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BY EMILY MAY
Remember when “Stop Looking at My Mom” by the Astronomical Kid went viral last year? The world was cheering, and the anti-street harassment community went wild. The verdict was clear: this kid was amazing.
And then he took it to the next level. He showed up to New York City’s first street harassment hearing with his mom to testify against street harassment on October 28th of last year. His testimony was smart, thoughtful, and insightful. This wasn’t just a catchy song to him – it was a call to action.
And now, Brian Bradly, the 14 year old Astronomical Kid, has wowed us all again by taking the issue of street harassment to the main stage of the XFactor. As Veronica and I just watched this clip in the office – I couldn’t but to cry tears of happiness. As Brian Bradley accomplishes his dream, he’s also accomplishing mine by bringing the issue of street harassment to the main stage.
Brian, we’ll dance to your revolution any day. Keep winning, keep inspiring us, and don’t stop believing. I know we won’t.
BY EMILY MAY AND VERONICA PINTO
On Wednesday, September 14th at 5pm, Hollaback! started a petition to get T-Mobile to comply with the subpoena and release the contact information of a suspected rapist. By 10am the next morning, 125 of you signed the petition, and T-Mobile folded.
Never doubt that 125 individuals and an on-line petition can change the world. Because that’s exactly what you did.
The story was heartbreaking: in July, a 22-year old woman woke up in a car with two men on top of her. She screamed and tried to get away, and they let her out of the car — taking only her phone. She was left with bruises and a broken zipper. The details of what happened before she woke up remain unknown. In an odd turn of events, the perpetrator tried to call her partner’s T-Mobile phone from a blocked number, but only left a fake name and a vague apology.
After the crime was reported, the police subpoenaed T-Mobile for the number, but T-Mobile refused to hand it over, claiming to do so would be violating the “privacy” of their customers. According to the NYPD, T-Mobile is notorious for their failure to cooperate in police investigations — but their decision left the rapist at large, and women at risk.
But you didn’t take no for an answer. You quickly came to her defense and signed the change.org petition to demand action from the telecommunications giant. And it worked.
Thank you for having the guts to stand up for what you know is right, and for proving that together, we have the power to change the world.
BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
So, SlutWalk. A movement whose name makes me cringe. I joined SlutWalk for the same reason I join many things: Desire, fear, half-conscious longing for union. But let’s zone in on that FEAR. Fear of what? Fear of oneself? Well, yeah, sure, but what else? Fear of… Dudes.
Yeah. Dudes. The men people. The ones with the power. The ones whose power has been socially encouraged to be insecurely felt and hence violently expressed.
But wait! Not all men are repulsive, sleazy, insidiously creepy wannabe he-men, evil warring rapist babies with penises made out of spikes! That would be crazy! But that’s how society presented them to me! (And now, whenever I consort with a fellow who’s aware of his socialization and curious to know about social constructs and his personal history and sources that inspired adherence to “male” stereotyped behavior, I just fall over backwards and say Let’s have open-minded, potentially non-gender-normative sex! Or no? You’re not into that? Ok, let’s do it the boring way! So long as it’s consensual, no expression of sexuality is perverse!) Too many men are manipulated into the pervasive idea that male power is in need of constant re-affirmation. Their defensiveness is metastasized into cruelty.
But back to that fear…
Where there is fear there is also disgust. By what am I disgusted? Ladies. The popular conception of ladies. Women people. The ones without power. Women were presented to me (via all media and popular mythology so deeply entrenched it’s taken as “fact” and “natural”) as vindictive, slimy, conniving explosives that kill everyone in their paths. They were also put forth as pretty brain-dead princesses (who secretly want to kill everyone in their paths which is why we have to stop them by shaming them and calling them mean names—how about ‘slut’? Yeah, that’ll do). This was confusing for me. Because I was none of those things. Or was I all of those things? I wondered at these conflicting, woman-hating messages late into the night.
And then I got ANGRY. SO ANGRY. That my options were the only options given every female since men realized they could band together and shame us down: Virgin or whore. Stupid victim who gets killed for her naiveté or evil temptress who gets killed for her lusty wiles. And the Everyman victor goes off to slay the dragon and live his untroubled life while I, the virgin or whore, die in the background wondering why the hell I was only given two lousy choices when I TOO could be the Everyman. Everyone is the Everyman. The Everyman is a myth that purports (white, resource-rich) men as normal and everyone else as abnormal, deficient, pathological.
Well, I am not down with these double binds! Society’s unfair and unrealistic breakdown of binary gender qualities and abilities presents MEN as strong, powerful creeps and WOMEN as stupid, pitiful harpies.
I am neither of those things and nobody is. I joined SlutWalk to smash gender stereotypes. Gender stereotypes, after all, perpetuate rape.
