Please note. . .

Don't Be Silent DC has been inactive since March 2008 and has not been accepting entries since. If you are in the DC area and have a harassment story to share, please go to HollaBack DC. If you are outside the DC area and want to submit your story, go to Stop Street Harassment. Thank you.

As of 3/1/08, I will no longer be working on this blog. Please read this post for more details.

Friday, February 29, 2008

WORKSHOP: Get Ready for Spring: Dealing with Street Harassment

Lauren Taylor at Defend Yourself DC is hosting this event in March. Here are the details:

WORKSHOP: Get Ready for Spring: Dealing with Street Harassment

With flowers and showers, unfortunately, comes a huge increase in street harassment. Get ready for Spring by expanding your skills for dealing with the “hey babys” that may come your way.

Can you “ignore” street harassment? Of course you can. And you already know how to do that. This class will give you other options, making ignoring it only one in a range of skills to choose from, especially when ignoring it doesn’t seem safe.

The class will cover the self defense techniques — prevention and awareness, verbal self defense, and physical strikes — that you might need in dealing with street harassment. Most of these skills can also be transferred to other irritating or dangerous situations in the rest of life.

Who: For women and teen girls ages 16 and up

When: Saturday, March 29, 1-4 pm

Where: Potter’s House, Adams Morgan

Cost: $39 before March 15; $45 after March 16. Register with a friend or family member and get $5 off. Limited scholarships available for low-income people.

How: Contact or 301-608-3708 for details.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Fresh Princess of Bel-Air vs. Delusional Fan

From the files of 'when overzealous fans harass celebrities':

Tatyana Ali, who played Ashley on "Fresh Prince," gets accosted by a creepy fan who doesn't get the hint that she's not into him like that. He touches her, wraps his arm around her, calls her "schweetheart," "ma," and by her character's name. He says he wants to be her "bodyguard." Yuck. This guy is creepy and inappropriate, and from the video you can see Tatyana's very uncomfortable. Her friends (a few girls and a hipster-looking guy) are barely effective in keeping this guy at bay. I hope Tatyana got a bodyguard after this incident. I can't believe guys think it's okay to touch a woman they don't know (and fool, just because you saw her on TV doesn't mean you know her).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

I will no longer accept responses to "Rowdy Kids. . ."

Any further responses to this incident will be deleted. It's one thing to give constructive criticism---it's another to attack someone for the sake of attacking. As aggravated as I am by the incident I've put it on the back burner. All of you should do so as well.

Monday, February 25, 2008

WJLA Looking For Volunteers For A Story About Street Harassment

WJLA is doing an upcoming story on the harassment women face in the District and its metro areas. If you deal with street harassment on a frequent basis and are interested in participating in this story, then e-mail B. Griffith at

Friday, February 22, 2008

A Tough Decision

These past few weeks on here have been tough. The reactions to "Rowdy Teens Attack on Morning Commute" have been mixed---mostly on the side of "What is wrong with you?" It got to the point when I wasn't even reading the responses anymore, I was blindly pressing "publish." Anywhere where it was linked it got polarizing reactions. (Someone can have a post linked on DC Blogs about a nice walk in the park but get no reactions, but anytime DBS is linked everyone has something to say.)

I spoke with family and friends, not just about this incident, but for DBS as a whole. It was a tough decision, but come March I'm no longer going to work on DBS. A lot of changes are going on in my real life, and that's more important for me to focus on more than anything. I wondered why the original HollaBack DC became defunct, and now I realize why. Taking on this kind of responsibility is far from easy.

A lot of people thought that just because I did this blog I was an "expert" on handling street harassment. Not once on here did I ever consider myself an expert on anything. Many times I said I didn't know the answer and was willing to learn. Many times my reactions to things in the real world have been missteps. If you want real experts on handling street harassment, talk to Lauren Taylor or Martha Langelan. They're the ones coming up with effective ways on handling DC's street harassment problem.

I realize that quitting will have polarizing effects as well: the supporters will be shocked and beg me not to quit, and the naysayers will either think "Good riddance!" or be mad that they'll have one less person to heckle. Eventually, this will pass and everyone will move on. As I told my loved ones, "I am not Atlas and am tired of feeling like I have the burden of the world on my shoulders." I am burned out from trying to tackle all these problems, frustrated from dealing with Internet hecklers (the loudest ones online are the quietest in the real world I always say) and I feel that some of the concerned were right: I am too focused on this, and I need to worry more about my life outside of it.

Just because this blog will come to an end, it doesn't mean you won't have a place to voice your views on street harassment. As long as you have a voice in the world, you can use it (via writing, your own blog, etc.) to put it out there on your own. You don't need to be silent.

I'm going to step back into the background. Like someone told me, there are quieter and less dangerous ways of trying to change the world, and that's what I want to do.

It's been an interesting year running this blog. To those who submitted stories---stay strong and be safe. And to those who have supported me through thick and thin---you have my gratitude.

Signing off.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


There have been too many negative stories on here lately, and I want to focus on the positive.

Something happened with the men on the streets in DC today. Sure, I still got "hey, baby" and "hey, sexy" and men getting too close, but the majority of the men out today said "Good morning" or "Hello, miss" and "Have a nice day." I was impressed! Kudos!

And there were some things said to me that were silly beyond belief. While I was in Petworth today, a man near Flip It Bakery said, "Girl, you are the most positive thing that happened to me today!" I did respond with "The only person I am a positive thing to happen to is myself," but I had to chuckle because it was so cheesy!

And back in my neck of the woods, someone yelled from their car across the street: "GIRL, YOU BE ROCKIN' DEM LOCKS!" which caused me to giggle. The guy said "Whatever!" and drove off. Something about today just had a more positive air to it.

There were a few negative encounters though. I saw a mob of girls at Brookland Station that looked like trouble. One of them looked like the girl who tried to get into it with me the other day, so I maintained my distance. I want to move on and learn from past mistakes. They were screaming, cursing, and "droppin' it like it's hot." When I see young girls shaking and popping their butts like that, I shake my head in disbelief. When did girls stop being girls and become so damn fast-acting?

At the platform, two more bad-acting girls looked me up and down and made snide comments about me. "I'mma tell her she wear ugly boots," one gestured towards me. You know what? Let them think my boots are ugly---I don't care. The truly ugly thing is that those girls wanted to be randomly hateful towards a stranger. (And shoot, I get compliments on those boots all the time! Please!) But I didn't respond. Nothing to get into a fight over.

What did worry me is something that was about to get ugly on the train. Between Rhode Island Avenue and New York Avenue stations, two men got into a fight out of nowhere. One was a conservatively-dressed Black man, the other a Rastafarian style one.

Conservative: "I know you better stop looking at me like that."
Rastafarian: "What are you talking about?"
Conservative: "Look at me again like that and I'll beat yo' ass!"
Rastafarian: "I ain't scared of yo' bitch-ass!"

There was "bitch-ass" this and "n***a" that and it was bad. I was contemplating how I could step in---but without putting myself on the line like I did before. Once again to my surprise, fast-acting commuters stepped in.

An older gentleman said, "Brothers, please. There are children [he gestures to teens sitting nearby on the train] here. It's a nice day out and the world is a too crazy place. Please respect all that want to ride and take it outside."

It wouldn't stop. I was getting off at New York Avenue and was going to go to an intercom before I exited. But a woman beat me to it:

"There are two men fighting on this train and you need to do something about it," she said in it.

I don't know the outcome, but I hope Metro Police stepped in. And with all the drama going on this past week, it was good to see flips: People who do care about doing the right thing, and the teens being the most quiet and well-behaved (the ones on the train during the altercation). Kudos to the good citizens of DC.

