Dear John,

I’m really tired of talking to you.  I’m tired of responding to your yells, I’m tired of crossing the street to avoid you, I’m tired of rolling my eyes, and I’m tired of trying to ignore you.  At this point, I get it, you’re trying to “put me in my place” or scare me or assert some kind of power over me or maybe just be an asshole at the expense of my gender.  I get what you’re doing, I hate it just as much as I always have and, even though I try really hard, it still hurts just as much every time.

Just now, as I’m sitting on the A train, you’re standing beside me, pushing towards me and pulling out your dick and snapping your fingers, low, to get my attention.  But I don’t want to write a Dear John to you.   I’m too fucking tired of always dealing with you to even think about giving you a second more of the time you always try to take from me.

I do want to write a Dear John to the man beside me.  The one who looks away while I’m trying to get his attention to help me stop this masturbator.  I want to write a Dear John to the man across from me, legs open wide, taking up as much space as possible and refusing to meet my eye. I don’t get what they’re doing.  I don’t understand how they can ignore the harassment going on a few feet from them.  I don’t understand how they can brush it off, or re-write it, or simply not see it.

So Dear John, I’m here, and I need you to step up.  Ignoring the harassment and avoiding my looks for help is part of the problem.  Dear John, I want you to stand up against harassment.  Whether it’s giving me some space, standing up to the harasser, or simply showing support, you have to do something now.  You have to do something NOW.



Dear John,

A terrible thing has happened!  You and your friends have opened my eyes to your true nature. The words I now use to describe you are vile, idiot, scumbag, ignorant, stupid, low life, loser.  Do you remember when I thought you were beautiful, noble, strong and respectable?  I miss the time when I thought you were a better person, the time before you insisted on showing me the real you.  How ugly it is, when I see how happy you are to you hurt women. It’s not that I want to leave you, it is just that I now find you repulsive.



Dear John & Friend,

Ok, this is pretty awkward.  I’m ending things with you.  And your friend. 

You knew about each other, don’t look so surprised.  I saw you two exchange a glance as you watched me walk down the subway stairs.  For a moment, I considered stopping short so I didn’t have to walk past you.  My mind had a quick verdict:  “um, to hell with that, I know the exact spot I need to stand at in order to be in front of the exit at the next station, and glances are not making me late for work and I WILL STAND THERE.” 

I thought I knew you—I figured you would just give me some looks, a few smirks. I was wrong.  Once I got closer, your friend muttered something about “that pussy” and you jumped right in front of me, leaning in to smack your lips at the air an inch from my mouth.  I felt the puff of air on my face.  Funny thing is, I take my dirty talk and kisses with CONSENT.  Of course, my lack of consent was the whole point to you, and you laughed to each other as you made a war game out of stealing my feeling of safety.  Well guess what: I am a warrior and now you know.

Remember those first words I spoke, so everyone could hear? “Why did you just do that? Why did you kiss at my face? I don’t know you.”  That’s when you decided I was a “bitch,” and that you “don’t know what I’m talking about.”  I replayed it for you and anyone else within earshot, twice.  You also found out I wasn’t fooled by your attempted insult: “You only called me a bitch because I’m rejecting you. You’re done, back off.”  Suddenly, you had nothing to say. The subway car had arrived. I got on.  You didn’t.

So, since I’ll never see you again, it’s great we won’t have to return anything to each other.  You tried to take my security, but I held on.  As for you, I think you left behind your feeling of entitlement somewhere over here.  I’m keeping it.




Dear Men in My Neighborhood,

We all live here. You and I have to share sidewalk space to get from Point A to Point B. I am inches away from you for a brief moment of time. We might have even exchanged pleasantries at the corner store.

None of the above gives you the right to call me baby, whistle at me, or touch me.

Especially you, who I purposefully dodged because you showed no signs of moving, even a little bit out of mutual respect (stay classy), and grabbed my arm anyway. You thought you could take what you wanted, did you?

Or you, asshole, who ruined my early morning walk with my dog. This happened over 9 months ago, but your cruel words describing all of the intimate things you wanted to do to me is still burned in my brain. I resent you for that.

It felt particularly frightening when I simply wanted to walk home late night from a friends place (3 blocks away, no less), and you thought it was a good idea to RUN across the street to approach me. And extend your hand to introduce yourself. That Nice Guy behavior made me really afraid.

You are all different, but very much the same. I can never fully feel comfortable when I think a predator is lurking around every corner. The predator is you.

