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Meet Becca Lee, the collector of words fighting street harassment in Des Moines, IA.
Why do you HOLLA? Because I can. It’s my right.
What’s your signature Hollaback? Stop harassing women!
What’s your craft? Ripping books to shreds–not literally, but somewhat. I’m finishing a master’s degree in literature.
HOLLAfact about your city: Des Moines is the 3rd largest insurance capital of the world (after London and Hartford, CT).
What was your first experience with street harassment? I was in college. It started with honks and whistles as I walked to class, which bothered me, but not enough to do anything about it. Then a harasser started repeatedly making sexual comments about me right outside of my apartment building. I felt unsafe to even walk to my car, which was right next to my building, and I just couldn’t keep quiet anymore. That’s when I found Hollaback!
Define your style: Lots of caffeine and loud shoes.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? I would replace the “Pledge of Allegiance” with the words “I will respect other people. I will keep my hands to myself. I will take “no” for an answer. I will be a decent human being.”
What do you collect? Words. Books, quotes, lyrics, lines of poetry, movie lines, you name it.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.
My superheroine power is… corrupting young adults with my radical queer feminist ideals. Because civil rights are anti-American, ya know…
What inspires you? People who respect others!
In the year 2020, street harassment…will still be offensive. It is not, never has been, and never will be OK.
BY THE HOLLABACK! FAMILY
At Hollaback!, we believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident, without fear of harassing language or actions whether they’re walking home from work, going to school, or at a protest. Over the last weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has created a space where individuals can talk, share ideas, demonstrate and collaborate on ways to end economic injustice. We are excited by the momentum that this movement has created in its push for social and economic change, and we stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and share in their mission to create a just and equal world for all.
Hollaback!s exists in 34 cities in 14 countries around the world, and as representatives of Hollaback! we would like to publicly offer our support, as a resource and as activists, to Occupy Wall Street and its Occupy counterparts worldwide. Our research shows that high rates of street harassment often occur in crowded spaces, and unfortunately, the Occupy sites are not exempt and a number of incidences have been reported. Sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable in any context.
Let’s work together to build a world where everyone can live, walk and Occupy free from street harassment. If you want to join the movement, join us by signing onto the Safe Spaces Support Team at OWS.
I crossed the street with the pedestrian light, but this pickup truck was rolling into the crosswalk so I waved as I walked by. He honked at me, so I turned around and he was flipping me off, I flipped him off, and he used his hand and tongue to gesture fellatio. I yelled “Really?”, and he continued to flip me off and put his hands in his mouth in lewd ways. I don’t know what he was saying because I was listening to headphones, and then flipping him off and walking away.
BY NICOLA BRIGGS
Twenty and thirty years ago, women of all ages had to contend with harassment in the forms of scary in-person attacks, hate (snail) mail, and maybe a breathy phone call or two. But while these remain the weapons of choice for mean, insecure kids and dangerous psychopaths alike, women today have to deal with something much more insidious ~ cyber bullying. Who is a target for this type of behavior? At school, a girl may have made a few enemies just for standing out in some way ~ maybe because she grew taller than her peers, appeared sexually developed when they weren’t yet, always got the best grades in class, had a stutter, was a little heavier, seemed to be prettier, wore older clothing instead of the latest trends…..the list goes on and on, and none of this negative attention is her fault.
The point is that it does not take that much to stand out from a cohort that values conformity above all else, to bolster a still-fragile sense of confidence and security, so if a girl is perceived “different” in any way, she could become a target for just about any form of harassment. Today, we are talking about how to protect oneself from a “cyber bully,” from one person or even a group of people who use the Internet to carry out a campaign of defamation and psychological breakdown. The first thing is to remember that a cyber bully is essentially a coward, and needs to hide behind the computer to feel safe and in control. This can seem difficult to defend against if you’re always joining chat rooms, social networks, and instant messaging. But you can start by choosing an e-mail address and screen name that don’t reveal that much about who you are (obviously not using your real name or your well-known school or work nickname), where you are (what school, what workplace), and what you do (your major in school, what classes you’re in, or what occupation you have). This is such a simple method of precaution that most people forget to take, but it can save a lot of headaches down the road. Identity theft is real, and the less information a harasser or even an outright criminal has about you and your interests, the better. Also, young girls (and boys) need to stay away from any screen names that mention their age, or interest in sexuality. Predators love this kind of thing, and once the wrong kind of attention is invited, you just never know who is really speaking to you in that chat room.