Friday, February 15, 2008

"Is there really nothing that could have helped?"

Lynn sent this message:

This is a great idea for a blog. I was looking for a place to vent and get support from people who went through similar problems, but it doesn't seem like there's a lot of other places to go. Please let me know about other places to look, if you know of any.

I got the sense when I filed a police report that they don't worry about small things like attempted robbery or attempted assault. I'd be fine with that as long as there was someplace else to deal with these issues, like a neighborhood watch or local community organization. I think you're just asking for more trouble if you don't crack down on the small stuff.

Last Tuesday (Super Tuesday) I was walking alone back to my car parked by 2nd and I (EYE) St, NW DC around 6:50pm, when 3 teenage black girls asked me for money and attacked me. It didn't seem unusual at first to be harassed by a group of young black girls, which this blog made me realize is kind of sad. They weren't violent at first, they seemed like they were just average 12 or 13 year olds who don't get enough attention and were trying to have some fun. If anyone knows how to deal with teenagers, please let me know. Even if you are seriously trying to help them, they want to take advantage of you without any regrets. I tried to just be respectful, and hope that they would realize it wasn't that fun to harass someone. They decided to punch me as hard and as often as they could in my head. They aren't strong, so I wasn't hurt much at all, but they were very persistent and I had to be saved by a car passing by and stopping.

No one was hurt and nothing was stolen, but I really think the girls would do this again to someone else.

Would beating them up have taught them a lesson or would they just carry a weapon the next time?

If I had gone ahead and maced the girls without even talking to them, does that make me look like the criminal? Usually I think I should at least try to talk to a person to figure out what's wrong.

The girls could have been much worse, they could have pushed me into moving traffic, or stolen my car. They sounded like they didn't want me to get hurt. But I definitely think giving them any money would have just led to more problems-not that I had that much money anyway.

Is there really nothing that could have helped?

Thanks for your story, Lynn. I hope these girls were caught and I hope one day they learn a lesson. To answer your question, I don't know the answer to handling the surge of troubled youth in DC. I don't.

And to take a quote from your message:

"It didn't seem unusual at first to be harassed by a group of young black girls, which this blog made me realize is kind of sad."

It is. I'm a Black woman, and when posting my write-up on dealing with rowdy kids, I cringed when I posted their race in my description. I hate that people equate being Black with being violent, compassionless and directionless. I see this behavior too frequently in Black youth. It's probably the reason why I take the bad behavior so personally. Contrary to what the naysayers ("Ignore it!" "It's not your problem!") say, it's not easy to disregard when people the same color as me are doing this. In a world where the negative stereotypes rise above the positives, I want what's best for the people of my race. And you're damn right that I will get angry and frustrated. Do these kids not realize what they're doing? Acting like a bunch of mindless buffoons because lord forbid anyone accuses them of "acting white."

I don't have the answer as to how to handle teenagers. DC is not an episode of Maury where D. West comes out on stage on a rampage screaming in the faces of bad teens. No one can rally all the bad teens of DC to spend a night in the roughest prisons or in a morgue. We can't corral them all off to boot camp, then expect them to come home the next day saying "I'm sorry, Ma! I'll be good!" Change is a constant, it doesn't happen overnight.

If anyone has the panacea to handling these kids, let me know. Because I just don't know what to do.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Assault on the Red Line---Three Years Ago

In one of the DCist articles I was reading about crime and violent teens on Metro, I came across a link to this blog post. It may be three years old, but what is described in this story hit a nerve with me. A young woman trying to commute on the Red Line was assaulted by a rowdy group of teenage girls near Van Ness Station and had her iPod stolen. Try as she did to contact transit police and keep tabs on these girls to make sure they didn't get away, tney did indeed get away. [Note: From what I gathered from other posts on that blog, one of them was eventually caught (link). There is justice in this world after all.]

But what makes me irate is that nothing much has been done to curb crime on Metro since '05. You'd think they'd up their security on Metrobus and Rail, but nothing doing. Granted, I heard from someone on my community list serv that they're installing plexiglass a safety shield to protect the drivers. When Metro decides to do something to make it safer for its riders as well, then let me know. We pay too much money to worry for our safety while getting around.

Another Voice of Support

Just when my hopes were getting down about the way things are in DC (the street harassment and violence) Emily sent this message:

I just wanted to say hey, and thanks for writing this blog. You give me hope and make me feel like when I am confronted with things, I can stand up and say something about it.

There was a teenager who got stabbed on the Green Blue Line a couple of days ago (I think had a link to it) and nobody did ANYTHING. [Editor's note: Thank you M for producing the link to this.] He was pleading with someone to call 911 and nobody did. A lot of that IS the bystander syndrome, and I think one way to combat it is to talk to specific people. I do this when I'm getting on the Metro and people won't move in to the middle of the car. Instead of yelling "please move in", say to one person "Hey, you, with the green jacket. Please move in. Thanks!"

Anyway. Thank you. Thank you for talking about this bullshit, and thank you for continuing to talk and for not getting too discouraged.

Thank you for this heartfelt message. My actions may not have made those kids realize the error of their ways, nor did it make others witnessing it realize that things need to be done, but kind words of encouragement are louder than the negativity. Thank you.

"Not your problem."

I am still aggravated about yesterday's run-in with the bad kids. I don't know what upsets me more---kids having no respect for anything or anyone, not even themselves, or the apathy I deal with as a result of trying (and failing) to discipline these kids.

I spoke to my mother about this last night, and I just need to understand that we'll never see eye-to-eye on these things.

"You've gotta be careful because it's too dangerous out there," she said. "You shouldn't have done anything. You should've just ignored them."
"These kids get away with too much," I said. "That's because all people do is ignore them and give them the idea that this horrendous behavior is okay."
"You're a single female, by yourself, none of these people know you, you're putting yourself in bad situations by trying to 'handle it.' One person can't do it alone."
"I tried to rally people to help," I said.
"None of those people care about helping people," she said. "People are either afraid or they just don't care. They probably didn't do anything because they thought you were all fooling around. Did anyone intervene? What did anyone else think?"
"My group [DBS] supports me," I said.
"What did the people on the bus think?" she asked.
"They don't care. . .no one cares," I responded with regret.

I think about the past DBS posts. A man hits a girl on a bus in St. Louis and no one comes to her aid. A young woman gets attacked on the Green Line and though she called for help only a teenage girl intervened. I could go on all day with these Genovese syndrome stories.

It's not fair that this is the way it is. What kind of world do we live in where men can stand on street corners hassling women, where kids can cause adults to tremble in fear, where helping your fellow man or woman is frowned upon? It's not a world I want to be a part of.

Nothing will ever be perfect, but I long for the day when I can walk down a neighborhood street and enjoy the fresh air, and not worry about being cajoled or assaulted. I have the right as an individual, as a human being to walk down the streets fearless and free. Everyone has that right and should be able to enjoy it. Harassment, troublemaking and assault should are illegal and should be enforced as such.

I plan on writing a letter to the mayor in the near future about this epidemic in the district. My mother was right about one thing---one person can't do it alone.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Metro Has A Failing Lesson for Unruly Students

I was browsing around online, just trying to gather info on more effective ways of handling these rowdy kids, and I came across this year-old Washington Post article about Metro's plan to curb the behavior of those kids. Apparently it hasn't worked because these kids still act like they have no sense, and I haven't really heard about this program going on in the present lately. We were all teenagers once, and we know good and well that no corny assemblies, slogans, posters, etc. are going to make these kids magically become model citizens. What to do, what to do, what to do.

