“He just saw that I was a woman, and that’s all he needed”

One spring day I decided that I would dress up a little for class at my community college because it was so beautiful out, so I wore a pair of white shorts that came to just above my knee and a blue top. I went the whole day of classes around our small campus without any incident. I’d had a good day and put on my favorite song and rolled the windows down for the drive home. But as I slowed my car to turn out of the street my school is on, an older man with gray hair was walking in the opposite direction. He looked into my open window and whistled at me. I sped up to get further down the street, and immediately turned down my music and rolled the windows up, feeling embarrassed. My good day was pretty much ruined. I mean, the man probably couldn’t even see what I was wearing, because I don’t think I slowed down enough for him to really get a good look at me. He just saw that I was a woman, and that’s all he needed. I guess I called atte ntion to myself because music was playing in my car. But how easy would it have been for him to just mind his own business and keep walking without whistling at me?

I got home and told someone about the incident, and she just dismissed me and said, “If it was a young, cute guy you probably wouldn’t be complaining.” I was really angry that she would even say that, but this is from the person who says “Oh, lighten up, it’s a compliment.” But it’s not. It’s humiliating, and it makes me feel unsafe. Like I don’t belong there, in public, like the men who do this are saying, “This is my space and you’re only here because I’m letting you be here.” I hate that people try to tell me I should be grateful for the attention. How many different ways can you let someone know you don’t want it? I never wore that outfit to school again, and I still feel nervous and awkward wearing shorts or a skirt on campus. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been harassed at school; another time I got honked at by two guys in the parking lot as I was walking to class in an old hoodie and jeans! They stopped their car to stare at me and I ju st kept walking like I didn’t see them. It’s ridiculous. And it’s obviously not about attraction or whatever people try to tell me. It’s harmful, and I wish men would stop doing it.

I have never holla’d back. But reading all of these stories here on this blog and on the hollaback websites makes me feel like the next time it happens, I can.

-NH

Location: Hamilton, OH

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.

4 Responses to “He just saw that I was a woman, and that’s all he needed”

  1. sangetencre says:

    “If it was a young, cute guy you probably wouldn’t be complaining.”

    I absolutely hate this retort.

    No. If a young, cute guy whistles at me on the street. Cat calls me. Or does any other harassing thing I *won’t* like it.

    Further this is very reminiscent of other things I’ve heard people say. For instance, I’ve had men I’m not attracted to hit on me and I’ve told them to please leave me alone. And, of course, in return, I’ve had people say “If that was a cute guy, you would have liked it.”

    Women are, obviously, supposed to just put up with it when we get harassed. And we’re supposed to put up with it if someone we’re not attracted to keeps flirting with us. We don’t get to decide our boundaries. And we sure as hell don’t get to decide who we’re attracted to. Heaven forfend.

    What tripe.

  2. Tbg says:

    Don’t let a stray incident make you change the way you dress or live. They are the sick people who need to change their habits, not you. All things said and done, I’m sorry you had to go through this, and I hope and pray no one has to go through street harassment in life. But sadly, some things are easier said than done.

  3. Lifeisabattle says:

    Listening to unpleasant comments, leering, vulgar passes on street have become every woman’s part of life and sometimes really we are not able to do anything about it. We ignore and made a habit to ignore these things but it leaves us with bitter taste. Don’t understand what pleasure men get by whistling, passing comments and touching women. If these people are sick then sorry to say that most of them men are mentally sick then.

  4. Jeff says:

    I agree with Tbg. You did nothing wrong. A true man would not make you uncomfortable.

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