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I am not beautiful, that I know, but I also know I am no victim. I was walking home from getting dinner, a five minute maybe 100 yard walk and I was surrounded by four drunk guys. They started yelling things like “hideous bitch,””you’re so f*cking manly, people who look like you shouldn’t exist on this earth,” etc. Unfortunately for the last few weeks, I had gotten this verbal abuse before but this night it escalated. I remained stoic, just enduring until it was over as I usually do. That was until they kicked me in the back of the knees. As I was getting back up, another one of them took a swing to my gut, and before I could react another threw a punch at my jaw. They ran away laughing hysterically. I lost a lot that day, but I would lose more. I’ve dealt with verbal abuse like this in the past but the consistency of it and the culmination of the assault was too much this time. I plummeted into a deep depression. This, not during the assault, was when my life got exponentially worse.
Depression, to say the least, takes a toll, and mine was severe. I alienated myself from my friends, as I did not tell anyone what had happened to me. I became a person that the depression made me, an anti-me. Instead of being chill and just going with the flow, I became somewhat paranoid and was convinced that something was inherently wrong with me that I would get such constant, violent attention. I became someone I hated, every day I woke up hating myself. That was the depression. It took my beliefs, my identity, my ambition, my soul, and my life.
My friends left. I assume they didn’t understand, and I was giving them no explanation. My relationship left, citing that we weren’t working anymore. I became even more alone than I already felt. I became completely alone.
I had lost myself, and everything identifying me as myself and there was seemingly no end to pain in my life. I was lost and alone.
I’m a strong person, or at least I was. I am a trained kick boxer but this all happened so fast and I never thought it would escalate into assault. I returned to the place of my assault yesterday, as a fresh face as I like to think, due to a lot of endless work over the summer, that I am somewhat depression free. I returned to this place. I returned to my school, where I still have a year left, and I felt great pain. I felt great betrayal.
I didn’t ask to be depressed, I didn’t ask to be assaulted, and I didn’t ask to be abandoned but it happened.
Am I stronger today because of it? Maybe. But probably not quite yet.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
Second-wave feminist Carol Hanisch originated the phrase “the personal is political.” Hanisch enlightened me on the myth of bra burning and her hopes for the future of feminism, as well as other interesting tidbits. I was inspired and wanted to share with the Hollaback! community. Enjoy!
photo via redstockings.org
Carol Hanisch was one of the original “bra burners.” Except she never actually burned her bra. Starting a fire on the boardwalk at the 1968 Miss America Pageant protest in Atlantic City wasn’t permitted, but the newspapers still picked it up and the name stuck.
“They should have called us girdle burners. That was much more important than the bras. Those things were so uncomfortable,” Hanisch said on the phone from her home in upstate New York.
As a member of the group New York Radical Women, Hanisch was the instigator for that now well-known protest. One of the pioneering feminists of the late 1960s, Hanisch also has local connections to my college town of Gainesville, Florida, (once known as the “Berkeley of the South”) as one of the former members of the Gainesville Women’s Liberation.
Born and raised on a farm in Iowa, Hanisch wants to correct the assumption that all members of the women’s liberation movement were big city, middle-class liberals. She wasn’t the only person from a rural, working-class background.
“It’s important that people realize that it really did cut across all class. Women of all backgrounds took up the fight.”
Hanisch’s early interest in feminism stemmed from her involvement in the civil rights movement in Mississippi in the mid-1960s, which “propelled” her entrance into the women’s movement.
“I guess it kind of turned my head around,” said Hanisch of the racism she witnessed in Mississippi in 1965 and 1966 as a civil rights volunteer.
Her famous statement “The personal is political,” is still well-known in feminist circles, though Hanisch admits the phrase has become distorted since its inception.
“People think that anything they do is political and feel they don’t need to get involved in a movement. We were all movement. Couldn’t change anything unless women united and worked together in a united way.”
She still has hope for the movement. Though there’s been a huge backlash against women’s liberation, Hanisch believes issues like abortion, violence, and even general respect for women (Hollaback!) all need to be worked on. She thinks SlutWalks are a good example of what the movement needs, although she’s not sure she likes the name.
As for feminism ever thriving on college campuses?
“It certainly could,” Hanisch said. “It just needs some leadership and some courage.”