Metro really needs to get more police involved, especially during the times kids are heading off to school (morning rush and evening rush). And if they are on duty they need to do their jobs! I read a lot of comments for the article about the inactivity of police officers when something does happen. There should be a form of punishment for those who act up on public transit. Fine these kids, arrest them, inform their schools so action can be taken there, and last and definitely not least GET THE PARENTS INVOLVED! If a parent knows that his/her child is acting up in public, either get the parent to be involved in punishing their kid, or if the parent is part of the problem fine him/her. I'm tired of new generations of thugs and gangstas being born to unfit parents.

As much as my hometown of Buffalo is flawed, at least NFTA handled rowdy kids better. They'd give warnings, kick them off the bus/train (they would make those kids walk!), or even prohibited them from boarding. I remember the days when a mob of loud, crazy teens were congregating at one stop, and the bus---having plenty of room---passed them right by!

I am like a broken record with this one---if more adults reclaimed their rights to being adults and taking charge, then we wouldn't have this problem with bad kids.

Rowdy Teens Attack on Morning Commute

I was not expecting to come to blows with rowdy kids on my morning commute to work today.

I waited for the 80 bus towards Kennedy Center at around 9:20 this morning. The bus came at approximately 9:30. I normally sit near the front of the bus, but I couldn't find an available seat. I sit near the back near the rear exit, and three rowdy teens---a boy and two girls---were sitting in the back making all sorts of noise. It was their "typical friendly" conversation---calling people "n***a," showing schadenfreude at their "friends" getting hit with balls in gym class, and other profanitites and obscenities. It's only five minutes to the train station, I thought to myself. I'll live.

But I couldn't. The more these kids spoke vulgar and cruel words, the more riled up I got. When the boy started saying "Dick. D-I-C-K. Dickdickdickdickdickdick. . ." I had lost my cool.

"Be quiet and show some respect!" I yelled. Typical reaction from rowdy teens: They get quiet and shocked that someone gives them orders, then break out into laughter. No respect for authority, and like I said, these kids mistake me for a teenager. They think it's one of their peers telling them to be quiet.

They then start doing their other typical reaction: the mock and repeat. "She said---"
"I know what I said," I replied. "I don't need to hear it again. You heard me---show some respect."

The fact that these kids had no respect for what I said---they continued to mock and cajole---had me furious. I lost my temper and did the worst thing---cursed them out. From the street harassment workshop, I learned that it's normal human nature to not always keep a calm facade. And it was too hard of a situation to keep my cool.

The one girl, ugly as sin, was threatening to fight me. "Fuck you, bitch!" she yelled. "Bitch, I'll beat yo' ass! Fuck you!"

The other girl slackly held her back. At that moment, I regained my cool. I didn't get out of my seat and spoke with a cool tone. "I'm sitting in my seat, keeping my cool yet you're ranting and raving like an idiot," I said.

The other girl was starting to mock too. "I'll let her go!" she said. "I'll let her loose to fight you."

"Fuck you, bitch!" the girl kept yelling at me. "I'll kill you!"
Annoyed, I got into the "I take tae kwon do---" but I never finished my sentence. That caused them to break out into laughter. "So the fuck what?!" the ugly fighting girl said. "I take ty-kwa-see-koo! I don't give a fuck!"

I was irate. "I may not be from the hood," I said, "but I'll beat your asses." Because I am fed up. I am tired of these kids running rampant and terrorizing people. I am tired of these kids getting away these crimes against humanity. I am sick and damn tired. In sparring class, I come home bruised because I have to spar guys (yes, guys) who are twice my height and size. I may not be the best fighter, but I've learned to take a hit and keep going. If standing up for myself meant getting beaten to a pulp, so be it.

The bus got to Brookland Metro and I thought it was over. As I got off, the kids seemed to be staying on the bus. Was I wrong.

I headed towards the train and see the three kids behind me. They were still itching to fight. Normal people get their morning buzz from coffee, not from fighting people. I took strategic action. It was easier to run on a bus than it was to run down the stairs (broken escalator) and get to the train manager. I saw an H2 to Van Ness sitting at the stop. I ran on and told the driver to call the police. Why he didn't immediately call the police was beyond me.

He did, however, close the door to the bus and told the kids to go away. Those kids screamed and banged and said "WE NEED TO TAKE THIS BUS! THIS OUR BUS!" He succumbed to them.

"Are you going to be good?" he asked. "I won't let you on if you won't be good."

We all know those kids had no intention of behaving. He opens the door and lets them on. The boy and the other girl walked past me, but the ugly girl lunged at me as if she was going to punch me. I acted instinctively, and pushed her with all my might. I restrained her temporarily against one of the poles on the bus, and prayed for the strength to keep her there. She was about 5'9'' and bigger than me.

But get this. The bus driver says, "I was going to call the police for you, but you're the one starting to attack now!" What the fuck?! This girl was lunging towards me like she was going to punch me and I act in self-defense! Had the bus driver called the police like I told him to, we could have avoided that! But nope, he sat back as if he was watching an episode of Jerry Springer!

Then these lying-ass hoodrat kids started saying "We didn't do nothin'! We ain't do nothin'!" I don't hit, push or attack anyone unless I am attacked. Had that girl not lunged at me, I wouldn't have touched her.

The boy, who's about 6'2'', then tried to approach me ready to fight. I pushed him and he stumbled a tidge. He was really ready to beat my ass.

The bus driver told me to get off the bus and go to the Metro station manager
to report them. I get off the bus, but not without these kids yelling shit at me from the bus window.

I went to the Brookland Station manager to tell him to call the police.

"They're on the H2 now," I said.
"What number?" he asked.
"H2," I said.
"What's the bus number?" he asked.

Damn it! I hadn't noticed the bus number. "I don't know it," I said. "But it's the H2 that's sitting outside right now." He finally called transit police, but seconds later I'm at the train platform, and can see that that H2 is long gone. So these kids got away with their bullshit because no one wanted to take action. I was riled up when I got on the train, but during the commute I became calm. As soon as I got to work I filed an email complaint about the incident to WMATA, typed up this post, and will be submitting it to my community list serv (doing what I learned from the community safety workshop). I read something similar on my community list serv---one guy tried to deal with rowdy kids on Metro, tried to rally people to help him, but no one would. Shaking my head in disbelief.

Here are my descriptions of these kids:

  • The boy was about 6'2''. He wore a dark, olive green coat and had a cap on. He is Black, has dark skin, and had chin-length twists/dreads.

  • The girl who tried to fight me is about 5'9''. She is also Black. She had skinny braids in her hair, that shape-wise reminded me of the sandworms in Beetlejuice. She wore a ponytail on the right side of her head with a blue and orange plaid puffy bow. Her eyes were tired-looking, and she had huge heart-shaped lips with long teeth and a huge gap between them. She had this perpetually dumb look on her face that I will never forget.

  • I didn't take good notice of the third girl. All I can say is that she is also Black, about 5'7'', and also had braids in her hair similar to the other girl.

No one should have to suffer through noise, chaos, violence and dischord on a morning commute---or ever. Like I learned from the workshop, do whatever you can to get a description of perpetrators---like I did---and spread the word. It'll make it easier to prevent them from doing this again.

I'm fine, all. I'm a little shaken up, but I'm fine. Bad-ass kids won't stop me from living my life.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Response to "Drive-by Hollas Drive Me Crazy!!"

Martha Langelan got back in touch with me and we had a lengthy conversation about dealing with drive-by hollas, prompted by my recent incidences with them.

