i’d had a sucky weekend.  the reasons why, the story about what happened, that doesn’t matter.  just know that i’d spent my entire weekend indoors, stewing, just wanting to be somewhere else.  finally, it was Sunday and i spent the day anxious to jump out of the house, if not out of my very skin, and just go somewhere.  that morning i laid out an outfit.  that afternoon, i put it on and left my house with no destination, no concern for one.  i was keen to just walk.  through the streets of my neighborhood, to the center of the city i was born and raised in.  to think, to be alone, to see something other than the yellow walls of my living room or the pink (ugh) walls of my bedroom.

what i was wearing doesn’t matter, but know that i was covered from collarbone to toe.  there was nothing at all provocative about me, guaranteed by the 60 degree weather of the day.

the plan was to just walk until my legs gave out, or until my best friend, who is male, was ready to meet up, whatever happened first.  i had My Chemical Romance blasting in my ears and all i wanted to do was listen to them do the screaming that i couldn’t do (because it’d look a little odd, just walking down the street and screaming, you know).  the walk from my house to the city’s center is about three miles.  i looked forward to each one.

i’d made it about three blocks before the first car honk.  those are easy to tune out.  a couple of blocks later and the first car pulled over.

“hey, hello, how you doin’?”

i couldn’t hear him, of course, because of my music.   now, when this happens, my default response is a smile and a polite decline when he asks for my number, or a dinner date, or whatever.  and then politely decline again.  and again if necessary.  this particular Sunday, it took a lot of energy–a lot of energy–to do that, but i did it.  i did it the first time.

hey.  i’m fine, and you?  my name is tracy.  no, thank you.  alright, you have a good day.

i did it the second time.

hey im fine i’m tracy no thank you have a good day.

and even the third.


and you know what?  i even managed to grin through it the fourth time, when a car that i’d ignored as it passed me on the street circled the block just to cut me off and stop as i was stepping off the curb of the sidewalk, slowing my stride, breaking my zone and effectively taking another piece of my day away from me.

“hey, ms. lady.  what’s your name?”

i never stopped walking, but i did engage long enough to get to the “no thank you.”  again, i always try to stay on the civil side of things when dealing with these situations.  as a common courtesy, i guess, i don’t know.  maybe it’s my semi-southern upbringing that moves me to be instinctively polite to strangers, even the ones who are on my last good nerve before they even open their mouths.

i lost it two cars later, though.  as i walked past a car wash about 5 blocks down, i noticed a black SUV turn off the main street and into the parking lot to cut me off at the pass (again).  seeing him, i sped up, intent to pass before he had the chance to reach me, and i did so successfully.  but even over Gerard Way screaming bloody murder in my ears, i hear the driver yell at me:

“come here.”

i snapped my head around violently and asked him what the fuck he just said to me.  he said it louder, with more authority, as if i’d genuinely just misheard him.


now let me pause here to say that i am 28 years old.  if the “man” behind that steering wheel was older than 19, i’d be authentically surprised.  where the hell does anybody get off talking to a stranger off the street that way, let alone a teenager to an older woman??  had i not been so mad, it would have made me sad, but i was too pissed to care about the patriarchal state of society that made this little boy think that was acceptable.

“what the fuck?!” i snapped, “that’s not how you fucking talk to people!  that’s not how you ask for shit from people!”  i went on shrieking as i turned up my headphones and stalked down the street a little faster.  behind me i heard him saying something, then heard the boy in the passenger seat laughing, but i don’t know what was said.  he probably called me a bitch or a whore or yelled that i wasn’t all that cute anyway.

from then on, i resorted to tactic #2: the ice grill.  the scowling, rabid mask with sharp hints of “i with a motherfucker would” poised at the corners of the mouth.  i’m very familiar with this.  i’ve perfected it.  but i abandoned its use when i discovered that it doesn’t work because men who see you walking down the street and decide that they are going to have a conversation with you don’t care about whether or not you want to have a conversation with them, if you look uninterested, if you’re on the phone or listening to music, if you look like you’d rip their heads off and chuck them into oncoming traffic.  they have something to say, and gotdamnit, it’s a free country, so listen up. maybe they’re the ones who can brighten your mood.  you probably just need some dick anyway.  that’s probably why you’re mad in the first place.