Other key pieces of information to protect are any personal contact details. It’s difficult to keep sending someone hate mail if they can’t find you. If they are stupid enough to put a threat in writing, by all means save it. A paper trail can help save a woman from many forms of harassment, and be a strong motivation for a parent, a school official, an employer, or even law enforcement to act in your best interests. But most importantly, do not bottle it up inside if you do feel that you or someone you know is a victim of cyber bullying. Sometimes it’s downplayed, because the harasser is not “right there,” but the psychological effects of it can be devastating. In future posts, we’ll go into more ways that you can ensure you’re not a target. Until then, stay safe (and hopefully anonymous in those chat rooms)!
You don’t know me. You don’t know how my day has been going. You don’t know why I am at the bar with my friends, and you certainly have no business making judgements based on my facial expressions. You could have tried to not be an ass and actually struck up conversation, but if you are just going to open with “Smile!” you will get nothing more than a glare.
I’m not going to smile for your male-privileged approval. Stop wasting your time.
I guess it was verbal as well as groping really but you can only choose one. I’m 16 and I consider it ‘normal’ to be whistled at or have things said to me on the street and although I sometimes get a bit nervous, it doesn’t usually bother me. this was different though.
I was on a 40 minute train ride on my own to see my big sister, sitting on the part by the toilets because it was busy. a man who I later found out was 32 came through, tried to get in the toilet and I told him there was someone in there, thinking iIwas just helping. he said thanks then looked at me weirdly and said I had a beautiful voice, I said thanks and he went in the toilet as the other person came out.
after he came out he stood chatting to me for a while, going on about my voice and the train and just chatting then said he would be back and got his stuff then sat next to me. it started getting a little awkward sometimes as he would touch my leg or just stare at me but I didn’t know what to do so I stayed and just tried to keep the conversation on safe ground whenever he brought up what I look like.
it got to the stop where I change and I was really glad until he said he got off here too and also got the same next train as me. I got especially scared when he offered to take me in a taxi with him, said no and went to lean against the wall and wait for my train. he followed. now, this is a tiny train station with hardly anyone else there so nobody could really see us where we had to wait for the train.
he started pinching my bum, all he would talk about was what I looked like, he put his hand right up my skirt and was holding my arm, hard, with his other hand while saying he wanted to give me ‘a good hard fucking’. I moved his hand from up my skirt and told him I had a boyfriend but he kept putting it back, he also forced my hand onto his erection through his jeans.
luckily, the train came and I tried to get on through a different door and sit in a busy carriage but there was just 3 more men, so I didn’t feel I could say anything when he found me and sat next to me. he said he was just going to the toilet and I could have moved but I was scared he would be angry and find me so I stayed.
as soon as he sat back down, he said ‘cumming felt so good’ and I just did a sort of half giggle thing because I didn’t know what to say. he kept pressing his leg against mine and putting his hand up my skirt again but I kept trying to move it again.
I got off the train at my stop, trying to stay close to another group of people but he followed me again for ages. eventually, he said he was going and made me give him a weirdly long hug.
I haven’t told anyone because I know way worse things happen in the world, but it was scary.
I had caught cold, but I still needed to go buy the vegan biker boots I had set aside in a shop. So I went downtown, bought them and decided to wear them right now.
I walked to the city center, I was a bit thirsty and had some extra change so I went to a grocery shop to buy my favorite drink, Estonian carrot juice. As I walked out of the shop, I opened the first bottle and went to the garbage bin to put the cork in it.
Outside the shop, there was this young adult who was excitedly talking on a cellphone, and when he saw me, he started yelling; “Hey you! You, girl! You in the red tartan cap! Hey! You know very well I am talking to you!”
I was horrified, but as usual, I just walked away, and he ran after me. I ran to the escalators and yelled “Help!” but as I mentioned I had a cold and my throat was sore, so I could only croak.
I ran to the bus station, luckily the creep didn’t follow me. I called this counselor who has helped me before, and told her about the incident. She told me that maybe the guy wanted to tell me that I had dropped something, and I informed her that if I had, he wouldn’t have yelled something like “Hey you! I’m talking to you! Hey girl!”, he would have said something like “Excuse me miss, you dropped your wallet” or something like that.