The stereotype that men cannot control their sex drives and must violently penetrate, bloody and maim everything they want makes me murderous. That’s an unfair stereotype. It casts men as infantile hyenas and says women must resign themselves to violence. This is a myth. A myth akin to black people being stupid or gay people being sexually wanton. When you think about it, all negative mythology condemns the same thing: weakness. Sexual weakness, mental weakness. However you slice it, we all fear our humanity.
Because ALL people are sexual and ALL people are imperfect. Our society superficially values sexual control and the veneer of intelligence (instead of TRULY teaching and valuing sexual education, intelligence and diversity) and so assigns these incomplete and inhuman characteristics to the people it values most: Men. White men. White men with economic resources. But men don’t possess absolute power any more than robots do. Myths hurt everyone! If men who buy into the system constantly feel they aren’t measuring up (since no human being could) and take it out on those who are societally perceived as weaker and less deserving of sympathy, do we blame men? (A few times, but only on an individual, not systemic, basis) Or do we blame the overarching mythology and dualistic system that creates an absolute, essentialist, polarized division of FAUTLESSLY GLORIOUS (male) people and BAD, SNEAKY, PRETTY (female) people? (SlutWalk says we should.)
I’m so sick of being afraid of men (for some of their violent expressions of “power”). And I’m sick of wanting to be a man (so I can at least tangibly manifest my own desired power without being called names). I hate the system that assigns the quality of aggressive thoughtlessness to men and calls it power.
All myths that arrange people into artificial hierarchies are socially dangerous because they are emotionally devastating. You say a women has to wear the “right” clothes in order to fan the flames of alleged uncontrollable male lust (MY FEMALE LUST IS UNCONTROLLABLE, ARE YOU KIDDING ME? Still I manage to avoid assaulting people! And it’s not because my lust is lesser; it’s not because I don’t “naturally” lust: these things were SYTEMATICALLY taught to women, expected and enforced via shaming and calling a woman a “slut” if she acts like a “man” as if men were one monolithic hulk that has no empathy and no real desire for pleasure, just power and control). A black man has to not be black in order to not get targeted and arrested. A gay person has to not be gay in order to not be harassed and humiliated by zealots. A trans person has to not be trans in order to live in safety.
No one is free until everyone is free! Sexism is racism is homophobia is transphobia is ableism is prejudice. It’s the fear and hatred of perceived weakness we ALL have in ourselves. Why run from it? Why not explore it? Why displace our anger at other people who don’t deserve it?
And so! I’m marching with SlutWalk on October 1st to do my small part in challenging this culture that condones rape by glorifying qualities artificially associated with maleness and belittling all things perceived as female and feminine. I’m marching to
materialize the radical notion that ALL people deserve to be treated like human beings.
HOLLAnote: We’re reprinting this from our friends at change.org because, quite simply, it makes us rage. As we at Hollaback! know all too well, discrimination is a day-to-day occurrence for so many people internationally. But that doesn’t make it OK. We all deserve to be who we are — on the streets and in the air. Join us in signing this today.
Leisha Hailey and Camila Grey weren’t expecting anything out of the ordinary when they boarded their Southwest Airlines flight last Monday. Camila kissed Leisha — just a typical “I love you” peck like any couple might share.
Apparently, this was not okay with their flight attendant, who came over to explain that two women kissing was not acceptable, because Southwest is “a family-oriented airline.”
Leisha and Camila were extremely upset. The flight attendant wouldn’t back down. The conflict escalated. And Leisha and Camila were kicked off their flight.
Jeremy Sharp is a college student and a fan of Leisha’s — Leisha was one of the stars of the TV series “The L Word.” Jeremy started a petition on Change.org demanding that Southwest apologize to Leisha and Camila. Please sign Jeremy’s petition to Southwest today.
Southwest claims to be a supporter of LGBT rights — and, as corporations go, Southwest has excellent anti-discrimination policies. It’s even the official airline for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD). But now that those policies are being put to the test, Southwest is failing miserably.
In multiple statements, Southwest has refused to accept responsibility for the actions of its employee, and has instead blamed Leisha and Camila for bringing this discrimination on themselves. But Leisha and Camila would have had no cause to get upset if they hadn’t been targeted by their flight attendant for their sexual orientation.
Eradicating homophobia means more than saying the right buzzwords and sponsoring the right organizations. It means making sure that LGBT families are treated equally every day. If Southwest can brush this incident under the rug, what’s to stop other well-meaning companies from doing the same?
Southwest has already received an avalanche of bad publicity for both its employee’s discriminatory behavior and its failure to accept responsibility for the incident. The airline’s executives need to understand that potential customers aren’t going to let this go until Southwest issues an official, meaningful apology.
