By Inti Maria Tidball-Binz & Ju Santarosa of Hollaback! Buenos Aires & Sharon Haywood of Adios Barbie & AnyBody Argentina
Every day, as women, we walk the streets, travel to work, visit our families, go out with friends, do our shopping, always knowing there is a possibility that they’ll catcall us, lean up against us/cop a feel in the subway, or follow us. Furthermore, knowing the reality of human trafficking, many of us live with the fear of being abducted off the street. If we have children, we project these fears to our daughters, who are exposed to the same reality.
Today the possibility exists that a stranger can anonymously take a picture of us and then upload it on the Internet for anyone to measure our physical attractiveness. Chicas Bondi, an Argentine Facebook page with the motto, “without posing and without permission,” exploits images of anonymous women for self-promotion. Taken secretly on local transportation, the images of these women, who could be identified by their dress and route of travel (which is also published), are subject to the gaze of thousands. In the context of a lascivious gaze, these women are exposed to a greater risk of harassment and stalking, which can be especially problematic for women who are suffering in or trying to escape violent relationships.
Chicas Bondi promotes this practice among its fans, encouraging them to upload their own photos, creating a culture of digital harassment. The feeling of being photographed in secret, or to discover your own image on Facebook can be extremely unpleasant, as one “chica bondi” described on Facebook: “Well, when I saw that I was in a posted photo, it scared me… and then afterwards, blah! But maybe there isn’t the need to post these photos online… I feel like I’m in a catalog for rapists or other sick people. It was quite shocking…” As so often happens, the social pressure to accept what has happened is stronger than the sense of shock and fear these women may experience.
On Thursday, May 24, Hollaback! Buenos Aires along with several other feminists engaged in a long conversation with the creators of Chicas Bondi (who wish to remain anonymous) in order to discuss how their project was impacting women and society. We described the reality of how women are objectified every day in the streets, in addition to the social pressures to conform to one stereotype of beauty (young, white, thin, wealthy). We reported the page to Facebook, and encouraged our followers to do the same, in addition to having them voice their concerns directly to Chicas Bondi.
Part of the conversation between Hollaback! Buenos Aires and Chicas Bondi.
We ended up extending the following proposal: if the photographer asked women to offer up publication rights to Chicas Bondi before publication, women would then have the right to decide what is done with their own image, thus giving them autonomy over their own body. After a lengthy and indepth conversation with the owners of Chicas Bondi, they committed to asking women permission before publishing their photos, and in return, we agreed to withdraw our unified campaign against the page. We hope that they fulfill their promise and also apply the same measures in any other similar situations.
We have reached an agreement.
Chicas Bondi has promised to ask permission.
Prior to our negotiations, the page published a notice stating that if a woman requested her photo to be removed, Chicas Bondi would do so without issue. It’s important to highlight the difference between this measure and the act of asking permission before posting. Once a photo is in the public domain on the Net, it cannot be deleted; the moment a photo is published online, it can be easily copied and stored by anyone who wishes to save it. It is impossible to know who has a copy or where. Worth noting is that if the photos are posted on Facebook, the location and time of the photo are saved: “When you post things like photos or videos on Facebook, we may receive additional related data (or metadata), such as the time, date, and place you took the photo or video,” even though such data is not made public.
We want to stress the importance of this new measure, even though Chicas Bondi has made it clear that they did not make this choice for us (“us” being Hollaback and all women), but that they have chosen to do so for themselves. Filmmakers have approached Chicas Bondi with a proposal that would require consent of the women featured in the project. Beyond their personal motivations, we do see this as a step forward. Through a joint dialogue and an exchange of ideas and perspectives we were able to achieve greater awareness of gender equality issues.
For the record, Hollaback! Buenos Aires, AnyBody Argentina, and Adios Barbie reject the idea behind the project: it is an expression of sexism which, under the excuse of being artistic, presents women as “decorative bodies” in the public eye, acting as a “things” to be commented on and judged. This is the same concept behind the problem of street harassment. We reject the commodification of the female body as an object existing for the enjoyment of others, to be enjoyed without the essential element of consent. This form of sexism presents women as objects destined to satisfy men, removing autonomy over their own person and body. Why does the photographer feel he has the right to take pictures of women he does not know and share it on the Internet without their consent? What entitles him to do so?
To justify the existence of Chicas Bondi, the owners originally cited the [Argentine] law 11.723, art. 31 which says: “Portraits are free to be published as they relate to scientific, educational and overall cultural ends, or if they relate to facts or events in the public interest or have occurred in public.” Hollaback! Buenos Aires contends that a woman cannot be treated as a “thing” in the public interest. A woman is not liable to be “owned.” We need to stop endorsing the macho concept that, in public life, a woman is public property, and therefore “arguable” at the whim of an observer. Women’s image in society will not change if we ourselves don’t actively take charge of our own integrity.
