It was evening, around 10pm, and I had ridden my bike to the shopping center to pick up food. I was wheeling out of the parking lot with a full backpack when some older, intimidating-looking men getting into a truck looked me up and down with a sneer. One said, “I’d like to lick that pussy.” I shouted back, “Excuse me? What did you say? You’re crazy.” The man just sneered again and said, “I’d like to lick that pussy.”
I found this site afterward and wish I could have said/done something else, though at the time I felt scared/like they might steal my bike if I came too close or my phone if I tried to take a picture. The flyers are great. I ended up just coming home angry and flustered and ranting to my male roommate about how often men said these things to me, and all he said was “If a girl did it to a guy, he would like it. The guys are just hoping you’ll have sex with them.” Great!
Why do you HOLLA? Because I’m tired of turning away, crossing the street, watching shadows, and resorting to learned behaviours of invisibility. I’m sure I’m not the only one.
When I learned about Hollaback, my first thought was to wish we had it where I lived. So I’m bringing it here myself.
What’s your signature Hollaback? In the past it’s been a swift getaway and staircase wit, but I’m getting better at responding in the moment.
What’s your craft? English-to-English translation. Also preserves; my plum-ginger jam could probably win prizes.
HOLLAfact about your city: A ceremonial cannon is fired every day at noon at the Halifax Citadel, a historic fort on a hill that looks over downtown. (I love that cannon. Wouldn’t you?)
What was your first experience with street harassment? I first witnessed street harassment when I was very young. I was walking with my mother and some young men across the street yelled racial slurs at her.
There were many later incidents that, in hindsight, were definitely racial and/or sexual harassment. In particular, there was schoolyard bullying that often had a sexual tone. I didn’t identify it as harassment at the time, though. They were “just” being creepy, or rude, or pushy, or ignorant, and I didn’t know how to respond to it. The pattern didn’t become clear until I got older and learned that these things happened to a lot of other women too, not just me.
The first time I immediately identified something as harassment was when I was about 23. I was traveling alone across the country, and got stranded in northern Alberta for a day because of a mishap with the Greyhound schedule. It was Sunday, so almost every business was closed and the streets were deserted. I walked towards downtown, and some guy drove his car up beside me, slowed to match my pace, and then leaned down so he could get a better look at me through the passenger window. He didn’t say anything, he just leered and followed me for about a block.
Define your style: I’m a wordy and enthusiastic introvert who favours colour-blocking, mixed textures, and asymmetry. I used to be afraid of being noticed, but a few years ago I decided to become impossible to ignore. Refusing to be invisible is a political act.
My superheroine power is…Curiosity. I want to know everything.
What do you collect? I collect books more or less deliberately. I collect tiny pieces of paper completely by accident.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? June Callwood said that she believed in kindness. I can’t think of anything better than that. So, be kind. Oh, and be daring as well.
What inspires you? People who try to change the world.
An excerpt cross-posted from the Women’s News Network
To push for safer streets in Taiz City, Ghaidaa al Absi, a rising group of 200+ women have brought attention back to the issues of women and Yemeni society. Persistent problems of street harassment throughout regions in the Middle East were discussed openly during a recent world conference on women in Istanbul. But what are the solutions?
The 12th AWID (Association for Women’s Rights in Development) International Forum on Women’s Rights, April 19 – 22, recently provided a dynamic space for open discussion on issues facing women in Yemen and throughout the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region. Activism and action were highlighted.
As part of the work for ‘Defying the Silence’ in Yemen, Absi’s goal has been to train over 200 women to become ‘experts’ in using open source online digital publishing tools as they become active voices for their communities using digital cyber-activism.
“Society accepts it and women expect that they will be touched and talked to,” said Absi at the AWID conference.
Continued reports of harassment in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a has brought Maeen district police chief, Ahmed Al-Tahiri, to step up efforts to catch and prosecute predatory acts against women on the streets. Despite this promise for stepped up efforts, most men who are reported on sex-harassment charges often have their case caught up in what Sana’a policewoman Bushra Al-Khawlani explains is a process of office “referals’ where a case is referred from one department to another with often little to no final punitive measures being made against the offender.
Currently Yemen does not have any specific legislation protecting women from sexual harassment.
Using Google maps, Wiki and Facebook, numerous Yemeni women cyber-activists are currently now working with other activists to stop the abuse on the streets as they seek solutions, in spite of mobile challenges in certain areas and a lack of sustained internet connections they are working together to bring impact to the issues. Their work is based on efforts to improve, change and remove strife for women in the region.
“Every day I walk in the streets, and every day I face sexual harassment. Unfortunately, it becomes daily life, and we women are forced to adapt to it either by being silent or yelling at the harassers,” shared Absi in a February 2012 interview to highlight the conditions many women face on the streets as they go about their daily routines.
Stepped-up efforts by the women under a recent micro-grant by the Tactical Technology Collective (TTC – Tactical Tech), along with the organizational leadership of Absi, are now working toward solutions. TTC is an online digital resource that shares open source toolkits, guides and information for cyber-activists worldwide. Through the TTC program grant the Safe Streets website has produced an interactive map that now reveals ‘real-time’ locations where sexual harassment on the street has been reported by women throughout the Yemeni region.
