A Week in Our Shoes: 2/12/12

Me and Shawna From Hollaback! Baltimore


Hey there supporters and revolutionaries! Check out this week’s news and updates from the world of Hollaback!

Out and about: International movement intern Natalie attended a Hunter College V-Day event in Manhattan to spread the Hollaback! gospel and today, international movement coordinator Veronica will take a trip to Columbia University to talk about the wonders of Hollaback! at their V-Day event.

Hollaback! around the world: Aisha Zakira and the rest of the Hollaback! Mumbai team spoke at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences last night in Mumbai, India. The team talked about the myths surrounding street harassment, bystander intervention and how to respond to street harassers. I also met with Shawna from Hollaback! Baltimore, who recently celebrated their one year anniversary with party Dance Your Panties On. So congratulations Hollaback! Baltimore!

In the press: I was featured in the New York Times, along with several other travel experts, this week giving handy travel tips to keen explorers. I told them:

“The mile-high club is only cool when it’s consensual… You’d be surprised at the number of people who think groping people in their sleep, masturbating under blankets or harassing fellow passengers is a good idea. And if you experience or witness any of these behaviors, don’t be afraid to tell the flight staff.” Read the full article here!

I was also a guest this week on the Tonya Hall Show, talking about social media and social change. Hollaback! Mexico had a shout out in online publication Kaja Negra and Hollaback! Chennai was featured in online publication Women’s Web, discussing the necessity of changing attitudes towards street harassment.

Join us: We need new board members! This is an exciting opportunity to be part of a new initiative, and to help lead the way as we explore new platforms for making social change in a networked world.

Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!

HOLLA and out!


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Airport Scanner Agents Target Female Travelers



The TSA, the government body responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure safe travel, have received several complaints from women who claim to have been targeted by airport screeners to view their bodies.

According to online magazine, Ellen Terrell, who travelled from Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport told CBS News that a female agent appeared to be singling out certain females on request from male agents in an adjacent room. Terrell was even directed through the scan a number of times because the picture was said to be “blurry.”

Following the third scan the TSA agent apparently became agitated telling her co-workers on her microphone:

“Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go.”

Terrell told CBS that she felt “totally exposed” and was positive that their only motive for sending her through the scanner multiple times was to “have a nice look” at her body.

Another woman said that she felt “targeted by the TSA employee to go through the see-you-naked machine because” she is “a semi-attractive female.” While another said:

“The screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone rather than doing true random screening. I felt this was inappropriate. A woman behind me was also ‘randomly selected.’”

CBS contacted the TSA and this is the response that they received:

“All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images… To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images.”

Good job too! It seems like a no brainer to me that males would be allowed to view females in the “see me naked machine,” particularly as pat-downs are always performed by the same sex, the same policy should be put in place for the scanning agents. I am absolutely happy to endure the most extensive of airport security to ensure complete safety when travelling, however, it is truly staggering that there are degenerate creeps that would abuse not only the system, but would violate an individual’s fundamental human right to privacy. Terrorists are not in the habit of hiding weapons of mass destruction in their bras.


Rene’s Story: Don’t throw your trash at me

Walking home from campus, early evening (5:00ish), I was approaching the intersection of 14th & Mass. A white Jimmy SUV full of boys slowed down and yelled “I’d tap that fat ass!” then threw a Sonic cup full of something (I hope to God it was water) at me, then sped off. Didn’t get a license plate number, but they had some kind of fraternity/Greek letters on the back windshield and a Jayhawk sticker (narrows it down, right? Ha).

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Turkey: Female Judge Takes a Vacation and Rapists Walk Free


A 24-year-old rapist has escaped a prison sentence in Turkey while the only female judge was on leave on the grounds that the sex was consensual because the victim did not scream.

For two years, the woman, who is a mentally disabled widow and mother, was raped by her neighbor, who threatened to kill her and her 3 children when she said she did not want to have sex with him. It was only after discovering that the woman was 8 months pregnant, that he was arrested. Prosecutors were able to convict him based on the DNA evidence taken from the baby.

Without considering the woman’s mental state, the fact that her life was being threatened and that her children’s lives were being threatened, the court has relied on a rigid, outdated misconception on the definitions of rape. In a country where 45 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 60 have experienced physical or sexual assault, it can be difficult to see how Turkey is making inroads for gender equality. Yet, despite the troubling statistics, the voices of Turkish women and girls continues to grow in the face of increasing inequality for women. Additionally, 78 members of Turkish Parliament elected last year were women. Since the lone female judge’s absence may have carried significant sway regarding the lack of justice the rape survivor received when the rapist was released early, it could have easily played out differently had more female judges been present.

