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BY ANGELA DALLARA
It’s always encouraging to see criticism and internal dialogue within movements for equality—conversations that constantly question whether activists have the best priorities, are being as inclusive as possible, and are making a positive impact. I think one of the most admirable things about the modern feminist movement is the way we are always educating ourselves and each other, remembering that feminism is about equality for everyone regardless of their sex, gender, race, ability, and other factors—and asking whether our perspectives are complete and fair.
But I wish to see more of that healthy debate in the mainstream movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality today. Dialogue among LGBT activists often takes a more tense, accusatory tone about which goals are the most important, which queer community suffers more than the others, and which organizations aren’t good enough.
One of the clearest indications of this is the classic “debate” over how transgender issues fit within the broader LGBT circle. No matter how increasingly educated and informed we become about trans people and the issues surrounding trans communities, it seems like every couple of weeks there’s a new op-ed or forum debate or Twitter fight or public service announcement about whether the “T” should really be a part of the “LGBT” acronym. It never fails: just last week openly gay news anchor Don Lemon made that question a large portion of a panel of transgender celebrities he hosted on the Joy Behar Show. (The segment was extremely problematic, as Lemon is clearly not versed in trans conversations in any way; but promising in a larger sense, as I blogged about elsewhere).
Why is the “T” part of the “LGBT”? I hope that for feminists the answer is rather obvious. The stigma surrounding transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people is the same stigma that people who aren’t straight must confront: They’re not expressing themselves according to the strict rules and rigid binaries that society has created for us, where there are men and women; men are masculine and have sex with women; and women are feminine and have sex with men. The trans community confronts these most fundamental notions of what the world tries to tell us about gender.
And this has devastating impacts. Transgender women make up 44% of all victims of violence against LGBT people. People of color make up 70% of the victims. It’s worth repeating. Transgender women of color are the single most targeted group in the LGBT community. But gay men, lesbians, and other groups are also regularly harmed—usually not for their sexual orientation, but for their expression of their gender; for “looking” gay.
“There isn’t much that compares,” said advocate Ja’briel Walthour in the Huffington Post yesterday, to living life as a transgender woman of color. “To face discrimination and biased attitudes is one thing; to stare down the barrel of a loaded weapon is another.”
Feminists are beginning to recognize the integral importance of speaking up for and protecting our trans sisters (and brothers), and why it’s relevant to them. But it remains an issue for many LGB and straight people who continue to ask “Why should I care?” The fact that they think this is even debatable is scary. The answer is glaringly obvious to me.
BY YASHAR, cross posted from the current conscience
The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.
For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”
“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.
He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”
For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.
This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies indicate that almost 100 percent of women will face some sort of street harassment at one point in their lives.
Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet, many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst, annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.
The reality of street harassment is far worse than what most men think or believe. In cities large and small, women have to contend with comments that range from the mildly offensive to the disgusting. Beyond being verbally harassed, many women are followed and some women are even forced to deal with the same harasser on a daily basis. And for some women, this “harmless” harassment leads to assault.
But I realized, as Dina was telling me her story, that I have never actually been witness to the kind of street harassment my women friends tell me about. If a woman is walking down the street with me, other men generally won’t engage in any kind of harassing behavior towards her because street harassment, like all forms of harassment, is about attacking the vulnerable.
And despite what some readers of this column may think about my gender, I will never know what it feels like for a woman to walk down the street alone. How am I to fully relate to the pain, fear, and humiliation of street harassment when I have never witnessed its full form and lack the the personal experience of being harassed on the street?
Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.
To read the rest the of the article, click here.
A new t-shirt marketed to tweens and teens contains this message:
“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”
Hey, JC Penny: It’s 2011. Your sexist t-shirt messaging sucks. Big time.
That’s right, let’s keep telling young women that their looks are more important than their brains or than doing homework. Maybe they’ll just start believing it.
Sign the Change.org petition to let JC Penny CEO Mike Ullman III know that his paying customers don’t appreciate being disrespected like this and that our daughters will not be wearing sexist propaganda. Ask your friends to do the same.
