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Hollaback Cards?

September 23, 2009

I was reading this great post at racialicious today. It is especially meaningful for me because I keep getting harassed in the scariest way possible on my two block walk from my bus to my house.

Men keep following me in their cars. This has happened a few times now, not a lot of times considering how often I come home. But having a guy turn off a street, or go around the block just so he can follow you down the street talking at you is INCREDIBLY SCARY for me. (I feel like I posted about this last year when a guy memorably told me that I had a “Seriously Big Ass” but I can’t find it.)

Anyway, this keeps happening, it scares the crap out of me. It also upsets me because the men who harass me are invariably black, and I don’t like how this is making me distrust black men (in cars) and having to struggle more with racial stereotypes.

I often wish there was a way that I could communicate to them WHY what they are doing is inappropriate, and how it affects me as a person. And reading this post at racialicious I thought, well, what about business cards, or post it cards that try to get this point across.

There are probably a lot of reasons it is a bad idea to be handing out cards to street harassers. It probably wouldn’t help, they probably wouldn’t read it, but it amuses me to think about it.

Maybe on one side it could say:

“About the woman you just harassed:

Likes: The color purple, dogs, cats,.
Dislikes: Being bothered on the street, especially by guys in cars. Brussell Sprouts, Dieting, being called “Sweetie” or “Darling”
Career: Statistician
Hobbies: Singing, Knitting, Video Games
Relationship Status: Cohabitating with a very large man, seriously, he’s large, so is my dog.”

On the other side:


You have received this card because you decided to approach me in an unwanted manner while I tried to go about my day. I want you to know that I was not rude because I don’t like you.  I was rude because I have to deal with similar behavior from men every single day, and have decided not to expend additonal energy on men who harass me.

I deal with this so often I’ve had cards printed up. Think about it.

What do you think? what would yours say?

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  1. I like the idea. I also hate being harrassed and don’t know how to deal with it. It doesnt happen often enough for me to plan for it, but it does happen enough for me to dread it.

    I would stick with just the “not interested” side. The “about me” side is too open and personable–I don’t think that whoever reads it is gonna be astute enough to pick up on the snark. Just an invite for them to continue harrassing you. Stick with the straight-forward “you are harrassing me. I don’t like it. Go away” bluntness.

  2. True true, I think I was thinking along the lines of the racialicious post where she tried to point out that she is a person, and should be treated like one, by talking about her family etc.

  3. I’ve had the dudes-in-cars phenomena a lot, too. The worst was something like 2 a.m. on Clark St. in Andersonville, in the rain, drunk with a twisted ankle, total stranger followed me for six or seven blocks (which I was walking to try to avoid dealing with him while waiting for the bus) demanding I let him give me a ride home. He persisted, despite my asking him to leave me alone in ways both polite and less so, until I literally got out my cell phone and showed him that I was dialing 911.

    Apparently when I’m that drunk, I lose the ability to call a cab? I’m such a dumbass.

    Anyway, I love this idea. I particularly like the I deal with this so often I’ve had cards printed up. Think about it. part. That’s great.

  4. Yikes Tari that would have freaked me out. This is the first time it’s really happened to me, and it’s all in a less than 2 block walk from bus to home. I’m not even outside for 5 minutes. I think I may make my large scary looking boyfriend start meeting me at the bus with our large scary looking dog.

  5. MaryP permalink

    Shinobi42, I like the big, scarey boyfriend and dog idea better than the cards. Wow, I was thinking that I haven’t had anything like that happen to me as an adult. Then I realized that I haven’t *walked* anywhere as an adult (well, in my neighborhood, but busses don’t run in my neighborhood – there’s just houses, no businesses)

    You are really brave. I don’t know if I would continue to walk by myself if that sort of thing happened.

    Best of luck and I hope you never ever have this happen to you again!!

  6. Starling permalink

    I hate the idea that you have to have a big scary dog and a big scary man to protect you from harassment in a public space. Just hate it. Which doesn’t change the reality, right?

    On the reverse side, instead of “About Me”, why not something along the lines of: You know, the reason I’m giving you this card today is that this sort of thing scares the crap out of me. I’m sure you didn’t intend to scare me today, but that’s what you did. Enough that these days, I consider having my boyfriend and my big dog meet me at the bus stop because I don’t know if I’m safe walking home. Most women find advances from strangers threatening, not flattering. Please stop.

    It’s sincere, still personal, and it’s the sort of thing that would embarrass the hell out of me were I a guy in a car. Of course, I’m assuming that most of these guys look at this sort of thing as a kind of harmless amusement rather than a form of intimidation. And it doesn’t give any ammo to the sort of man who might take it wrong and show up with purple stuffed animals for you.

    Alternatively, I like using the “little dick” sign on men who yell sexual comments at me. Turn, make eye contact, hold up your hand with your thumb and index finger about an inch apart and make an unimpressed face. It’s very effective (although don’t try this when in a potentially unsafe spot, natch) and it seems to get a meta message across, too, which is that sexually explicit commentary is demeaning and completely not okay. I’ve actually gotten the backpedaling “Hey, just kidding, don’t be mad” responses from harassers. I think it works because the message is not just “Leave me alone”, it’s “You are soooo not impressing me, dickwad.”

    Besides, they say that in mixed gender flirting interactions, men are ultimately afraid of being embarrassed, and women are ultimately afraid of being harmed. Might as well grab that embarrassment club and use it.

  7. I like the “about me” side, it humanizes you to someone who is trying everything they can to de-humanize you.

    And I disagree that catcalling isn’t a deliberate intimidation tactic, it’s harassing women for having the gall to be out in public un-escorted. It’s not about whether or not they find you attractive, it’s about using their social power and often their physical presence to scare the hell out of you.

    They get to back peddle into “just kidding” and “stuck up bitch” with full societal support, and they know it. That’s why Hollaback NYC is so great, these dickweeds get their faces and behavior posted to a place where the default assumption is that they shouldn’t be catcalling.

  8. Okay, I was going to respond here, but I didn’t want to hijack your thread. But, I’ve been an ogler. Sometimes its hard not to.

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