Article, The Movement

Nicola’s Got Nerve

As the start of the new school year rapidly approaches, some girls are dreading having to go back. They have been subjected to severe sexual harassment by other students in the form of explicit comments, slanderous graffiti, and inappropriate touching. As a result of this unwanted attention, they are often ostracized by other girls, and can fall into depressive and self-destructive behaviors. Sadly, this is not as unusual as it might sound, because girls today are living in a world that has forced them to become sexual much earlier than at any other time in American history. And by “sexual,” I don’t mean just making babies ~ as we know, girls were married at extremely young ages a hundred years ago, and already had large families by their late teens ~ no, instead, I’m referring to the exploitation of women’s and girls bodies as objects/commodities, and way before they have a chance to attain emotional and intellectual maturity. But I digress ~ there are so many underlying reasons for this problem, which we’ll have to explore at another time. Today’s discussion is about the prevalence of sexual harassment in public schools, and what can be done about it.
According to AAUW (The American Association of University Women), an astounding 83% of girls have experienced sexual harassment. Just think about that ~ When we walk out onto the street in New York City, or even take public transportation (known breeding grounds for harassing behaviors), most of the time we expect not to be harassed, and are rudely shocked out of our happy place/complacency by some jerk that sees an opportunity to take our power away. But girls in public schools, according to this report, might fullyexpect to be abused, just by showing up in that environment. It is one thing to endure a one-time violation by an anonymous stranger whom you’ll never have to see again (except maybe in a police line-up, or in court), but another thing entirely to endure repeat abuse at the hands of someone you have to encounter on a daily basis. Shocking isn’t even the word, and actually invites comparisons to torture. This summer, I completed a course in the Human Rights of Women at Columbia University, in which we exposed domestic violence and other forms of continual abuse as a form of torture, because of the ability to take one’s autonomy and power away through repeated episodes of sexual violation. I believe that if there was this understanding of the seriousness what girls are going through in the schools, more direct action could, and would, be taken against it at the school administrative level, if not higher.
So, in the absence of regularly enforced policies, what can girls and their parents do? For starters, it’s about setting boundaries. This blog, and much of the Hollaback! website seeks to empower women in all situations, so that they can escape, or ideally, prevent harm from coming to them. The same principles apply in the school environment, as out on the street. The word “No!” is a powerful ally in self-protection. Standing up to one’s aggressor/bully is never easy, and not always the safest thing to do, but in the right circumstance, can dissuade an abuser from seeing someone as an easy target, “worthy” of repeated acts of abuse. Since sexual harassment of girl students seems to happen most often on school buses (a closed environment, think “subway car”), changing classes (the “hit and run,” when a student is focused on getting to class), or obviously, in the gym and locker room environment, a girl must always be alert to who is in close proximity to her. Getting changed in a bathroom stall might not be convenient, but does work to allow some privacy. And as for riding on the bus, sitting closer to the driver is always the safest option for students being subjected to harassment. But just as in the case of harassment in the workplace, there should be some type of “paper trail” to describe the nature and time lines of individual complaints, if there are repeated incidents, even from different people. School officials cannot readily ignore written complaints without opening themselves up to liability.
Now, let’s look at a scenario where a girl’s complaints might fall on deaf ears, and her school, for whatever reason, refuses to bring a timely and appropriate remedy to the situation, by either limiting contact with the abuser, or taking disciplinary action. Sadly, name-calling and even inappropriate touching is seen as “normal teenage behavior” by many school officials ~ many of whom grew up in a very different, more sheltered time and place, and who therefore seem to lack the sense of empathy needed to protect a vulnerable student. If a harassment situation gets this far, parents have a powerful resource in the Title IX Act Education Amendment of 1972, which guarantees every child the equal right to an education. This has been used successfully in many instances, but not everyone knows about it to take advantage of it. The mere mention of invoking it may actually trigger the appropriate (albeit overdue) response from school officials. But at heart, this is a problem of education ~ just as there are now seminars and school assemblies that openly discuss the problem of general bullying, there needs to be more said about sexual harassment, which seems to be almost exclusively a problem for girls. Public school must be safe if learning and growing is to take place, and more and more girls in recent years have been driven out of this environment towards more expensive single-sex, private institutions. Let’s see how we can deepen our empathy for girls, not only by teaching them how to protect themselves, but by creating safer places where they never have to fear being violated just by showing up. Because, frankly, that should be the very last thing on their minds this September.

