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I am 38 and just realized I have experienced over two decades of street harassment.
Cross Posted from Hollaback! Boston
This past Thursday, July 12th, I had the privilege of leading a workshop on Hollaback! Boston at theComputer Clubhouse 2012 Teen Summit at Northeastern University. The Teen Summit is:
a biennial event that includes opportunities for Clubhouse youth to express their ideas with high-end technologies, such as graphic design, video animation, digital art, music, radio and documentary film-making, and 3-D modeling.
Teaching a group of engaged, tech-savvy teens about the Hollaback! movement (our aptly titled workshop: “Holla WHAT? Hollaback!”) was truly rewarding experience. I got to teach the teens about the pervasive nature of street harassment, why it is an international problem, and ways to take action through holla’ing back or being a bystander. I shared videos on how the Hollaback! movement got started, how pervasive street harassment is for women and LGBTQI-individuals, and how men can be effective bystanders. I shared some of our favorite comics which inspired some of the participants to make comics of their own!
My favorite part of the workshop was the last hour, where the teens had the option to create comics, poems, haikus, or skits to respond to street harassment. Seeing the teens from all around the world (seriously, we had participants from Palestine, New Zealand, Australia, and California!) collaborate on projects to end street harassment was a powerful moment. I was able to see how engaged our generation is and how passionate individuals can get when given the tools to talk back to unacceptable, dangerous behavior in our culture, such as street harassment.
A group of teens working together on a Hollaback! campaign.
Coming up with street harassment comics
I was so impressed with the group by the end of the workshop! It was amazing for me to see teens from all around the world grasp on to the Hollaback! movement. Here are some of their final products:
Imani uses the whiteboard for a cartoon: “Hi chick!” “I’m no chick, I’m human!”
Using poetry to respond to street harassment.
Nick and Nick Jr.’s comic: “Hey, wassup baby girl?” “I have a name you know.”
Bystander awesomeness! “Hey man, what’s wrong with (you) man?! Cut it out!”
Each piece of work showed a different approach to understanding street harassment and getting involved in Hollaback’s work to end it, whether by being a badass bystander (I love that cartoon) or coming up with snappy remarks to unwelcome comments. There were a few more written pieces that I plan on sharing in a separate post, soon!
What do you think of these teens’ work? What are other ways you get teens involved with social justice? Leave your thoughts and comments below!
I was at the Hoyt-Schermerhorn train stop waiting for the G to arrive, when one guy in front of me started staring fixedly at me and wouldn’t look away. I got angry and asked him, “Can I help you?” I refused to be intimidated by looking away. He kept staring at me and laughing with his friend.
I was walking into a pub with two old women stood outside it. Both of them thought it was acceptable to hit my bum with the toy wands they were holding (was some sort of fancy dress thing).
Another time, in Manchester, I was stood talking to someone when a girl groped me from behind. I told her to stop but she carried on. Nobody said anything.
One blistering-hot day when i was 9, i was sitting on a city bus at the bus line’s terminal, where the driver got a 15-minute break. A woman came up to the stop just as he was getting off, and he wouldn’t take an extra 10 seconds to let her onto the air-conditioned bus. The door operated with a handle on a lever, so while he was in the cafe i opened the door so the passenger could go ahead and sit in the air conditioning. When he came back, he saw her on the bus and laced into me about how i could have accidentally released the brake (possibly trying for Most Laughable Lie of the Year) and killed someone, etc., etc. I simply fixed my precocious-nine-year-old gaze on him until he ran down, gave up and went to his seat. Then i winked at the other passenger. She smiled shyly, and we went to our respective homes; her stop was before mine, so he didn’t give her any bs.
There is a man in downtown silver spring in a wheelchair harrasing women. Not just women, but only plus sized women. He talks about how he would love to give them a baby. And he goes on about what an amazing lover he is. He rides in an automatic wheelchair, and usually has on a suit.
one time i was walking down the street with some friends and i passed this man who was leaning against a wall, staring at women as they passed by.
he wasn’t interested in me (praise be to the gods) but he was interested in a woman that was walking past from the other direction.
he watched her and said (while staring at her ass), “mmmm.. lookin’ good. lookin’ real good.”
the woman ignored it, but i was just too repulsed to leave it alone so i stopped on the sidewalk, turned around, and caught him square in the eye with such a look of disgust that imagining it now seems sort of comical. he already seemed caught off guard, but i added, with as much feeling as i could muster without shouting, “ew!”
he seemed genuinely embarrassed. he broke eye contact and stared at his feet until i stopped looking at him and moved on.
I am training for a marathon and while out running I passed a car full of what appeard to be high school aged boys waiting at the intersection. They yelled out that they liked my ass. I ignored them and kept running. When they drove passed me after the intersection they called me a slut and threw a can of soda at me. It missed me but went so close to my head I could feel it flying past.
I spend a lot of energy on a daily basis considering how to best respond to street harassment. What I want is a quick, sure-fire way to shut down the harasser without any follow-up conversation or possibility of leaving them thinking the behavior is flattering, while also avoiding provocation of violence or retribution.
It’s not easy to fit all of that into a three-word phrase you can yell at a passing car.
Earlier this week, as I walked my bike up the hill to my house (yes, I am that lazy, but it’s a serious hill), I had an interesting encounter. When the car pulled up next to me, passenger hanging out the window, I braced for the worst – instead, “Hey, hey miss – how much did your bike cost?”
I was so confused at the non-harassy inquiry, that my response came out a confounding combination of multiple possible answers: “Not enough!”
The passenger barely got out a “…What?” before the driver took matters into his own hands and left me to my reflections.
I should acknowledge, I have a fairly hilarious track record of this; once, as a colleague commiserated about a dreary Monday over the coffeemaker, I responded in a combination of “Mondays are the worst” and “Can’t it be spring yet?” The result: a very hyperbolic, “It’s the worst Monday yet!” (What? Indeed.)
This most recent experience left me wondering – what if I just responded to all street harassment with a ridiculous non-sequitur? Would it stop the conversation in its tracks? Prevent escalation? Give the harasser a moment of pause the next time they consider commenting on a stranger’s derriere?
Yesterday, I happened across a reference to Jenna Marbles’ video How to Avoid Talking To People You Don’t Want To Talk To. The answer, she says, is in The Face – and I couldn’t help but think that this might translate exceedingly well as a response to street harassment. Who needs a three-word retort when this is an option? Go on, click through and give it a watch.
What’s your favorite response to street harassment? Would you try The Face?
I smiled at a man in the car on my way home one day. He folkowed me to the edge of the block and kept on telling me to get in his car so he could drive me home. It took awhile for him to leave me alone. hes short and mid 30’s. Watch out for this asshole