Please sign Jeremy’s petition asking that Southwest apologize to Leisha and Camila:
And keep on holla’ing back!
BY EMILY MAY
When I became ED of Hollaback! last year I was 29 and was terrified. Everyone told me it was impossible to launch a nonprofit in a recession, especially one with a atypical model addressing a rarely-discussed issue. I knew no one with big money (our biggest donor to date I met in line for the bathroom), and went for 8 months with no salary living off of my nonprofit-work’s savings to bring it to life. Today Hollaback! is alive and well thanks to sweat, tears, and kickass volunteers, and I want to show other folks (especially those uncomfortable with traditional leadership models because they’ve traditionally been used to oppress them) that it’s not only possible, it’s critical that we step up if we are going to create a world that we want to live in. And what better way to do this than through a webseries?
Enter Up and UP. In the words of founder Kristen Dolle,
“Up and UP is a webseries about the revolution that’s taking place in New York City, where extraordinary, young women are building businesses and leading movements to shape a better world. These girls bring a new generation of icons to the mix of Gloria’s, Arianna’s and Hillary’s. I believe these girls have the power to create a new culture of cool around awesome women, women who are using their intelligence to both generate revenue and improve the state of the world. This content is desperately needed in a male- dominated media landscape and serves as an excellent vehicle for these young women to get their messages out to the broadest audience.”
I met Kristen Dolle, the creator of Up and UP, last year and immediately loved her compelling vision. We need to present people with alternative views of leadership — and we need to start to undo some of the media’s less-than-compelling representations of women. I think this project accomplishes both. But it won’t accomplish either unless it gets funded.
Car followed me from the local IGA and slowly drove behind me calling me things like easy, tease, etc etc and making comments on my appearance. When I didn’t respond they sped up and got louder, screaming I was a frigid and that all frigids get raped cause they deserve it. The car was a red toyota.
Today was an ordinary day as most are. I got home early because I didn’t have rehearsal for the play I’m in at my high school or class at the local community college. As a young woman, I want to go places in my life and I’m doing everything I can to do so. This evening, however, that didn’t matter to a group of teenage boys. To them, I wasn’t a hardworking young woman who’s studying, getting some of her college credits out of the way even though she’s only a junior in high school, and filling the rest of the time with extra curriculars in the theatre department. To them, I was just a hot chick.
I was walking my neighbor’s dog for them and it was in the late evening. It was beginning to get dark but I didn’t mind because it was at least a little bit cooler than Florida is during the day. Because I would be jogging and it was at least 80 degrees outside, I opted to wear shorts and a tank top, nothing unheard of in the Sunshine State. As the dog Bella and I made our way through the neighborhood, a group of teenage boys passed us on the opposite side of the street. Since it was dark and I didn’t have my glasses on, I couldn’t recognize their faces but I knew that they went to my school. From across the street they tried to make conversation with me. Or at least, they spoke to me. No, not even that. They spoke at me.
They shouted out greetings, while talking to each other in between said greetings. They discussed how attractive I was by their standards when I was a mere ten feet away from them. I chose to ignore them, though I had a million of my own comments racing through my brain. Once I was farther away, they let up.
Unfortunately, this wasn’t the end of it for me because soon I had to turn around to go back where I came from. This time they were on the same side of the road as I was and Bella chose to go far slower than I wanted her to. I simply wanted to jog past and not deal with any more of them while Bella wanted to take her sweet time. I encouraged her to speed up by saying, “Bella! Bella, come on girl! Let’s go!” Picking up on her name, the boys called her too. When she didn’t respond, just as I hadn’t, they went back to trying on me. I kept ignoring their comments until finally I just didn’t. I thought about all the times in the past I’ve regretted holding back what I wanted to say. I thought about the conversation I just had the other day with a friend of mine of how much I hate being harassed by men on the street and how it makes me feel dirty and inferior. I thought of Hollaback. So when the next of the boys spoke, asking me what grade I was in, I replied with undeniable snark in my voice, “Not yours!” and jogged away.
Now sure, it wasn’t the most clever comment in the world. It wasn’t the toughest either. It wasn’t revolutionary or life changing, or anything. But it made me feel good. It felt good knowing that I stood up to those boys and put them in their place. It felt good to let them know that I meant business and I wasn’t going to put up with their harassment. It felt good to be able to walk away with no regrets other than not saying something cooler.
For the rest of the walk I felt great and I told my step mom about it immediately when I got home, then popped right on here at Hollback to share my story with other girls. For the first time, at sixteen years old, I stood up to the boys who wanted to show their superiority over me and proved that hey, I might be a girl, and a hot one at that, but I won’t let anyone try to make me feel like that’s all I am.
