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New York City, NY (30th October, 2014) – When the street harassment video was launched earlier this week, we hoped that it would make an impact but never imagined that it would be viewed more than 15,000,000 times in the first three days. The response has been overwhelmingly positive. Many women feel a little less alone and a little more validated in their experiences and we have heard support from our partners, new and old.
Rob Bliss Creative donated time and labor to create this video and support our work. We are grateful for his work and the wide reach that his video has achieved but we feel the need to directly address other responses to the video.
First, we regret the unintended racial bias in the editing of the video that over represents men of color. Although we appreciate Rob’s support, we are committed to showing the complete picture. It is our hope and intention that this video will be the start of a series to demonstrate that the type of harassment we’re concerned about is directed toward women of all races and ethnicities and conducted by an equally diverse population of men.
Hollaback! understands that harassment is a broad problem perpetuated by a diversity of individuals regardless of race. There is no one profile for a harasser and harassment comes in many different forms. Check out our Harassment Is: Identities and Street Harassment guide on how individuals experience harassment differently. This video should have done a better job of representing this knowledge.
There are many more voices to add to this conversation and Hollaback! is committed to continuing to make space for those voices by providing platforms and amplification of people sharing their stories and finding ways to push back.
Second, there has been another problem which deserves further attention: the onslaught of rape and death threats that have been directed at the Shoshana B. Roberts, the subject of the video, are unacceptable but sadly unsurprising. When women are visible in online or offline spaces, they experience harassment. When women demand change, they meet violent demands for their silence.
We understand that violence exists on a spectrum that is played out on the street and online. We understand that it needs to change. We hope that you will work with us to end street harassment and to fight harassment wherever it is found.
Third, the coverage that this video has received shows how far we have come and how far we still have to go. Many outlets have used the video to have conversations about street harassment that would never have happened even five years ago. For many, street harassment is a real problem to be reported as such.
Other coverage, however, shows that sexism still shapes culture in a way that harms women. When journalists on major news networks reinforce, support, and normalize street harassment they minimize the violence and fear that women experience on the street.
We want to thank everyone for participating in this vital dialogue — and we encourage continued conversation and debate.
As an avid runner, I wanted to go for a longer run today as it was nice out. I put on a race shirt thats a little to big for me and my leggings (most comfy to run in) I then began my run. I usually run in residential areas, but today I ran into town. I was heading into the town just running as usual when the first car honked. I disregarded it. 10 minutes later, another honk. To top it off I was outside starbucks on the sidewalk with other people. It was a slowish area due to a yellow light when a car drove slowly next to me with two men in their late teens/early twenties. Note: i am 15. I had my headphones in so I couldnt hear what they said, but one of them leaned out the window with a big grin and started saying something. I just ran away. I was scared. I’m 15 years old. I shouldn’t have to be afraid to run outside of a starbucks at 3:00 in the afternoon.
How did this PSA come about?
In August 2014, Rob Bliss of Rob Bliss Creative reached out to Hollaback! to partner on a PSA highlighting the impact of street harassment. He was inspired by his girlfriend — who gets street harassed all the time — and Shoshana B. Roberts volunteered to be the subject of his PSA. For 10 hours, Rob walked in front of Shoshana with a camera in his backpack, while Shoshana walked silently with two mics in her hands.
As part of Rob’s agreement with Hollaback!, Rob had creative control over the PSA and owns it with unlimited usage rights for Hollaback!. Hollaback! is grateful for Rob and Shoshana’s dedication to this issue, and for their volunteer service.
What is street harassment?
Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. It exists on a spectrum including “catcalling” or verbal harassment, stalking, groping, public masturbation, and assault. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life. Street harassment can be sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. It is an expression of the interlocking and overlapping oppressions we face and it functions as a means to silence our voices and “keep us in our place.” At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. If you’ve experienced street harassment, we’ve got your back!
Is Shoshana’s experience unique?
The experience of street harassment is different for everyone. Street harassment disproportionately impacts women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and young people. Although the degree to which Shoshana gets harassed is shocking — the reality is that the harassment that people of color and LGBTQ individuals face is oftentimes more severe and more likely to escalate into violence. These forms of harassment are not just sexist — but also racist and homophobic in nature.
For more information on how harassment impacts people different, please read our guide on street harassment and identity called #harassmentis.
Does street harassment only happen in NYC?
Street harassment happens everywhere, although our maps indicate that population density may be a factor for it. If you think about it, this makes sense: if one out of every fifty guys you pass is going to harass you, you’ll be far more likely to experience street harassment on Wall Street than in a Walmart parking lot.
Hollaback! has 79 sites in 26 countries around the world, from Alberta, Canada to Delhi, India. Every site is working to end street harassment in their communities and support individuals who share their stories of harassment. You can check out their stories (and provide support) here.
Is Street Harassment a Cultural Thing?
Like all forms of gender-based violence, street harassers fall evenly across lines of race and class. It is a longstanding myth that street harassment is a “cultural” thing, perpetrated mostly by men of color. We believe that street harassment is a “cultural” thing in the sense that it emerges from a culture of sexism — and unfortunately — that is everyone’s culture.