4 comments 
demonstration

Kayla’s Story: Harassed Walking Home

I was walking home from work on a friday night from Broadbeach to Pacific Fair, and on my way is Jupiters Casino. I manage a resturant so it would have been around 11:30pm and the casino was teeming with people. Anyway these 3 guys as I was walking past whistled at me, which I ignored and then screamed out “Show me your tits baby you’re looking hot tonight” to which i replied “F*&k off”, the two other men laughed but the other guy said “Whatever you frigid c*$t”

2 comments 
demonstration

Heather’s Story: Harassed online

I have been a member of the CouchSurfing community for more than five years. In that time I’ve gotten a few messages that could be considered slightly suggestive. Yesterday I received a completely revolting message from a might-as-well-be anonymous CSer who is clearly there to abuse the system as he has no friends, no recommendations and no photos and yet has “been a member” for almost a year. I reported his profile and both messages he sent me. Below are his messages and my responses.

Frank: “After looking at your pictures I have resolved to buy you a an extra large heavy duty bag and throw it over your entire body because you are the most beautiful thing that I have ever seen in my life. Any man who would look at you would want you for a wife! You can only marry one man at a time or even bed one man at a time! If you reject any of then they must accept No! Come on girl be reasonable! I am not saying that any man should take advantage of you by getting you drunk or hitting you over the head; however it is going to happen time and again unless you wear a large bag over your entire body! You are the most desired commodity in the world ever. You are finer than Gold! You are also worth way more. If you would be mine I’d give all my Gold away! That’s it become a gold digger and get you a huge bag made out of gold to hide under! God bless you and please be mine!”

Me: “You’re a fucking skeezer man. Trolling a feminist with threats of “bride kidnapping” because “you’re so hot I can’t control myself” is fucking pathetic. This website and this project were designed to bring travelers from all over the world together when hotels get too expensive, not to give you an easy way to harass strange women. Obviously you didn’t care enough to read anything on my profile before you sent me this disgusting, misogynistic message or you’d know I already have a partner. Not that I would ever consider “being” anyone’s who felt it’s ok to see women merely as objects to possess. Fuck off sleezebag.”

Frank: “All I am saying is that you can not avoid abuse because all that scum where you live will make a rodeo out of you if you don’t wear a large trash bag to shield your body or if you give into their demands. I am not saying it’s right and if I was there I would kick their ass and protect you like a brother. All I am saying is that you have to wear a bag over your head to keep men from wanting you or even molesting you other wise those Texans will get while the getting’s good. Damn those Yankee Masonic fuck boys to hell! I mean come on you are the most beautiful woman who ever lived! What are the chances that you will be raped over and over again! Its not like your a dog! You have been raped before because you are so fine thus the anger! And thus this has caused you to create this site. I am sorry that it has happened to you. I love you and I respect you and I am 100% pro women’s rights. Darling I love you more than anything in the world! Your wish is my command! Look the price of Gold is sky high and you could make a lot of cash manipulating someone like me!

In the the entire world. Men who drink may rape you in fits of insanity and what else can you do other than hide your perfectness under a bag! I would never take whats not afforded me!”

Me: “Telling someone who has been raped that it’s her fault is the lowest thing you can do. You obviously have no human decency if you’re throwing around the word rape trying to compliment someone. Do everyone a favor and only speak when spoken to. And do not contact me again.”

