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Global Street Harassment Covered by NPR

“How are girls and women treated by men in different countries? What must women do to protect themselves?”

These are some of the questions posed by Malaka Gharib to women in seven countries including Afghanistan, The Bahamas, and South Africa.

She wrote about the ways women in different countries experience street harassment and how they respond to it. Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment connected her with a diverse group of women for interviews. Our Director, Alicia Wallace, participated in the conversation.

Gharib begins with her own story:

“Ya amar, ya amar.”

When I was a teenager, I used to love hearing those words — which mean something like “hey, gorgeous” in Arabic — hissed and whispered at me by men on the street in Cairo, where I spent my summers. I never got that kind of attention in suburban Southern California, where I grew up. But at the Genena Mall in Medinat Nasr on the outskirts of the city, dressed in low-slung jeans and a short-sleeve shirt, I felt like the most beautiful girl in the world.

Check out the full article here.

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Stories

Brooke’s Story: “I just want to talk to your friend”

After dinner one night around 9PM, my friend and I were about to walk back to our apartment from dinner with a close friend of ours. Our close friend was going to walk back to his apartment in the opposite direction and asked if we wanted him to walk back with us. We’ve walked back to our apartment around this time on many occasions and we didn’t see the problem in walking back alone this time around. We told him that he didn’t have to and began to walk back to our apartment. As we were walking down the dark street, we noticed that a man was walking closely behind us. We thought that he was trying to walk in front of us, however, he kept walking closer and closer behind us rather than around us. The man now began to walk extremely close to my friend and I and attempted to make conversation with us. He said things such as ‘How y’all doing?’ and then proceeded to tell my friend ‘I just want to talk to your friend’ after realizing that we weren’t going to respond to him.

After seeing that these attempts had failed, he then said ‘I just wanna leave something with y’all.’ In between these comments, my friend and I began to speed up our walking and told him ‘We don’t wanna talk to you, sorry’ in hopes that he would leave us alone. In a slight panic, I called our close friend who was walking back to his apartment and just muttered the word ‘help’ and whispered to him that a man was following us. After we nearly sprinted and turned the corner, he finally stopped following us. About five minutes later, our friend sprinted out of the dark street where the guy had been following us. He was out of breath, but by then, the man had already left. After this encounter, our close friend walked us back to our apartment, and we never walked alone that late at night again.

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Stories

Kay’s Story: “This b#!%$ acting like she can’t hear us!”

So this is a usual thing for me. I walk to school at least 3 days out of the 5 day week wearing headphones of course to avoid the harassers.
I would say on a consistent basis, I’m harassed almost every time I walk to school, and even with headphones in, men still find it their obligation to smooch, honk horns or pull over on the side for me to jump in their car. (As if I would be so naive!) But this one particular morning these set of construction workers thought it was appropriate to grab me when I didn’t respond to their catcalls.
THEM: “This b#!%$ acting like she can’t hear us!”
ME: *continues to walk with my headphones blatantly ignoring them*
THEM: “Alright then carry ya a$$!”
ME: *walks around the curve STILL blatantly ignoring them*
Then suddenly, one of them grabs me and pulls me in. I’m shocked because I never had anything like this happen to me before. I quickly pulled back and flipped them off and kept it moving.
I was just amazed at the audacity of some people.

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Stories

Jay’s Story: “I intervened by pretending to know the woman…”

As I walked to a local fast food restaurant, I witnessed a college student being verbally harassed by a man (I presume she didn’t know him). I watched their interactions for a bit, but then the man got too inappropriate, so I intervened. His inappropriate actions? He attempted to grope the student in the parking lot because she was trying to ignore him. I intervened by pretending to know the woman and calmly asking: “Hey, aren’t you in my communications class? Did you write the instructions for the first assignment?” She caught on and continued the conversation by replying, “I did! Where are you going? We can discuss the assignment there.” I’m proud to say I successfully intervened and ended street harassment for at least one Bahamian.

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Stories

Bianca’s Story: “You’se a dyke aye? Come let me fix you.”

I’m tomboyish and a closeted lesbian. I do the dress, nail polish thing. The other day I was walking downtown (I was wearing jeans, converse and a graphic t-shirt). Some guys catcalled me and I ignored. They did it again: “Aye, miss, you ain’t hear my boy aye? Cheapus you come dis way.”

I began to get a bit uncomfortable, so I put my headphones on — blasting the music to the loudest it could go. This must have bothered them because one of the guys pulled my headphones out of my ears and said: “You’se a dyke aye? Come let me fix you.”