It may still be an uphill battle ensuring women have adequate legal protections from rape, domestic violence and harassment, however, as more women continue to enter the workforce, run for public office and make up almost half of college students, Turkey’s legal system will gradually be forced to acknowledge the rights of women.

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Marie’s Story: Not my job to smile for you

I broke my arm. I was at the pharmacy waiting for my pain rx to be filled. A man approached me and said “smile gorgeous, how are you” I’m thinking, well, I’m clearly not too well considering my giant cast and sling. I’m in pain, do I seriously look like I want to talk to you? And why is it my job to smile FOR YOU anytime, much less when I’m in pain and clearly busy on my phone.

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Let’s Oust Homophobic Chicken Franchise at NYU!

BY CATHERINNew York University: Stop serving anti-gay Chick-fil-A on campusE FAVORITE

Chick-Fil-A, the American chicken restaurant has made quite a name for itself of late and it’s not for their chicken strips. Via the restaurant chain’s charity, WinShape, the organization has donated over $2 million to groups that promote anti-gay rhetoric, such as Focus On The Family, Exodus International and the Family Research Council.

Hillary Dworkoski has created a petition New York University: Stop Serving Anti-Gay Chick-Fil-A on Campus. Her petition letter reads as follows:

While Chick-fil-A denies having an “agenda against anyone,” an investigation by Equality Matters revealed that Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, WinShape, donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2009 alone. That $2 million supported groups such as Focus On The Family, Exodus International, and the Family Research Council.

And New York City’s only Chick-fil-A is located in a cafeteria in a New York University dorm.

NYU prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community. Unfortunately, maintaining a contract with an anti-gay vendor like Chick-fil-A undermines what makes this university so great.

While the NYU Student Senators Council recently voted not to remove vendors for political reasons, they did retain that the school could remove vendors that violate human or labor rights. As Secretary Clinton recently announced, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” As such, I respectfully request that NYU remove Chick-fil-A from campus.

By signing this petition, you will help send a strong message to New York University, an institution which “prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community,” that by keeping the chain they are doing the exact opposite of what they preach.


Do the words “Felony Assault” Mean Anything to the Grammys?


Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg summed up the Chris Brown’s/Grammys debacle perfectly on Twitter last weekend when he said:

“Chris Brown? I don’t look to the Grammys for moral clarity, but, really? Do the words ‘felony assault’ mean anything at all?”

And The Atlantic writer is not the only person that feels this way. The Grammys and Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich have been receiving criticism left, right and center for giving Brown a second chance to perform at the event. Particularly after Ehrlich dared to say that the Grammys were victims of the grisly 2009 incident. Of course our hearts bleed and our violins play for the trauma that must have been caused to the Grammys, compared with the injuries sustained by Rihanna that showed welts above her eyebrows, bruises on her cheeks and bloodied lips.

Despite turning himself, it seemed that 1,400 hours of community service, domestic violence counseling and a 50 yard restraining order was a trivial punishment for the crime. The most disturbing fallout from allowing Brown to play the Grammys were twitter responses to his performance such:

“”Not gonna lie, I’d let Chris Brown beat me.”

Which is why we need to act! Activist Brett Simons has started petition The Grammys: Apologize to Domestic Violence Victims. The petition already has 1,090 signatures but it needs 1,500. So get clicking and make sure the Recording Academy understand the severity of their actions.


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Interview: Meet One of the Minds Behind the bSafe Smart Phone App


We had a chance to pick the brain of one of the business minds behind the bSafe smart phone app, Nils Knagenhjelm. Created by Bipper, (the makers of smart phone safety apps), “bSafe”, among other things, allows the user to alert selected contacts of their whereabouts, in case they find themselves in a threatening situation, with a simple touch of a button. Nils shared his insights behind bSafe, as well as his inspiration for working for Bipper.


Why did you decide to work for Bipper? 

About 3 years ago, my wife (who is American) had a scary experience while we were on vacation in my hometown of Oslo, Norway. She had been out to dinner with my sister-in-law and was going to take a taxi from the restaurant to my parents’ house less than one mile away. However, the cab driver decided to ignore my wife’s instructions and got onto the high-way heading out of town. She told the driver to turn around, but he insisted he knew where he was going even though the 2 minute ride had turned into 10. She was lost and scared, but told the driver (who barely spoke English) my sister- in-law had the cab number and was expecting a call from her as soon as she returned home.

The driver then mentioned he mistakenly had the wrong address, made a u-turn and 10 minutes later dropped my wife off at the correct address.

