Last night a guy in a club stopped in front of me on the dancefloor, squeezed my cheek and told me to smile. I gave him the finger and walked off and heard him shouting about “WHY DID SHE GIVE ME THE FINGER” all the way to the smoking area. It was about as articulate I could be in a loud club environment where you can barely hear yourself think. Will prepare something wittier if there is a next time.
“Hey lady, wanna..” I said “come back and let me take your picture.” He came back and shielded his face when I took the snapshot, asking “why do you wanna take my picture?”
This post is part of our Nicola’s Got Nerve series by Nicola Briggs.
I believe that it’s vital to practice boundary-setting every day. You might think that that sounds like a lot of work, even a bit paranoid. But if you practice in environments that feel non-threatening, you’ll be gratified to see that you can rise to even the most surprising and stressful situation. Even if, God forbid, a do-or-die moment comes along, you will be ready. It’s difficult to think of getting into the right mind set to save your yourself from harm if you don’t continually work on establishing appropriate boundaries.
So what would some examples be in different settings? One could be refusing to allow your new boyfriend or girlfriend to show up at your house or work unannounced. You see, little transgressions like this, while seemingly cute and endearing at first, tend to escalate into even more violating behaviors.
Here’s an every-day example: Say you have a neighbor in your apartment building or on your block that continually asks about your private life. It always makes you really uncomfortable, but you seem to end up giving the information that he or she wants, just so you don’t appear rude. Well, that person is actually acting like a bully (even if they don’t realize it) and if you don’t want your privacy violated again, it’s time to look after yourself and set some boundaries in a polite way. Changing the topic of conversation to the person asking the questions, or even to another non-personal topic is a great way of deflecting attention away from yourself, thereby safeguarding your privacy. Information is power, and no one can take away your power without your consent.
Boundary setting is vitally important in the workplace as well. When I was fresh out of college, I once had a supervisor who tried to assert dominance over me by draping her arm over my shoulders each time she visited me in my cubicle. She kept doing it, until I had to tell her that it made me uncomfortable. Instead of respecting my request, she tried to save face and put me on the defensive, saying something to the effect of, “Well, everybody likes hugs, why don’t you?” It really doesn’t matter whether the someone doing this is male or female, if action is inappropriate and makes you feel uncomfortable, you’ve got a right to speak up against it. Or it will keep happening, and sometimes escalate.
I have seen so many people in authority do this so many times, that I’ve actually given it a name. I like to call it, “The Supervisor Hold.” Mind you, this is not simply a casual, friendly act between equals, because I have never seen an employee do this to their employer. Now, this is something you want to become aware of, because some supervisors might be doing it unconsciously, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a very effective method of coercion. There’s something about the touch of a fellow human being that we all respond to, and if that person is not a stranger, then we’ve already been conditioned on some level to accept that touch, no matter what it’s real intention is. So it behooves us to examine whether we really feel comfortable with this kind of contact, especially if its coming from a superior. Some people might not say anything about it, just because they feel it might put their position in jeopardy, not because they actually like the contact.
And if you want to speak up about it, how should you go about that? From my personal experience, if you want the unwanted contact to stop, but want to maintain a working relationship, the best way is to have a private, short, direct, but respectful conversation with the person who’s making you feel uncomfortable. By establishing boundaries in the home and work environment you won’t hesitate to make sure that someone on the outside of those “safe” zones doesn’t run rough-shod over your personal space, either physically or psychologically. This is vitally important for your safety, and will allow you to move about your world with greater confidence.
This has been an amazing week and I have lots to share. I’ll start here in New York City.
I feel incredibly honored to be chosen as a “Next Maker” in AOL’s Makers: Women Who Make America Awards. Five astoundingly powerful women and I were chosen out of a pool of 1,200 applicants. Our stories will be included in a documentary about the feminism movement then and now airing on PBS in February. Read up on the other winners and learn more about this initiative on the Maker’s website. Thank you to all the hollabackers, past and present, who have made this possible.
Also, I’ll be celebrating the arrival of the book “I still believe Anita Hill: Three Generations Discuss the Legacy of Speaking Truth to Power” at an event in NYC this weekend. The section about Hollaback in the book is accompanied by many other stories of feminist visionaries. Get your copy here.
Here’s what our sites around the world have been up to:
Hollaback Dublin is hitting the ground running with lots of press before they’ve even launched. Not only did they make the national news twice already, they were also on a major talk radio show. Even though radio host Ryan Tubridy was unabashedly rude to site leader Aimee Doyle (he actually said “to hell with the PC brigade, there isn’t enough wolf-whistling at women going on!”), she repped Hollaback with grace and poise. I couldn’t be more proud of Aimee and the Dublin site, our new family members.
