Ongoing Street Harassment Diary, Volume 1

A little over a year ago, I started jotting down the details every time I got harassed when I stepped out of my apartment. I wanted something that I (and maybe other women?) can point to when we have to explain how frequently we have to deal with this crap. Keeping a record also helped me when the incident happened too fast, or I just didn’t have the energy to say something in response, because it felt like I was still holding these men accountable somewhere.

TL/DR version: If you don’t want to read the whole thing, skip down to the end- that’s my favorite. Watch in amazement as I inconvenience the man who interrupted my day.

A couple things:

-I tried to record every time I was harassed or otherwise hollered at, but I know that there are times that I missed.

-You’ll notice that a lot of these incidents happen in Crown Heights. That’s not because this behavior is more likely to occur there, that’s just where I live and therefore often find myself Outside While Female.

5/8/16, 4pm, café in the East Village

I am washing my hands in the restroom when someone rattles the door. When I finish and open the door, a white-haired older man is standing outside. He says, “Oh! I’m sorry, I didn’t realize someone was in there. Actually, you know someone told me, “go in, there’s a beautiful lady in there.”

I frown and tell him, “That makes me uncomfortable.”

“I’m only kidding.”

“Okay, but it still makes me uncomfortable.” I walk away before he can continue to tell me that he was only kidding.

5/9/16, 1pm, Prospect Park

I am running on the main loop when I pass a man who is walking the opposite direction. He says something to me and although I have headphones on, I distinctly hear the word “kiss” several times. I almost continue running, but instead take my headphones out, turn to him and say, “What?” He says, “You alright?” I look at him in confusion and he repeats, “Are you alright?” Well, I am breathing hard and sweating…because I’m running…on the running path… I just say, “…yeah,” and hear him make a disapproving, “Pssshhh” noise as I run on.

5/9/16, 6pm, Crown Heights 

I don’t have the energy to describe every single street harassment interaction today, so let me just sum it up- I took the roommate’s dog on a 30 minute walk in the neighborhood and was harassed six times. I was either called Baby, Sweetheart, or Princess, told just what they would like ME to walk, or heard their opinion of my ass.

5/11/16, 1:30pm, Crown Heights

There are 10 (short) blocks between the subway and my apartment building. Within the five minutes that it takes me to walk that distance, first one man driving a car made kissing noises out the passenger side window as he turned the corner. Then a man standing in the doorway of his shop addressed me, “Hey, Beautiful.”

“That’s not my name.” I continue walking.

“What is your name?…you’re not gonna tell me your name?”

“Nope, I’m just trying to walk home.”

7/29/16 10:00am, BedStuy

I am running late to work and trying to hustle the 20 minutes up to the G train. I slow down for just a moment to look at an old church that’s fallen into disrepair.

“You need directions?” a man’s voice says.

I look over at a shirtless man carrying a trash bag over one shoulder, the shirt slung over the other, “Oh, no, I just love this building. Thanks though.”

“No problem. My name is Don.” I introduce myself, and as soon as I’ve gotten my name out, he launches into his life story. When he finally takes a breath, I tell him that I’m really sorry, and it was nice meeting him, but I’m late for work and have to go. He seems not to have heard me because he tells me I’m beautiful, and picks up where he left off. This happens two more times before I say again, “Hey I’m sorry, I’m late for work,” and move past him before he can continue.

8/3/16, 7:30pm, Home Depot 

In Home Depot I turn a corner and almost bump into a man, so I say, “Oh, excuse me!”

“No need to excuse yourself, damn you are beautiful.”

“Oh, it actually makes me uncomfortable when men I don’t know talk about how I look.”

He gives a little embarrassed shrug and says, “I’m sorry.”

I really appreciate his response, so I smile and say, “It’s cool, have a good one.”

He starts to leave, but quickly turns back and says, “But you are beautiful. And don’t be uncomfortable.”

8/7/16, 3pm, near Barclay’s Center

It is a sunny afternoon and I am walking down the sidewalk, lost in thought.   A man walking towards me gestures to his face, and tells me to smile. I’m taken aback, but manage to say, “It’s my face, I’ll decide what to do with it.”

In response, he gestures to his face, pulling his hands up in an arc shape and exaggeratedly mouths the word, “smile” again.

“Please stop telling me to smile.”

“Okay, fine,” he says, sounding annoyed, and walks away.

8/19/16, 10pm, Park Slope

I am walking down the sidewalk. I make eye contact so brief it doesn’t even register with me with a man walking the opposite way. In a sleazy tone he says, “Yeah, I saw you lookin’.”

9/13/16, 6:45pm, a subway station in Downtown Brooklyn  

I get off the train and start munching on an apple from my bag. A man standing at the top of the steps that lead out of the subway station says (what is, admittedly, one of the strangest bids for attention I’ve ever heard), “Can I have a bite?”

9/13/16 11pm, Crown Heights

I am walking #roommatedog in our neighborhood. We pass a larger, middle-aged man who says, “Hi sweetheart.”

“Um, hi.”

“Is that a rescue dog?”