First thing we agreed on after this episode was to always carry a cell-phone, but we also saw a need for an alarm or location device of some sort. Coincidentally I was introduced to Silje and Bipper shortly after and I was intrigued by the start-up that wanted to develop mobile solutions to increase personal safety for kids and families.  This was a company I could relate to and I wanted to be part in making these solutions available to everyone.
What do you think inspired the founder of Bipper, Silje Vallestad, to create this smart phone application? 

Silje has, as many other women, experienced uncomfortable and frightening situations and had her own personal reasons for developing a solution that made it easier to alert people if they felt threatened. It was initially a feature that was included in a mobile parental control solutions we developed (Silje’s own kids was the motivation for developing that solution) We got lots of feed-back from mothers (including Silje) who mentioned that they would take their kid’s phone when they went out at night for walks etc because of the safety alarm. When  Silje was named Female  Entrepreneur of the year in Norway last year she decided to use the prize money to develop bSafe and to make it available to everyone for free.
One of the options of the bSafe application, the “Risk Mode”, is that it notifies the user of dangerous areas. What sort of data does the bSafe application use to determine the level of “danger” in an area? 
The risk mode feature has actually been renamed “Follow Me” to better describe its purpose (we are working on a feature more in line with how you have explained it…). “Follow Me” is a helpful feature for those who are walking home or jogging alone. Select those Guardians you want to follow you and they will receive link to trace you live. bSafe can be set to automatically activate the alarm if you have not checked-in in time.

Smart phones are a great resource for protecting ourselves when we’re alone, in public (whether through enabling us to take photos of a street harasser, or having an emergency button that alerts contacts of our exact location). Do you see any potential for victim blaming (if, for example, someone had this app on their phone, but did not use it in the event of an assault)? 

Unfortunately victim blaming is an issue in itself. It’s hard to say who is more exposed to that. Those who have bSafe kind of apps but for some reason don’t use it, or those that get assaulted  but have no emergency app, pepper-spray or other self protection devices.
How do you think this application empowers women and the LGBTQ community, in particular?

Everyone has the right to be and feel safe, unfortunately that is not the case, which is why great initiatives like yours are launched. BSafe was developed to make people feel safer when walking alone and to give them confidence and security against threats and dangerous situations.

Knowing that you are surrounded by a network of Guardians should be a comforting feeling when you are walking alone. The ability to alert them makes you feel safer and that they can see where you are or follow your movements to make sure you get home ok adds a level of security.

With bSafe you never walk alone……….

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Rachel G.’s story: What gives them that right?

On top of being a full time student, I have a part time job at my university. On one Monday morning that had already been difficult for me, I was walking around a building on campus running errands for my boss when I walked by two guys sitting on a bench. I heard one of them make a noise that sounded like a dog barking but I assumed they were joking with each other and continued walking. A few minutes later, I walked by them again and heard the noise again, followed shortly after by a comment, of which I only caught the end… “I like her earrings though”. At this point, I realized, they were saying something about me. I was wearing particularly large and shiny earrings that day, one of my favorite pairs, and had received a few compliments, all of which had made me feel good. None of them had made me feel uncomfortable until I walked by those jackasses. At this point I went to the bathroom and attempted to waste a few minutes hoping they would go away but of course, they did not. Sure enough, when I walked by the third time, they made that noise twice and said something again, this time about my ass. Unfortunately, I was wearing my work uniform at the time so I had to resist the urge to turn around, flip them off, lecture them on respect and tell them to go fuck themselves which was extremely difficult for me. I almost never let those kinds of things go and I certainly never rely on anyone else to stand up for me, I believe that empowers the harasser. Instead, I marched into my boss’ office and told her what had happened. My boss then called someone higher up on the chain of command who came, spoke with me for a minute about what happened and then went to talk to the harassers. Even though they went away, I didn’t feel any better. What gives them the right to harass me at work? To put me in a position where I had to either stick up for myself and risk my job or to let it go? Who are they to cause me to have to go so very far against my morals and values? To make it so that I have to get a man to go and defend my honor instead? What the hell gives them that right?

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Activism Works! Target Stalker Card Goes Bye-Bye


The Target Card that is No More!

On Thursday we published an article condemning a Target Valentine’s card that trivialized stalking and urged readers to sign the Care2 petition against it. The following day target announced that they would be pulling the card from their shelves. Target spokesperson, Kristy Welker wrote in an email to Forbes:

“It is never our intent to offend guests with the products we offer and we take feedback from guests’ very seriously. We immediately made the decision to remove this card from our selection.”

So hats off to all you wonderful activists that put your index fingers to great use and signed the petition! There is a valuable lesson to be learned here and that is that ACTIVISM WORKS! And you have proved it! The power to change the world is in our awesomely capable hands, so take one of those hands and pat yourself on the back because you rock!


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