Hey you in the red pants (hollaback!)

Like many women, I face street harassment on a daily basis. This video is not meant to dismiss the prevalence of street harassment, or discourage women from holla’ing back. Rather, I meant to highlight the state of almost-constant fear and anxiety that women live in because street harassment is an accepted part of our culture. Whether we’re walking down the street to Starbucks in the middle of the day, or walking home alone late at night, every man, or group of men, becomes a possible perpetrator of street harassment. We try to avoid making eye contact, look inconspicuous, walk a little faster. In many, perhaps most cases, our assumptions are correct, and our efforts are futile. We are met with stock phrases like “hey baby” “can I get your number” “nice ass” “look at those tits” – there seems to be no limit to the phrases that can shock, insult, and degrade women in a matter of seconds.

But occasionally, our assumptions are wrong. Walking home alone from the gym late last week, I saw a man wearing a hoodie leaning against the side of a building. I immediately felt the tightness in my stomach that comes with fear and anxiety; without thinking I looked down and speed up my pace. I walked past the man waiting for a comment that never came. I suddenly felt ashamed of myself. Who was I to make an assumption about this man’s character and intentions, simply based on his gender and clothing? Isn’t that exactly what feminists are fighting against? Later reflection on the pervasiveness of street harassment helped me to shift the blame and shame.

This is my appeal to the MEN of New York City. Help us to stop street harassment. DEFY the negative expectations women are forced to have about you. Re-condition us so that we don’t have to be afraid simply walking the streets. And if a woman hollabacks, listen. 

Visit hollaback! to learn more and get involved.

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About Kaitlyn O'Hagan

Kaitlyn is a Macaulay Honors student at Hunter College, where she studies History and Public Policy.