During my freshman year of college, I had to take one of my art classes at night, much to my mother’s dismay. This meant walking home in the dark twice a week. My boyfriend wanted me to be safer, so he would pick me up and walk me home, his broad 6’3”stature giving me instant security. He was very diligent – always on time, every day. There was only one day where he had a scheduled test and I had to walk on my own.
That was the only day I was ever verbally harassed on my way home from class. A group of guys stopped their car by me and yelled out to me, laughing as they did. It wasn’t much and they were probably just trying to be cool, but it certainly was not cool.
They didn’t realize that they terrified me that night. They didn’t realize that I felt like crying. They didn’t realize that I already had anxiety issues and didn’t need any extra prompting for a panic attack. They didn’t realize that in that moment I had to go through every self-defense technique I knew, just in case.
They didn’t know, and I think that is pathetic.
Happy weekend Hollas,
This week at the Headquarters, we’ve been running to and from conferences, trainings, and more! Emily’s representing Hollaback! at Netroots Nation – you can follow the conversation (and add your voice) here. Debjani’s pushing the movement forward at the Juno Women’s Leadership Residency in Omega, a residency for “women making a difference in the lives of women and girls.” And, next week, Hollaback! will be launching nine new sites. These amazing site leaders have gone through over six months of training and are poised to lead the movement in their communities — check in next week and send them your support!
Speaking of our amazing site leaders, last week a cohort of site leaders came together to publish a collaborative letter in response to the recent #Brexit vote. They write,
“we stand against the anti-immigration policies that limit equal access to public space. We believe that we are all entitled to walk to and from work, go to school, and access services as our full selves without facing harassment – whether on the street, online, or through government policies and rhetoric.”
Here’s what Hollaback! sites around the world have been up to this week:
Hollaback! Ottawa presented to a Communications class at Carleton University on social marketing, including how to use Chalk Walks to help change social norms! Great to see this tactic taking off (and hope we see some communications majors taking it on!)
Hollaback! Berlin was covered by NPR in an article and radio interview on “fighting back against street harassment.” In the interview, site leader Julia noted “In the aftermath of what happened in Cologne in Sylvester [New Year’s Eve], many people were using this image – this fantasy of the Islamic man – as the scapegoat for sexism. Then we have to navigate through it. We try to make sure that you’re not discriminating while trying to fight discrimination.”
Join us next week as we launch Class 13 of Hollaback!, with nine new sites ready to take the movement to their communities!
Holla and out –
On the 23rd of June 2016, the British public voted in favour of the UK leaving the European Union. Since then, there has been a growing sense of discomfort among migrants and BAME communities in the UK, both due to political uncertainty and a rise in racist/xenophobic attacks. Additionally, conservative and far right movements across Europe have been emboldened by the Brexit result, and have become more vocal in their anti-immigrant and anti-refugee rhetoric.
In the light of the recent Brexit vote, a collective of Hollaback! sites are coming together to stand against the racialized and xenophobic violence, discrimination, and harassment that are a daily reality for individuals both in the UK and across Europe.
We stand against the anti-immigration policies that limit equal access to public space. We believe that we are all entitled to walk to and from work, go to school, and access services as our full selves without facing harassment – whether on the street, online, or through government policies and rhetoric.
We invite you share your story, along with your calls to action.
For allies, If you see racialized or xenophobic harassment, stand up and intervene. Here are some ways to do that safely.
For those who face this violence everyday, we hear you and we support you. We will work alongside you to fight for equal access to public spaces – and we will make sure that all of our stories are heard. We also acknowledge that this discrimination has not sprung up overnight with the Brexit vote. There is a long history of racism and xenophobia that contributes to and compounds harassment and inequality – just as there is a long history of people standing up against it. We stand with you, today and all days.
Hollaback! London Collective
Hollaback! Cuenca (Ecuador)
*For more information on the intersection of identities and harassment, see Harassment Is.
I have a “don’t mess with me” line, and this guy officially crossed it. I was waiting at the bus stop when he approached me and said “You’re pretty”. I glared and looked the other way. He stood over me and continued aggresively flirting (asserting his previous comment, saying “Wanna ride with me?”). Once he backed off, I pulled out my phone and got a picture of him when he wasn’t looking. I have absolutely zero tolerance for being directly talked down to by an adult male stranger, especially when I have not expressed any consent for such contact.
I have lived in this area for years and have been out late at night a significant amount of time since I used to work nights as a pedicabber downtown. I have been harassed verbally and physically numerous times at work but I was always in a position to end an interaction by kicking a fare off my cab or simply riding away. Last night I was groped while taking a walk in my neighbourhood. Somehow this was a much more violating experience.