I don’t really know if this is worth sharing, but I saw an article in a magazine about street harassment and campaigns against it, and I thought might as well, because it’s something that should be made more aware.
So Thursday 20th Oct 2011. I was waiting for the bus as I was going to town, and as usual it was late. I was alone at the bus stop, but I wasn’t too bothered seeing as it was just gone midday, however it was pretty cold, and I was looking forward to get on the warm bus.
I’d been there about 15 mins when a car started to slow down, and a guy popped his head out and shouted “how much for sex” before laughing and driving off. The fact that he drove off obviously meant he was joking, but I was surprised as to how shaken up I was. Baring in mind I’m 16 and there was no one about, so anything could have happened. I wasn’t even dressed “sexy”. I was in a big hoody, jeans, trainers with a big scarf. I just hate the fact that he thought he could just say something like that, because he knew he could get away with it.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
What’s not to love about Halloween? Decorations, candy, fun, games, laughter and of course sexist and demeaning costumes. Hold up! Hollaback moment! Why is it that every Halloween I am spoilt for choice between a sexy Indian, sexy cowgirl, sexy police officer, sexy nurse, need I continue? Putting the word “sexy” in front of an occupation does not validate it as an acceptable costume. Halloween should not be an excuse to openly objectify women, when this happens throughout all communities all-over the globe everyday. And I am sure that I am not the only person that is tired of this.
So, amidst the barrage of sexy nurse, police officer, milkman, grocery store owner costumes a ray of light broke through the mundane norm in the shape of the Taking Back Halloween Costume Contest!
HollabackPHILLY, in collaboration with SPARK and Beauty Redefined has created a unique challenge for people to “create an alternative to the sexification” of Halloween. Not only are they encouraging us to the redefine female attire for Halloween, but there are some awesome prizes up for grabs! The competition rules appeal for the creation of empowering costumes that are bold, unique and innovative, instead of ones that reinforce a narrow and sexist definition of beauty. They want you to Take Back Halloween!
AND, they have a kiss-ass panel of judges, including Whitney Adams, a professional costume designer, and Sunny Haines, an assistant stage manager and dresser for various theaters.
You can enter the contest here by submitting a photo of you in your empowering costume (only open to U.S. residents). Entries are due Nov. 4, and more information can be found here. You can help spread the world by tweeting, too. (One great example tweet: Don’t be just a “trick” or a “treat” – Redefine Beauty! SPARK a change! Enter to win an iPod, or other great prizes! http://philly.ihollaback.org/?p=950)
Other prizes include awesome Hollaback! Tote bags and Starbucks gifts certificates. So get cracking and have an empowered and anti-sexified Halloween!
BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
A documentary on the dangers of relegating women to a very limited conception of “sexiness,” this movie aims to encourage women to aspire to power, and to their own sense of sexuality, as well as, reaching their intellectual and emotional capabilities!
And it looks awesome! The music! The spunk! But as I watched the trailer, I only wish that the female body and female desires were not seen as the problem. It is their exploitation and appropriation by uncreative people in power that is. One sex should not be co-opted for the use of the other, instead both women’s AND men’s bodies and desires for comfort, for stimulation, for whatever should be considered. Sexual expression is not the problem, conforming to a rigid, artificial stand-in for “sexy” is. Women are no more “sexy” than men; it is just that we have all been trained to view things through the purported eyes of the “Average Man.”
It seems to me that because women are not taken seriously, we discount them and write them off as “sexy” fodder instead of organically sexual, emotional and intellectual people. We, as a society, encourage women not to take themselves seriously so the system of men as normal remains.
The problem is not just that women are sexualized for the very limited and picky appetites of men atop media empires, but that women’s ACTUAL sexuality is overlooked and stigmatized. Women and men are both sensitive, strong and many other things. There’s no need for women to be seen as sexual objects and men sexual predators.
In conclusion, this movie looks awesome, but it’s just the beginning and I want more! I think a good start would be to consider women as thoughtful and men as sexual so we can counterbalance the current stereotypes until we finally get to a place of seeing ALL people as PEOPLE with desires and ideas, regardless of genitals.