Here is the advice she gave for dealing with it:

---A shortened version of the all-purpose statement: "Stop harassing women." Flat-out statement, as quick as the men who zip by honking or yelling out of their cars.
---If you have the time (the car's at a light or is slowed-down enough to hear you), back it up with "Show some respect!"
---Try to get the license plate number of the car. If you can't see it, pretending to write it down usually scares the men enough to stop.

Martha recalled a story of women in small-town Ohio who gathered car and driver descriptions, along with their license plate numbers. The women used this information and let people know around town about these drive-by harassers. Since it was such a small town, word got around quickly and the mothers, sisters, grandmothers, aunts, etc. let these men have it!

---If the harassment from a car gets aggressive or threatening and you managed to get their license plate number, call the authorities. If it's a case of a business vehicle doing this and you didn't get the plate number, calling the business with a description of the vehicle and driver, time and date of incident, as well as location of incident should be enough to call in with.
---Another tactic is to rally the neighborhood together to declare the neighborhood a "harassment-free/hassle-free zone." Put signs and flyers up in the neighborhood letting everyone know that harassment will not be tolerated. Martha said that if enough signs are up and you're walking along a street and a man pulls his harassment mess, just point at the sign and it should scare him enough to let you be.

And in terms of dealing with "loitering loser"-types, here's another idea from Martha. Rally these men to be allies. Say: "You men are out on the corner all the time. We need your help in making the streets safer for women." Teach them the "stop harassing women" mantra so when they see men on the street harassing women, they'll join in the fight against harassment as opposed to the actual harassment. Getting them to do something positive in the community makes them feel like real men. Just by getting those harassers to ally with you means that the number of harassers on the street will decrease.

It's more helpful information I want to use in my daily life! I want to feel powerful---not powerless---when dealing with drive-by harassment.

Women-Only Buses in Mexico

Thank you Storme for sending me a link to this article. It's a sad time indeed when the problem with lecherous losers is so bad that the genders have to be separated. But because these men don't know how to keep their comments and their hands to themselves, these women need a safe way of commuting, and the women-only buses are the way of doing so. I'm sure if we did this in DC, harassment on Metro and Metrobus would decrease significantly, but this city barely has enough money to keep the trains running and on time.

Response to "Alert! Alert! DC has an infestation. . ."

Elizabeth sent this email message in response to the aforementioned post:

I appreciate and admire the ones who stood up to the behavior. I am also finding the main blogger's comments helpful!

There is a remnant of respect towards the aged. Recently, an older woman simply said to two boys who were playing their music too loud on the metro, "That's too loud, please turn it down" and they did it.

My past attempts were not as fruitful. Two kids were sitting on each other's laps and leaning all over me on the Metro en route to Wilson High. I told them to stop, and you're right, they just parroted back my words to me and continued. I got really incensed and called the school principal with a detailed description of the main trouble-maker. The office asked me to email the principal, Ms. Williams, with the details, which I did, but was told "that pretty much describes each of our students and we can't find and speak with the one you mentioned."

I am a mentor with a local program for high school kids, College Bound. I love it and think the program is very positive for the kids who are enrolled. This program is going to make sure that kids don't slip between the cracks and fail to graduate from high school. If a student is in the middle of a misunderstanding with a teacher, the program will help figure our a solution. However, there are a few boys and girls who come to the meetings every week and don't have their own mentor yet. I hope a few adults will be willing to do this! The mentors are a group of good people, racially diverse, age diverse but more on the young (20s and 30s) end of the spectrum.

Thanks, Elizabeth. I'll repeat, gauging the situation, deciding whether or not to take action, reporting it to the authorities, and mentor programs are the way to go when dealing with these rowdy, misguided kids.

What baffles me is Ms. Williams's comment about "that pretty much describes each of our students and we can't find and speak with the one you mentioned." Huh?! So you're saying that all the kids in your school are disruptive, disrespectful and don't listen to authority? Ms. Williams, you have no faith in your own high school.

Also, the comments have been opened to all Bloggers for the original post. I definitely want to get an open discussion going there!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Highlights from the Martha Langelan Workshop

Though I was sick to death with the flu, I managed to get to the January 31st workshop as promised. It was a workshop for the Eastern Mennonite University students, and I was an invited guest. (No other outsiders attended, unfortunately, but the next time an event like this happens I hope more can attend!) The EMU interns were all ill with colds and flus as well, but it didn't stop anyone from enjoying the experience.

Martha Langelan may be a small woman, but she is by no means a fearful one. The reason why she got into self-defense and martial arts is because she didn't want to fit the stereotype of being a scared, helpless girl, and wanted to give women the chance to defend themselves as well.

Here are my notes from that night:

1. Kids Getting Hit

Have you ever witnessed a situation where a kid is getting yelled at or hit by his/her mom/dad? You know that feeling . . . you want to step in but don't know how to go about it without becoming the object of the parent's anger or bringing more harm to the child. Martha came up with two techniques for handling this:

a) "Praise the Baby." This means to tell the child something good about his/herself, like "What a good baby you are!" "That is the cutest shirt!" "What a pretty smile you have!" Those things detract from the parent's anger, and give the parent an impression that s/he's a good parent that's raised a good child.

b) A similar tact is to tell the child how good s/he was acting. This helps if the child was acting up in public, and the child will probably start to behave better. It once again points out the positive as opposed to the negative. Also, the parent will feel like s/he is a good parent if the positive is pointed out.

2. Muggings

Muggings take on average a quick 15 seconds. The assailant is usually a scared teenager, and a deadly weapon is usually involved. Here are ways to handle being mugged:

a) Stay calm. If you get in what Martha calls "scared rabbit" mode (body tenses and you hold your breath), you can slowly breathe it out as you do the next actions:

b) Drop bag/wallet/whatever object. No inanimate object is worth your safety. Back away about 10 feet (not too close, not too far), then say "Take the ______."

c) Try your best to get three distinct details about the mugger. Get physical things, such as eyebrow shape, scars, tattoos, eye colors, nose size/shape, etc. You could say "yellow shirt," but that could change while physical traits tend to remain constant.

d) Run to safety.

e) Tell your neighbors, the police, anyone about this. The more people know the more allies you have to get that perp off the streets.

f) Put up flyers to help get the word out about the mugger, which has a similar result as point e).

3. Observation Circle

a) Try to take note of the people around you, using about a 10-foot radius per side (front, back, left, right).
c) Speak first to the people you pass. A simple "Hello, sir/ma'am" could diffuse a potential situation.
d) When noticing the people in your observation circle, take note of the physical traits, such as scars, tattoos, odd body language, tension, etc.
e) We live in a world of technology with cell phones and iPods. Oftentimes we use those devices to try to prevent street harassers from bothering us. Martha thinks that a better tactic is to keep your phone in your pocket and use it for emergencies only. Anyone yakking away on a cell phone has their guard down and could put themselves at risk for danger. The same thing goes for iPods/headphones---don't wear them out in public and keep alert.

4. What If?

To prepare for danger, do the following. Varying your routes and times of getting around throws a potential stalker off track. In your neighborhood, look for the houses/businesses with their lights on. Walk around your neighborhood to get a sense of it (finding out where certain streets begin/end, looking out for dead ends, etc.). If you're ever in a precarious situation, use an "everyday weapon" (a pen to stab an assailant, a wicker laundry basket to prevent a knife from stabbing you, throwing bleach from the cabinet at the assailant, etc.) in your house or wherever you are at that moment.

5. Burglars

Practice ways of getting out of your house with efficiency and get to a neighbor's house. Call 911 from there. In case of burglary, make up a code word that only your family and trusted neighbors know (like "banana") and come up with a meeting place (the neighbor's house).

