demonstration, Verbal

Lindsay’s story from North Carolina: Shopping in peace

I was in the bedding aisle of Target when a large, tall man starting coming down the aisle. I moved my cart so he could pass by and as he did I heard him say something. The only word I can make out was “attractive”. I said, “Excuse me?” and he, unabashedly yet creepily, repeated himself, “You are a VERY attractive woman”. I responded, “I find that VERY offensive”. He began to apologize as he shuffled down the aisle (it was apparent he was not actually shopping for anything), and I decided to give him more of a piece of my mind. I told him that women don’t appreciate those comments, that my husband wouldn’t either, and that it was highly inappropriate. I quickly walked away and found a Target employee who, thankfully, responded quickly and sympathized with my distress. He called a security officer. The verified that the man left the store and offered to stay with me while I shopped and to walk me to my car.

What enraged me about this is that men are able to shop without being approached or made to feel uncomfortable. But because I am a woman, I cannot shop in peace.

 

To help build a world where more stories end with bystanders as supportive as this Target employee, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign.  Only 11 days to go!

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demonstration, Verbal

Lida’s story from Louisiana: “Boys can’t be sluts”

My story is not as traumatic as some of the others, but it affected me greatly in two ways. First, we live in a small town, where, mostly, people are friendly and polite. More importantly, my young daughters and their friend witnessed it – not the way I want them to know the world.

We often ride bikes to a local convenience store to get some exercise and a frozen drink. The girls (ages 10 and 13) and I like to sit in front of the store to rest and watch cars go by. We each pick a color of a car and count the passing cars to see who tallies the most. Innocent summer evening fun. Since it’s a friendly community, the girls often wave to cars and vice versa.

One day the girls waved to a pickup truck with a young couple inside. The male driver yelled “Slut” at them. The girls looked at me and asked what he said. I told them he yelled “Squirt”, but they didn’t believe me.

The incident came up quite a few times over the next week. They don’t understand why somebody could say something so hurtful to them. I said that he was probably hurtful and rude to many people. My youngest daughter said “he wouldn’t have yelled at a boy. And if he did, if we were boys, he would have picked a different word. Boys can’t be sluts.”

It upset me that in this crucial phase when they are learning what it will mean to be a young woman, instead of a little girl, that they already have encountered a man who is disrespectful to women.

 

To help build a world where being a woman isn’t defined by being yelled some rude thing by some drive-by creep, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign.

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demonstration, homophobic, Verbal

Why we need the “I’ve Got Your Back” Campaign: Alice’s Story

In 2010 I studied at TAFE NSW, the port macquarie campus, I was 22 years old. The year began with one student commenting constantly that ‘he is a man and I am a woman’ so he could ‘have me’. I quickly explained my sexuality to him and thought that was that. A few months went by and he started harassing me shockingly, yelling “You are a sin against god.” across the science lab at me while the teacher was in the room. She somehow seemed to miss these comments.
He would follow me to the carpark asking me to dinner and always offering to help, trying to get me to come over to his house. It got worse as he made comments like, “so that’s where you live” and “Is your little sister as hot as you?” and at one point he cornered me in the carpark and pulled out live ammunition, saying he had the gun in the glovebox of his car, his car was parked 3 spaces away from mine. I felt threatened, he was physically bigger and constantly spoke of how many people he had killed when he served in the armed forces.
When he was angry he punched objects and made dents so everyone could see, he threw tables and chairs when the teachers were not around and other students just ignored him, when searching for witnesses, nobody spoke up, I was all alone.
At my breaking point with the only advice given by my mother to “Ignore him”, I listened to my partner instead and filed the complaint. When I did, they ignored the harassment and focused on the live ammunition he had brought onto the campus. The police took him from class and searched his car and he was kicked out for 2 weeks but upon returning, the barrage of hateful comments returned with him.
By this time I had befriended members of his group and found out he had been harassing other students and they didn’t like him anyway. As a group we ignored everything he said, gave no sympathy and did not invite him when we went on trips together, we openly excluded him because of his behaviour.
By the end of the year I found out he had moved on to another girl and is stalking/harassing her. He hasn’t learnt and is still in the area.
I’m forever watching out when I hang with my little sister, I’ve changed my look in the hopes he won’t recognise me at a glance. I don’t want him to know what she looks like just in case he starts harassing her.

If you believe in a person’s right to chose their sexuality without the threat of violence and are tired of “just ignoring” creeps like this, please help us by donating now.

