in dc: ain’t no holla back girl

Update: Thank you to DC Blogs for bringing in some new visitors.
Please visit Holla Back DC! to read news about street harassment in
the D.C. area, read others’ experiences and to submit your own.

This is probably something that belongs on Holla Back DC!. After walking around the city and enjoying the amazing weather, James and I were headed back to the metro through Thomas Circle. It was just past 5pm and even though it was nice outside, the impending sunset* on a school night is the signal for me to head home.

I guess I am a Holla Back Girl by EveryNobody on flickr

We’d just made it past the first “spoke” preparing to cross M Street. There was a woman, by herself, talking on her cell phone also waiting to cross. While waiting for the light to cross, a van–maintenance or delivery, I can’t recall–pulled into the crosswalk and rolled down the driver-side window. The driver was grinning madly at the woman and we’d just gotten close enough to hear the exchange:

Him: You’re so pretty, you made me stop.
Her: In the middle of the crosswalk?! (We had the light by this time)
Him: …

So the three of us walked around behind the van and kept on going. And I know there’s still the issue of a lack of respect and that street harassment is a big problem, but it was impossible not to laugh. The woman was laughing too when she related what the guy said to James, finishing with “I tell you, it’s hard for a straight girl out here!”

Shaw Girl and I were discussing this over brunch one day. We need to locate… for lack of a better term, Catcaller Zero. We need to find that guy that started randomly hollerin’ at/talking to women on the street and was either so successful, or told people that he was successful that it snowballed this mess we got nowadays. I think he’s just an urban legend, but it might help if he’d come clean because everything I’ve seen indicates a zero success rate for randomly shouting at women on the street or from within traffic.**

Even so, what did that guy in the van–or any of these other men–think was going to happen? She would be so smitten by his blocking pedestrian traffic just to say hello that she’d hand over her number? Hop into the van? What? And I don’t accept that this guy was hollerin’ just to holla as he was clearly waiting for a response. Gotta think out that next move, man. Just sayin’! 🙄

* Which I still hate that it shows up at 5:30p now.

** You straight guys should take a tip from the gays, we’re all about the furtive eye contact and subtle body language. Give us some fans and it’d be straight up Dangerous Liaisons on 17th Street.

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14 Responses

  1. Mazzie says:

    yeah I could insert a diatribe about blatant expressions power and privilege and how some men think they have the right to (express) an opinion about every female form that passes their view, but … I’m tired. I can’t go anywhere in DC without the explicit expectation of some asshole saying something unwarranted and disrespectful.

  2. lemmonex says:

    The day I see this approach get results is the day I die of a heart attack.

  3. Hollaback DC says:

    Thanks for writing this post! We will cross post it tomorrow. A lot of men come on our blog and claim that what we define as street harassment is just how men get dates, find their wife and make babies. Yes, we actually had a man tell us this is the way babies are made. According to these individuals, it is all just part of evolution and we need to accept it. However, we think it is an urban legend as we have yet to hear of a story where a man hollered at a woman and later got a date or settle down to have children with her.

  4. Shaw Girl says:

    I hate the idea that this behavior is something women should “just accept”. One guy even had the nerve to tell me it was a compliment. No, moron, a compliment is when you approach a woman with dignity and respect and praise her on something other than her ass.
    .-= latest entry: Roasted Butternut Squash Buttermilk Pancakes =-.

  5. Alex says:

    I think that this phenomenon is just an impulse that goes back to caveman times. There’s absolutely no rational thought that goes along with it. The leering guy in the van isn’t thinking “maybe she’ll go out with me,” he’s not really thinking at all.

    Second, these guys tend to have an overestimated sense of self, so I guarantee you that guy in the van thought his “made me stop” line was clever and original.

    Any straight guy takes note any time he sees an attractive woman — most of us have enough class to keep it to ourselves. The guys who think it’s OK to “holla,” stare or otherwise harass weren’t raised right.

  6. Monica says:

    It’s always the delivery truck, or often in my case, the garbage truck drivers who seem to think this approach works. Not hot.
    .-= latest entry: Raw Silk: Sugar and No Spice, Not Very Nice =-.

  7. Peg says:

    Mmm — would love to see you doing your fan-thang! 😉 Just teasing. I’ll bet that woman was glad there were guys closeby, just in case. My younger brother, who happens to be gay, is over 6 ft. and probably would have given the guy a piece of his mind had the target been me.

    Construction sites are also filled with loathsome lotharios! It was particularly bad when I used to walk to work every day up 18th Street, NW during the 70s. So many of the charming row houses were junked for high-rises. I ignored them, but got so ANGRY!! They thought nothing was inappropriate to say and any comeback would have been met with jeers and laughter. AAARRG!!

  8. Jaylin says:

    At the same spot (Thomas Circle) around 10 pm last month, some woman yells out of her car at me and my boyfriend, “I’d f*ck you AND your girlfriend”. It was the most hilarious and puzzling comment i’ve received off the street from a stranger.

  9. Golden Silence says:

    It’s always the delivery truck, or often in my case, the garbage truck drivers who seem to think this approach works. Not hot.

    That really bothers me as well. A lot of these men harass while on the clock and don’t give a damn about their jobs. There were times when I got the license plate number of the truck or van before anything went down, because 9 times out of 10 I get beeped at from one of these clowns. Annoying.

  10. BustersDad says:

    Since much of my commute is via metro I do not see much truck based catcalling; I get to see the underground version. “Hey baby, you….” I am not surprised how many women completely ignore these approaches. What does surprise me is how often — maybe 1 in 10 or 1 in 20 — the approach works! With those odds it really does seem like these guys are working on the not too shabby side of “nothing ventured, nothing gained.”

  11. Mazzie says:

    This morning I watched as a man walked by a woman and said something about how she looked sexy and as he scurried away she shouted, “you could at least give me a dollar or something!”


  1. November 16, 2009

    […] Can there be a quest to find “Catcaller Zero?” Urban Bohemian wonders about the genesis of this really strange and offensive behavior after seeing it in action. The post, in dc: ain’t no holla back girl. […]

  2. November 17, 2009

    […] are always thrilled to see other DC blogs write about street harassment and were very happy to see this post yesterday on Urban Bohemian. We often wonder ourselves who started the rumor that street harassment […]

  3. December 17, 2009

    […] with non-matching chromosomes.  I also found my friend, Urban Bohemian’s, question about Catcaller Zero to be an interesting take on the knuckle-dragging courtship ritual of yelling random and frequently […]

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