I was walking back to my apartment downtown after a grocery run when I passed a parked car. I was tired from the walk, carrying my heavy bags of groceries and just wanted to get home. But as I walked past the car, I heard a guy’s voice saying, “You’re hot.” He said something before that but I wasn’t paying attention and missed it. Before I could even turn around to see where the catcall was coming from, a girl in the driver’s seat shouted, “Hey! My brother’s talking to you!” as if that made me obligated to respond in some way.
I wish I could’ve thought of something to say back, but I was really taken off-guard and just wanted to get home. It made me really upset for a few reasons. First, I find catcalling to be degrading, misogynistic and generally a tool men use to assert dominance and make females feel small. But I was especially upset because the girl in the driver’s seat, his sister, was an accomplice in the harassment of a fellow woman. I don’t know if this girl has to deal with street harassment on a daily basis the way I do, but it pained me that she would encourage his behavior instead of scolding him for his disrespect toward me and women in general. In addition, I take offense to the idea that just because a man is talking to me that I am somehow obliged to listen. Give me a break. Was I supposed to just stand there with my armful of groceries in the middle of the night and take his BS because it’s my place to do so as a woman?
In the end, I just kept walking and tuned the two out. I wish I could have thought of something to hollaback.
Also, this was just a few minutes after a guy in a big truck honked his horn at me and stuck his head out of the window of his car to smile at me suggestively. Twice in one night, and to have a girl encourage her brother? Gross.
Today I was harassed. My harasser thought he was doing me a favour by slapping my ass and telling me how good I looked in my shorts. “It’s a compliment!” He said.
I asked him if he liked harassing women. I asked him if it made him feel like a bigger person to belittle me without knowing anything about me, my opinions, my life. “It was JUST a compliment!” He said.
I told him his version of a compliment was fucked in all directions. I told him that this wouldn’t go under the rug, like so many experiences like this I’ve had before.
He started walking away, I was making a big scene. I started stopping women on University Ave, asking them if they have ever been harassed by this man? None were, and if they were they never told me. I yelled to sisters further up the street to watch out for that 45 year old in the orange shirt with the beer gut. “He harasses women!” I screamed.
He slinked around the corner and away, tail between his legs.
I am livid, hurt, vulnerable and in desperate need of reassurance
This shouldn’t have to happen…to anyone!
If it wasn’t for Hollaback! I would have never had the guts to stand up and say something. I hope this humiliation is something he carries with him everywhere he goes…
BY EMILY MAY
Check out the article, “Get Angry. Go Viral. Use Social Media for Change!” in this month’s more magazine! The article profiles our friends at Harassmap in Egypt, as well as our friend Deanna Zandt who wrote “Share This! How you will change with world with social networking” (if you haven’t read it yet, get on it). The article also gives Hollaback! a little shout out:
As technology grows more sophisticated, the sites will too. iHollaback.org, a U.S.-based precursor to HarassMap that takes advantage of the latest software, enables women to punch an icon on their smartphones, choose whether to take a photo of their harasser and later share the details of the abuse—-information that is then uploaded to Hollaback’s website, along with blogs, tips and news. “Change has always been about telling our stories,” says the site’s founder, Emily May. “But now we can map our stories. We can photograph our stories. We can tell our stories on blogs.” And produce concrete results: In 2008, after months of pressure from Hollaback members [EDITOR’S NOTE: This done in coordination with New Yorkers for Safe Transit, of which Hollaback! is a member], New York City’s Metropolitan Transportation Authority agreed to plaster antigroping signs in the subways, and now the city council is considering more aggressive action against harassers. “All of a sudden we’re not just talking to our friends online,” May says. “We can use our stories to talk to people in the community, talk to legislators and spread the word.”
Ultimately, though, what draws women to these sites is something deeper: a camaraderie of the pissed off and the passionate. As one woman posted on Hollaback: “Using your camera phone is a subtle way to take some kind of action when you feel powerless . . . [It] connects you to an entire community of people who collectively say this is awful, it shouldn’t have happened to you, and it wasn’t your fault. When people ask me, ‘What good does it do to post a picture on a blog?’ I say, ‘Are you kidding?! We’re building a movement!’ ”
Gotta love that end quote. Pretty much sums it all up.
It was around 9:30 this friday and I was starving so I had my mom wait in the parking lot while I ran in to get some food by McDonalds. As I was getting out a pack of guys started whistling at me and telling me “babe you look good”. I actually sprinted to my mom’s car. When I told my mom she FLIPPED out on ME and got into a traffic jam. She told me to just deal with it. I’m fourteen years old and this has been happening since I was twelve. Earlier this day on the train a guy kept blocking my path and telling me things like “mama come over here” and another guy was like “damn mama you look good”. These weren’t even guys, they were grown disgusting men. I’m so freaked out I try to avoid the train by all cost and I will never eat McDonalds again.
