it?
As to date no, however I did recently issue a warning to a worker for waving at a woman who walking from her property to her car. He was also making comments to a group of workers. She wasn’t aware as they were inside a building a distance away. I told him that he couldn’t do that as it was classed as sexual harassment and he replied “they love a bit of attention”. I replied “It is not tolerated, if you do it again you’re off site”.
Does it ever start conversations with the other workers on site?
Yes, for example in the above situation the other workers said that he was an idiot and that he thinks he is funny. The majority of workers think that it is not acceptable as they have partners, daughters etc and they would not like that behaviour directed towards their loved ones so they would not do it themselves. They are normally the first to challenge that kind of behaviour.
Do you think things are changing in the building trade?
The building trade has come a long way, especially within national/worldwide construction companies. There is now much more awareness of issues like sexual harassment racism and homophobia and it won’t be tolerated. There is still banter within the trade and certain language used, however this is mostly used by the 50+ generation. Often they are not aware that what they are saying is offensive and they believe there is no malice meant by their comments. I do notice that with the younger generation it is changing and workers would not even think of using certain language.
If someone is being street harassed near a site, what would you advise they do?
Ask to speak to the Site Manager and explain to them what has happened. If they are not confident going onto site then contact the head office to put in a complaint. I’d recommend they did report it so it can be dealt with and rest assured that it will be. No company wants to be known as a company which tolerates any form of harassment.
We are pleased to welcome Dominic Hinde, Phd Student, Green activist, translator and former freelance journalist to our Hollaback! Edinburgh organising committee. In this week’s post, Dominic tells us about himself and discusses feminism, gender, the importance of democracy and his motivation for joining Hollaback!
I can’t really pinpoint how and why I decided to get involved in feminist campaigning. Living in contemporary Scotland can be like a pick and mix of social ills, and it is sometimes hard to know which one to focus attention on. And this is where it gets interesting. Once you start looking at all these diverse problems, you begin to see the role played by gender in each of them. What many people do not know for example is that women are disproportionately high users of public transport, but disproportionately low users of public space for sports and recreation. Mundane facts, but they reveal a lot about the way in which men and women in Scotland live parallel existences. Unspoken, unseen, and undiscussed. And when those citizens of Scotland who happen to be women venture out into the spaces society reserves for men, they are outsiders.
Every single inch of the city should be as open and safe for women as it is for anyone else, but that is rarely the case. Feminism is about democracy in the broadest possible sense. Anybody with an interest in fostering the values of openness and equal rights inherent to a functioning democracy cannot fail to call themselves a feminist. The worrying thing about men’s rights campaigns in recent years is the way in which they have totally misunderstood the aims of feminism, and that robust feminism is as beneficial to men as it is to women. Because we all want to live on a street, in a city and in a country where we feel that those around us enjoy the same rights as we do. We want to know that our female friends can live and work and love in the same way that we might hope to do ourselves, and that we might walk to work or home from the pub as equals. The same risks, the same pleasures. Now we can’t police every street, and we can’t legislate against institutionalised attitudes. What we can do is try and change our culture one step at a time. This means that men need to be involved in the process. You cannot scare them into submission, but you can pull them out of the ditch.
Scotland is changing, and Scotland is well on the way to becoming the progressive modern country which I and many others know it can be. We would be doing ourselves a disservice if we did not seek to put feminism at its heart.