July 29, 2009

I’m headed out of town on vacation w/out access to the internet for a few days so there won’t be any new posts.

In the meantime, check out some of the updated strategies for dealing with and ending street harassment listed on my website: as well as reources (including other websites that post/share street harassment stories) on the resources page:

CTA bus drivers voice concern about new anti-harassment policy

July 28, 2009

The Chicago Sun-Times has a follow up article to the one I reported on two weeks ago about how the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is expanding its policies on how bus and rail operators deal with harassers because of the activism of the Young Women’s Action Team.

Some bus drivers say that they weren’t informed about the new policies ahead of time and they have concerns with the changes. In part, they are concerned that if they intervene it could be dangerous and/or lead to complaints against them by the harasser.  They would prefer to call 911 for intervention – and ask that police respond promptly – rather than deal with it alone themselves. What this tells me is they must see a LOT of harassment because if this was a once in a while occurrence, it probably wouldn’t be so burdensome or worrisome to them.

I’m interested to find out how the implementation of stricter anti-harassment policies will play out on Chicago’s public transportation system.

Side note, I quickly glanced at the comments below the article and found this gem near the top:

“If the women that ride the C.T.A, don’t want a person(man)talking to them stay at home, don’t dress so in a way that a man is provoke to say something to her, besides she-they may not have job anyway.”

*Sigh* so much educating about street harassment to do!

Creepy Driver

July 28, 2009

I was walking from my house to the Potomac Avenue Metro station in DC on a hot Saturday afternoon, unusually dressed up (for me) in shorts and a cute tank top to meet up with friends at a small party. A guy driving a silver SUV said something to me along the lines of “hey, you’re looking fine.” Inappropriate compliment by total stranger, bleh. But then, he kept driving extremely slowly and kept talking to me. At first, I think I just glanced at him and kept walking, I didn’t say anything.

When he kept creeping along beside me, I started to get nervous. I was near my trusted corner dry cleaners, and abruptly turned and went inside the cleaners. I told the lady there what was going on, and just chatted for a few minutes. I waited until I saw the creepy guy in the silver SUV finally drive away before going back out to the sidewalk. I shouldn’t have to duck inside off the sidewalk or feel afraid to get a little dressed up because of creepy guys harassing me, but this episode reminded me why I don’t even try to look cute more often. And it’s always worse in the summer when wearing a skirt or shorts or (gasp!) exposing arms or shoulders.


Location: Washington, DC

Share your street harassment story and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

Risky Conversation

July 27, 2009

As a woman, I know that there is always risk in politely talking to a male stranger in public, particularly if he initiates the conversation. No matter how benign or polite the topic of conversation is at first, there is always a risk that he will not know when to stop talking and will end up continuing to talk to you, follow you, try to get personal information from you, and maybe do worse, until you have no choice but to be rude to get him to stop.

This has happened to me many times, most recently this past Friday evening during my commute from work in Washington, DC to my home in Virginia.

Around 5:15 p.m., I boarded on an orange line metro car. I sat down next to a man who had his eyes closed. I read a book. We stayed like this for about 18 minutes. Then about two minutes before my stop the man sitting next to me started fidgeting. As I was blocking his way out due to the way the seats are arranged, he turned to me and said, “When you get to the bottom of the page can you please get up, it’s my stop next.”

I said, “Don’t worry, it’s my stop too, so I’ll be getting up anyway.”

“Oh okay,” he said, “then go ahead and read some more since we’ll get up at the same time.” (He mumbled when he said it the first time so I had to ask him to repeat himself)

I put my book away though because we were almost there and he informed me again that it was okay for me to finish reading that page [as if I needed his permission…].

I said, “It’s okay I can’t concentrate anymore.” He said, “Yeah, I know how that is.”

We arrived at the stop and I got up and then smiled and nodded at him when I left to acknowledge that we had had a human interaction as usually no one talks to each other during rush hour on my metro line. He mumbled something as he stood up but all I caught was, “you are beautiful.”

I nodded again, feeling awkward, and left the metro car. On the escalator to leave the metro platform, he stood on the right side and I passed him on the left side, and as I passed (the escalator was filled with people, none of whom are speaking) he said to me, “I should have gone on that side.” I nodded, to acknowledge him, and kept walking up.

He caught up to me soon after the escalator and after we went through the metro card reader area, he walked beside me and again mumbled and again all I caught was something about how beautiful I am. At that point I became annoyed and worried that he was going to keep following me so I didn’t acknowledge him and hurried down the next set of escalators to my bus stop. Fortunately he went to a different bus stop and that was the end of that.

So in a matter of minutes the interaction went from an interaction I would consider acceptable (aside from him feeling the need to grant me permission to read my book) and polite to him making me feel objectified and uncomfortable. Just because I was polite and smiled at him, apparently he felt that was an invitation to follow me and comment on my appearance, not once, but twice. In the end, I had to be rude and stop acknowledging him before he would leave me alone.

It reminds me of the following quote by Sue Wise & Liz Stanley, authors of Georgie Porgie: Sexual Harassment in Everyday Life:

“Most sexual harassment involves men who think that they have the automatic right to demand the time and attention from women, and will invoke that right whenever they choose. And any woman is fair game by virtue of being a woman…most sexual harassment comes in shades of grey and beige; and more often than not it’s entirely ambiguous behavior that could be sexual harassment, but could equally well be seen differently” (115).

Have you had a similar experience?  How did you respond?