6. Carjackings

Similar to the burglary incident, practice ways of getting out of your car. Use a code word. If you have a baby/child in a car seat, practice the fastest way of getting him/her out of that seat (even if it means keeping him/her in the seat). Teach your older children how to help getting their little siblings out. Get out of the car away from the assailant. And let the perp have those keys---as noted above, no car is worth your life being taken.

Now here is information related to harassment, bullying and bigotry.

Non-violent Confrontation:

1. Name the behavior (When you [state what the harasser did]).
a) Describe facts (When you pinch my butt/whistle at me/call me baby/etc. it creeps me out/makes me sick/it disrespects me/etc.)
b) Request/command what you want (From now on, you will/not touch me/say "Hello, miss" or "Hello, ma'am"/etc.)

2. All-purpose harassment statement:

"Stop harassing women. I don't like it. No one likes it. Show some respect." Say that in the most neutral (not too aggressive, not too passive) assertive tone.

If Joe Harasser is still running his mouth, the back-up line to use is "You heard me. Show some respect." Keep repeating this, even if the harasser is saying junk to save face.

a) Never ignore harassment. Ignoring it lets the perp get away with it, and it allows it to fester on the inside. Silence turns into stress.
b) The "F-Y" response is not a good tactic either. Cursing out the harassers can only escalate a potentially violent situation.
c) Running away can have a similar result to a). You haven't asserted yourself and you're holding it in.

3. A-B-C statement (be very concrete about A and C):

a) Tell the harasser what the problem is. ("When you whistle at me. . .")
b) What's the effect? ("It makes me uncomfortable.")
c) I want you to [say "Hello, ma'am"] from now on.

4. Substance comments vs. superficial comments

No woman trying to walk down a street wants to hear a valueless "hey, beautiful" from some man they don't know. The men giving "compliments" on the street are just using the women on the street as something to ogle. When they do that on the street, say "Thanks, but I prefer you to refer to me as "miss" or "ma'am" from now on."

When it happens at the workplace, where your work talent should be valued more than your physical appearance, answer with "Well, thanks, but I really want to know [what you thought about my presentation report/ad campaign ideas/etc.]."

5. The Socratic Question

When some man on the street makes a comment like "Girl, you be lookin' good enough to eat!" (yuck!), ask them to explain what they mean by it. Some harassers may actually try to come up with a dumb reason for their statements, but most will be embarrassed being caught saying something that stupid.

6. If you're bold enough, Martha's confrontation survey can help you approach street harassers when they do or say something stupid. 2/11/08: Edited to add updated mailing address for surveys. (If the download link expires, please let me know so I can renew it.)

7. If a man on public transportation puts his hand on your knee, you can remove it with the command/pinkie technique.

Say: "Your hand is on my knee. Remove it right now." Don't sugarcoat it with "please," "excuse me," "sorry," etc. It just weakens your command.

If the man doesn't comply, say: "You heard me. Remove it right now." While saying that, lift his hand off your knee, picking it up by his pinkie finger.

If the man still doesn't cooperate, rally the other passengers to help out. Granted, we live in a Kitty Genovese syndrome society, where people are afraid to jump in and help. Martha gave a tactic to overcome it:

Say: "Ladies and gentlemen, this man sitting next to me put his hand on my knee, and refuses to remove it. I need your help in describing him to the police. He is a [race] male, about [height] tall, who has [color] eyes, hair, etc."

Also, delegating tasks to specific passengers makes it hard for them to ignore or avoid. Say: "Young lady with the [article of clothing] on, go press the emergency button and contact the train operator." Drawing specific attention to these people will make them feel more obligated to help.

8. If you are attacked, yelling "HELP!" (soft consonant sounds) has no power. Yelling "FIRE!" doesn't help either. What does help in case of attack is the following:

"KI-YA! IT'S AN ATTACK! CALL THE COPS!" The bite of the "K" sound gets the message across loud and clear.

If you practice this with neighbors, this is the respond a neighbor who witnesses this should have. That neighbor will turn on his/her light and yell: "I SEE YOU, I HEAR YOU, I'M CALLING THE COPS!"

If the assailant has witnesses, he's less likely to attack and the victim can get free. If you're close to your neighbors, please practice this with them.

The rest of the workshop involved physical self-defense moves. It's hard to explain in words, so if you see me around ask me, and I'll gladly show you what to do.

I hope that what I learned from Martha Langelan's workshop is as helpful to you as it was to me.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Drive-By Hollas Drive Me Crazy!!

A self-quote from the previous post:

Drive-by hollas leave me on edge because they happen in a split second and catch me off-guard.

I was out today looking for a new apartment. One of the neighborhoods I headed towards was Woodridge. I was running late and I power-walked down South Dakota Avenue. It seemed like a nice, ordinary day. I admired the scenery and nature as I walked.

After checking out the place, I saw so many nice houses, school buildings and churches that I wanted to explore the neighborhood. It was all good until I spotted a pack of "Loitering Losers." I was walking towards this school on Newton NE near 18th, and five crusty, old, bad-teeth having, pitiful men were leaning back against a car as if they were "Original Gangstas." Original Losers is more like it. They said "hi," I said "hi" back (being polite). Then they had to say "Um-um-um...gorgeous." I felt like I was going to throw up in my mouth.

Remembering what I learned from Martha Langelan's workshop, I approached them and told them "I don't like it when men I don't know give me compliments. It makes me uncomfortable. Just say 'hello, miss' or 'hello, ma'am.'"

They copped attitude when I made my spiel. "End of story!" they said, as I spoke.

I proceeded back towards South Dakota to get back home, and the men driving their cars would not leave me alone. Two men beeped their horns at me. One yelled "hello, girl!" out of his car.

"I don't talk to random men in cars!" I yelled. "Leave me alone!"

Another guy in a blue SUV would not leave me alone. He beeped his horn frantically, stuck his head out of the driver's window and waved at me.

"I don't know you," I said. "Stop waving at me!"

When the light turned green, he drove off, but not without trying to say more things to me.

"I don't want to talk to you. . .leave me alone!" I said.

The last was at South Dakota and 16th. A man driving a white truck (Was it a fish truck, furniture truck or moving truck? Unfortunately I didn't notice.) beeped at me and was saying "Hello!"

"I don't know you and I don't want to talk to random men in their vehicles," I said.

But he wouldn't let up.

"I'm just tryna say 'hi,'" he said.

"I do not want to talk to you or any other man from his car," I said. "Let me walk in peace!"

"All I wanted to do was say---"

"Do you hear me?!" I yelled. What little cool I had was gone. "Leave me the hell alone! I'm tired of you men honking at me, trying to talk to me. I don't want to talk to you. . .LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Unfortunately for me, this made me look bad, and anyone who witnessed it would've thought I was the crazy one. No one realizes that I deal with this mess every single day. (See the past few entries for my drive-by holla woes).

I proceeded back home with my head hanging down. I wanted to hide somewhere. My throat hurt from yelling at that last idiot. No one knows the pain I feel when I deal with harassment. And another thing that got to me was that I passed another solo young woman, who was probably going to deal with the South Dakota Avenue Showdown as well. The cycle never ends. I was very depressed from the SD Showdown that I called Martha Langelan, leaving a message on her phone asking how to handle drive-by harassment. When she responds (she's busy doing tours on street harassment on a regular basis), I'll post the answer in a future DBS entry.

I've done numerous posts on drive-by hollas. Out of all the harassment I deal with when I'm out and about, drive-by hollas are the worst. With men hanging out on the street, you can see your harasser(s). Like in my martial arts class, we learn about telegraphs---when you can just tell what your sparring opponent's going to do next. With street harassers, you can tell when they're going to say something smart alecky or ignorant, and you can be prepared with a reaction.