In our favor, Article 1071 bis of the [Argentine] Civil Code, in seeking the protection of the right to privacy, states: “Whoever arbitrarily interferes in the lives of others by posting pictures, humiliating others by broadcasting correspondence that reveals personal habits or feelings, or in any way disturbing their privacy, and if a criminal offense has not been committed, the offending party must cease such activities, and pay fair compensation to be fixed by the judge according to circumstances; also the aggrieved may order the publication of the judgment in a journal or newspaper.”
We believe that anonymously taking pictures of women and uploading them to the Internet is a violation of one’s right to privacy, and threatens the personal integrity of women photographed. In addition, this kind of behavior reinforces a sexist and backward-thinking society in which the image isn’t just defined by its appearance, it is also defined by the connotations behind the image. The message being sent is that the woman is an object, defined by her passive role, thus leaving her to be exploited or suffer a loss of autonomy.
While the underlying issues remain–the objectification of women, the underlying sexism in this practice, and the way we normalize the violation of women’s rights–at least now, those digitally-captured Argentine women have the right to basic consent. For our part, we will make every effort to monitor the page to ensure that no further breach to the privacy of women occurs.
You can find the original Spanish version at Hollaback! Buenos Aires.
Guy drove past in van, hollering and tooting his horn. I ignore and continue walking, eventually crossing the street. Then from the other side (the side I was on originally) he appeared again! Waving and tooting his horn. It was almost as if he’d turned around in order to harass me again.
Later I realised he’d been driving a Council vehicle! When I tweeted the council for an explanation I got nothing, just silence.
On my 30min walk home from work today I got yelled at twice by men in passing cars. It’s so disrespectful.
We’ve been working on the campus harassment campaign for over a year. We’ve met with over 50 college students, 20 administrators, and 10 different partners. We’ve written, and re-written our concept paper so many times we finally just had to stop and say: let’s do this. We brought it to funders, and like with everything we do, they said “that’s interesting” and “good luck” but no way are we funding that. It’s “risky” and “do people even know what campus harassment is?” Isn’t that the point, we wondered.
So we are doing what we’ve done before. We’re bringing it to you — our supporters — to let you tell us if you believe campus harassment is something worth solving. With 57% of students surveying saying that their #1 solution to this problem is an anonymous online platform, we’re guessing the answer is yes. But your donation will ultimately decide the fate of this program. So let us know what you think.
And here’s some updates:
Legislative Progress in Brussels! Our site leaders in Brussels are working with a local politician who will be meeting with the Education Minister this Friday to request a focus and investment on addressing street harassment in Brussels. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.
Thanks for your support!
HOLLA and out —
BY HOLLABACK! BOARD MEMBER BRAD PERRY
For the past 15 years I have either volunteered at or been employed by agencies working to prevent violence against women. This work has always meant a lot to me, but my one constant source of frustration was never feeling like my colleagues and I could figure out how to leverage the power of online social networks and mobile technology to their full potentials – to engage people as successfully as other more tech-savvy causes. I knew it was possible to use these new tools to create a movement for tangible, positive change on this issue, but I couldn’t wrap my head around how to do it.
That was before I discovered Hollaback!. Let’s say my wife, Tara, is walking down to the coffee shop tonight and some jerk yells something at her about how he wants to “hit that.” Rather than only feel fear and have to “just deal” with it, she can also feel empowered as she activates her Hollaback! app. In just a few taps, it provides an easy way to briefly describe what just happened. Then her story gets instantly added to the repository of other Hollaback! moments for her city, and gets geo-tagged to a map. She can even take a photo of the location or the harasser if she feels safe enough to do it.
What’s the big deal about all of this? For one, when hundreds of women are able to do this, suddenly street harassment becomes more than just a bunch of disconnected incidents. Suddenly women realize that they’re not alone in having to “just deal with” this crap. And that’s a pretty big deal. What’s more, when all of these stories are collected and mapped, they become useful information for getting the attention of city governments, and can help police know where to keep an eye out. In short, Hollaback! is amazing.
Earlier this year I was asked to join the non-profit board of Hollaback!, and our goal for 2012 is to adapt and expand Hollaback! to college campuses. Earlier this week we launched a $25,000 campaign to help support this new effort. A donation from you, $10, $50, or even more would do an incredible amount of good in young people’s lives. We have the platform and expertise to implement this, but we need your help to organize the young leaders who will bring Hollaback! to their campuses.
Here’s a link to our campaign where you can also watch a video I put together about what we’re trying to do on campuses. Please consider donating today. Our past campaigns have been successful through donations of all sizes, so even a small amount can really help.
