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Sarah Harper, Director VoiceTool Productions Talks Art and Street Harassment

BY CATHERINE FAVORITE

How did you develop the idea to have an art event on the subject of street harassment?

I took on street harassment because of my own personal disgust with the harassment I experience daily on the street. My business organizes events for a cause, so it made perfect sense to coordinate a series of events to prompt action in San Francisco.

The art event selection came about organically.  Early on in the planning process, I talked to numerous people and organizations to get an idea of my resources and allies, and many interested parties happened to be involved in the arts.  Once I secured event space and began spreading the word, interest spread like wildfire.  Art is an amazing vehicle for self expression and outreach; it touches people on so many different levels.  I’m also hoping using the arts will allow us to cast our net beyond “feminist” circles (ie. those already interested in equality issues) to reach a wider audience.

San Francisco seems like it has long been at the forefront of advancing a more socially-just culture. Do you think street harassment happens less often there compared to other cities or would you say it’s just as much of a problem?

San Francisco is undoubtedly at the forefront of advancing a more socially just culture.  Still, street harassment happens here every day – I’d say at least as much as other cities, although it’s hard to pin numbers down.  I’ll put it like this:  every woman I talk with hates street harassment (and has a story), yet half of the men I’ve spoken with believe some women “like” the attention.  Many men and women believe harassment is so entrenched it’s a losing battle to fight.  I don’t share this mindset, of course; if we’d taken that view in the women’s suffrage or civil rights movements, women wouldn’t have been able to vote in our country’s first African American President.

 

How did you first get started as an activist for social causes?

I’ve always been put off, if not straight up engraged, by the objectificaiton of women in our culture – in the media, on the streets, in our places of employement, in our homes.  What was worse was the social myth:  “Relax, it’s a compliment.  That’s how men are.”  Too fed up to remain silent, I engaged in online activism for a while, ranting on social media sites, posting on HollaBack and other women’s rights sites, and the like.  Although I got validation for my own feelings of “WTF”, and the comfort of knowing I wasn’t alone in my experiences, ranting online wasn’t enough.  I wanted to turn my experiences into positive social changes in my local community.  Finally, I took the cause on formally to rally others and present harassment as a legitimate social issue.  There’s nothing quite as empowering as working from the gut.

 

Can you talk a little bit about the art installations you’ve received for this event?

We’re still in the call-for-art process.  I’m seeking artists from a wide range of disciplines, backgrounds, political persuasions, etc…  I’m looking forward to the outcome.

 

Do you have plans for future event related to fighting street harassment, similar to the Meet Us On the Streets in San Francisco event you helped organize?

The Meet Us on the Street San Francisco event was the first of many anti-street harassment events VoiceTool Productions will be coordinating.  I’m always brewing ideas and scheming.  For example, this summer, I will begin actions to petition Bay Area public transport authorities for tools against harassment on BART and Muni.  The August art event, which will involve determining next steps per district represented through the arts, will spawn several future events.  Events also spring up organically, so keep an eye on my blog, VoiceTool Productions, for information on how to participate.

 

More Information:

VoiceTool Productions is coordinating an event (set for August) to examine street harassment through the arts. 

The long-term goal is to use VOICE as a tool to create a culture of respect, versus one of harassment. The short-term goal is to twofold:

One, we will start a dialogue about street harassment, through the work of artists representing different districts/cultural communities of San Francisco.

Two, we will pinpoint concrete next steps participants (artists and viewers) will take toward creating culturally appropriate, lasting solutions for street harassment in San Francisco.

VoiceTool is currently seeking art for the event, on the topic of how street harassment affects you (the artist), and how you can use VOICE to create a culture of respect.

Art is due August 1.

The gallery space is at SomArts Cultural Center in SOMA. Founded in 1979, SOMArts embraces the entire spectrum of arts practice and cultural identity, and it is beloved in San Francisco as a truly multicultural, community-built space where cutting-edge events and counterculture commingle with traditional art forms. See http://www.somarts.org/.

Since this is an all-ages event space, adult content may be rejected.

The display space consists of two secure wall-mounted cases ready to display all flat work. The dimensions of the cases are 24.75″ x 37″ and 137″ x 37″.

You’ll get proceeds from your art’s sales, minus the gallery cut and the Voice’s production costs.

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Article

Legal Momentum’s Lisalyn R. Jacobs Shares Her Story With Hollaback!

BY VICTORIA TRAVERS

Lisalyn and her son

Hollaback! has been keenly following the fantastic work being completed by the National Task Force to End Sexual Violence Against Women. We were lucky enough to interview Lisalyn R. Jacobs of Legal Momentum, the organization’s Vice President for Government Relations and an all round kick-ass player in the fight to end violence against women.