Location: Falls Church, VA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

Weekly Round Up – July 26

July 26, 2009


Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

In the News:

Upcoming Events:
  • The Young Women’s Action Team is holding a free “Anti-Street Harassment Summer Camp” on August 1, in Chicago, IL. It looks like it will be a great event, so check it out if you’re in the Chicago area.


  • I’ve been offered a book contract for my proposed book on street harassment! Submit your stories for inclusion.
  • Enter a photography contest for photographers who capture or depict street harassment, particularly in the DC area. Selected winners will have the chance to show/sell their work at a reception the evening before the Holla Back DC: Make DC Harassment Free Summit.
  • RightRides in NYC recently has expanded their services of a free ride home from Saturday nights to include Friday nights too! They offer this service from 11:59 p.m. – 3 a.m. in 45 neighborhoods across four boroughs. To call for a ride, the dispatch number is (718) 964-7781 OR (888)215-SAFE (7233).

Street Harassment Resource of the Week:

A video by a Penn State student showing the volume of harassment women experience on campus.

Street Harassment in Portland, Oregon

July 26, 2009

I am 17 and live in Portland, Oregon, a supposedly liberal city, but the street harrassment is constant. On a weekly basis I deal with the prolonged, creepy stares of men who are obviously twice my age. This isn’t a 5 second look over, this is a fifteen minute intense, no blinking, staring right at my chest for a 15 minute bus ride kind of staring. Every couple of weeks a man will do something suggestive along with the creepy stare. They act surprised when I don’t like it! The city train is also a terrible place to be. At one point a group of four teenage boys had an animated discussion about my breasts while standing about two feet away from me. I asked them to stop and they laughed and continued.

This sort of attention really bothers me, but it’s not the worst thing. Last summer I had just gotten my driver license. I was at a local city library, somewhere I had always felt quite safe. I checked out my books, walked through the parking lot, got in my car, locked the door and was just about to leave when this stranger walked up to my car and knocked on my window. So I roll down my window a couple of centimeters so I could hear what he was trying to say. He told me he had seen me in the library and wanted to go out. Again, he was probably twice my age. I was obviously much younger. I said no, rolled up my window, and drove away very shaken.

Street harassment is always annoying and frequently scary. I try not to let it limit where I go and what I do but it does. There are certain places I will not walk alone, I always sit as close to the bus driver as I can, and I avoid trains completely. I don’t think the clothes one wears matter much, but I avoid wearing tight shirts or tank tops if I’m going somewhere alone because I feel more visible and vulnerable. I wear shoes I know I can run in. I see guys on the street and think about where I can go if the comments get unbearable. It’s exhausting to be anywhere in public long because I have to be hyper-aware to avoid what potentially dangerous situations.

– I.

Location: Portland, Oregon

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.

Women Run Taxi Service in Beirut

July 25, 2009

Lebanon joins other countries like England, Russia, Australia, Iran, India, and the United Arab Emirates in having women-run taxi services. From the Wall Street Journal (there’s a video too if you click on the video tab):

“Nawal Fakhri, 45 years old, founder of Banet Taxi… launched Banet Taxi in March with just three cars and three drivers. Her fleet of late-model Peugeots has grown five-fold since then with enough drivers to provide 24-hour service. She is hoping to double her fleet this summer, to 24 cars.

The company is part of a regional trend. Entrepreneurs across the Middle East have recognized the business potential in offering secure transportation options for women. Banet Taxi follows on the heels of successful women-only transportation models in Dubai, Tehran and Cairo….

“One of my daughters is 15 years old and I send her in this taxi all the time, especially at night … and not have to worry.”

It is the promise of a safe and uneventful ride that attracts a wide range of female passengers: older women who want a quiet drive, young women out partying until late at night, and even preschoolers put in the cars by their teachers.

Passengers’ reasons for choosing Banet are based, in part, on their cultural and religious backgrounds. Beirut’s population breaks down roughly into thirds, Christian, Sunni and Shiite. Conservative Muslim women might take Banet Taxi to accommodate rules against traveling with unknown men. Others just want to put comfort and safety first.

“I studied Lebanese society well and my first customer is the Lebanese woman,” says Ms. Fakhri. “I am well aware that I could be making a lot more money with this if I also accepted male customers, but to me it is clear that in Lebanon, women need a service like this.”

Lebanon has no shortage of women who are skittish about taking regular taxis. Reporting of sexual harassment remains low in a country with much taboo surrounding abuse and victimhood.

Yasmine Hajjar, a 23-year-old student in Beirut, says most of her female friends have a story about being harassed in a taxi. In one extreme example, she says she narrowly escaped being abducted by a taxi driver when she was 15 years old — by pulling out her knife and holding it to the driver’s throat.

“I think the pink taxis are a good thing,” says Ms. Hajjar. “It’s the safest way to go.”

It’s interesting how many of these women run taxi services are cropping up around the globe. As I’ve said many times, ideally, I’d love to have cultures socialize men not to harass women and make there be stiff consequences if they do, but in the meantime, I love seeing women like Ms. Fakhri take matters into their own hands and create safer ways for women to travel. Kudos to her.

RightRides in New York City is a small nonprofit that provides rides home to women, transgender, and queer people for a few hours on Friday and Saturday nights in most neighborhoods across the NYC-metro area.  At least one of the two volunteers per car must be female. Unlike the for-profit programs in other countries, they offer their service free of charge. They always need more volunteers and money to keep running, so check them out.