It’s important to keep in mind that is this video only captures verbal harassment, and Rob and Shoshana can attest to the harassment overall falling evenly along race and class lines. While filming, Shoshana noted, “I’m harassed when I smile and I’m harassed when I don’t. I’m harassed by white men, black men, latino men. Not a day goes by when I don’t experience this.”
How do I get involved?
Share this message with your friends and donate. We can’t end this alone.
Our first ever online silent auction has launched! We are so excited to have you #HOLLAbid on all of the goodies we have to offer including yoga classes, jewelry, home baked brownies, public speaking training and much more!
You can make a #HOLLAbid on any number of cool gifts and services while also making an impactful investment in our organization. With the click of a mouse, you can generate both a recreational and social return on your investment in us.
Peruse our site, find some things that you love, and place your #HOLLAbid. The auction is running until Monday, November 3 at midnight EST.
- The Hollaback! Board
Happy Friday Hollabacker’s!
This week, the Hollaback! mothership attended the Emily May classroom at the Lower East Side Girls Prep and worked with fourth graders on a public art project. Additionally, we received press hits from The Gothamist, Telesur, and NY City Lens.
We are working to spread the word on two big awesome things, and you can help!
1) #Carrythatweight. Stand in solidarity with Emma Sulkowitz on 10/29. http://www.carryingtheweighttogether.com/get-involved. Carry a mattress and demand the end of sexual violence on college campuses and around the world.
2) As previously announced, our international street harassment survey is live. Thank you everyone for sending out the survey links. There are many different languages and locations. Send out the survey to as many list serves as possible. Reach high, reach wide! An international survey will give us worldwide solutions!
And here’s what the rest of our sites around the world have been up to….
Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio alerted us to the media coverage of the F@#KRAPECULTURE rally had some glaring omissions. Here’s one reporter’s attempt at starting to put LGBT people and women of color back into the headlines. Props for keeping the Hollaback! movement intersectional.
Hollaback! Bahamas guest lectured a Sociology class at The College of The Bahamas on street harassment and gender issues. They were also special guests at College of The Bahamas Union of Students’ Equality in Democracy forum. Additionally The Tribune reported on Hollaback! Bahamas’ presence at the Global Citizenship Conference in New Orleans.
Quentin Daspremont of Hollaback Brussels has been invited to give a talk on street harassment for the occasion of the comic book release of Project Crocodiles (pictured left). Project Crocodiles is a comic book and tumblr project of the illustrator/artist Thomas Mathieu where he transforms real harassment stories into drawings where harassers are crocodiles. We worked with Thomas before and he has transformed our bystander guide and tips on how to respond page into drawings/memes that have gone viral.
Great job this week, team! HOLLA and out!
– The Hollaback! Staff
The following is an excerpt from You’re Fine by Gina Tron through Papercut Press. Available online and at selected indie bookstores.
When I met Dr. Machecho, I found that he was not nearly as funny as his name.
“Have a seat,” he said sharply as I followed him into a small room. He was a tall, intimidating man with a cold demeanor. He sat in a chair in front of me and skimmed through some papers in a file.
“I didn’t have the chance to look at your chart yet. Why are you here?”
“Cocaine, mostly. They said I have PTSD and that I’m bipolar.” I said it all very matter of factually and with as little emotion as possible. I didn’t want him to see that I was annoyed with the place because I figured that would make him less likely to help me.
“I want to get out of here. I only got to attend two meetings here and they were not at all helpful for me.”
He was glancing down at a piece of paper that I guessed was my chart.
“So, I see you got raped.”
“Next time, make sure not to put yourself in that situation again.”
“Don’t put yourself in that situation again,” he stated with the deadest of eyes.
“How do you even know I put myself into that situation?”
“Then how did it happen?” he inquired with a smirk.
“You don’t even know anything about it! I don’t have to take this bullshit! I’ve been hard enough on myself.”
I stormed out of his office, ignoring his cries to stop as I walked to my room. In the corridor, I kicked over the same garbage can that I had knocked over before.
“Déjà vu,” I mumbled, giggling.
Tyler was lurking around the medication window and witnessed my tantrum.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
I told him what had occurred with Dr. Machecho and he sighed.
“What an asshole. But look, you gotta be cool with him. He’s responsible for getting you out of here. Just have him sign the papers for you.” The ex-crackhead, Tyler, had more
of a voice of reason than I did.
Dr. Machecho walked up to us. I was glaring at him and he seemed as though he was aware that he had said something wrong. I guess he thought that he could abuse me until I fought back. He was no different from all these other motherfuckers who think they can abuse whoever they want until the “victim” shows their fucking teeth. I feel like a lot of people, sometimes even people in authority, treat people they consider to be beneath them as animals. Guess if I’m an animal, I’m a koala: docile, yet vicious when provoked.
“Let’s talk,” said Dr. Machecho.
“I don’t want to talk to you! If you want to fucking talk, then talk to me in the hallway, where people can hear what you’re saying. I don’t trust you.”
