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So I was about to walk into church and it’s located in a shady street. I was wearing a dress up to my knees, knee socks, a jacket and boots. I was minding my own business until some 50/60 year old man mutters; “you’re sexy darling” while walking past me. I felt so violated and I still do; even if that’s all he did I felt so powerless.
I was walking on the path with my friends yesterday we are ages between 17 and 18 and two much older men in a taxi rolled down the window and screamed at us about out ‘tits’ telling us to ‘get them out’ it was intimidating and it was degrading and it made me feel so worthless and i want to BE the change, i want to teach young girls that they should never sit back and let some man think it is ok to speak to speak to them like that.. street harassment happens so often that it is just brushed off with comments like ‘that’s life’ but WHY is ‘that life’ ? why cant we change it? why is it accepted? women are powerful, women are human. Tell your little sister, tell your cousins, tell your classmates, tell your peers, tell EVERYONE that they can stand tall and be the change. FIGHT for your rights.
It’s a short story. As I was walking along this street on my own, in my own thoughts, a hooded male adult cyclist, (probably late 20s), sped past me yelling “cunt sucking bitch”. This shocked me and startled me a little and I looked around, assuming he must have intended this to be heard by someone he’d had an argument with. There was no-one else nearby; he had definitely yelled it at me. We must stand together as a community to show that this type of obscene behaviour will not be tolerated. We should be able to walk peacefully without living in fear of harassment of any type.
I was waiting for a bus home outside of BusÁras. The station had closed at 11pm and our bus wasn’t until 12midnight, so my friend and I sat in the better lit square in front of the police station. We were coming back from a music festival, so I was wearing a dress. As we were sitting, a man tried to get our attention from the other side of the street. When I noticed,I gave him a stern glare. He crossed the street with two of his friends and standing less than a 2 feet from me, stretched out his arm towards my legs and commented on how he had noticed them from the other side of the street. He tried to introduce himself, though I repeatedly said I was “not interested” and tried to dissuade him from any conversation. He eventually left, but he made me so self-conscious that I put on the pair of pants I had in my backpack under my dress. All I could think is that if I ever have a daughter, I hope she will never have to experience street harassment.
This is not a typical anecdote of harassment in the workplace, just plain good ole racism and sexism. I worked as an attendant in a car park in Cork City (a location that does not yet have its own Hollaback! page), two years ago. I’m still livid about the attitude towards me that day.
Two middle-aged women who were customers of the car park approached my office and asked me if, and I quote, “any of the Polish lads are working today”. I said no, just one person per shift, can I help you? They explained that their car battery had gone dead because being women, “were too distracted by our chattering and left the headlights on”, and that they “really just need a man to have a look”. My stomach fell at the stereotype they had just created. For all they knew, I could have ran my own recovery service when I wasn’t minding the car park; but no, instead a nice strapping Polish man would do the trick.
All I could do is muster a look of sheer surprised disgust, and sarcastically apologise for not being Polish or male. I shut the glass window, leaving them with stupid expressions, mouths agape at my reaction. Who knows, they may still be helplessly wandering, waiting for an Eastern European knight in shining armour to rescue them from their motor dilemma.
In the checkout queue at a busy supermarket, my three children under 6yo with me (infant valiantly trying to climb out of the trolley seat at all opportunities) when I felt two hands right on my hipbones pulling me back and then the pressure of a thrust against my rear. ‘Excuse me, sorry.’ he said and made out like he was trying to get past me while rubbing against my bottom. I was rooted to the spot in shock. He let go and walked onwards to another check out till that was opening and I stood in a daze shocked angry and wondering what to do. Trying to figure out a way to confront him without causing distress to my children. I could see no way to do so.
In the madness of the busy supermarket with my three children holding my attention, he took advantage of my situation to assault me, likely knowing he’d be gone before I could figure out what to do. Creep 1, me 0.
On my way into town on the number 4 Dublin Bus today, every so often I could feel some pressure on my waist, but when I looked down there was nothing there, so I thought it was just my jacket moving with the bus.
When we were on Nassau St, I looked down and the man sitting behind me had his hand on my waist and was squeezing me! I turned around, stared him straight in the eyes and without thinking just screamed “What the f**k are you doing!” He said he was just resting his hand there, I wanted to make a fool of him so I shouted loudly so the whole bus could hear “you were squeezing my waist, what makes you think you can do that?” He kept saying he was sorry and looked surprised.
I was shocked at what had happened and at my reaction to it, and I didn’t know what to do next, so I got off the bus at the next stop. No one on the bus said anything to support me. I started doubting myself as soon as I stepped onto the path, but I’m sure that he was groping me, subtly enough so that he thought he could get away with it. I’m still so angry.
In celebration of International Anti-Street Harassment Week (March 30 – April 5) Hollaback! Dublin are screening the première of the thought-provoking Out on the Streets a short Irish documentary about street harassment and its affects. We caught up with the director Niamh Gaskin to discuss her film and her thoughts on the issue…
What inspired you to make a documentary about street harassment?
What interests me as a topic, is the culture around sexual harassment in our society today. Over and over again, in our nightclubs, in our workplaces, in our schools, on our screens, women’s (and many minorities’) right to say ‘no’ and to be comfortable seems to be demeaned. Women are sometimes objectified to the point that it’s easy for a harasser to forget they have feelings. I could have made three feature length documentaries on sexual harassment and still have things to say on the topic, I felt I narrowed it down and focused on street harassment in particular, as an issue many women face on a daily basis, yet we seem to be conditioned to just accept it.
Have you personally experienced street harassment?
Yeah, it’s happened me a good few times, and mostly I’ve always been surprised at how much it affects me. Usually, it frustrates me, it makes me feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s made me feel afraid, and then the worst part is, I feel stupid for having these varied emotions, like I’m not entitled to be affected by something people deem as ‘harmless fun’. And then some other times, especially when I’m not alone, I can just brush them off. It’s never a particularly fun addition to your day.
From making the documentary, did you come to any conclusion about the perpetrators of harassment?
For the most part, I believe that the perpetrators of street harassment just don’t think about the feelings of the victim. They’re just ignorant to the effect they’re having while trying to make themselves look or feel more powerful through this act. It’s not that they’re evil people, it’s not like the people who dismiss street harassment are cruel, they just need to be reminded that the victims they are harassing are people too, and not just objects. I think if they were taught to empathise with the victim at all, that street harassment wouldn’t be such an issue.
Did you find that participants were open to speaking to you about their experiences?
Yes, most of the people in the documentary were ones who felt very strongly about street harassment. It was difficult to find people who were quite indifferent on the topic to talk to us about their views or experiences. I mean, there are many people who feel that street harassment is not a big issue, but none were willing to go on camera and talk about this.
Do you think that this is an issue that people are dismissive of?
Yeah, I do in a way. I did have several people really question why I was making this documentary, and I appreciate people have different priorities, but some people seemed determined not to accept this as a problem. Other times, after talking with people, they were surprised to think about how little they’d dwelt on the idea of street harassment before or how much it had actually affected them.
Check out Niamh’s “Out on the Streets” as well as 3 other short films about street harassment at Hollaback! Dublin’s free screening in Wall & Keogh, Portobello on April 2 at 6pm.