With drive-by hollas, you never know what will happen. A string of cars pass by and you can't tell if the first one or the tenth one will beep and try to crudely talk to you. They really send me over the edge. I can't (nor will I ever!) run into traffic to approach the men who do it, and there's the risk of one of these idiots deciding to grab their harassment recipients and restrain them in their vehicle, and do lord knows what to them. Also, they are in a vehicle that weighs a ton, which comes off as imposing and intimidating to the harassment recipient. Or they have a green light so they can proceed on their merry ways without fear of repercussions.

I repeatedly say this, any man who needs to hassle a woman trying to go about her day is a coward---the drive-by harassers more so. The men who do this mess out of their vehicles don't have the guts to bother a woman face to face. Do they not realize how tasteless it is to repeatedly honk their horns at a woman, or try to "mack on" a woman from their cars? It leaves a foul taste in my mouth recalling these incidents.

To quote from NOLA radfem's recent piece on street harassment, giving you the idea how I feel when dealing with drive-by harassers:

It means you are walking along, lost in your own thoughts. . .and some men in a truck drive by and yell at you, scaring you and leaving your heart pounding long after they've driven away laughing. . .[i]t means never, ever having the freedom to walk down the street, unmolested, safe, truly free and alone with your own thoughts.

And from Debs at Feminist Fire's piece:

[T]he men who did these things, will have moved on with their lives, in all likelihood completely forgetting about them, as if they are of no consequence. . .They have been brought up in such a way, and in such a world, that makes them truly believe they have an innate right to do and say whatever they want to women and girls, without consequences. The majority of the time, there are no consequences for the male, although there should be. The consequences for the female are deep and long-lasting, but why should women carry the burden of responsibility for men’s (supposedly the ’stronger’, more reasonable sex) words and actions?

These men do what the hell they want and get away with it, while being able to walk tall. We women have to internalize it and let it fester on the inside. Damn it, I'm tired of internalizing the pain of being a repeat harassment recipient.

Finally, for all the people who don't understand why I get on edge when these men feel the need to "compliment" me ("hey, beautiful," "hey, go-jiss [sic]"), here's my answer: BECAUSE I DON'T LEAVE MY HOUSE TO BE ON DISPLAY FOR THESE SORRY EXCUSES FOR MEN TO OGLE!!!! It is not any woman's job or responsibility to be a walking peep show for these losers. Every woman has the right to walk down the street, to run errands, to enjoy nature, to leave out to hang out with friends, without having their livelihood imposed on by these creeps. We have the right to be left alone.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Who is the HR representative for UPS?

Because they keep hiring the same no good, no class-having men to work for them!

I was walking down P Street at about quarter to 6 this evening, and out of a UPS truck I heard "Guuuuuuuuuuurl, you look cute!" Tacky, unprofessional and crude. Drive-by hollas leave me on edge because they happen in a split second and catch me off-guard. It was hard to stay calm because it came out of nowhere. It made me uncomfortable and put me on the spot. I ended up yelling "I'm going to report you! That is ignorant and unprofessional!" but what good would that do when I 1) wasn't close enough to get his license plate number 2) couldn't even see his face. It bothers me that being in uniform and driving the UPS truck aren't deterrents to prevent these men from harassing women on the streets. Apparently UPS doesn't care about who they hire, as long as those trifling fools show up to get paid.

Closer to Dupont Circle, I had a harasser who I could see this time. This fat, disheveled man sitting at a bench kept whistling like a wolf at me. Nasty!

I walked up to him and said "I do not like it when you whistle at me. It creeps me out. From now on, if you want to get my attention or any other woman's attention, you say 'hello.' Stop harassing women."
"Hawh?!" he said, looking like an idiot.
"You heard me, stop harassing women," I repeated.
He obviously has mental problems because he resumed whistling at me. He's lucky it was me and not someone else dealing with him, because I'm sure someone bigger would've punched that man out.

Another day of defeat in the world of a harassment recipient. :-(

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Alert! Alert! DC has an infestation. . .

(2/11/08---Accidentally had the comment settings on "Blog admins only"---fixed it so anyone registered with Blogger can comment. I apologize for the inconvenience.)

. . .and I'm not talking about the rodents. I'm talking about the horribly-behaving, no common sense-having kids and teens running rampant in the streets. These kids have a negative outlook on life and horrible demeanors. When on public transportation, they make the trip for the common commuter painful and excruciating. Street harassment isn't only sexual harassment, so I'm using this post to talk about badly behaving kids.

I just got off the most painful train ride ever. At about 9:30 this evening, a mob of about 20 or so kids rushed onto the train at Rhode Island Avenue Station. They were screaming this-that, one made a comment about "stabbin' a n**** in the head" (this is their form of everyday "friendly" conversation) and they were running their mouths about a fight about to happen. These kids wanted to jump back off the train and fight on the platform. A station manager boarded and told the driver to close the door. The kids started copping attitudes. They were screaming, hollering and itching to fight. They got so loud that a little baby in a stroller started to cry. These fools were talking about jumping off the train in-between stops to run back and fight!

It didn't end there. A chunk of them got off at the same stop as I did. They were still walking in a mob, blocking the way, talking about fighting and finally worrying about what their mothers thought.

I'm puzzled. We had bad kids in Buffalo that mobbed together, intimidated people, caused noise and chaos in trains, but instead of sitting there in fear, people took action. Bus drivers would threaten to kick the kids off the train and make them walk. Some carried baseball bats. The drivers and train operators rarely showed fear. When dealing with bad kids at a job I used to work at years ago, one of the most nonsuspecting women---an older, quiet woman---stepped up to them and dealt with them. All said, why the hell are people in DC so afraid to discipline these bad kids?

I know there are a lot of worries about these kids carrying guns, knives and other weapons. However, there had to have been a time when people disciplined their kids and showed them who was in charge. When did adults relinquish this power to the kids?

I've been in many intimidating situations where it was them vs. me. There'd be a mob of them and only me. The worst experience was in Columbia Heights/Adams Morgan a few winters ago. My roommates were throwing a drunken party and I wanted to get away from there. I was going to take a bus to Tryst, but I missed the bus and it was too cold to stand still and wait for the next one (30 minutes). I thought I'd be fine walking (lapse of judgment there), but a group of kids---mostly boys but one girl---tried to crowd around me. I tried to get away. They started snickering and acting like it was funny. One sneaked up on me and when I turned around he ran away laughing. I will admit there that I was frightened. I cursed and screamed at those kids, but all it did was make it worse. Long story short, I was a wreck and petrified to head to that area---an area I frequent on a regular basis---for a good while, even in daytime.

Years later, I feel stronger and less afraid. I find myself more frustrated with than afraid of these kids. Why do they act like junior hoodlums? You can't talk to them like civilians, because to them respect and kindness is a joke. When you take the disciplinarian mode they want to fight. What the hell can we do with these kids?

Two boys from the train were standing at a bus stop across from mine. They gradually moved to be closer to me. (It wasn't an "I changed my mind and am taking a different bus" move. . .it was a sidle-up move.) My BS detector was up. When I heard them talking about "I'mma jump a White boy and rob him for his money!" and laughing, I wasn't having that. I may not be White and I was not their intended target, but I was disgusted regardless.

"You go right ahead and try," I said, with the nastiest sarcastic tone in my voice. "Go right ahead and rob someone."
The boys stopped in their tracks.
"We ain't say nothin' to you!" they said. Then they repeated what I said: Pattern #1 with bad kids---Repeat what you say verbatim as if you didn't remember what you had said.
"You need to go home to your mothers and leave people alone," I said.
They repeated me again. "She said we need to go home to our mothers---"
"Go home and leave people alone," I said. "Go. Home." What I said finally left them speechless.