Thanks to your quick response, JC Penny has pulled the offensive t-shirt from their website and issued this statement:
jcpenney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
Deciding what to wear on a night out is usually a matter of deliberation and accomplished with the help of my roommates. In my college town, as in a lot of other areas populated with young people, there seems to be much more pressure on female students than their male counterparts to dress to the nines and look “cute.” Annoying, sure, but is this harmless or damaging sexism at work?
In this recent New York Times piece, writer Lisa Belkin contrasts the equality college women have achieved in the classroom to the lack of respect they seem to receive in social settings. Mainly using examples of fraternities, she describes a setting where largely “men set the pace”, and the “he chases, she submits” way of thinking seems to be ingrained in college culture.
Of course, sexist fraternity members aren’t representative of all college students. It is true, however, that many think that because we’ve reached certain statistics and quotas that demonstrate equality, we can stop caring about it and stop working toward change. That just isn’t true. Women compose more than half of college students, but that doesn’t mean the same old gendered power division doesn’t exist outside the classroom.
A defining factor, I think, is believing you have the choice of what to wear and how to act, independent of others’ expectations. As a young woman, I was taught that I can wear anything I want (and sometimes I think back in disbelief to the days before women could wear pants!). This sometimes includes short dresses, but I don’t like to think it’s dictated by a societal trend that takes away my agency.
The generation of women in college have the most freedom women have ever had, and therefore more expectations, so I can understand the writer’s frustration with the current college culture and definitely think it should be further discussed. Do older generations just not “get” this new kind of female empowerment, or did women’s equality truly get lost in the shuffle somehow? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section!
on my way into wawa I hear “love that curly hair … and that sexy body”, I’m already inside and already too annoyed over missing work to respond because who knows what I’m getting myself into, what names I could be called, if I politely asked the man not to comment on my body loud enough for all the parking lot to hear, let alone if I started shouting like I half wanted to.
I go get some coffee and a cookie and on my way out another guy in a pickup calls out “girl you are so sexy” and I turned to yell “that’s kind of really offensive”, to which he responded “saaaaw-reeee” in that mocking singsong way bullies in elementary school do. gross.
I had moved to Philadelphia just a few days before and I was out exploring. I love my neighborhood. I’d grown up in the suburbs, but my family has a 70+ year history in the Federal St row-home where I live now. I decided to go check out 9th St (only tourists call it “the Italian Market!”) and start to learn what all is around, make myself at home here. There is a produce stand at 8th & Washington that, like the others further down, straddles the sidewalk. My path between the wooden crates of fruits and vegetables was partially blocked by a white-haired man with an enormous belly. He leered at me and looked me up and down. He smirked. I felt immediately angry at his intrusion into what had been a wonderful walk so far. With that simple act, the million other things on my mind and the beautiful day itself were suddenly and forcibly replaced, against my will, by this man, his body itself coupled with his very violent gaze. The rage in me was overpowering. It felt like the seconds it took me to walk up to, by, and away from him were stretched out into minutes. I started to shake, but I looked him in the eye and spit something awkward out like, “I bet it’s been a looooong time for you, huh?” I don’t care that it was ineffective (it always is, because his power is not about sex, it’s about asserting that the street is HIS turf and NOT mine,) I just wanted to keep my head up and try to look undeterred. I wasn’t, of course. That was 2 years ago and I still get so mad just thinking about it. I’ve avoided that intersection as much as possible even when it put me out of my way, and when I couldn’t avoid it, I’ve struggled to smirk back at him (he’s ALWAYS there, but I don’t know if he’s the owner) and look strong. I AM strong. I try very hard to maintain a balance in this city between keeping an eye out for potential dangers and just going about my life, but people like him make it harder. I don’t want this to be normalized anymore. I know it’s not always safe to hollaback, but I want us to get there. Advertizing individual perpetrators is tricky because it can help feed a myth that these are isolated incidents, but if we use the great opportunity set up by the folks here and tell our stories, the bigger picture will become clear. I know confronting is not always safe (and, please, always have your safety in mind,) but any action from giving the finger to snapping photos surreptitiously that will make you feel even slightly less powerless is worth considering. I’ll have your back.
