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Pam Lourenco shares her experience of Street Harassment and public transport in South Africa. Her experience highlights the same humiliation women have to go through on a daily basis from a young age. Haven’t we all at one point thought “If I ignore them it won’t hurt me”, “I shouldn’t wear that dress”, “Maybe if I wasn’t walking alone…”. We MUST reclaim our spaces and the right to go where we please, without fear of harassment. ~ Melissa
One morning a few years ago, was one that I will never forget. I lived far away from work and had to rely on public transport to get me around. Living in the South of Johannesburg and trekking to the north meant that I had to commute through Johannesburg Town. Street harassment wasn’t new to me. I have been harassed many a times. Called names like “Baby”, “Sweetness”, “Sexy”, “Munch” amongst other more derogatory names. I learn (from a young age) to ignore this and walk on albeit walk a little faster.
“Called names like “Baby”, “Sweetness”, “Sexy”, “Munch” amongst other more derogatory names.”
This morning was a sunny summer morning. I wore a red dress. It was a dress that came down to my ankles but was sleeveless and elegant. I got onto the bus in Town as usual and we made our way to Woodmead, where I worked. I always had to walk around 800 metres to get to my office. It is quite a short walk in many respects. It was one of the longest and scariest walk of my life that day.
As I got off the bus at the designated stop, I was immediately whistled at by a man. He was a big bullish man. He obviously spotted me as I stepped onto the curb. As I usually do, I ignored him and walked on. He walked up next to me and started asking me what my name was. I ignored him and kept walking. I was starting to get a little annoyed.
I sped up, I was halfway to my office Park, he kept up with me, asking me where I lived, If I had a boyfriend, if I liked him. I was now beyond annoyed and getting really scared I quickened my pace and said nothing. He then grabbed my arm and said “Sweetie, why don’t you talk to me?” I yanked my arm away and now started half running/ half walking to get away. He followed.
All the while he kept telling me how rude I was for not talking to him and asking me what was wrong. Out of pure frustration I screamed at him to get away. Then the verbal abuse started “Fuck off you Bitch” was what he replied and kept calling me a “Bitch” until I got my office Park, I ran inside (I had an access card) so thank God he couldn’t get to me. The incredulous thing was I was surrounded by other men and women who also walked to the office park or places nearby and they did nothing.
I never wore that dress again.
Image source: fazstreetart.tumblr.com
Have you ever been told to smile while simply walking down the street minding your own business? Almost every day I hear:
“Why don’t you smile?”
“Why do you look so angry, smile you’re so beautiful”
Grrr… I hate it when strangers (always men, I’ve never had a women say that to me) tell me to smile while I’m going about my business as if my sole purpose is to entertain them. Why do I need to smile? Why do they feel the need to talk to me when my body language alone is screaming: “leave me alone please”?
I recently came across the work of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh who posted anti street harassment posters around Brooklyn in the United States. I’d love to see some of these popping up on Long Street and around the Cape Town CBD.
Image source: fazstreetart.tumblr.com
Read more about her posters here: http://nyunews.com/2013/03/10/poster/
I had dropped my car for wheel alignment, and decided to walk through to the next mall to do some shopping whilst waiting for it. Upon passing a local fast food outlet, two guys proceeded to whistle and call to try and get my attention for the next minute or so. This was very embarrassing. They were dressed in uniform, doing this from inside their work premises WHILST on duty. I was the only person there at the time. The experience was demeaning and made me feel cheap and disrespected.
I continued on my way and did my shopping, but eventually returned to the outlet to complain about the incident. I received a shocked look from their (male) manager as if he didn’t understand WHY I had a problem with it. He sent the 2 employees to apologise to me and they obliged him albeit insincerely so. I was still dissatisfied and have now raised the matter with their Head Office.
“Profiling the harasser is useful because it provides the Target and the Bystander a means for determining what type of harassing person they are dealing with. This knowledge helps take some of the fear out of the encounter. It also enables a vocabulary for conceptualizing and discussion.” ~ Street Harassment Disruption
Public Voyeur – staring, leering, takes a picture, etc.
The Creep – His very presence gives women “the creeps”. He usually knows it and uses it.
Car Driving Baboon – Honks, hoots, and hollers at you as he drives by. A “hit and run” tactic.
Charmer Wannabe – Comes on too strong, does not listen to “No”, thinks he is “God’s gift to women, might follow you, engages in bantering and “compliments”. Attempts to control the encounter.
Working Stiff – Harasses you while on the job. Looking for entertainment. Usually in a group.
Peacocking Showoff – Playing to the crowd. Looking to be the entertainment. Wants attention.
Dirty Old Man – You know him when you see him. Many times goes after the young and innocent.
Drunken Asshole – Has alcohol fueled courage, no inhibitions, exhibits poor judgement, etc. Sometimes starts out as the Charmer Wannabe.
Crude Oaf – Makes especially vulgar and disgusting comments directly to or about you.
The Pervert – Engages in flashing and public masturbation like activities, etc.
Touchy Feeler – Gets close to women and tries to rub against or touch them inappropriately whenever possible. Utilizes public transportation to his advantage. Can be sneaky or obvious.
Overgrown Bully – Uses threatening, derogatory, angry language, impulsive behavior, etc.
Anti-Social Intimidator – Uses violence as a tool at the slightest provocation. He is dangerous.
Predatory Stalker – Follows the Target seeking opportunity for further victimization.
Opportunistic Predator – Harassment is a means to test/interview for potential victimization. He sometimes uses the techniques of the Charmer Wannabe. He is dangerous and needs to be deterred with the use of strong physical assertiveness and a *Not Me!!! attitude.
* Not Me: http://www.not-me.org/- The 5 Ds of Self Defence
Here’s and excellent YouTube video to share with your friends who are struggling to understand what street harassment is, and how it affects people. You an even spot Hollaback founder Emily May in one of the interviews, go Emily!
Kamau, from a show called Totally Biased, interviews women and men in New York about how they feel about street harassment, notice the difference in opinion between the young men and women. Some men think it’s ok and that women love it, the women obviously have a lot more to say about it. We love the humour that’s used to convey the message.
What are your reactions to catcalling, hissing and inappropriate comments made by strangers on the street? Do you Hollaback? Tweet us @HollabackSA
We picked up a quote from Kubi Rama, Gender Links COO, currently in Limpopo province of South Africa working with a group of women, men and five families that have been affected by accusations of witchcraft – via Gender Links on Facebook.
You can also send your replies via Twitter to @HollabackSA
P.S: We’re still looking for volunteers, so if you’d like to join the movement in your city please get in touch by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In February 2012, Collective Action for Safe Spaces began an official campaign for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to implement policy to address sexual harassment and assault on the DC metro. By April 2012, WMATA responded by introducing its first-ever public awareness campaign to combat sexual harassment of customers while using the system. ~ Source: http://www.collectiveactiondc.org/programs/wmata-anti-sexual-harassment-campaign/