It’s our second nonprofit birthday this week! I say “nonprofit” birthday, because as most of you know, our work started in September 2005. But it wasn’t until May 1st, 2010, that I started running Hollaback! full time. I had been turned down by 8 foundations and 2 fellowships, but I knew in my heart the time was right. So I took my little savings account from seven years of working the nonprofit sector and decided to invest it in a dream. I jumped off the cliff — and I am proud today to say that with the help of hundreds (probably thousands) of people — we’ve built wings on the way down.
I know on the outside Hollaback! looks like an activist fairytale. And in so many ways it is. But the work is in no way easy. We’re up against a culture that think it’s OK to treat women like they are ‘less than,’ and by harassing, intimidating, and hurting them. We’re fighting it, but they’re fighting back. And whether it’s a rape threat or just a good old fashioned, “well you’re too ugly to be harassed anyway,” it hurts. But we know from the many, many incredible activists that come before us that making social change has never been easy, and that “haters” are a success metric in this work. They show that you are reaching out beyond your base — and posing a threat to their power. This is the first step.
I’m proud of the impact that we’ve made over the past two years, and I am so grateful to the hundreds of people that have played an incredible role in the shape, and success, of Hollaback!’s transition to a full-scale nonprofit — far too many to name. But you all know who you are. Without your hard work and endless support, Hollaback! would be nothing but a little blog. We’ve got a long way to go: we’re in this to win this.
Thanks for hanging with us from the beginning, and without further ado — some updates!
We announced our first ever Hollaback Essay Winner! Congratulations to Diana Emiko Tsuchida. You can read her essay here.
We wrote an op-ed! Street harassment is the most prevalent form of sexual violence according to the Center for Disease Control, but until recently, the issue has received not a cent of public funding. Here’s our case for why the government needs to invest in the safety of women and LGBTQ folks.
Veronica’s educating the masses! She was quoted in this article in HuffPo called “Where is the Decency in 2012?” with our partners, Green Dot. She also presented on street harassment at Brooklyn College’s fifth annual youth conference to over fifty young adults. The conference was organized by community board 14.
We’re marching in PRIDE! Join us on June 24th by RSVPing on facebook or emailing us at HOLLA at ihollaback.org, and spread the word by inviting your friends! All participants will get a free t-shirt, and we’ll be handing out special edition Hollaback! PRIDE stickers!
HOLLA and out —
cross-posted from Metro NY
Another day, another subway perv.
The NYPD is looking for this man who is wanted for public lewdness on a subway in Queens.
Police say the suspect sat across from a 20-year-old woman on a Manhattan-bound R train last Thursday, April 26, as it departed from the Steinway Street station at about 11:30 a.m. He lifted up the red backpack he was carrying and exposed his private parts to her. Like others in similar situations have done before, the quick-thinking woman snapped a cell phone photo of the perv and sent it to police.
Why women rock, and catcalls have got to go. Three cheers for this awesome, awesome, dude named Oveous Maximus (@oveous).
Thanks to Hollaback! Ottawa for sending this our way!
Last year, we sent out a call for submissions to the first ever Hollaback Essay Contest. We received excellent submissions on a wide range of topics- law, social justice, media, and more. Three volunteer judges reviewed the fantastic submissions and chose Diana Emiko Tsuchida’s essay to share with you. Not only is our winning essay moving on a personal level, it is academically rigorous and a unique addition to the body of knowledge on street harassment. Thank you, Diana!
We’re so grateful to everyone who submitted an essay. Please continue to send us your stories, essays, articles and resources on street harassment!
You can read Diana’s full essay here, and here is a short section of Diana’s essay, “Be Angry: Resisting Public Sexism:”
I’m not quite sure if every woman can recall her first public catcall. For me I vividly remember this moment as an end of innocence. It happened when I was twelve while walking home from summer school. Dressed in purple pastel overalls with a pink and purple striped shirt I was on the receiving end of a “Whoooo baby!” by a group of young teenagers in a car whizzing down my street. While what I wore that day has no impact on why I was hollered at, I mention it because after that incident I rarely wore those overalls again. To me, they were tainted with the memory of being objectified only a hundred feet away from my house. When I wore them, I distinctly remember feeling dirty. I remember that was the first day I told my mom about being hollered at and she was a little shocked with how enraged I was. My mother, a strong and righteous woman, would never be nothing less than protective of her daughter. However her reaction was an amalgamation of understanding yet dismissive. I remember how she comforted me with, “It’s going to happen. I know it can be rude, but sometimes it’s kind of a compliment.” I felt alone in my anger and confused with her small reassurance that it’s “okay” to be made an object of on the street. Fourteen years later, I still want to believe that perhaps I misinterpreted or misheard. Yet likewise today at twenty-six, many of my friends tell me to brush it off when we get called at on the street and that I should tone it down and not be so angry. Why do women muzzle each other? Why do we not collectively stand our ground as a group of women who, more likely than not, outnumber the men who shamelessly harass? While I continue to struggle with comprehending this attitude I also grasp why many women respond apathetically. We have all been bamboozled, manipulated, and ultimately forced into buying a patriarchal form of oppression that retorts with “boys will be boys.” At twelve and twenty-three, I know that my mother and friends were annoyed and offended, but the sobering truth of the matter is, no other woman in my life, has ever been as angry about street harassment as I have. It would appear that the women I deeply love have grown so accustomed that they are numb. In this essay I wish to expand on the pervasive influence of contemporary media imagery and the ways it significantly affects the social dynamics between men and women. This incessant “flattery” through harassment is deeply rooted in a cycle of fetish and hypersexualization that measures female worth based on male attention. While there are several nuanced and interlocking factors that uphold and perpetuate street harassment, this essay will focus on the impact of media representation and female public visibility that will underscore the necessity of being frustrated with the status quo.