Hollaback Richmond recruited some hollabackers this week too by hosting a volunteer interest meeting. RVA has also been actively spreading awareness about the street harassment that the LGBTQ community faces, especially transgender people. Each day in November they are sharing stories of the many transgender lives lost due to gender-based and hate violence. Please click here to learn more.
Let’s keep this movement going together.
HOLLA and out —
I was in a taxi going back to my boyfriend’s house from a night out at about 4 in the morning, and I was drunk. The taxi driver told me it would be 20$ and being drunk I handed him the money in order to not have to deal with it later.
He stopped the cab 3 blocks from my boyfriend’s house in a really quiet, dark neighborhood, and got out. I got out of the taxi and asked him why he wasn’t driving the next three blocks. He told me that if I didn’t suck his dick, he would leave me there and drive off.
I walked back to the house in the dark, hiding in the shadows because I was afraid. I’m furious that I didn’t take down his license number and report him.
When I was 16, I was walking to the bus stop in my nice, relatively safe neighborhood. As I passed an elementary school on a busy street, an adult businessman in a red sports car slowed down and offered me sex, a ride, and told me how hot I looked today. The most shocking thing was that he looked like he could be someones father, so normal and almost safe looking. I was horrified, and loudly told him I was 16, and why the hell did he think it was acceptable as a grown man to hit on a child? I told him his words were disgusting and inappropriate and walked away. Plenty of other people on the street heard and stared at the man with disgust. His shame and embarrassment at being called out was empowering.
Unfortunately, I don’t currently hollaback at street harassers. This event happened in Seattle, and I now live alone in Fresno and rarely leave my apartment as I don’t feel safe.
I was riding the number 3 bus northbound. A man boarded, sat down and loudly cracked a beer open. He then started to come on to the young Asian woman sitting next to him, trying to get her attention in Cantonese, making kissing motions at her, draping his arm over the back of his seat. She was visibly ignoring him and feeling uncomfortable. I reported him to the driver – first for the beer, then for the assault. The driver notified transit police but did nothing more.
Some guy, probably a couple years older than me, knew that I was looking at something in the distance when I was going into the station and he was leaving. He said “hi beautiful”. I immediately turned around, looked him in the eyes and responded “That’s not cool! Not cool.” He seemed so taken aback that I actually responded with confidence instead of putting my head down and walking into the station, that all he could mutter way “okay.”
It’s been a great week here in New York and for our site leaders worldwide. I’ve got lots to share.
First, our International Fellow Shahinaz led a workshop at Planned Parenthood of New York City about bystander intervention with a mixed gender group of late high school/early college-aged peer educators. She also facilitated a similar event with middle-school youth.
I also got a note from Simone Kallett, a Resident Adviser at Florida State University, set up a board in her dorm with info from our website and resources from her school about ending street harassment. Simone said the response was overwhelmingly positive and she hopes her board will inspire other college students and activists to do the same.
Here’s what our sites around the world have been busy with this week:
Hollaback Ottowa‘s incredible site leader, Julie Lalonde, was a panelist at the World University Service of Canada’s International Forum where she spoke about feminist youth and Hollaback. This makes us so proud!
Hollaback Richmond volunteered with Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia this week and made phone calls to encourage Americans to vote. They’re also sitting on the planning committee for Richmond’s Transgender Day of Remembrance which is coming up on November 20th.
I am so proud of our family of activists this week. Keep up the great work.
HOLLA and out,
Noticed a guy masturbating on the train, started taking pictures of him, and when he noticed me and got up, I started yelling at him, “I see you!!! Masturbator!!” No one else on the train flinched, the guy got off the train and I tried to follow him but he jumped back on, I kept yelling at him and banging on the window to warn the other people in the car. I exited train platform and tried to file a report with a station agent, who panicked, and said there was nothing he could do. It takes him 3 uptown F trains before he calls it in. Then he switches shifts and explains to the new station agents the situation, cause I’m still standing there, and I’m not going anywhere til I file a report. The new agent is the first person to ask me if I am okay, which I reply YES but I need to report this. He tells me the police are coming and I can file with them. 30 minutes later there is no police. I ask the agent when they are coming, he says he has no way of knowing. I ask if I will still be able to file a report tomorrow, explaining that I’ve had friends who experienced this and were not allowed to file a report because it was “too late”. He assures me I can file a report any time I want. It’s a snowstorm, so I’m worried I won’t make it home if I don’t go now. I get back on the train with a crystal clear photo of the masturbator that nobody has looked at, unable to file a police report.