Here is the video of my confrontation with him today. You can see the camera shaking, but it did feel good: http://youtu.be/oh417ONbwPg
A stranger grabbed my crotch on the metro today. and then tried to deny it and get away from me when I started screaming at him. eventually he mumbled ‘sorry’ and walked away and i didn’t have the energy to keep following him. but i’m proud of myself for yelling: you can’t treat women like that! you are disgusting! you should be ashamed of yourself! that is unacceptable! next time i’ll be mentally prepared to take the next step and report it.
Unfortunately I’m no stranger with harassment on the streets, having lived in Sydney and small country towns before Newcastle, I mean as appearances go I don’t consider myself unattractive, I’m not by any means thin, or conventional, but I take pride in myself and am careful to dress appropriately.
However the intensity and consistency of verbal and physical attacks since living here have been unprecedented, from having drinks thrown at me in bars, creeps asking incredibly personal things, even having my hair sniffed while walking the streets.
Mostly I try not to take too much notice, my long term boyfriend having even bought me a tazer to make me feel safer when I am out, and though it does its incredibly heartbreaking that it should come to that.
But rather to the point, I only just discovered this website and felt that I should share my most recent, and probably the most hurtful of experiences, being a late Sunday night, my boyfriend and I went for a walk to the 24hr grocery store to pick up some things so I could bake him some treats before he had to head home for work (he works rather odd houred shifts)
In my year of living here I was somewhat surprised to see the local club was going and quite lively, being familiar with the rather unkind crowd we opted to keep our distance and went on to do our shopping, however on our return as we took the same back streets avoiding the drunken crowds a car drove by slowly, a man leaning out the window screaming “fat slut!” at me as I stood there right next to my boyfriend, I felt completely humiliated, and angry for being judged at such a stupid hour on a Sunday night, I felt I had a right to be a little haggard, but I couldn’t dare even express the pain to my boyfriend as he silently ignored it, walking back home all I could do was try not to cry.
All I could ask myself was, “What kind of man would insult a woman, a complete stranger, in such a way? Why should anyone ever have to put up with such a public humiliation?”
I yet to understand, but I certainly found some solace in this site, I’m glad to not feel completely alone.
Reposted from Hollaback Czech Republic
by Alicia Brooks
There are certain things in your daily life that you do without even thinking about. Things like brushing your teeth, going to work, crossing the street or waiting in the inevitable line at the Albert. They have become such a part of your life that thinking about them would be redundant. You have been putting on your shoes for years, why bother giving it a second thought?
Taking public transit in Prague has become one of those things for me. I know which trams to take, what time the bus comes and what car I should get into for optimal speed upon exit. It’s clockwork. It’s clockwork except in the case of taking the night trams.
I swore off night trams when I swore off partying downtown. I like being able to walk home – or stumble home – as the case may be. But just this past week I found myself going home at 3am on a night tram. Twice. I had conveniently forgotten about the smell of puke, the loud drunks and the way it seems to take an eternity to get home no matter where you live.
Thursday night I was waiting at Narodni Trida for the 58 with my flat-mate. We had had a fun evening full of laughter and alcohol and topped it off with an always delicious and regrettable slice of street pizza. The tram was going to take another fifteen minutes to get to us, so we took a seat on the steel benches. My friend was regaling me with a story about something when I saw him. I didn’t want her to have to see what I was seeing so I tried not to change expression in any way.
He walked by us as if he were on one of those moving platforms they have at airports – slow and sooth. He wanted me to get a good look. He had his penis in one hand shaking it rapidly in my direction and the other hand (which was somehow far more offensive than the penis) was under his mouth, fingers in a peace sign tongue lapping at the air. The international sign for “lick pussy”. He seemed to walk in slow motion.
I think I was stunned into silence. As soon as he was out of sight I turned to my friend and said, “Holy shit! Did you see that fucking guy?” It was obvious to me that she hadn’t, and for that I was glad. One less person who has that image scarred on their retina. I recounted what I had witnessed and was met with multiple “Ewws”. I quickly remembered why I don’t like to take night trams.
One of the things that I refuse to get used to is harassment – in any form. A strange man shaking his genitals, an ass grab at a bar, yelling at me from across the street how “hot” or “fuckable” I am. It’s all harassment, and it will never be second nature as long as I continue to get pissed off about it.