Lisalyn R. Jacobs works for Legal Momentum, the nation’s oldest legal defense and education fund committed to advancing the rights of women and girls. Lisalyn is the organization’s Vice President for Government Relations, making her the chief lobbyist and advocate with federal and U.S Congress:

“My work is primarily focused on the issues of violence against women and poverty, but we are involved in a variety of other work from advocacy around women’s economic issues, to judicial nominations.”

This particular role came as a bit of a surprise for the tenacious lawyer. In March 2003 she had originally applied for another job at Legal Momentum, but after officials realized her experience in federal laws concerning the organization’s advocacy projects they offered her another role instead.

Lisalyn grew up in the suburbs of Washington, D.C., attended Goucher and Oberlin colleges and attended Stanford Law School. She remembers that she “wanted to be a lawyer and advocate by the time” she “was in middle school.” But faced the challenged of defining exactly what “kind of advocacy” she “was passionate about as against ending up in corporate America somewhere, which was more in line with the way law schools were training their students.”

She started her career at the National Partnership for Women and Families with the support of Georgetown’s Women’s Law & Public Policy Fellowship. Lisalyn joined the Office of Policy Development of the U.S. Justice Department in 1995 and worked on a number of issues including implementation of the Violence Against Women Act, the welfare reform law, judicial nominations and affirmative action.

Lisalyn first heard about Hollaback! a couple of years ago after her organization assembled a book about “the history of the drive for women’s rights in this country.” Hollaback! was featured in that book. Lisalyn notes that:

“It’s hard to grow up in the U.S. and NOT have experiences with street harassment.”

Lisalyn recalled her own memories of street harassment, telling us:

“I remember not too long after graduating from law school, I got into an argument on the streets of Washington, D.C. with a guy who had either harassed me or the friend I was talking to.  At some point during the exchange, I recall telling the guy that he was objectifying me and afterwards, thinking that I had been in school just a little too long!”

The wonderful thing about Lisalyn is that not only is she a fearless change-maker, but she gets us, like Hollaback! she understands that although harassment can seem like a very solitary experience, you do not have to feel alone. Her advice to anyone experiencing harassment or abuse is this:

“Whether you are experiencing the violence or trying to help/figure out how to approach or support the person who is, you don’t have to do it alone.  There is help out there for you.  You can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE, and they can direct you to services in your community.  You can call your local rape crisis hot-line, or the stalking hot-line.  There is a world of folks out there ready and able to help you.  Let them.  Don’t wait.  Get safe!!”

So we salute you Lisalyn for all your hard work, activism and change making!

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Article

The Hollaback! Effect: Have You Felt It?

Please welcome our newest Hollaback! Maria Luiza Welton! Maria is a Hunter College Honors graduate that is currently studying at Columbia University for her Masters in social work. Maria lives in New York and is super-psyched to be joining the Hollaback! blogging team. Read on to see what drew Maria and why she always is inclined to Hollaback!:

BY MARIA LUIZA WELTON

“The Hollaback! Effect

I’m very excited to be joining the Hollaback! blogging team. Having experienced firsthand how pervasive the issue of street-harassment is and how it can wear you down, I feel very passionate about becoming one of the many voices already taking part in anti-street harassment the movement. I strongly support speaking up, and my experience in taking action is my proof it creates positive change.

I first learned about Hollaback! when searching for ways to stop the daily street harassment I’d been facing since I was 12. In reading through the personal accounts, I felt so empowered by how much I saw my own experiences in other people’s stories.

Shortly after, I mustered up the courage to Hollaback! for the first time. My first target was a scrap metal shop where I would get my early morning harassment. As I walked by the kissy noises and teeth sucking, I walked up to one of them and boomed “That’s enough!”  I was stunned at myself that I did it, and the group of dudes were equally frozen. They never bothered me again.

I started noticing changes in myself after I started to Hollaback! My body was more relaxed when I went out, I stopped hiding in my clothes and I stopped feeling ashamed. I felt like I had taken back my space and my right to exist without it meaning other people be entitled to disrespect me. And I don’t know if this is some kind of Hollaback! sorcery or if I started to give off different vibes and body language, but the street harassment went from happening at least once a day, to happening maybe a few times a year. I can’t explain how this happened,  but everywhere I went, it stopped.

Has anyone else had this Hollaback! effect?”