“you too cute to look so mad!  can i see that smile?”

that’s it.  you’re cute.  if you were ugly, they wouldn’t have bothered.  so it’s kind of a compliment, right?

anyway.  the mean mug didn’t work.  i was cut off by more cars before i ducked into the parking lot of a White Castle to wait for my friend.  on the phone with him, i tried to explain my frustration, why i was annoyed, why i just wanted everybody to just leave me alone and let me walk down the damn street.  i hung up feeling like i hadn’t done a good job, and when he pulled up and i hopped in his car, he said, “well that’s what it is–you’re too beautiful.  you look really really good today.  that’s all it is, babe.”

sigh.  here’s where it becomes difficult.  how do you express displeasure/discontent/annoyance at being complimented without looking like a snooty, ungrateful bitch?  answer:  you can’t, until you can effectively explain to someone that these are not compliments. they are intrusive, unwanted, often forceful and disrespectful advances that i do not have to like or entertain.  you know what a compliment is?  “hello, ma’am, you look very nice today.”  that’s a compliment.  driving around the block to cut me off and force me to talk to you, not going away after i ask you to or attempt to annoy you?  harassment.

this is what men have trouble understanding, i think.  on their end, it’s just a man acting on a natural urge when he sees an attractive woman.  it’s well intended.   but on our end, it’s a caution not to look too cute when you plan on walking around in the world outside.  don’t wear that new sundress you bought, even though you really love it and it’s warm outside, because you never can tell what the site of your bare shoulders will do to a man.  it’s a warning to take the long way to your favorite florist to buy your favorite flowers because you know a corner full of men waits for you in the middle of the short route.  it’s a prompting to just say fuck it sometimes and stay at home because you may not have the strength to put up with it today.

and that’s unfair.  all of that is unfair.  men often think that it’s not a problem because they’d love to get that much attention from women.  or at least they think they would.  but they wouldn’t.  they wouldn’t appreciate being constantly stopped and approached by women that they’re uninterested in any more than they’d like a call from a new telemarketer on their cell phones every 5 minutes.

in my friend’s defense, though, he was trying to cheer me up, and i believe that he got my point as i was explaining that what a woman looks like, what she’s wearing, is never, ever, ever an excuse or reason for everything, nor does it mean that she should be grateful for attention she never asked for in the first place.  still, it made me all the more tired.

so what’s the answer?  what can i, as a woman, do to keep this from happening?  the answer is nothing. the needed change cannot come from me or any other woman–this is a charge that falls in the laps of men.  do you think it’s okay to approach women on the street?  fucking stop it.  it’s not.  if you pass somebody and you like her and want to date her and marry her and have kids with her, have some faith that fate will hook all that up for yall later, and if it doesn’t, get over it.  are you a man who recognizes the problematic state/affairs of street hollering?  then when you see some other knucklehead following a woman down the street or honking his horn at her like he’s at a damn drive through, say something.  teach these dudes.  the change has to come from y’all.

the street hollering scene is absolutely horrible in Louisville.  if any of you self-respecting men would like to do some teaching, this is a good place to start.  i was stopped by at least 8 cars in about an hour’s time.   i can give you car descriptions–i can guarantee you they don’t remember me, but i remember them.  we always do.

do you have any stories of street harassment to share?  im very interested to hear them, from men and women.  especially men.

also, if you have a moment, check out Stop Street Harassment and The Street Harassment Project for more information, stories, and activism.

19 responses to “hollahollaholla.

  1. So well written. There really is nothing WE can do, except let our friends and family know that it’s really rude and hurtful. Also, when it does happen to me, the first words out of my mouth are “that is so rude.” I hate to have to engage a conversation with fools, but sometimes it’s neccessary.

  2. thank you so much for this post. i’ve been trying to come up with a post of my own ever since hearing about the street harassment project, but i end up getting so livid while recalling instances, that i usually default to typing random letters before i give up and go meditate. i live in new york, and take public transportation everywhere. meaning, it’s really bad. i resort to the ice grill/mean mug whenever i’m out alone, which is most of the time. you’re right, it doesn’t stop it, but it’s just about the only defense i have. that and my ipod. anyway, thank you again for conveying exactly how i feel every day. it’s just straight up exhausting.

  3. 😦
    and this is why i wrote “Fancy Nancy”

    • @ Von Pea,
      I checked it out (YouTube is the Devil, lol).
      Very nice work.
      “Just imagine that was your family”
      “She just walked out the house to look cute”

      I like the respect. Thumbs up.

      (PS: Also liked the available sample of Gotta Have It. Keep the work up)

  4. Great article! Unfortunately the fools that need to see it, don’t read.

    I generally say “thanks for the compliment” and keep stepping . The persistent ones get the “brother, I appreciate you but please respect my space.” The well placed “brother” term, usually shames them into moving on.