“I think so, but she’s my roommate’s dog, so I’m not really sure.”

“Well, I just wanted to ask you because my ex-girl got hers in New Jersey…my name is Darryl, what’s your name, Sweetheart?”

“Lauren…” During this conversation, the dog has either spotted a potential snack on the sidewalk or is just excited because there are lots of people walking around us, but either way, she has been straining to keep moving almost this entire time and I’m struggling to stay in one place. “I have to go now, the dog is pulling on the leash.”

“Ohhhhhhhh the DOG is PULLIN, OKAY sweetheart.”

I respond while being dragged away by #roommate, “Um, she is, and please stop calling me sweetheart”

As I turn away, I hear him protest to no one in particular, “The DOG is PULLIN…”

10/18/16, 8:30pm, Crown Heights subway station 

I’m coming home from ballet and didn’t want to bother changing, so I’m still wearing dance clothes. As I pass a man and his friends sitting in the train station, he says, “Oooohhhh look at that butt! Mmm! Look at that!”

10/19/16, 5:30pm, Vinegar Hill 

I’m biking home from work wearing short bike shorts because it’s unseasonably hot. A production is something filming on the street, so one of the crew members directs me onto the sidewalk. Slowly navigating my bike around popup tents and gear crates, I pass a group of guys sitting on either side of sidewalk. One of the says, “Damn girl, you got nice legs! I like them legs!” By the time I decide to muster up the energy to respond to them, I’m already down the street, so I just continue my ride home.

8pm, Crown Heights

I’m on a run and just a few blocks from home, stopped to wait at a crosswalk. My running app automatically pauses my music when I stop moving, so I get to hear a man on the passenger side of his best friend’s ride lean out the open window and shout, “Nice legs! You got nice legs.”

10/31/16, 8pm, Crown Heights

I am walking back home from getting groceries and see a man standing on the sidewalk talking to his friend and drinking out of a tall boy. Just after I’ve passed them, he says, “Damn, that’s sexy.” I turn to look at him and he starts walking towards me, “Did you hear me? That’s sexy.”

“Yes, I did, and I don’t like it, that makes me uncomfortable,” I say, taking two steps back.

“What? It shouldn’t make you uncomfortable.” He starts advancing on me again, so I turn and walk away as quickly as possible.

11/28/16, 8pm, Crown Heights

I am walking the few blocks to my neighborhood grocery store. A man makes a big, wet kissing sound as he walks by me. This makes me turn so he says, “You like that?”

“No, that’s actually really gross and weird.”

“Oh it is, huh?”

“…yes, it is.” I don’t catch his response as I walk away.

11/29/16, 9pm, Crown Heights

This one wasn’t directed at me, but to a woman next to me on the sidewalk. I leave the train station and on my way home overhear a man tell his 4 year old boy, “See that lady? Go tell her she’s pretty.” While the man and his friend laugh, the boy walks over to the woman who is waiting for the light to change. He tugs at her sleeve because she’s listening to headphones. When she pulls off her headphones, the little boy delivers his message. She looks slightly confused, but says, “okay,” and turns away.

Gotta start ‘em young.

12/1/16, 5:30pm, Carroll Gardens

Walking down the sidewalk, a man walks by in the opposite direction and mutters, “Sexy ass,” under his breath as he passes me. I turn and say, “Excuse me?” pitching my voice upward so my tone sounds less aggressive.

“What do you mean?”

“Excuse me, did you say something to me?”

Defensively he replies, “No, why would I say something to you?”

“I’m not sure, that’s why I’m asking.”

(Yelling now) “I didn’t say anything to you, why would I say something?!”

My voice is louder and angry now, “I don’t know. That’s why I asked. I guess you didn’t, so have a good night.” He continues yelling as I walk away.

12/2/16, 2pm, Crown Heights

I’m walking home from the train after ballet, and I see a man approach a woman standing at the street corner. I can tell by her body language that she’s intimidated, so I walk up and act like a friend meeting her, “Hey! How’s it goin’, do you want to walk this way?” and point across the street where the signal has just changed. She says yes, relieved, and as we walk the guy continues to follow us, spouting things about how the races need to stick together (she’s Asian, he’s black, I’m white). After two blocks he stops following us, but I walk her the next block to her house while she tells me how confused and intimidated that made her feel.

12/4/16, 6pm, Crown Heights

I’m walking to the train and unintentionally make eye contact for a moment with two men ahead of me on the sidewalk. When I walk by them, one says, “Hey, Cutie.” It takes me a half second to process that he’s talking to me, but when I realize this I turn around, which encourages him to continue, “How you doin’?”

“Well, I was fine but it makes me uncomfortable when men on the street call me cutie.”

“I’m sorry it made you uncomfortable, but you are. I’m just being honest. It was a compliment.”

“I thought a compliment was supposed to make me feel good, but I just told you that I don’t like it. I hope it made you feel better though.” I walk away because I’ve already spent too much energy on this conversation.

3/8/17 (International Women’s Day), 8:30am, Crown Heights

I’m walking to the train to get to work when I’m greeted by a man on the sidewalk, “Good morning, Gorgeous.”