He was visibly shaking. Perhaps he did not expect me to react in such a way, but I didn’t feel like I was acting that angry. My behavior was nothing compared to Natasha’s.
She’d probably punch this guy out for coughing.
“If you want to leave, then you have to sign some paperwork with me. I’ll give you whatever prescription drugs you want. And you have to promise to set up outpatient with your social worker. I’ll get the ball rolling on that. What are they giving you?”
“Paxil. Seroquel. Vistaril.”
“Okay, so I will give you a month’s worth of all those prescriptions. That should hold you over until you get a new doctor at your outpatient.”
He was very polite at this point. He spoke to me with respect, like he was talking to another human rather than a dog.
“Lovely,” I sneered. I resented him for only talking to me with respect because I had demanded it. I hated him for being a person who would, I perceive, prey on the weak. “How generous of you to give me all the drugs I want. If I get raped while on drugs that are prescribed to me, do I still deserve it?”
“You shouldn’t talk that way,” he said, “It’s unbecoming of a young lady.”
It’s not just one event, being harassed happens to me as often as I wash my hair. For every day in Neukölln I walk the streets freely and assault free, there is another where young men, old men, guys in groups, fathers with their children walking beside them, comment my appearance, insult me, tell me to have sex with them or grab my butt. In 99% of the cases I don’t dare doing anything because the people who witness the assault and my response would attack me and support the offender! Of course I hate being harassed, but I fear for my safety if I do anything.
This was several years ago now, but my freshman year of college I would commute by walking down my street and catching a public transport bus to campus. On three separate occasions while walking home I was catcalled at. The first time was from two guys in a car going the same direction as I was (so they didn’t even see what I looked like from the front), and the passenger stuck his head out of the window as they passed, trying to get a better look at me, and stretched his arm towards me as if asking, “What, you’re not even giving us a response?” The second time I was walking on the other side of the street and I got yelled at from the passenger of a car coming from the opposite direction in which I was walking, and that made me even more tense since I saw them more clearly than the other guys. The third time was from a school bus with middle school-aged boys who yelled, “Nice ass.” In all three cases I didn’t outwardly react at all because I was afraid of provoking them further, but I felt extremely uncomfortable, angry, and confused-on none of the days had I been wearing anything even remotely revealing, tight, or “provocative,” though even if I had, that would not have been any excuse. The middle schoolers made me particularly angry and sad because it showed how these harmful behaviors and views of women are being pushed even at young ages.
The saddest part was when I complained about the catcalling on Facebook, and a female friend of mine said, “You should be flattered ’cause it means you’re attractive!” This is by no means the kind of attention I want, nor the type of people I want to be attracted to me, and telling someone to be flattered by harassment is absolutely the wrong response to harmful ideas and actions concerning women’s sexuality.
I am not asking for it.
I had a lovely walk this morning as I was on my way to an interview at the most adorable little tea place. My interview went perfectly and I am 99.9 percent sure that I nailed the job as a cute little tea enthusiast. Can I enjoy that feeling right now? No. Would you like to know why? As I’m walking back home and the weather is still fantastic, my serenity is interrupted by a male in a pick up truck yelling, referring to me as “sexy”. I shake my head and ignore him, but can’t help but overhear him inviting me into his truck and muttering the things he would do to me.
I make it a good 20 yards before another male, a construction worker this time, starts yelling “hey baby” and making kissing noises. More construction workers join in, hollering, staring at me, some even walking onto the sidewalk to get a better view of me.
The remaining blocks that I had until I was home were the most uncomfortable, anxiety-inducing minutes of my entire life. I haven’t never felt more uncomfortable, I have never felt more unsafe. I am a strong female that does not put up with any man’s nonsense, but for those few minutes, I felt like a scared little girl.
My outfit was conservative; professionally. Nothing about it was attention seeking or revealing. Attached is a (blurry) picture that I sent my boyfriend right before I went to my interview. I was all excited and giddy.
Harassing women is not okay. It is not funny. It is not acceptable. But what is even worse, is their intentions.
I didn’t have a phone, otherwise I would have called the police, at least just to tell them where I was and to keep me company, but instead, all I could do was rush home, keys in between my knuckles, constantly looking over my shoulder. When I finally got home, I realized I had tears in my eyes and my lips were quivering.
The point of me writing this post is to 1.) Tell all you women out there to be safe.
and 2.) Tell all you men out there to treat a woman with respect.
The world is too beautiful a place to be soiled by such degrading scum.
I was not asking for it.
I went on a trip to London with my college and we travelled on the underground. when we all got on I had to stand next to two men sat down on seats as the carriage was really busy. one of them patted the space between them saying “you can sit here if you like, babe” and, scared, I looked away pretending I hadn’t heard. they then kept grinning at me, trying to catch my eye the whole journey. when me and the others on the college trip were getting off one of the men kept trying to trip me up. I said and did nothing, mainly because all of my classmates who had seen it either acted like it was nothing or were finding it funny. I don’t know why, but I was terrified. I felt like crying afterwards