    Sad, really.

  5. You’re nicer than I am. I ignore them and walk faster. But it’s irritating. And it seems like young men approach you more. I swear every old man tries to hit on me. I’m only 19, and I look younger so I consider any man that approaches me who looks over 30 is a pedophile. I may not be a child, but I’m still a teenager.

    I’ll share this article, thank you.

  6. Ms. Brokey,
    I hardly feel qualified to comment much, better to listen and learn (mean that).
    That has to be one of the best descriptions of the internal build-up of the frustration/rage that finally gets released, in self-preservation mode.
    So … my heartfelt … sad heart …I-don’t-know what… feelings to you for having to endure it all.

    It is so sad to see the lack of acceptable male-female interaction grow to this point. It adds another barrier to already strained human interaction difficulties we face.

    In response to it, I have had to adopt an almost total “No Approach” policy unless she makes specific eye contact and the facial expressions, circumstances and evident attitude fully indicate she’d be up to a respectful approach. I know that greatly limits the possibilities, especially as more and more women feel forced to do what you just so succinctly described, the ‘self-protection’ of the public “Ice Girl”; or the head down “DON’T talk to me!” tactic; even the “I’ll take your friggin’ head off!” attitude. (May I openly acknowledge A/A women face this with greater force?). The few times I’ve violated that policy, it goes Way Bad, no matter how polite, understated and mild I might try to be. Projecting respect no longer cuts the barrier.
    Ms. Brokey (and all female readers)? Is this the right response from the male side? You have to tell me. What I think as “appropriate” doesn’t mean squat really – it’s what You think that matters, because it is about your respect and personal dignity, not my over-testosterone view.

  7. Oh. Almost forgot in the mist of all the seriuosnessis.
    Next time run the Ramones on the iPot
    “Brokey is a Punk Rocker …!”

    Yeah girl …!

  8. Yes, it’s really bad in Louisville. I fear having to walk mainly because of that very thing.

    When I used to walk out , I had men drive by and then quickly back their cars up, or if they didn’t have the time to back up (due to another car being behind them), they would speed their car up really fast to park on the side of the street that you have to pass through, or if they couldn’t pull on the side of the street, they would speed up to ride right back around the block to catch up with you. I’ve also had men park and walk out their cars to talk to me.

    Sometimes this was all happening at night.

    It was really scary. I didn’t know what they were going to do. Were they just going to talk, or were they going to assault me?

    So then I resorted to my iPod, but after I went natural, it no longer worked as much. They would still talk. (And yes, half the time it was disgusting because some of the ones trying to holler weren’t “men,” they were just boys; minors under the age of 21, like you mentioned.)

    It’s not cool at all; it’s not how you approach a woman. A real man would do it the right way, without having to make a woman feel vulnerable.

    I guess a way to get it to stop would to be by sticking a bloody pad against my forehead, but then again, I’m a clean freak.

  9. You are so funny, even when you are feeling so miserable and harassed you still come out with absolutely perfect posts 🙂

  10. sigh, it is bad everywhere. It doesn’t matter what I have on, facial expression, or even if a kid is with me. I like attention as much as the next human being, but I don’t want to feel threatened to get it. Instead of a nice hello wave or head nod I have to be eye-fucked, and that is just too much. I too am frustrated and plain tired of feeling subjected every time I step foot outside of my home.

  11. Louisville men are the worst at that. Some old guy told me I looked like his daughter. Then he asked me for my number. I called him a perv and got in my car. Ugh.

  12. It’s terrible that you can’t just take a walk and be left the hell alone! For the youngens, the “nigga please” look works fairly well for me, but for the grandaddies, I’m at a loss. But the fact that you have to leave the house with a plan to combat harrassment is ridiculous. Thanks for the post!

  13. Yes, men will never face this limited freedom. It’s sad, it’s hard for them to understand that this is a benefit of patriarchy. Did you hear about the street harassment hearing they had in NY last week? Maybe appeal to your city council to consider this as well.

  14. Pingback: see you December 1st! |

  15. Lies! We only do it couse we love you, girls.

  16. Dang. Sorry to hear that you were harassed by some jerks.

    Conversely, there is nothing more annoying than giving a woman a polite and truthful compliment, only to have her go “You don’t really mean that.” or the old chestnut: “I’m not pretty”.

  17. love the article well written, even when men are trained properly they sometimes mimic the ones who are not. Men are to blame of course, and i dont think women can do anything about it. However training can only do so much it takes something from within to change a man and begin to respect women.

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