2 comments 
demonstration

Laura’s Story: Not an invitation

My self being a New York native was walking through times square on my way to do some volunteer work. It was an extremely hot summer day so I dressed accordingly to the climate. When I was walking through Times Square this man came up to me and said “Hello I am visiting New York and I love the women here do you mind if I take a photo of you” Me being the non confrontational person that I am said no thank you but before I knew it he grabbed me and held me up against him while his friend took a photo. I may have been lightly dressed due to the weather but that is no invitation for men to treat women less then human.

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Article

No Room for Debate: Trans People and the Wider LGBT Community

BY ANGELA DALLARA

It’s always encouraging to see criticism and internal dialogue within movements for equality—conversations that constantly question whether activists have the best priorities, are being as inclusive as possible, and are making a positive impact. I think one of the most admirable things about the modern feminist movement is the way we are always educating ourselves and each other, remembering that feminism is about equality for everyone regardless of their sex, gender, race, ability, and other factors—and asking whether our perspectives are complete and fair.

But I wish to see more of that healthy debate in the mainstream movement for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality today. Dialogue among LGBT activists often takes a more tense, accusatory tone about which goals are the most important, which queer community suffers more than the others, and which organizations aren’t good enough.

One of the clearest indications of this is the classic “debate” over how transgender issues fit within the broader LGBT circle. No matter how increasingly educated and informed we become about trans people and the issues surrounding trans communities, it seems like every couple of weeks there’s a new op-ed or forum debate or Twitter fight or public service announcement about whether the “T” should really be a part of the “LGBT” acronym. It never fails: just last week openly gay news anchor Don Lemon made that question a large portion of a panel of transgender celebrities he hosted on the Joy Behar Show. (The segment was extremely problematic, as Lemon is clearly not versed in trans conversations in any way; but promising in a larger sense, as I blogged about elsewhere).

Why is the “T” part of the “LGBT”? I hope that for feminists the answer is rather obvious. The stigma surrounding transgender, transsexual, genderqueer, and gender non-conforming people is the same stigma that people who aren’t straight must confront: They’re not expressing themselves according to the strict rules and rigid binaries that society has created for us, where there are men and women; men are masculine and have sex with women; and women are feminine and have sex with men. The trans community confronts these most fundamental notions of what the world tries to tell us about gender.

And this has devastating impacts. Transgender women make up 44% of all victims of violence against LGBT people. People of color make up 70% of the victims. It’s worth repeating. Transgender women of color are the single most targeted group in the LGBT community. But gay men, lesbians, and other groups are also regularly harmed—usually not for their sexual orientation, but for their expression of their gender; for “looking” gay.

“There isn’t much that compares,” said advocate Ja’briel Walthour in the Huffington Post yesterday, to living life as a transgender woman of color. “To face discrimination and biased attitudes is one thing; to stare down the barrel of a loaded weapon is another.”

Feminists are beginning to recognize the integral importance of speaking up for and protecting our trans sisters (and brothers), and why it’s relevant to them. But it remains an issue for many LGB and straight people who continue to ask “Why should I care?” The fact that they think this is even debatable is scary. The answer is glaringly obvious to me.

7 comments 
Article

“Men Will Never Truly Understand A Day In The Life of Women. But Shouldn’t We Try?” by Yashar

BY YASHAR, cross posted from the current conscience

The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.

This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.

For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”

“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.

He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”

For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.

This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies indicate that almost 100 percent of women will face some sort of street harassment at one point in their lives.

Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet, many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst, annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.

The reality of street harassment is far worse than what most men think or believe. In cities large and small, women have to contend with comments that range from the mildly offensive to the disgusting. Beyond being verbally harassed, many women are followed and some women are even forced to deal with the same harasser on a daily basis. And for some women, this “harmless” harassment leads to assault.