 

 

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demonstration

Greta’s story: I hope they get reported

I was coming home from my gym class when I stumbled upon a group of young men. Probably in their early twenties or late teens. I am in the midst of a project I am working on so I didn’t pay much attention to what was going on around me on the street. Until I noticed one of the guys was walking on to me, grabbing his crotch. I passed by him and then another guy, from the same group stormed on me, doing the same thing. Holding and massaging his crotch. The third one was making a movie with his phone while those two were obviously trying to intimidate me. I passed them by and they started laughing and asking if I liked it. Before I got home I regretted I didn’t turn around to ask them if they actually knew what they were doing and that it was street harassment and they COULD get in trouble for that. I hope they post this video somewhere so someone could report it as abuse and take action. Their faces are in the movie.

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demonstration

Maya’s story: A repeat offender.

I was eating at a restaurant when I noticed a man masturbating at a table near me. I called the cops and the man was arrested. He has since plead guilty, turns out he did this to another woman.

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Article

Jumo Organizations Challenge: Vote For Us!!

GOOD Maker have joined forces with Jumo to further their mission to help people take meaningful action in the world. They are offering $2,500 in grant funding for projects that are exclusively from organizations who are former Jumo members and we have entered!

So support us! Check out our unique submission where you can read about what we are currently doing and why we deserve that grant. Then give us your vote so we can kick street harassment to the curb!

Voting opened on April 3 and ends on April 17 at noon PT, so get clicking and give us your support. YOU do have the power to end street harassment.

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Article

Hollaback! San José: End Street Harassment

Cross-posted from Hollaback! San José.

End Street Harassment Room in the 8th Annual Tunnel of Oppression
Tuesday April 3, 2012 // 9am-8pm,
Wednesday April 4, 2012 // 9am-8pm,
Thursday April 5, 2012 // 9am-12pm.
SJSU Student Union Ballroom
We have the power to end street harassment. For the full experience, visit SJSU V-Day‘s Hollaback San José: End Street Harassment room in the 8th Annual Tunnel of Oppression.

This spring break, we created a film with women bystanders and Yan Yin K. Choy’s spoken word, “You Wanted to See My Vagina: We Have the Power To End Street Harassment.”

Chara Bui also animated a video to End Street Harassment.

We also worked with male-identified allies to inspire bystander prevention,  ”Shit Men Say to Men Who Say Shit to Women on the Streets of San José! 

We also created a mural. Thanks to Joshi, Sharon Singh, Alessa Baldonado, Mirna Mendoza, Lauren Doyle, Eva Roa, Lindsay Sporleder, and Chara Bui for your help with the mixed media. Drawn by yours truly, Yan Yin K. Choy.

The Tunnel of Oppression is free, and open to the public.

 

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Article

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month

This April, the 2012 Sexual Assault Awareness Month (SAAM) campaign centers on promoting healthy sexuality to prevent sexual violence.

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demonstration

Threatened Man’s story: unwanted touching

One time I was just walking down the Ave and a group of girls were standing outside a Thai restaurant. One of them slapped my butt as I passed and said “nice ass baby”. I felt like turning around and kicking her in the cooch but I resisted because I didn’t want to lower myself to her level. It just makes me so irate when women put their hands on me without asking.

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demonstration

Sarri’s Story: Stop and think

It’s been a fairly typical Saturday, and I’ve been out and about all day. I happened to notice a few men look at me and smile earlier, I didn’t pay much attention – they were looking at my face after all. It’s just nice to see people smile, sometimes.

To get home, I walk down a steep hill with a number of bars on it. I walk this way every day, so I know the pavements are narrow, and I keep an eye out for people coming the other way, especially big groups. So when I stepped aside to make way for a group of half a dozen lads in their 20s and 30s to get past earlier, I was not expecting one of them to stand in my way, stare at my chest, lick his lips, and then proclaim, ‘Wow. They’re massive, darlin’.’ Once he’d said that, I was expecting his mates to laugh, which they did.

Now, I could make allowances for the fact he was probably trying to impress his mates, and I can’t really dispute the factual content of his observation. But the tone and gesture made me feel objectified and, if I am honest, sullied. I am ashamed to say that the first thing I did when I got home was to verify that I was not wearing ‘provocative’ clothing. I wasn’t, but that really isn’t the point: after all, what the hell should it matter what I am wearing when I go out to buy groceries, as long as I am not breaking any decency laws?

I was minding my own business, and now I won’t be able to walk up my own street without thinking of this incident. I’m in my 30s, I’ve lived all over the world, and I can take most things on the chin. But this has really upset me – and I wish that guy stops and thinks the next time he wants to pay a ‘compliment’.

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