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One day while walking through the downtown area of my town, a car with two men was driving alongside me. The men started yelling things like, “Hey baby,” “Look here” and “I’d like to get with you” out the window at me. I quickened my pace to move away from them.
I was wearing a tank top on a sweltering summer afternoon in Virginia to walk my dog after a long shift and a summer of no A/C. I walked along the boulevard and feel a number of eyes on me. One person aggressively called out, “Hey baby” repeatedly. My shoulders bowed in–his voice raised, his calls grew more lewd. I yelled, “f**k you, sexist” back. He followed me for two blocks, yelling and calling me a bitch. The saddest part is that he left his young son in his car to witness this.
I get barked at. A lot.
This jerk stood outside his car and said, “Damn.” Grabbing his chin, he stared and proceeded to whistle at me and my sister as we walked into a store…the whole walk seemed to take forever. Gave him the finger and kept walking, but that didn’t stop him.
Girl rode by while I was walking in the dark and hollered, “You’re cute!”
This week, our nation celebrates 40 powerful years of Title IX, the federal law most famous for increasing female access to school athletic programs. Although the landmark law has certainly impacted school sports, the reach of Title IX is vast: it mandates gender equity in every educational program that receives federal funding.
Title IX is a portion of the Education Amendments of 1972, and states: No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance. Agencies covered by the law include approximately 16,000 local school districts, 3,200 colleges and universities, and 5,000 for-profit schools as well as libraries and museums.
Today, June 20th, the White House Council on Women and Girls will host an event to celebrate the legislation and discuss its impact and future. Participants will include:
- Keynote speaker Valerie Jarrett, Chair of the White House Council on Women and Girls,
- Former United States Senator Birch Bayh, who introduced Title IX in Congress,
- Laurel J. Richie, President of the WNBA, and
- U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
What does this have to do with street harassment?
Title IX has paved the way for organizations working for gender equality. For example, take a look at the achievements of Girls for Gender Equity (GGE), an amazing Brooklyn-based coalition-building and youth development organization which recently celebrated its 10th year of promoting the well-being of girls and women. One of GGE’s first activities was the creation of Gender Respect Groups for students, which addressed the goals of Title IX and aimed to help girls and boys understand gender equity in an educational setting. GGE workers soon noticed that sexual harassment was a concern for most of the students, many of whom were all too familiar with being harassed at school and elsewhere. Ultimately, GGE and its youth activists filmed “Hey…Shorty!,” a documentary about street harassment (also check out GGE’s book, “Hey…Shorty! A guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets,” by Joanne Smith, Meghan Huppuch, and Mandy Van Deven). The video was presented at a street harassment summit, which also included the screening of Maggie Hadleigh-West’s “War Zone,” another documentary film addressing street harassment. Several organizations dedicated to ending street harassment—including Hollaback NYC!—joined forces at the summit, facilitating workshops and furthering the discussion on how we can all work towards achieving respectful, safe public spaces with gender equity.
For more information about Title IX:
United States Department of Education, Office for Civil Rights, Title IX and Sex Discrimination, available at http://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/docs/tix_dis.html
National Center for Education Statistics, Institute of Education Sciences, Fast Facts, Title IX, available at http://nces.ed.gov/fastfacts/display.asp?id=93
National Organization for Women, Title IX and Education, available at http://www.now.org/issues/title_ix/index.html
I’m submitting this story here, for the widest distribution possible. It happened to me in Florence, Italy in early June 2012. With summer vacation upon us, many women from different countries will be visiting Italy and I want to warn them of the possibility of this sort of “attack.”
I was wearing a knee-length summer dress, walking with my husband past the Uffizi Gallery, towards the Piazza della Signoria. My husband was walking several steps ahead of me, when I felt hands run up the backs of my thighs and my skirt was lifted up to my waist. It was surreal. A crowd of people laughed as I whipped around to see who had done this. It was a young man with some sort of face paint. I don’t know if he was a “performance artist” attempting to amuse passers-by, or whatever. I did the first instinctive thing that came to me (for better or for worse) … I raised my middle finger right up at his grinning face and then strode away after my husband (who never saw this happen).
I got increasingly stressed out over this incident, remembered the feel of his hands dragging up my skirt – I felt so violated! It ruined the rest of our time in Florence, since I kept thinking I might run into him again, or someone else would try something.
So my warning to all women visiting Florence – wear pants, and be aware that there are some misguided souls out there trying to make a buck.
I was walking to the tram today and passed 3 bald guys and one girl walking in the opposite direction. It’s a small pathway behind the houses and although well lit, not exactly great. It was broad daylight however, about 4pm. As I walked past one of the burly baldies, one of them decided it’d be a really great idea to go in for the good old bum-slap routine.
He muttered “you know what? you are…” followed by a quick slap to my bum!
I didn’t turn or react at all and continued on my walk, because I didn’t want to give him the satisfaction of thinking it even registered. Fortunately I found it quite amusing but nobody should have to go through something like that and it could have been someone who was more upset by it than me.
Not the first time a man has done something on this same pathway. I’ll post my other story separately.
I was walking to the subway on Bond Street on my way to work at about 8:30 this morning when a 6’3, skinny kid in a blue sweatshirt with gray sleeves came around the corner of the building at Fulton Street and made a grabbing motion at my chest. He mumbled something inaudible and pulled his hand back without actually touching me. By the time I realized it had been an intentional motion, he had gone past. I turned and said “what the f**k? Get off!” but none of the 8 or 9 other people in the area reacted. As I looked back at him he looked at me over his shoulder and maintained eye contact as he walked away until I ran in the same direction I had been going and stopped once I could stand with my back against a building to text my boyfriend before continuing to work. I wasn’t thinking quickly enough to get a picture.
I think maybe the kid was just trying to be creepy- he succeed. Just the look in his eyes was so menacing, like he didn’t actually do anything to hurt me, but wanted me to know he could have if he had wanted to. I had taken my pepper spray off my keychain before a flight last week, but I’ll put it back on this evening. I’ll probably take a different train to work for a while too. What really pisses me off is how vulnerable it made me feel, even though physically I’m fine. Ugh.
Cross-Posted from Hollaback! Boston
We are excited to share these awesome cartoons with you guys today! They are courtesy of Laura of Hollaback! Alberta and they are badass as hell.
Thanks, Laura! These are fantastic.