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BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
A few weeks ago, a blogger out of Boston penned a thought provoking piece on a particular encounter she had with a street harasser in Allston, Massachusetts. Titled, “Why I Punched a Stranger”, Allison’s story raises many points on how women, particularly women in the LGBTQ community, all too often experience verbal violence on the street. Thank you, Allison, for sharing your experiences with us!
Tell us about the first time you were street harassed. How old were you, and how did you respond?
I don’t remember the first time I was harassed on the street, but I think I must have been 13 or 14. It’s hard to pinpoint the first time because as young girls we aren’t aware enough to realize that men telling us to smile or pressing us for conversation isn’t okay. Encounters like that just left me with bad feelings in my gut.
Your post has received tons of attention on Jezebel and throughout the blogsphere. Why do you think that is?
I believe my post created a stir for a couple reasons. First, it struck a chord with women and queers who are harassed on a regular basis and showed that we can break the silence about these experiences. Secondly, a lot of people got worked up in the controversy of the punch. We’re taught that violence is never okay, period. But pacifism is a privileged position for people to be able to take, and in many cases I think it’s because they have not been the target of abuse. It’s interesting because many people believe that my act was violent, but don’t see repeated, menacing, degrading behavior as violent, when that behavior can be so damaging to our mental and emotional wellbeing.
On Jezebel and your blog, many commenters seem to think Allston, Mass. is a breeding ground for street harassers. Do you think women and LGBTQ individuals are more prone to harassment in Allston than in other areas?
Allston has a disproportionate amount of street harassment compared to other neighborhoods, partially because of the BU [Boston University] bros who act like the town is their playground. People seem to think I’m exaggerating about experiencing street harassment every day here, but truly, not a day in Allston goes by that I don’t receive unwanted sexual attention. It happens everywhere though; it’s just very blatant here.
What would you say to those who say we should “just ignore or walk away” from street harassers?
Sometimes ignoring or walking away is the safest thing to do in that moment. However, doing so just proves to harassers that they are free to keep bullying. Standing up for yourself, whether that is verbal or physical, can be very empowering. It’s not up to other people to decide what will be empowering for you, so I urge targets of harassment to do whatever will make you feel safest and strongest. As for men’s role in stopping street harassment, I believe it is absolutely necessary for men to call out their friends on their actions. Only with allies of all genders and sexualities do we have a shot at smashing rape culture.
Did you feel more safe punching this guy because your girlfriend was with you?
I didn’t feel safe punching the guy and half-expected to be hit back. I probably wouldn’t have hit him if I weren’t both with my girlfriend and on a populated street. It had just gotten to the point where I was willing to physically put my body on the line to confront the verbal abuse I experience every day.
You mentioned that after years of being harassed by strangers daily, you “snapped” and that the guy “got the brunt of my rage of him and hundreds of other men’s blatant sexual harassment. The punch I threw carried the pain and solidarity of thousands of other women, queers and other non-normative people who are targeted by hate and ignorance every day.” Now that the punch has been thrown — how are you going to target your anger and pain? Do you think you’ll ever punch a street harasser again?
I target my anger and pain into consciousness raising and activist work. Hearteningly enough, some amazing feminist work has been blossoming in the Boston area lately. An advocacy group called Knockout Barstool just formed at Northeastern University to call out a blog that promotes rape culture through its “Blackout Tour”. The Boston branch of Permanent Wave (NY-based feminist group) has its first meeting this Sunday. I’m involved with the Women’s Caucus of Occupy Boston, and Occupy Allston-Brighton has a feminist/anti-oppression working group I want to get involved with. Basically I want to be part of a greater effort to raise consciousness in our society and destroy rape culture. I don’t have plans to hit anyone again, but I will stand up for myself and my loved ones in whatever way is necessary.
I was walking down the street at about 1am on Saturday after having a celebration with a group of friends. I was with one friend who is male and slightly shorter than me (I am 5’6″). Approaching us was a group of four larger men. I didn’t think anything of it as we walked past them, and then one of them smacked me on the butt as we walked past. I did not even look at their faces because my friend and I were having a conversation — and it took me a few seconds to even comprehend what had happened. I told my friend that it had happened, but I am very angry at myself for not advocating for myself in some way. I didn’t yell. I didn’t explain how unacceptable his behavior was. I just kept walking. And that makes me feel very victimized and subservient. Yuck.