I was at Barnes & Noble looking for a book when I noticed a man standing unusually close to me. I figured he was also just looking for a book, but it made me so uncomfortable I decided to give up my search and look for something else. I went a couple aisles down and began browsing, but he followed me and I started feeling nervous. I moved again to the teen section figuring there’d be no reason for him to want something from it, but after a few minutes I saw him staring at me from the end of the shelf. I got so freaked out that I went to the front of the store at the cafe to sit, and he proceeded to follow me there and sit staring at me for my entire stay. This was my first encounter with anything like this and it made me feel so degraded and helpless. I’ve never felt that powerless before.
As the month of September draws to a close, many young students are already starting to focus on what their mid-term projects will be, coming to terms with that mystery meat served up in the cafeteria, and getting into the rhythm of heavy amounts of school work after a summer of freedom. This is the life of a typical middle-schooler, and it doesn’t seem to have changed that much over the last twenty years. But one thing has ~ the prevalence and viciousness of girls getting bullied by other girls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a new phenomenon by any means, it’s just that it seems to be taking a particularly virulent form now. Dangerous, even, but not just physically. All of us probably remember either seeing or even being a party to bullying, even before we reached the relative sanity of high school or college, but there is a not-so-subtle difference. Young female students seem to be showing more aggressiveness toward each other, and now with the flourishing of social media, the ways that they can inflict harm have become more cruel, more public, than ever before.
Typically, when we think of bullying, the image of some poor kid being pushed around on the playground comes to mind, but girls as a cohort tend to bully each other in less physical ways, especially as they get older. Young girls are emerging into adulthood not only by growing in mental and physical maturity, but also by grappling with the all-important issues of body image, and it’s close cousin, self-esteem. They are more vulnerable and hence, susceptible, to all the messages that we and their peers are sending them about themselves every day. So it makes it incredibly easy for an insecure girl to hurt another girl’s feelings, to crush her already fragile self-confidence, especially when it comes to sexuality.
The teen world in many ways tries to mirror the gravitas of the adult world, and that can translate into damaging rumors being accepted as fact. Assaults on reputation, or character assassination, is one weapon which some girls may use, especially out of jealousy. Other common methods are ostracism and harassment, in the form of name-calling. These can work particularly well when used as a group, to gang up on their target. Although the threat to a girl of being bullied and harassed by a fellow male student is very real, most bullying of girls is perpetrated by other girls. Facebook-posted, texted, yelled, and whispered epithets like ‘slut,’ ‘bitch,’ and ‘whore’ can have long lasting effects on the psyche and future ability to form healthy relationships. And sadly, perhaps because many adults have either been subjected to this treatment, or they were perpetrators themselves, not enough has been done about it. Next week, we’ll take a look a some of the ways a girl can effectively fight back, from Facebook to in-person encounters, so that she can regain her power as an emerging woman.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
Are you familiar with the concept of “the gaze”? The gaze is a common term usually spoken about in art or cinema, yet I think it’s most interesting in feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey’s interpretation. Mulvey, in her article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” says that films are another way for patriarchal culture to dominate by establishing a masculine “gaze” which permeates the film-viewing experience.
Say what? Basically, the viewpoint of the camera and the male protagonist are one and the same, and this is what the audience sees. The female character is left objectified, with only a passive role. The woman is the “bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning,” Mulvey says. Although she is mainly referring to the classic Hollywood films of the mid-20th century, I definitely think the gaze lives on in more modern films.
Take the film trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is played by actresses like Kirsten Dunst and Zooey Deschanel. She has no concrete goals or thoughts of her own, but mainly exists to liven up the male protagonist’s boring, emotionless life. She is, as Mulvey would say, made to be an object who we see only through the male gaze. Learning this trope, I was shocked to discover some of my favorite films make use of this! Although I still enjoy them, I am now constantly on the (difficult) look out for fully-developed female characters.
(Sidenote: If you’re interested in some more common female tropes in movies, I suggest you read Mindy Kaling’s recent delightful article in The New Yorker.)
I also realized this “gaze” extends to everyday life. Many times I have been uncomfortable on the street due to staring, which, like in cinema, establishes a type of control and makes me feel somewhat powerless. I’m sure many Hollaback! readers are also familiar with this. Making someone conscious of their staring would be a brave step, and reminds me of Barbara Kruger’s famous work (shown above, via The Chicago School of Media Theory) which renders the gaze somewhat powerless by calling the gazer out.
Luckily, a lot of the power divisions in movies have dissapeared with the introduction of independent cinema and more female-centered films. But the gaze still lives on in many ways. Have you encountered the “gaze” in everyday life?