“Just good morning is fine. Don’t call me gorgeous, it’s weird.”

3/16/17, 8:45pm, Downtown Brooklyn

I’m heading to the train to get home after ballet, when I’m approached by a man on the sidewalk, “Scuse me miss, do you have any change?”

“No, I’m really sorry I don’t have any cash on me.”

“That’s okay, how about a kiss?”

“Definitely not.”

3/23/17, 8:30am, Crown Heights

Today I’m wearing tights with a dress that isn’t much visible under my coat, and I’m walking to catch the train to get to work. While I’m waiting at the corner to cross the street, a man calls out to me, “Damn you got some pretty-ass legs.”

“Oh, that makes me really uncomfortable.” I walk away as he stutters and tries to apologize that he “wasn’t trying to piss me off.”

8:55am, DUMBO

I get off the train and and am walking the three blocks to work, when a group of three men walking on the opposite sidewalk holler, “Good morning!”

I’m trying to get to work on time so I ignore them, and they yell it louder. Any benefit of the doubt I was willing to give that they were just being friendly is gone with their clear bid for attention. This is the second incident before I’ve even had coffee today, which makes me annoyed enough to cross the street and say, “Hi, I’m guessing you’re saying ‘good morning’ to me because you can see my legs in these tights, right?” They protest no, “…but those are some nice legs.”

I tell them that, “I’m not actually interested in your opinion about my body,” and hurry to work.

3/24/17, 1:00pm DUMBO

I’m walking back from the grocery store when I see an older man bark at a young woman, “Smile!” She makes a pained smile/grimace and keeps walking.

4/12/17, 8:30pm, BedStuy

I’ve worked late and am finally riding my bike home from work. While stopped at a stop light, waiting for the light to change, a young man on the sidewalk a few feet from me calls out, “Miss, Miss…”

Thinking maybe something is falling out of my bag, or maybe he needs directions, I look over, “Yes?”

“You’re beautiful.”

I smile and say brightly, “Oh, I’m actually not interested in your opinion, thank you!” and face forward until the light changes.

4/13/17, 8:45pm, Downtown Brooklyn

I’m walking to catch the train home from ballet, through an enclosed temporary pedestrian walkway that’s been set up around a construction site. I pass a young man who doesn’t look at me but mutters at the ground, “Get home safe, Sweetheart.” It was a tough ballet class, and I only have the energy to give him a dirty look and keep moving.

4/15, 9pm, Crown Heights

I called my dad while walking to the drug store, and now I’m leaning with one foot up against the building as we finish up our conversation. I have my headphones in and am clearly in the middle of saying something to my dad when an older man walks by and says “Have a good night, Sweetheart!”

4/16, 3pm, Wall Street

While my phone is being fixed at the Apple store, I walk down to Battery Park because it’s a beautiful day. I happen to be wearing shorts, because it’s a beautiful day. Near the perimeter of the park, a man wearing a “Statue of Liberty Express” employee vest looks down at my legs, then his eyes move slowly up until he meets my face and says, “Have a nice day, Gorgeous.”

4/20/17, 6pm, Vinegar Hill

While walking from work to the dance studio in Brooklyn, I spot something that makes me laugh and take a picture on my phone. As I put the phone back in my pocket, a man walks by and tells me, “That picture would have been better with you in it.”

4/22/17, 4pm, Crown Heights

While crossing the street (with headphones in) a man walking the opposite way that I didn’t make eye contact with says “Hey, Gorgeous,” as he goes by.

4/27/17, 9:15pm, Crown Heights

A man walking the other way on the sidewalk tells me, “You’re gorgeous,” as he passes.

“Oh, that actually makes me uncomfortable,” I respond, and continue walking.

9:20pm, Crown Heights

Five minutes later on this same walk home, another man says, “Damn, you sexy. Some women got it goin’ on, and some women don’t, and you got it goin’ ON. Get home safe now.”

I am literally at my door, “Yep, made it, thanks.”

He repeats, “You got it goin’ ON.”

“You know, that actually makes me really uncomfortable.”

“I’m real sorry, I apologize, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Yeah, I understand, it just makes me really uncomfortable when people I don’t know make comments about my body.”

“I didn’t say anything about your body. I didn’t say aaaanything about your body,” he explains to me (motioning up and down on my body), “It’s just that, you know, some women go to the gym, and run, and they just don’t got it, and you got it.”

“Okay, but the thing is-”

“Tell me what the thing is.”

“-the thing is that between the train and here, I’ll have several people make a comment on my appearance, and like I’m just trying to get home and go about my business.” I explain this to him without anger, because he seems like he might be able to hear what I have to say and understand.

“Alright, alright, I got you.” We do a handshake thing and he starts to leave, but after a couple steps he turns around to say, “But you do got it goin’ on.”

“You know, I told you several times that that made me uncomfortable, and you’re continuing to repeat it.”

“Oh my GOD,” he says in exasperation, “OKAY, CAN I LEAVE?!?”

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