BY HOLLABACK! ADMIN
It is so wonderful to see that the Hollaback! global phenomenon is hitting headlines all over the world. Last week it was Hollaback! Chennai featured in The Times India and this week Hollaback! Istanbul has made it into Time Out Instanbul.
So congratulations Istanbul for giving women and LGBTQ individuals a platform to share their street harassment stories and the right to feel safe and confident on the streets of Turkey without fear of harassment or objectification. And thank you Hollaback! Istanbul for sparking a national conversation on street harassment in Turkey.
To read the full article click here.
To celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Black is Beautiful movement, the Black and Latino Film Coalition has created the Black is Beautiful project, a documentary and Public Service Announcement that reflects the beauty opinions of 100 Black and Latina women. Take a look at the teaser here:
The documentary maker’s vision for the project is that the film will be viewed by hundreds of students each of whom can connect with an onscreen person that looks like they do or looks like a friend or relative. Viewers will witness and engage in the “active celebration of strength, power and beauty of being a woman of color.”
But in order to make this a success the Black and Latino Film Coalition needs your help! For too long the media has projected a very narrow set of guidelines that stipulate what it is to be beautiful, so help us show the world that beauty is a multi-faceted concept that spans culture and ethnicity. To help bring Black is Beautiful to high schools, colleges and beyond visit their fundraising campaign on Indiegogo and make a donation today!
In order to bring this message to high schools, colleges and beyond, the Black Is Beautiful Project needs your help! Visit their fundraising campaign on Indiegogo, read their mission and make a donation. Be sure to tell a friend to tell a friend.
OR if you want to be a part of this exclusive cohort of beautiful women of color then submit your headshot, a small bio and a paragraph on “Why Black is Beautiful?” firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’ve been living in Sri Lanka for several months now, working as an English teacher. The verbal harassment that foreign women (and I suspect Sri Lankan women as well) endure on a daily basis is disgusting. I can’t walk ten feet out my door before comments like “hey sexy,” “I want to f**k you!” and other extremely forward comments are made. It has made me feel bad about even walking out of my door, and I sometimes don’t even go out because I don’t feel like dealing with the harassment. The worst part is that public shaming does not work here. If I call someone out on their harassment, they behave as if they’ve done something to be proud of, or, as I walk past, they laugh at me.
I’ve never experienced such horrible harassment before coming here, and I would love to find some way of stopping it.
BY EMILY MAY
Greetings Hollaback supporters and revolutionaries!
Check out this week ‘s HOLLAnews and updates with our latest installment of A Week in Our Shoes:
— Out and about! International Movement Coordinator, Veronica Pinto, our new Movement Building Intern, Natalie Richman, myself, and our three super-supportive partners attended the MEN concert presented by our partners Permanent Wave. We got to meet the revolutionary JD Sampson (swoon) and I got to speak about our work to end street harassment. Also, board member and founder of Mama’s Hip Hop kitchen, Kathleen Adams, is representing Hollaback! at a charity event Masquerade Noir Birthday Bash for DJ Mary Mac and LiKWUiD presented by pretty|UGLY NYC at the Silhouette Lounge in the Bronx this Saturday. On a more serious note, I also attended the Manhattan Borough President’s Domestic Violence Task Force this week and learned more about their work to address forced childhood marriages.
— Engaging Legislators! Natalie Richman, our new intern, is busy printing maps that we will use to show local legislators here in NYC where street harassment is happening in their district. We’ll be setting up meetings with legislators, and with any luck, holding the second annual city council street harassment hearing this spring!
— Help needed! We’ve now got a fancy new donor database called Salesforce. This may sound boring to you, but to us it’s very exciting! But we need some help figuring out how to use it. Check here for a pro-bono job descriptions of what we’re looking for — and let us know if you’re able to help or if you know anyone who is.
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
Last weekend The Times of India reported that the number of cases of rape, molestation and harassment registered with the Madhya Pradesh State Women’s Commission more than doubled last year, compared to previous years.