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demonstration

Sarah’s Story: Not alone

I was grabbing takeout with my boyfriend and decided to wait outside the cramped store and get some air. I had just sat down on a bench when an old man approached, staring at me the whole time. I assumed he would lumber past, but he changed his direction at the last minute to stand right in front of me and asked “Are you alone?” I surprised the creep and myself with a strong NO and walked quickly towards a group of people until he passed.

What upset me most was that I could not feel safe at 7 p.m. on a busy street simply because I am female and by myself. The creep’s question captured perfectly what feels threatening about being harassed on the street, the feeling that there’s no one there to help. THANK YOU, Hollaback, for your work to empower girls to stick up for themselves and for each other!

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The Movement

Time to Count Street Harassment as Hostile Acts

BY KC WAGNER AND EMILY MAY, reposted from Women’s eNews.

The community around fighting street harassment is growing stronger and has pointed to its pervasiveness. K.C. Wagner and Emily May say more research is needed to lay the groundwork necessary to end this type of harassment.

(WOMENSENEWS)–The rape allegations against former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and now Egyptian former bank chair Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar by two hotel maids have refocused the world’s attention on the risks that women face by going to work.

Comments about someone’s body, assumptions based on race or sexuality, inappropriate touching, gestures, or sexual requests–it seems that everyone either has a story or knows someone that does. And we never know when these situations will escalate.

As egregious as the allegations are against Strauss-Kahn and Omar, there’s a fundamental difference between harassment in the past and today. Today, a name exists for what has happened, systems of accountability are in place and laws protect those who are victimized.

Even this limited progress has not extended to the streets though. Today a silent epidemic rages on. Street harassment–or sexual harassment in public spaces–is fast becoming the flashpoint issue for an emerging generation of activists, just as workplace harassment was in 1980s. And like in the 1980s, a solid coordination of activism, research and analysis is needed to move street harassment from the background to the forefront.

In 1991, when the Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas case captured the public’s attention about “sexual harassment,” activists, academics, legal scholars, legislators and practitioners had been at least a decade “in the trenches.” They had already been developing vehicles for women’s voices across the country, analyzing crisis counseling and hotline records, conducting scientifically based studies and writing academic articles, articulating a feminist jurisprudence, defending women in court and beginning to influence workplace prevention and policies and challenging workplace norms. A strong platform from this decade of academic and activist work was in place to challenge the victim-blaming and vilification of Hill and to continue the fight.

 

No Difference

Street harassment is no different than workplace harassment in its purpose and its effect. It is meant to put victims in their place, to remind them that they are objects and that their safety is a privilege, not a right. As a result, people change jobs, leave apartments or whole cities and suffer long-term stress and anxiety orders.

Now young activists internationally, at nonprofits such as Hollaback! and in projects such as Stop Street Harassment, Blank Noise Project and WomenSpeak, are beginning to stand up and say “no more.”

In 2005, a group of young friends, men and women from ages 21 to 24, were telling their stories of street harassment. When they walked alone, they felt vulnerable and powerless; when they would yell at the instigators of the harassment, the situation escalated; police did not seem to respond to their concerns. One of the men in the group said to his female friends: “You live in a different New York City than we do.”

They did what many youth would do when faced with a similar challenge: they started a blog. Called Hollaback!, it was intended to bring awareness to street harassment. They were quickly inundated by others’ stories and supporters. Today 24 Hollaback! sites are up and running, from Croatia to Argentina to Atlanta. This newly forming community of voices combines story-telling with on-the-ground activism. And with coverage in The New York Times, the BBC and NPR in the past year, the world is clearly listening. We believe the time is right to tackle this long overdue issue once and for all.

Little Data Available

However, the leaders of the movement to end street harassment face a challenge similar to the early days of the workplace harassment movement: little data.

Activists working to end street harassment have responded by collecting crowd-sourced data. With the more than 2,000 stories collected and mapped on ihollaback.org through Hollaback!’s iPhone and Droid applications, we know that no one is alone in his or her experiences. Street harassment impacts young women in particular, with factors like race and sexuality tending to increase the frequency and severity of the harassment. A study conducted through an online survey tool by Holly Kearl, published in her 2010 book “Stop Street Harassment,” indicates that between 80-100 percent of women have been harassed at some point during their lives.

But knowing that crowd-sourced data is self-selecting and cannot paint a broader, more complete picture, street harassment activists are asking for more.

In October 2010, over 100 activists crowded into a standing-room-only city council room at New York City’s first ever hearing on street harassment, hosted by Councilmember Julissa Ferrarras, and sounded a call for more research.

During the hearing, advocates called for a study that would produce the data needed to address street harassment in New York City. The study would look at the long-term impact of street harassment and the effectiveness of both formal and informal solutions in making people feel safer in their communities.