It's hard for these kids to take me seriously when I get mistaken for a kid. I got on the bus, and girls from the earlier Metro incident boarded as well, screaming and still itching to fight. I dealt with it on the train---I was not going to deal with it on the bus.

"Be quiet and carry yourself like you have some sense," I said. "Show some respect."
Pattern #2 with bad kids: Say something to them, they get this blank look of shock in their faces, then they break out into laughter. That's exactly what happened. Anything said to them goes in one ear and out the other. Dealing with these kids is like dealing with a broken record. They're predictable.

"Who are you talkin' to like that?" the one girl said.
"I'm talking to you," I said. "I dealt with that noise from you on the Metro, and I refuse to deal with it on this bus ride home."
"I know you ain't talkin' to me like that," the girl said. "I'm 18 and a grown-ass woman, boo."
I needed to tell this "grown-ass woman" the truth. I did get up to approach her and her friend. I refused to be afraid.
"I'm 27 [well, I will be] and have got years on you. You need to act like you have some sense."
"I got a sister older than you [so?!], so I don't need to listen to you."
Some guy jumped in and told the girls to sit down and told me "we cool. It's a'ight."
"She tryin' to step up to me like dat," the girl kept complaining. "Who she think she is? She think she my mother."

The bus driver came up to me and asked what was going on. I let him know these girls were trouble. But in the pattern of fear, he acted like he was going to approach them, said something in a soft voice, then went back to the driver's seat. It is definitely them vs. me.

A lot of people tell me that the behavior of these kids is "not your problem." Unfortunately, when the bad behavior is in front of my face and affects what's going on around me, then it becomes my problem. And if more parents stepped in to teach their kids how to grow up and be productive adults, then it wouldn't be my problem.

The rest of the bus ride involved the girls mocking me and getting riled up. I don't know how, but I managed to maintain a sense of cool. I said "Keep on talking" and turned my music up to tune them out. They did a drill and a rap "Girl, get off da bus! Get off da bus!" as I exited the bus, and I gave them a look that read "I'm watching you." More adults need to step up and let these kids know that they won't let their bad behavior cow them.

I'm not saying to throw yourself in a dangerous situation. If a thug who's two times my size is threatening to beat the shit out of me, then I'm not going to approach him---martial arts training or not. These girls were my size, not a physical threat to me, and I didn't feel afraid to approach them. Gauge the situation, and if you feel you can handle it handle it. If not, get the authorities involved in the matter.

I have so many stories about these rowdy kids, but the frustrating thing is the rowdy kids get more attention than good kids. In Buffalo, you could read the Buffalo News and hear about the honor students, see the Super 7 student athletes on News Channel 7, and just know that good kids outshine the bad. I look at the Washington Post and all I hear about are the schools falling apart, failing parents, and kids killing each other. Enough is enough.

Another thing that frustrates me is the racial element. I hate reading comments in the Post from scared White people saying things such as "that's how Black kids are." No, it's not how all Black kids are---just the rowdy ones with no discipline. I'm not denying that there is racial tension between the White middle class and the Black lower class, but I hate how the actions of a few give these clowns reasons to justify their racism.

Other than trying to correct the kids' behavior, there are other ways of helping out. There are various mentor programs throughout DC looking for new recruits. (This is something I admit I am nervous to do, since I fear the mentee would find me "too dorky and rigid" to relate to. But trust me, I would love to do it one day.) Get involved in youth-oriented activities as well. I went to see the kids from Hart Middle School in Southeast from the DC Creative Writing Workshop read their poetry at the Borders on K Street last winter. They were fidgety and clowned around a little, but when each individual kid approached the podium to read their pieces, the tough veneers faded and a vulnerability shown through. I was impressed. It just shows that when you take the time to nurture these kids, they can be steered towards that straight and narrow path.

And I will give kudos to the adults I have seen take the time to discipline these kids:

1) Around summer 2006 when I lived in Alexandria, some boys got on a DASH bus and started critiquing the women on the bus, referring to them as "ugly," "I wanna f*** her," "bitch," etc. This bus driver asked the boys to come to the front of the bus, and he educated them and told them to respect women. That was cool! (This driver is a middle-aged guy with dreads and glasses, so if you see him driving the DASH still, give him the props he deserves.) He also helped me out once when some fool pushed people (myself included) out of the way and got aggressive at Van Dorn Station. The driver asked why I looked upset, I told him, and he got off the bus looking for that fool! (He wasn't found, but the action of his looking for this fool made me feel good.) Once again, this driver usually worked on the DASH 2 and 8 buses. If you see him, give him the respect he deserves.

2) Some rowdy girls got on the train towards Glenmont this past summer, and they were doing the usual screaming and talking about wanting to fight people. (The worst part was that their mother was nearby not doing a thing to control them!) A kindly older woman told them that they should "act like ladies" and tried to steer them towards a conversation about how they spent their day. (They had come from the zoo with their mother.) Though the girls sighed, copped attitudes and sucked their teeth, the woman wouldn't let up. The girls proceeded to scream and holler when they got off the train, but the woman didn't let it stop her from trying to instill values in them. I commended her for her patience with dealing with those girls, and she said "young ladies just need to know they can act like young ladies."

3) A meticulously-dressed older woman and her rowdy granddaughter approached the bus stop I was waiting at two weeks ago. The girl was rapping, her butt was hanging out of her clothes, and the grandmother looked harried. The girl was loud, and the grandmother was quiet. Finally:

"I don't know why that bus driver called the police on us," the girl said with an attitude.
"Because y'all kids don't know how to act," the grandmother replied. "Act like y'all ain't got no sense."
"That's how kids act!" the girl snapped.
"Y'all don't need to act like that," the grandmother said. "You need to learn how to sit and be quiet. I'm glad that woman called the police."

You tell 'em, Grandma!

In the end, we need to let these kids know that we adults are not afraid of them. And the children shall lead, when they get older, wiser, and learn how to stop antagonizing the people of DC and act with decorum and common sense.

(Turning the comments on for this one, since it needs to be discussed.)

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Harassment in the Red Line District (Dupont, Farragut Square)

I tell you---unseasonably warm weather brings out the worst harassers.

  • "Strange Harassment"
    Walking down Connecticut towards Dupont Circle, a guy with dreads rode by on his skateboard. He singled me out as the 1) only other Black person 2) as a person with dreads amongst the many White people in that specific block.

    "Rastafarian powerrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr!" he squealed, while riding by. Great. He then stops near me.
    "Have you heard of Haile Selassie?" he asked, the craziness obvious in his tone.
    "Uh, no," I said, having a brain fart. The only thing on my mind was getting home to enjoy that burger I got from Five Guys. "And right now, I don't care."
    "What?!" he said in shock. "Haile Selassie is the ultimate being of Black righteousness! The epitome of Rasta culture!"
    "Dude, just because I'm Black and have dreads does not make me a Rasta," I said.
    "Sista, you need to recognize! Embrace your Rasta-ness!"

    This guy was annoying the crap out of me. He continued to skate on, screaming nonsense at me. I told him to please stop "coonin' and buffoonin'" and to leave me alone.

    "Rasta power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" he yelled from down the street. All these stuffy, middle-aged White people had noticed this, and started mocking this guy. "We need to embrace our Rastaness!" they said. It was just an uncomfortable experience.

    I thought he was gone for good, but when I continued on I noticed he stopped to talk to a homeless man. I sneaked by behind a group of people so he wouldn't see me. I have never been embarrassed that badly in public in my life.