A Manhattan judge recently dismissed the case against former director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Khan, due to the District Attorney’s decision to drop the charges of sexual assault against him. The prosecution essentially stated that Nafissatou Diallo’s inconsistencies in her recollection of events damaged her credibility to the point where her account could not be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Yes, folks, the prosecution decided that it, and not a jury, would decide the fate of this case. Not to be outdone, the media certainly did its share to discredit Diallo, drudging up federal forms she filled out in the past and even introducing the option of deportation as a result of perjury on these documents.
In a classic case of the justice system treating the victim of sexual violence as a criminal, we are yet again faced with the harsh reality that system’s glaring, inherent flaws. Now I am not presuming that is DSK guilty, not at all. I am saying, however, that the structure of our justice system was leaning heavily toward his innocence before he ever stepped foot inside of that hotel. I’m saying that “the law” is not colorblind. In fact, it is just as sensitive to race, to gender, to class, as those who make it, enforce it, and interpret it, and until we part with the myth that there is such a thing as “equal protection under the law,” this will always be a problem. Diallo, then, was not failed by the justice system, she is collateral damage for the sexism, racism, classism, and religious discrimination that it is steeped in. If the outrage and sense of betrayal this decision produced can be used as a catalyst for reform there, then it is not in vain. But if we have only gathered to cry out for Strauss-Khan’s head, then we will be back, and soon.
Hi, my name is Alex and I’m a college student who interned at Hollaback! this past summer. I am, of course, elated to be a part of the blogging team and hope some of you can hear echoes of your own voices in my writing. I’m new at this so any comments or suggestions would be more than welcome!
BY EMILY MAY
In spring 2009 I was accepted into the Women’s Media Center’s Progressive Women’s Voices Program with nine of the most impressive women I’ve ever met. At the front of the room was Katy Orenstein, founder of the Op-ed project, a project designed to increase the amount of women writers on the editorial pages.
Katy was pushing us to identify as “experts.” Media people love “experts” (read: talking heads) but women tend to shy away from it. We fear the “so what makes you an expert?” question like the plague, and to be fair – we’re much more likely to get it than men. The more Katy pushed us to identify, the more we wiggled in our seats and pushed back with over-intellectualized arguments that reasoned if every one’s voice matters – what was so special about ours?
What Katy did next changed my life. She told us to imagine that everyone in the room had cancer. Then after a long pause she told us to imagine that we weren’t sure – but that we thought we had a cure. She asked us: do we speak up?
We responded in unison: of course.
So, she said, “what’s the difference? The world has problems, and you all have answers. If you’re not speaking up you’re silently complicit in other’s pain.”
Those words hit me hard. It made me realize — once and for all — the power of what we had created. We had a huge international platform from which to end street harassment. We also had a me, who didn’t want to lead, write books, or pursue media for fear of making it all about me. And in the process, I had made it all about me. Hollaback! hadn’t even come close to realizing it’s potential because I was scared to lead, and in that moment I realized that this wasn’t about me. It wasn’t about my fears, feelings, hesitations or career goals. I had a choice: I could lead this thing or I could sit back, go with Plan A, and delay progress.
We all know what the end of the story is, but my point is this: every day each of us face moments where we can speak up or shut up. I’m not gonna lie, speaking up is one the scariest things you’ll ever do. You’ll open yourself up to criticism and ridicule. If you speak loudly enough someone will tell you you’re fat or ugly. When we make the mistake of thinking that we speak up only for ourselves, shutting up becomes an obvious choice. But when we remember that our voices can speed the pace of progress -whether it’s ending street harassment, promoting peace, or preserving the environment – speaking up becomes so much more than an outlet. It becomes a responsibility.
Due to flooding, the street where I work has been unusually backed up. I have to walk about ten minutes from the parking lot to my office. This has led to what I refer to as the “catwalk gauntlet.” Men leaning out of their cars, asking for my name, if I have a boyfriend, where I am going, and commenting on my appearance.
today was a beautiful hot summer day, and I was wearing a skirt (with shorts underneath) and a tank top and enjoying the sunshine as I biked around doing my errands. First I got a whistle from a passing truck, which I ignored, then a man approaching in the opposite direction on a bike looked at me, laughed, and yelled “skank!” I was too shocked to give him the finger until it was a little too late.