Beginning in November of 2009, I have been stalked by a man named Gerard (aka Jerry), who is a resident of a group home near my art gallery in Lambertville, NJ. When I began my business, he would stand in front of a nearby building and stare at me. I thought there was a bus stop there, but there wasn’t. He would stare at me every day. To me, he looked like anyone. I assumed he was a tourist.
By November of 2010, he was trying to talk to me outside of my shop. I had an exhibit of photographs, and he told me he related to the photo of a homeless man sleeping on a bench in Baltimore. He told me he was from Baltimore (which was untrue, I know the accent). I knew he wasn’t playing with a full deck by the way he was talking. He would speak low, but I wasn’t about to get closer to him. I just walked away from him.
In the spring of 2011, I was hanging a show, and he was watching me through the windows. I wasn’t sure who he was; I thought he was a real tourist. He told me he was from Connecticut. We had a few conversations, but then I started to get rid of him. After that, I started to put it all together.
He seemed to know my routine. I would open at 11, and then have a smoke at 11:30. I would see him make a beeline across the street, right to my shop, every day just about, with a half-smoked cigar in his mouth. It was getting on my nerves. I knew he wasn’t going to buy anything ever, and he was creepy and not good for business.
By the time of a popular street festival, I began commiserating about this guy with my fellow merchant/friend located on the next block. She also had been watched (and creeped out) by the same guy and at that point both of us had thrown him out of our respective businesses, for good.
I would occasionally see him around town. He tried to speak to me at a local eatery one time. I did not respond. When I told one of the employees that he made me nervous, she told me he was better than he had been. Apparently, he used to sit and stare at women in there, and laugh. They considered him a customer, and didn’t feel right kicking him out. Stopping in to see another gallerist in town, she had not been bothered by hi m, but told me he was always sitting on any of the benches on the street, staring at women.
At one point, on a busy Saturday afternoon, I was waiting to cross the street downtown, and he was making sure he was directly opposite me, moving to whatever corner I would be crossing, so I would HAVE to walk towards him. After several minutes of that, I went another way quickly, and lost him in the crowd. I took a circuitous route back to my shop, quite scared.
Lately, he’s been increasing his stalking of me. He has walked in front of my car, and even came very close to me as I was exiting the car. When he followed me into a local pizzeria and loomed over me at the register, that’s when I decided to talk to the police.
The police were very helpful, and took the matter seriously. The detective found him, and told him to leave me alone. If the creep sees me, he has been instructed to go the other way. Now if he follows me again, I’m supposed to call them and he will be arrested for harassment.
Let all of your friends know about what is happening to you. You’d be surprised at the support, and some of them might have been bothered by the very same person. And don’t be afraid to go to the police. They can help you, and it is good to get the creep onto their radar. Sometimes the police don’t know about a bad person.
It was a hot summer night, as it tends to be in NM, and I was waiting outside my work for my boyfriend to pick me up. As I was enjoying my iced chai, a man who was obviously very drunk, came up to me.
“where are you going?”
“Where’s that at?”
I smiled politely, and slowly began to back away. He followed suit.
“Wanna come home with me?”
“No. Please go away.”
He didn’t take no for an answer, and proceeded to get as close as he could.
“Sir go away please.”
“Because you are making me uncomfortable. Go away, or I will call the police.”
He got very angry and threatened to hurt me if I called. I panicked and took off my high heel and had it ready in my hand, yelling at him to leave me alone. He finally did, and walked away yelling that I was a dirty cunt and how it was the president’s fault he couldn’t solicit sluts like me. I cried when my boyfriend came, and ever since then, I’ve avoided that corner.
I had just got finished with my Zumba class and was waiting for the city bus. I was texting my boyfriend when a man came up to me and asked me if he could use my phone. I explained to him that the battery was almost dead, and I needed it. I apologized and continued texting. He then proceeded to move closer to me. I could smell that he hadn’t had a shower and had been drinking so I moved away from him. I asked him to kindly back away since he was invading my personal space. “Little bitch,” he cursed at me. I then had my phone ready with 911, prepared to press the button. “I outta rape your lil’ ass righ now!” I was terrified so I screamed and ran down the street. He fled before the cops could get there, and I didn’t get a good look at his face to report him. Either way, I was terrified and since then, have learned to be more assertive.
Let’s bring Hollaback! to 10 college campuses over the next year! Take a minute to hear Irene’s campus harassment story and to donate here. We are in the second week of our campaign and have already raised $3,810 of our $25,000 goal! Donate today, every donation counts!
got on the elevator at Lynn, MA train station with my bike at 8:30 a.m. A tallish man in his 50s I think followed me on. Once the door closed, he got very close ogling me, but I kept looking away, used my bike as a barrier. Got off at platform (lots of commuters) went to far end. Turned he was gone.