I was only about two blocks from home when I encountered a man passing me in the opposite direction on the sidewalk. It was late and I was alert but as we passed one another he casually reached out and squeezed my left breast. Surprised by the casualness and shaken by the violation I turned and yelled something like “What the F- dude!?” He continued walking without looking back. I called my fiancé, who was at home, and he came to meet me as I walked the suddenly unsafe feeling two blocks home.
I have been bothered by the fact that I felt fearful and violated in this situation and not as much in the past. Now I see it is the unknown factor of what that man intended, what he could have done after that caused me such fear. Also, now I have a deep sadness that the neighbourhood I have felt safe in for so long suddenly seems more sinister.
Just now I was waling home and as I went through the lobby a man followed me in. Not recognising him I asked him what floor he was going to, he replied 4th and walked into the lift with me. As he walked out of the lift he tried to kiss my breasts and I stabbed him in the neck with my fingernail. I was so enraged I nearly walked out to try and beat him up but luckily my flight response kicked in and he didn’t try to follow me further.
It was my mothers birthday and we went to go get our eyebrows done at the mall. While my mom was waiting to get her brows done she realized she had forgotten her phone in the car. The mall wasn’t one we were familiar with or came to frequently (we just heard good reviews for the brow art).She asked me if I’d be okay walking to the car by myself and I told her it was no problem. On my way out of Macy’s there were these two guys just standing there, I vaguely remember seeing one out of the corner turn his head as I walked passed him into the parking lot. I got to the car and finished grabbing the phone and an older lady was waiting for me, she said that if those two guys were murdered they would have killed me (they were apparently leering very openly). Being only 14 (I’m tall for my age) I was freaked out because after the lady told me that, I looked up and saw that the 2 guys were standing right by my car. I’m so grateful that the lady saw that, waited for me and walked me back inside the mall. That experience was very scary, till this day I can’t understand why they followed me all the way to my car in the parking lot and it’s scary just thinking about what could have happened if it weren’t for that kind woman, no woman/young girl should ever be made that uncomfortable.
This summer, I decided to make a commitment to be a bit more fitter in my lifestyle. As a result, I have been running about 5 times a week at a large park near my town. On this particular day, I was exhausted and decided walk the entire loop of the park. As I strolled the pathway with headphones in, a tall man yelled something to me while walking towards my direction. I proceeded to take out my headphones and must have looked startled because he asked the question again with his unintelligible thick accent. He then pointed to his ring finger and asked if I was married. He kept following me as I walked the long path and stated that he has seen me run several times. During our conversation, he not only pressured me to come live with him in Jamaica, he asked me to marry him and exchange phone numbers. To be honest, I have never thought of myself as attractive and was never really given attention if I walked down a street. I never thought I would ever be harassed in such a place only because I had this preconception that Americans generally were not interested in Asians like me. This interaction, however, made me very scared and opened my eyes to the harrassment women have to endure on a daily basis.
I have lived on the same block from 5 years. I have walked passed all my neighbors (many of which I know) with and without my husband, said “Hi”, “Have a good day” and all other niceties that neighbors do. Yes, I have experienced the occasional cat calls and harassment, usually not on my block, usually not worth noting. However, while walking passed a stoop on my block a few weeks ago, I stopped dead in my tracks at an absolutely vulgar, disgusting comment. What started as “Hey Sexy” quickly turned into “I could rip that white pussy wide open.” I couldn’t ignore that comment. I stopped, turned back and said “excuse me?” When I commented that I heard what they said and it was unacceptable and disgusting, “keep walking white b****” was yelled at me many times over. I exclaimed that I lived here and it was not okay. Yes, I am white. But as a woman, I should not be made to feel so uncomfortable walking down my own block. Later my husband decided to confront the men, which was not a smart move and I felt too provoking. The group of men was doubled from 2 to 4 and quickly escalated into threats towards my husband. It was all dissolved peacefully eventually. But what stuck with me, is that I was told in the heat of it that I should have “just kept walking”. It is not acceptable to talk to any woman or girl this way. Somewhere along the way, men have learned or decided that these comments are deserved and acceptable because they are men and we are sexualized beings. I still avoid that side of the street and always try to see if that stoop has anyone sitting on it before approaching.
Harassed again from across the street at my bus top. The harassment this time was in drunk, slurred Spanish so I don’t know what was said, but by the pointing, ‘thumbs upping’ and sleazy grin I got, I know whatever he said wasn’t cool. I yelled across the street and asked him to repeat himself, which he did! Then kept grinning and walking away. Wish he’d come over a little closer to say what he had to say so that I could kick his little ass.