You disappoint me, Men in My Neighborhood. You will never control me. Kindly go die in a fire.

Hugs and kisses,



Dear John,

You’re not working out. Literally—you’re not working out, you’re just standing there watching me workout. Your eyes scan my body, taking it in against its will. I came to the gym for me, but instead you stand there, gawking as if I’m here for your entertainment. My movements are awkward, stunted even. I hardly move because I feel like you think every bend, every twist, every stretch is for your enjoyment, as opposed to being for my own self-improvement. But what do you care?

Despite the earbuds planted firmly in my ears, you try to say something to me. The battery on my phone has died so I can hear you, but I pretend that I can’t. The words, “Damn girl, you look tight” drip with so much sexual innuendo that I fear I might be covered in it. I look past you, at my reflection in the mirror. “It’s about me. This is for me, not him,” I remind myself. You lick your lips and I still ignore you. Then you get mad. You call me a “stuck up bitch” who thinks “she’s too good” for you, because to you, my presence in public is an implicit offering of myself to the first guy willing to approach me. I shouldn’t have standards, preferences or pride. I’m here for you to pick up, and when that fails, for you to put down.

I debate whether or not I should just move to another area of the gym. Or should I just go home, cutting my me-time short? I think, “I came here to become stronger, so why do I feel so weak?”  This just isn’t working out—I’m not working out.

Just as I get ready to give up and go home I see that you’ve gone back to your workout. You’re performing push-ups, your back dipping, revealing your spinelessness.  Your workout, your life, your day goes on, unaffected by my presence or rejection.  “Fuck this,” I think.  I put my stuff back into the locker and get ready to finish my workout, because at the end of the day, my presence at this gym—really, in any public place—is for me. 

So John, you may think that you’re rendering me powerless with your stares, your name-calling and your obscene gestures, but really, all you’re doing is making yourself weaker. All of that wasted effort has taken away from your “you-time”, and it shows. 

Forever Not Yours,



Dear John,

You probably don’t know who you are since I would imagine this isn’t the first time that you’ve done this sort of thing. On the subway last week you squeezed yourself uncomfortably close to me on a crowded 1 train. When I shot you a look of “excuse you”, you took it as an invitation to put your arm on the back of my seat. You gave a sly grin and said “Hey, baby”. With my headphones in my ears I simply looked at you with disgust and said “nuh-uh”. But the train was too crowded to get up and move seats. So there we sat, you looking at me like a hungry dog and me, praying that the next stop would be yours. We rode like that for eight stops- I counted them. 

You probably think I’m a bitch. And I probably am. Because of men like you, I don’t meet the eyes of thousands of men I pass by each week. Because of men like you, I won’t respond when men in public say “good afternoon” because it all too quickly it becomes “lookin’ real sexy today, baby”. Because of men like you, the world is a worse place than it was before we boarded that train last week. 

Its a shitty thing to do to make a young woman feel that uncomfortable in a place as public as a crowded subway car. And for eight stops, as the train continued to fill up, I thought that maybe I would just get off and wait for the next one. But why should I? Why should I be late to meet my friends because you wouldn’t keep your hands to yourself or have the decency to stop eye-fucking me even after I shut you down? “Sorry I’m late guys but this guy on the train really thought he could get in my pants if he just stared hard enough”. 

But you didn’t really think that, did you John? It wasn’t about sexual gratification as much as feeling powerful in a shared space. Are you a big man now? Are you king of the 1 train? No- you’re just another harassing bastard who gets off on making the women around you uncomfortable and intimidated. Just think for one second of your life: we live in a world such that both men and women must occupy public spaces at the same time, whether you like it or not. So maybe you can show the most minimal amount of respect for me and just leave me alone. I’d rather be nothing to you than a sexual opportunity. 

Thanks for listening, John. I can’t expect you to make the world a better place for all of us but I can expect you not to make it worse. Think about that next time you get on the train. 

Respecfully hopeful,


Show No Love For Street Harassment

Join Hollaback! in our campaign to give street harassers the kiss-off this Valentine’s Day. Help us show street harassers that we are not—and never were—their babies, their sweethearts or their mamis. Show street harassers that cat-calling is not an acceptable form of courtship—ever!

Join us in writing-off street harassers by submitting your very own Dear John letter and let your your harassers know that when it comes to the problem with street harassment, it’s not you, it’s them! 

Send your Dear John letters to holla@ihollaback.org. 

Break the silence and Hollaback!

~Hollaback! Team

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