It would be the first of its kind at a time when governments internationally are searching for solutions. In this ever-tightening budget year, a study on street harassment is a relatively inexpensive method for New York City to lead the way. More important, such research provides an opportunity to provide concrete solutions to a deep-seated social issue.

Street harassment activists know they have many more battles ahead. But research is a critical early step as it allows us to move this issue from an individual to a collective experience. If we wait, we fear that yet another generation will have to endure the same harassing experiences.

Now is the time for City Council to take this small first step toward a day when street harassment is taken as seriously as workplace sexist behavior.

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demonstration

Miranda’s Story: “Female athletes have the right to exercise in public without being harassed and objectified”

Early this spring, I was running with other members of my high school girls track team. We were waiting for our coach, and we decided to stretch in an empty driveway along the street. Suddenly, one of us noticed a man in another driveway nearby, holding up a cell phone towards us and apparently taking a picture of us with it. A similar incident happened another day, when a man in a car photographed us as we were running. Both perpetrators left immediately after the incidents.
A few months after both of those incidents, I was running with a few other girls around the downtown area of our town. As we were standing at a corner and waiting for the light to change so we could cross, a man happened to walk towards us along the sidewalk. He appeared to be in his 40s or 50s, had apparently not shaved in a few days, and was wearing dark sunglasses that hid his face. As he passed us, he appeared to be looking at our legs, and we did not realize until he was past us that he had said ‘beautiful’ as he walked by us, quietly. This shocked all of us, and we were not sure it had happened until we looked at each others’ faces and knew all of us had heard it. He walked away as if he hadn’t just harassed us, and we pretended the same for the rest of our run.
We have also been yelled at by kids our age or younger. Once kids in a restaurant we ran past yelled “work those thighs!” repeatedly at us, and both the first time we ran past and as we ran back the same way. A few times, boys who were still in middle school yelled at us, talked about us, or even briefly tried to block or follow us as we were running.
Female athletes have the right to exercise in public (even in short running shorts) without being harassed and objectified! The fact that we happen to be wearing shorts does not remove our right to exercise, and our right to be treated like human beings, not pieces of meat. We did not react to these incidents and call out the perpetrators, and just put up with it, even though maybe we should have done something. This is a way that society treats female bodies as things to be looked at, while male bodies belong to those who inhabit them and are for their own use. (Often shirtless) male runners never worry about things like this; it is immediately accepted that they are not showing off their bodies, so that they can be objectified, but instead that they are running to become faster, and that their small amount of clothing is nothing more than a necessity for running in hot weather.

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The Movement

The UN takes on street harassment

BY EMILY MAY

As a quick look at our global network of 24 sites will show you, street harassment is a global problem.  Too often, governments are afraid to tackle it and resign themselves to tired old idea that there is nothing you can do about it. But not the UN.  They are taking it on head first, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet said:

Women, youth and children — especially girls — face particular risks in [cities]. Whether on city streets, public transport or in their own neighbourhoods, they are subject to abuse ranging from harassment to sexual assault and rape. This daily reality limits their freedom to participate in education, work, recreation, and in political and economic life — or to simply enjoy their neighbourhoods.

On July 1st I’ll be heading to UN Women’s Safe Cities Conference in Cairo, Egypt.  The Safe Cities project has been doing some amazing work in five cities around the world, and now they are partnering with UNICEF and UN-HABITAT to expand this project to 20 cities internationally. From their site:

Potential interventions may include:

  • Enabling women and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives such as decisions on budgets and local infrastructure
  • Establishing female councillor-led committees for effective response to sexual violence and crimes in communities
  • Increasing street lights in high-risk areas, including the use of solar lights which are cost-effective and more resilient to damage and vandalism
  • Training of community police units to prevent gender-based violence

The five-year initiative will be piloted with municipal leaders. Dushanbe, Greater Beirut, Metro Manila, Marrakesh, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, San José and Tegucigalpa are among the cities currently being considered.

Sounds amazing, right?  But wait for it: it gets better.  From UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet:

We will also promote data collection, build baselines and develop indicators through women- and youth-led initiatives and innovative efforts, such as mapping through text messaging and the use of Geographic Information Systems in women’s, youth and child safety audits.

Yes.  You are not dreaming. The UN is looking into launching women and youth-led crowd-sourced data collection to incidences of harassment and assault!

We will keep you posted on the progress.  But suffice it to say, we are oh-so-excited.