The number of rape cases registered with the Commission jumped from 62 between 2009-2010, to 141 between 2010-2011. Workplace harassment cases grew as well from 115 in 2009, to 268 between 2010-2011.
While this sharp increase in gender-based crimes is indeed alarming, Rashmi Sarawat, chief executive officer, Mahila Chetna Manch, offered some perspective and a slight silver lining to these statistics:
“At the same time, growing awareness levels helped more women shed their social stigma and come out in the open. More women are now aware of the Domestic Violence Act and Vishakha guidelines issued by the Supreme Court for workplace harassment. This may be the prime reason for more number of cases related to violence against women coming to light.”
It may not be easy to confront the real numbers of rape, domestic abuse and harassment survivors (in the United States, a recently revealed figure that one in four women will be raped in their lifetime has caused some commotion). Yet, the large figures not only mean that more survivors are beginning to feel safe enough to come forward, but that the public must pay attention to the crimes that all too often go unaddressed or are swept aside. With more attention paid to these numbers, comes more public outrage. This is the first step to stronger laws (or better enforcement of these laws) protecting women as human beings in both the public and private sphere.
I live in Tbilisi, the capital of Georgia, a city I love. The people here are incredibly helpful, hospitable and kind, especially to foreigners like me. I’m very independent, and have always felt safe here.
But earlier this week I saw a woman nearly have her purse stolen. The would-be mugger jumped into a taxi before I, or anyone else, could take action.
So I was a little on edge when, entering a covered pedestrian overpass, I noticed a young man walking a little too closely, and too directly, behind me.
I slid my arms through both my backpack straps, thinking he might try to grab it off my shoulder. But that’s not what he had in mind.
I was wearing a skirt and tights, and before I knew it he had his fingers between my legs.
I spun around to face a surprisingly clean-cut, well-dressed young man. He was turning away from me, but I grabbed him, furious.
I started shouting horrible things at him in English, having forgotten all my Georgian curses in the heat of the moment. “You f**king piece of shit!” I screamed as I started beating his head and chest. “What the f**k do you think you’re doing, you waste of f**king space!” I punched his ear, slapped his face, pounded on his arms and shoulders.
He started to walk away, in the direction I needed to go. This only made me angrier. I grabbed him again, inflicting more verbal and physical abuse.
What struck me now, in hindsight, is how shocked and confused he looked. He didn’t fight back, didn’t say anything – he was frozen. What did he expect to happen? What would a Georgian woman have done?
When he finally started moving in the opposite direction, I screamed, “Get the f**k out! Get the f**k away from here!” and finished crossing the underpass.
That’s when I started crying.
As I walked home from school 2 years ago when I was in the 9th-10th grade, I would be harassed by men who were old enough to be my grandfather and some of them were in their 20s passing by in cars saying things to me and even slowing down and screaming things to me from their cars and followed me as I walked along the side walk; I turned to say nothing to these men I ignored them yet they kept on.
My experiences were so horrific and disturbing that when I told my parents,they stopped me from walking home and made it a point to pick me up from school and drop me off to make sure nothing like it ever happened again.We also found out that there are a number of registered sex offenders in the area in which I had to walk to and from school;a lot were for rape…
At first, I was too scared and shaken up to even tell them about it. It felt like a part of me was being taken every time these old men would say such disgusting things to me even though they clearly knew I was a minor and not interested because I had on my school uniform and I looked my age.
No one should ever have to go through this sort of thing..
I was waiting at a local bus stop close to my apartment building, around 9pm, when this guy who was up the block a bit saw me and followed me to the bus stop. He asked for the time, and I thought he would be on his way, but then he stood very close to me, facing me, and would not move. I didn’t want to run or make a sudden move, so I just stood , my phone in my hand, ready to turn and walk when I looked down and he had taken his pants off and was completely exposing himself. It was horrific and disgusting, and I just turned and calmly walked away. I looked over my shoulder, and the creep had already run off somewhere and was out of sight. I’m not sure why anyone would think it’s ok to do something like that in public, but if I ever see this individual again, I will call the police and use my pepper spray.