The rest of my harassment instances of the night were more of the typical vein, but none less disgusting or aggravating.

  • Some guy standing in front of the Starbucks at Connecticut near the circle made kissing noises and winked at me.

    "I do not like it when men make kissing noises at me," I said. "If you want to get my attention or other women's attentions, just say 'hello.'"
    "Sorry, miss!" he said, nervously. "I didn't mean to look at you!" (So who were those kissing noises meant for? Either way, it's gross!)

  • Later this evening, I walked past the Pizza Hut on M Street. Two delivery guys were sitting outside of the restaurant on their delivery bikes. One of them was checking me out! Ugh! The other guy told the ogler to leave me alone, but the ogler wouldn't stop. He said something in the lines of wanting to "get wit' dat fine thing in that leather jacket." Barf-o-rama. I didn't have the words to respond back. I gave a look in disgust and shook my head.

  • Lastly, I made it to the bus stop and was waiting for it to take me home. This clown pulls up in a black SUV. Luckily for me he was in the left lane, so he wasn't directly near me. He beeps at me and waves as if he knows me, and I'm giving a look like "what the hell?!"

    "Where are you goin'?" he asks in this whiny-sounding voice.
    "I do not know you," I said. "When strange guys I don't know try to offer me a ride, it creeps me out."
    "I seen [sic] you around," he said. Now that makes me extremely uncomfortable.
    "I do not know you, please leave me alone," I said, trying to maintain my cool. I tried to use what I learned in Martha Langelan's workshop: a) naming the behavior ("When you _________________"), b) saying how it made me feel, then c) asking what I wanted the harasser to do in the future to modify his behavior. My rendering of it wasn't perfect, but I maintained a semblance of cool. My only huge mistake is saying "please." I was supposed to use an assertive tone with a neutral voice (which I did), and words like "please" and "sorry" water it down. Next time I'll remember.

    The light turned green and the guy drove off, but his "I seen [sic] you around" still freaks me out. I can't go about my day anymore without worrying about these weird-ass guys following me and knowing my whereabouts. Reminds me of another thing I learned in Martha's workshop---never do anything routine or in a pattern. I need to change around how I get around so these men don't have a trace locked in on me. Sad it has to be that way.

So that's how I spent the rest of the night, dealing with creeps and losers.

Speak Out, Sisters!

Thanks to HollaBack Talk for linking to these blogs.

Debs at Feminist Fire wrote a great piece chronicling the harassment she's dealt with her entire life, and exploring the power privilege that men who harass use against women. (Her post brought a lot of carthasis in the comments section.)

NOLA radfem did a write-up on harassment called Living While Female. Another great piece about how we women are living in a "war zone" when it comes to these harassing men.

Thank you ladies for opening up and writing these excellent pieces. Dealing with harassment is never a good thing, but talking about it instead of holding it in is a good thing.


"You're supposed to pick up the trash, not act like it."

As I was leaving for work yesterday, the garbage men came by to pick up the trash. One of them said, "Hey, pretty lady." Ugh. . .I cannot stand "compliments" from strange men. Not even my headphones could tune them out.

"Pretty lady?" I said. "I appreciate compliments, but not from men I don't know. That is too personal. The next time you see me, please refer to me as 'miss' or 'ma'am.' Have a good day."

I headed off, and the guy's partner said, "Hey, leave that girl alone!" Good! (And they actually left my trash can upright this time. . .thank you!)

From Thursday's workshop, Martha Langelan explained why women don't like these "compliments." She explained a scenario at a workplace: A woman has a boss that pays more attention to how she's dressed, her body, her physique as opposed to the job she's doing. He'll say "I love the way that blouse looks on you." He'll rub her shoulders while "complimenting" her and make her feel uncomfortable. Martha said that (and I agree with this) we want to feel valued for substantial things---intelligence, good work ethics, strong morals---not the superficial (how "attractive" we are or how we're dressed). Men tend to get more substantial compliments than women do. It's as if women are put on this earth to only be attractive for men. That we have no other purpose or goals in life. A substantial compliment ("Great presentation today!") holds a lot more value than one on surface appearance.

But how can this apply to the men on the streets? These men most of the time don't know how to be cordial to women. Hitting on women is their way of saying "good morning." Martha recalled a story where a drunken man would make sexual come-ons to her when she headed for presentations. She flat-out told him it made her uncomfortable, and his response was "I'm just trying to say 'good morning.'"

Without missing a beat, she told him that if he wanted to say 'good morning,' he can say 'good morning.' From that point on he, even though still being a drunk, respected her and told her 'good morning.'

Martha says something that has common sense: If you don't know someone, for the love of God don't do that "hey, pretty," "hey, beautiful," "hey, sexy" mess. Be pleasant and say "hello." It carries a lot more respect and weight than a superficial "hey, pretty."

"Fools' weather brings out foolish behavior"

The weather yesterday was unseasonably warm, and the fools were out on the street. Men were beeping their horns at me, and one driver "slowed his roll" and started yelling "hey, baby!" at me. I told him that yelling from his car was tacky and ignorant behavior, but unfortunately drive-by harassment is "hit and run" and there's never enough time for the message to get through. A man across the street witnessed it and looked shocked. Yes, you got a temporary glimpse of what it's like to walk home while female.

The same thing happened today. In my mundane outfit (sand-colored khakis, a yellow shrug and matching tee, tan shoes and small leather jacket), I got wolf-whistles, "hey, baby!" catcalls, horn-beeping, and cars slowing down. As I said earlier, there are better ways of saying "hello," and a better way of doing so is not out of a car window from across the street, but at a respectful distance face-to-face. I hope these men learn some manners by the time the warm weather returns on a more regular basis.

DBS Notes and Changes

  • After last week's craziness, I'm turning the comments off for the time being (a la most HollaBack sites). Long story short, I let idiots and hecklers get to me and got carried away. People online get a sense of power out of being anonymous, and they abuse that power by leaving rude and counterproductive comments. (You can still send e-mails that are positive or constructive criticisms, but if it's rude and hateful it's getting trashed.)

  • (Start rant) In the same vein as the previous note, there have been a lot of bloggers who are either ending their Blogs or removing posts. The instigators are making it a nuisance to blog! I did remove posts from here because too much attention was being drawn to them. One commenter got carried away and started posting links to here on her blog and was dismissive with her "who cares? Ignore it!" attitude. (I won't link to it like I did last time.) These blog commenters think that people who have blogs write them with that specific person in mind. For example, Jane reads my blog. It gets linked to DC Blogs. Said post gets open to scrutiny, I use my power of personal choice to have it removed. Instead of accepting this decision, Jane and others get upset, as if I took candy from a baby. What I don't understand is this: It's my damn blog. Whatever I want published gets published. Whatever doesn't doesn't. I have every right to change my mind and have something removed. So why the hell are people getting upset about that? If you live your life waiting for new posts on people's blogs, then you're not truly living life. If people want to remove their blogs or posts, let them. Respect their decisions, move on, and please find something better to do with yourselves. (End rant)

  • I want to bring in team members for DBS, since I don't want all the burden put on me. If you're a DC resident (proper or Metro-area), deal with harassment or witness it in your community, and feel you have something to contribute to DBS, then send a brief e-mail message explaining why you want to be a DBS team member. I definitely want DBS to have a different voice and meaning to it. One point of view is not enough.

  • I'm just getting over the flu and still have to do a write-up on Martha Langelan's workshop last Thursday. When I get the chance I will do so. It was a great workshop and I learned a lot of tactics to combat street harassment, bullying, and physical violence.

All that said, I hope to see changes in how DBS is for 2008. I want this to be a more informative, constructive and worthwhile blog.