 

one comment 
demonstration

“With each utterance of a catcall, hurt is felt”

BY EMMA reposted from:  Elephant Journal

Last weekend led me to a family reunion halfway across the country. Travel can feel un-grounding for me, and so, with yoga mat in tow I prepared to carry deep breaths cross-country via plane.
The slow spring sunshine finally pulled me outside to the lawn to stretch and practice on the second day of the trip. I felt grateful for the fresh air, warm grass and sun. I had convinced my cousin, a “yoga-virgin” to join me in practice. With each breath the sun came out further and I felt my body finding a new sense of grounding and expansion amidst the busyness of a family reunited.
Cars had been driving past our lawn-turned-yoga-studio throughout our practice and so the sound of engines provided more of a consistent sound track than an annoyance. There was one car, however, that stood out from the rest. From the front seats of the indistinguishable black sedan peered two men, presumably college students from the local state university.
First I returned their gaze, becoming aware of their eyes as I melted forward into a seated forward bend. I quickly regretted my decision to look to my right when my eyes were met by the abrasive sounds of catcalls hollering out into the stalled traffic.
I glanced to my right to make sure I was getting this image right. Were these guys for real?
As if looking for some sort of understanding I stifled a groan, turning to my cousin for validation in my disgust. I could feel the frustration bumbling up inside of me. I felt shocked and conflicted. Taking a deep breath in and out I reflected in my forward fold. My practice is about compassion and patience, I reminded myself and yet in the midst of it I had the urge to yell back, to stick up for myself, and reassure these catcalling men that blatant objectification of women is never OK.
Rather than yell back, I breathed another dirgha (three-part yogic) breath and after a second catcall, the light changed and the car pulled forward into the intersection. I felt myself rolling my decision to remain silent over and over again in my mind. This time I chose understanding, I told myself.
My cousin didn’t understand, he had never witnessed or been victim to a similar instance. I wish I could say that this sort of act is an anomaly but unfortunately, it isn’t. Earlier that week my sister had been catcalled and photographed while biking by a passing group of construction workers in their truck—not cool.
I am not trying to suggest that only men are catcalling—I have definitely witnessed women falling guilty of the same act. Nor am I suggesting that only women are victims to the calls or that all guys catcall. But, I am saying that with each utterance of a catcall, hurt is felt. Whether you think we can hear your call or not, take a second and realize what you’re doing by yelling out.
Sure you may think I look pretty awesome in my forward fold but that’s not the point. Please resist the urge to holler and instead send out some love. Yogis and bicyclists alike much appreciate the respect.

 

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demonstration

Benny’s Story: Creeps harassing young girls

Once I found Hollaback, I started thinking of my experiences and found quite a few. There was one that I didn’t even see as harassment but now I see it has always stayed with me in the most negative of ways. This was very long ago but I feel this is the perfect way to talk about it. I was about 10 years old and was sent to a nearby store to get something needed to cook. As I walked, this guy on a bike stopped me and asked if I knew where a certain street was, I said “No, sorry” and continued on. He did this about 4 more times until I reached the store. Once I got out I took a different route home because of the fear he might catch up with me again–I felt very uncomfortable. Once I was pretty close to my house I thought I was free but he called out once again and said “Hey, look at this…” I looked toward him and realized he was flashing me—I couldn’t move, I felt horrible and though he did not approach me further I felt dirty. I finally got home and didn’t even know what to do–I knew something was wrong. I hated how he made me feel and now I hate that he specifically targeted me and went out of his way to make me feel that way. It has been 10 years since it happened but I still feel glad I found somewhere safe to say, “fuck you!”

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demonstration, public masturbation, Stalking

Benny’s story: I was only ten then, but the time has come to HOLLA!

Once I found Hollaback, I started thinking of my experiences and found quite a few. There was one that I didn’t even see as harassment but now I see it has always stayed with me in the most negative of ways. This was very long ago but I feel this is the perfect way to talk about it. I was about 10 years old and was sent to a nearby store to get something needed to cook. As I walked, this guy on a bike stopped me and asked if I knew where a certain street was, I said “No, sorry” and continued on. He did this about 4 more times until I reached the store. Once I got out I took a different route home because of the fear he might catch up with me again–I felt very uncomfortable. Once I was pretty close to my house I thought I was free but he called out once again and said “Hey, look at this…” I looked toward him and realized he was flashing me—I couldn’t move, I felt horrible and though he did not approach me further I felt dirty. I finally got home and didn’t even know what to do–I knew something was wrong. I hated how he made me feel and now I hate that he specifically targeted me and went out of his way to make me feel that way. It has been 10 years since it happened but I still feel glad I found somewhere safe to say, “FUCK YOU!!…Hollaback.

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