I was scared at this point, so I walked off (really fast) and stayed close to where the police officers were. Yes, I’m gay. Yes, I’m a woman. But, that doesn’t give YOU OR ANYONE permission to verbally harass me for your own pleasure or ego (in believing you can make me like men).

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Stories

Kay’s Story: “Every time she tried to walk past them, they would… try to touch…”

Usually I don’t ever find myself in Wendy’s on a regular school day because I’m never about the wait and poor customer service. But of course you know, my friend wanted to drag me into Wendy’s today of all days because we had had enough of the cafe’s food & pasta from Brandon’s Deli.

I’m waiting on the line to reach the cashier to pay for my meal as I had already placed my order from the – we’ll call her, ‘speedier’ service waitress. Lo & behold, a college student was being groped …wait for it… by junior high boys! Yeah, I know. WTH?! was what I was thinking too.

She was literally just trying to get back to her table where her friends were sitting waiting on her (so it appeared) and every time she tried to walk past them, they would take their hand and try to touch her backside or poke out their male parts until it touched her backside.
ME: “Why are you so gross?!”
THEM: *Look up at me and laugh*

Eventually she gave in and just walked passed them allowing for them to grope at her as she hissed her teeth.

The biggest shock was not that it happened but that it happened by a group of 13-16-year-old boys. It makes me question what are they seeing behind closed doors? What are their fathers doing that they see as “OK” and why aren’t their mothers intervening? It starts from demonstration and turns into display. And it’s NOT OK!
I’m just happy there are programs like Hollaback! Bahamas that exist to raise awareness to this issue we’ve accepted for far too long. #EndSH

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News

We #SupportThePuff

Last week, students were told by a Bahamian high school principal that their hair was not appropriate for school. The young women were wearing their hair in what is now known as a puff – an afro with a headband around it. Further investigation revealed that the principal takes issue with natural hair, and believes girls put a band around their hair without bothering to comb it, and she called it ungroomed, unkempt, and unprofessional. News of this, shared by one student’s mother, set off a social media firestorm. Women of all ages, hair textures, hair lengths, professions, and backgrounds posted pictures of themselves with natural hair in support of the girls, using the hashtags #SupportThePuff and #FreeThePuff. This act of solidarity has caught the attention of international media, and the critical eye of Bahamians who do not understand how this is an issue of national concern, deserving of this kind of attention.

Our Director wrote an article in her column – Generational – on The Bahamas Weekly to address these issues.

Mothers are fighting for their daughters. They are intervening and advocating for their daughters’ rights to exist as black people, unashamed of roots, from historical to follicle.

Young women are holding fast to their identities, rights, and truths as citizens, students, and members of the African diaspora. They are unapologetic about the texture, length, height, and natural state of their hair, even in the face of subjective policies and discriminatory interpretations of them. #FreeThePuff is one of the fastest movements to be built, spreading across the nation in a matter of hours, across gender, generational, class, and religious lines, uniting black Bahamians who recognize the power of natural hair and the threat to its existence that necessitates this dialogue and this movement.

Read the full article here.

Hollaback! Bahamas is in full support of the #FreeThePuff movement. We #SupportThePuff, and we denounce the harassment these girls face at school. They deserve to access education, unencumbered by the insecurities carried by school administrators, and free of the binds of systemic racism. They can wear their natural hair, in all its coily, upward and outward growing glory, regardless of the personal style or opinions of others.

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Stories

Therez’s Story: “I don’t wanna touch you I want you to suck my…”

I got on a bus after a log day at work. The bus was full so I had to sit in one of the middle pull out seats. As I get on I see the guy in the front of me staring me down like I owed him some money in the past.

I am instantly annoyed and ignored him and pull out my phone. 3 seconds later the guy sitting in the back of me touches my back and was saying something to me. I turned to my side and said “don’t touch me… I don’t know you don’t touch me you are making me feel very uncomfortable”. He goes on about how you don’t know anyone in the world when you come out of your mothers womb blah blah blah. I
Ignored.

Then a lady says bus stop and I got up and he gets up behind me and whispers “I don’t wanna touch you I want you to suck my dick”.

So the lady who got off was sitting by a window and they guy who she was sitting next to motioned for me to sit by the window and he was sit in the isle. All I remember feeling was upset and embarrassed and that if I did anything I would be punished for my actions. So I chose not to act to prevent punitive damages against my life. Messed up isn’t it?

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