“Treating me as their property”

When I was walking home from work, I saw these men hanging out on the street from afar, and I knew, JUST KNEW that they were going to try to “holla” at me. They made it obvious that they were going to catcall because they stopped their inane conversation to stare at me. Yuck. I was already planning what I was going to do to handle them. Do I cross the street or keep on walking? I opted to keep on walking because crossing the street would’ve been an inconvenience to me.

They had started talking again, but now I was close enough for them to make verbal contact with. They once again stop talking to check me out. Ew. And I knew it, they opened their raggedy mouths:

“Heyyyyyyyyy, gurrrrrrrrrrrrrrl!” they said, as if we were longtime friends. I didn’t know these fools, nor did I want to. And I know they were looking at my ass as I passed them…nasty!

Do I respond or ignore them? At first I chose to ignore them. Instead of their dumb behinds catching the hint, they continued to speak to me, but louder.

“How ya doin’, cutie?” they said. I still ignore them.

Now when the one on the right in the photo said, “Boo, did your man hurt you?”, enough with ignoring them. I had to turn around and say something. “One, I AM NOT HIS “BOO”, and two, the assumption that my ignoring them and trying to go about my day meant I was angry and had “man trouble” pissed me off.

“I do not know you,” I said. “You are strangers to me. Don’t talk to black women you don’t know as if you know them. I am not your ‘boo’!”

“You say ‘Hello, Miss’ or ‘Hello, Ma’am,” I continued.

“We said ‘Hello’,” the guy on the right in the photo said.

“But you called me ‘Boo’, and I don’t like being called that, or ‘Shorty’, or ‘Cutie’, or ‘Slim’…learn to respect women!”

I pulled out my phone and snapped a photo of them. I continued chastising them, emphasizing that they were strangers to me and they needed to leave women they didn’t know alone. The reason I emphasized not knowing them is because of the passers-by. People rarely (if ever) help me when I’m dealing with harassers, but I wanted to make the nonexistent relationship between myself and these men regardless.

“Go ahead, take my picture!” the one on the right in the photo said. “There’s a PO-leeeeeeeeeece station down the street. Take dat picture to the PO-leeeeeeeeeeeeeeece!”

I got the photo, put my phone back in my bag, and don’t remember my closing words to them as I continued walking towards home, but I remember the guy on the right went from wanting me to pay him attention to dismissing me with a curt “BYE! BYEEEEEEEEEEEEE!”

I’ve had so much experience with harassers that I should’ve known that was coming too. Just a few seconds prior these pitiful excuses for men were trying hard to get my attention, and when I gave them the type of attention they didn’t want they dismissed me. They continued yelling stuff to my back but I was tired of dealing with them and wanted to get home.

It pisses me off that they singled me out on the street and assumed they could talk to me in any way because we’re the same race. I’m sure they said not a thing to the couples that walked ahead of me, or the girls jogging ahead of me, or the woman who was dressed for a fancy night out who was ahead of me, nor did they say anything to the older couple behind me or the two boys who were headed in their direction. Nope, they had to single me out being the only black woman passing by them, treating me as their property.

I’ve lived in this neighborhood for a year, and I tend to see the same faces more or less and have a feel of who lives here. I have seen the guy leaning on the car before bumming for change. I remember him pretty much ignoring people who walked by him, but he banged on the window of a woman in her car who was about to drive off. She locked the doors and drove off—good for her! I noticed he surely didn’t bug a big, burly guy I saw walking past him that day. I have never seen the other guy until today. Regardless of where they’re from, they need to get lives that don’t involve hanging out on the street corner not doing shit with themselves. They need to leave women alone.

(And no, the irony is not lost on me that these guys were standing near a neighborhood watch sign when I took the photo.)

– Tired of Being Harassed

Location
: Wilson Blvd. & N. Troy Street, Arlington, 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.

8 Responses to “Treating me as their property”

  1. k says:

    you rock!! thank you for sharing that ! i wish u much success in life you are brilliant

  2. Tired of Being Harassed says:

    Thank you! That’s very sweet of you to say.

  3. Clarice says:

    It’s an awful thing we have 2 put up with this crap (excuse my language) sorry this happened 2 u but good on u 4 standing up 2 them!

  4. Tbg says:

    Good for you to stand up to them! I especially appreciate the fact that you took their pictures!

  5. B. says:

    I think the way you handled this was brilliant, and I love that you took their picture. I did, however, also feel scared for you while reading this. I get harassed hourly in this town (DC), and I’ve found that the few times when I talk back, it generates more aggression, and instead of getting a “bye bye” response, I get even filthier comments, followed by threats. You approached obviously worked very well with these pigs. Good for you! I do hope, however, that you carry something like pepper spray with you: In the event that one of them had gotten aggressive with you, you would have needed an immediate defense mechanism.

    I have thought a lot about the way that race plays into sexual harassment in DC. I would find it infuriating if strange men felt like they were somehow more entitled to me if we were of the same race.

    As a white female in DC, I have found that about 75% of the time when black man is the one harassing me, my being white factors into their comments, especially if I talk back. For example, the comments are usually something about “that ass on a white girl,” etc. When I snap back, I usually get a very angry response, and the words “white bitch” are usually thrown in there.

    I wonder how women from other racial/ethnic groups have experienced harassment differently as a result of their background. It would be an interesting topic for discussion.

    Again, please consider carrying some pepper spray, and please be on guard the next time you have to pass by there, in the event that these pigs have any thoughts about “getting back at you” for demoralizing them.

    Good work, woman.

  6. Tired of Being Harassed says:

    Thanks for your concern. I don’t take the same path home every day (part of it is needing variety, and part of it is because of instances like this), and I don’t think those bums live in the neighborhood, so the chance of me running into them again is rare.

    And yes, I’ve gotten ignorant commentary from same-race harassers I’ve dismissed. I haven’t always been as lucky in the past. It’s usually in the line of “Fuck you bitch, you think you’re better than me,” where they’re throwing class into it. Another is “You ain’t black! You think you’re white.” These men refuse to believe that women who don’t know them don’t want anything to do with them. It has nothing to do with being “racist” or “stuck up.”

  7. B. says:

    Interesting.

    Just so you know, there’s a store on 14th & U St. NW called Mila (or Mila’s?) that sells pepper spray behind the counter. I think it’s only about $10. You can also order it online through amazon. Pepper spray is 100% legal in DC. I think every woman that walks in this city should have one, and have it in her hand, not her purse, every time she steps outside.

    Then again, in certain situations it won’t help– I was sexually assaulted 2 weeks ago, and the man had my arms pinned so tightly to my sides that there was no way to spray him or move my arms/hands at all.

    Still, I think it’s important.

    Good luck out there!

  8. nic says:

    You know, some black guys harass me because I am a white woman… and that feels terrible

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