Contemporary media images and discussion make a mockery of the problem, reinforcing and naturalizing this daily psychological violence. Allstate Insurance has managed to make a television and YouTube sensation out of the subject using their “Mayhem” gimmick in which Dean Winters personifies driving-related disasters [Allstate Insurance “Jogger Mayhem.” 9 July 2010. Access date: 29 July 2011.]. One of the first commercials to air was “Jogger Mayhem” where Winters played a “hot babe out jogging.” Donning a pink headband and lifting matching pink weights, he talks to the camera and says, “I’m a hot babe out jogging. I’m making sure that this [pointing to his front] stays a ten…when you drive by.” As a car pulls into view, Winters starts to jog at the same slow and steady speed as the car that is following closely beside him. He winks to the mesmerized driver. Winter then says, “You’re checking out my awesome headband when…oops” and suddenly the car crashes into a light pole. This humorous approach to the well-known social “exchange” between jogging women and ogling men reveals much more about how pervasive it is, trivializing the matter so much as to claim that women positively respond and wink back to the men behind the wheel who stare. The fight over public freedom even extends far into the reaches of cyberspace. Take one of Beyonce’s recent (and apparently, controversial) videos to her song, “Run the World (Girls).” [Beyonce. “Run the World (Girls).” Youtube.com. 18 May 2011. beyoncevevo. Access date: 28 July 2011.] The subsequent YouTube battle-of-the-sexes that commenced since the video first released continues to be a source of horrific fascination as even mentioning women running the world results in incredibly sexist backlash. In the song Beyonce sings about “reppin’ for the girls all over the world” while “raising a glass to the college grads” and how women are “strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.” While the chorus repeats “Who run the world? Girls!” more of the song refers to how women can persuade their way into building a nation. While there is much more controversy over whether or not Beyonce’s artistic vision and execution of the song actually accomplishes a feminist goal, it is undeniable that the mere suggestion of switching gender roles or upsetting power dynamics unleashes a firestorm. Several YouTube users play on the lyrics and write that girls run the kitchen, that they need to get back in the kitchen, and that the only thing that girls run is their mouth. It would appear that even in a pop song the mere threat of encroachment into taking control of what has been traditionally masculine space is enough to create a watershed of sexism, hidden behind the cloak of anonymity through the Internet. In the streets, it is essentially the same. The safety and distance of being a stranger, albeit a perverted one, holds no accountability.
I was walking to the store last night; no makeup, glasses on, hair in a bun, jeans & a t-shirt. Guy in a car is on Parker street and I can feel him looking at me. Im on the phone with a friend talking into a speaker headset. He says something to me, even though its obvious Im on the phone. I hear it, but not the exact words, and chose to ignore it. He pulls out next to me and says; “Hey (loudly) Do you want a ride?” I turned my head, looked him in the eyes, and said “No.” Turned back and kept walking. He sat there for a second, registering what had just happened, and then drove off.
Cross-posted from Stop Street Harassment
Will London become the safest city in the world for women?
This is the goal of the Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition in London and they’re working hard to make it happen.
And of course, the absence of street harassment and public sexual assault is a requirement for any safe city.
I recently chatted via skype with the EVAW director Holly Dustin and found out that they are working to address street harassment/harassment on public transportation and while these are relatively new issues for them, already they’re having a lot of success because it is such a big problem for women in London.
To gather data (we always need more research!!), they conducted a YouGov poll about harassment on the London public transportation system.
They write that the poll: “revealed that more than a quarter of women in London do not always feel safe while using public transport. Many survey respondents said they wanted action on station staffing, lighting and policing. Feeling unsafe puts many more women than men off using the buses and trains at certain times, or in certain places, and urgently needs addressing by the transport authorities and as such by the mayor. We received wide London media coverage for our findings which seemed to strike a chord.”
It even struck a chord with the candidates for Mayor of London. EVAW has successfully lobbied each one to pledge to improve women’s safety if elected, including by addressing sexual harassment and assault on public transportation. Here are the manifestos by candidates Siobhan Benita, Boris Johnson Ken Livingstone and Brian Paddick. Elections are this week.
This is the 10-point plan EVAW suggests the new Mayor will need to take on in order to make London the safest city for women.
Additionally, the 2012 Summer Olympics will be held in London and EVAW is working hard on a campaign to make sure the city IS safe for everyone during it.