But I realized, as Dina was telling me her story, that I have never actually been witness to the kind of street harassment my women friends tell me about. If a woman is walking down the street with me, other men generally won’t engage in any kind of harassing behavior towards her because street harassment, like all forms of harassment, is about attacking the vulnerable.

And despite what some readers of this column may think about my gender, I will never know what it feels like for a woman to walk down the street alone. How am I to fully relate to the pain, fear, and humiliation of street harassment when I have never witnessed its full form and lack the the personal experience of being harassed on the street?

Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.

To read the rest the of the article, click here.

3 comments 
Article, The Movement

JC Penny tells young women their looks are more important than their brains

UPDATED

A new t-shirt marketed to tweens and teens contains this message:

“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”

Hey, JC Penny: It’s 2011. Your sexist t-shirt messaging sucks. Big time.

That’s right, let’s keep telling young women that their looks are more important than their brains or than doing homework. Maybe they’ll just start believing it.

Sign the Change.org petition to let JC Penny CEO Mike Ullman III know that his paying customers don’t appreciate being disrespected like this and that our daughters will not be wearing sexist propaganda. Ask your friends to do the same.

 

Thanks to your quick response, JC Penny has pulled the offensive t-shirt from their website and issued this statement:
jcpenney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.

one comment 
demonstration, Story

Letty’s story:”You can’t treat women like that”

A stranger grabbed my crotch on the metro today. and then tried to deny it and get away from me when I started screaming at him. eventually he mumbled ‘sorry’ and walked away and i didn’t have the energy to keep following him. but i’m proud of myself for yelling: you can’t treat women like that! you are disgusting! you should be ashamed of yourself! that is unacceptable! next time i’ll be mentally prepared to take the next step and report it.

2 comments 
demonstration, Story

Anon’s Story: “I’m glad to not feel completely alone”

Unfortunately I’m no stranger with harassment on the streets, having lived in Sydney and small country towns before Newcastle, I mean as appearances go I don’t consider myself unattractive, I’m not by any means thin, or conventional, but I take pride in myself and am careful to dress appropriately.

However the intensity and consistency of verbal and physical attacks since living here have been unprecedented, from having drinks thrown at me in bars, creeps asking incredibly personal things, even having my hair sniffed while walking the streets.

Mostly I try not to take too much notice, my long term boyfriend having even bought me a tazer to make me feel safer when I am out, and though it does its incredibly heartbreaking that it should come to that.

But rather to the point, I only just discovered this website and felt that I should share my most recent, and probably the most hurtful of experiences, being a late Sunday night, my boyfriend and I went for a walk to the 24hr grocery store to pick up some things so I could bake him some treats before he had to head home for work (he works rather odd houred shifts)

In my year of living here I was somewhat surprised to see the local club was going and quite lively, being familiar with the rather unkind crowd we opted to keep our distance and went on to do our shopping, however on our return as we took the same back streets avoiding the drunken crowds a car drove by slowly, a man leaning out the window screaming “fat slut!” at me as I stood there right next to my boyfriend, I felt completely humiliated, and angry for being judged at such a stupid hour on a Sunday night, I felt I had a right to be a little haggard, but I couldn’t dare even express the pain to my boyfriend as he silently ignored it, walking back home all I could do was try not to cry.

All I could ask myself was, “What kind of man would insult a woman, a complete stranger, in such a way? Why should anyone ever have to put up with such a public humiliation?”
I yet to understand, but I certainly found some solace in this site, I’m glad to not feel completely alone.

2 comments 
demonstration, Story

Jacqueline’s Story: “He kept staring at me”

Walking toward my house, I made eye contact with a guy walking the opposite way on the other side of the street. I looked away. He did not. He kept staring at me, slowly turning his head a full 180 to keep staring at me as I walked up my driveway. It was completely silent, less than 30 seconds, and he was pretty far away from me, but I still felt shaken and threatened, and at the same time silly for feeling so threatened when nothing “really” happened, and angry that something so small means so much.

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