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2 years ago, when I was 12 years old, I was walking to meet my friend. It was summer, and so I put on a pair of tight jean short-shorts. I felt sexy and beautiful and like I could conquer the world. I felt so good.
I was walking past a florist’s shop when an old man outside gave me a catcall. I spun around, staring at him. I couldn’t believe what he had just done. It was the first acknowledgement of being “sexy” or “hot” before. And it was from an old man who was wearing a wedding ring.
I didn’t know what else to do but continue walking. I felt myself to start to tear up and feel brought down. I couldn’t help but feel violated. Ashamed. I knew my shorts were short, but were they really that short? I kept thinking that it was my fault. That I was asking for it, that I was the reason I was being catcalled. And that if I wanted to dress like how I was dressing, I couldn’t dress like that.
When I got to the place I was meeting my friend, I changed in the bathroom into something more conservative. I couldn’t help it. I didn’t want to feel that way again.
Now, I realize that my shorts or my legs or my ass shouldn’t mean that someone should look at me, violate me, and make me feel ashamed.
A man came up to me while I was standing on the subway, put his hand on my hip and said to me “your European aren’t you ? I can tell because in Europe the women are taught to be so sensual in nature.”
As a woman in Pakistan traveling on public transport is like running the gauntlet, except there is no where to run, particularly in Islamabad. For schoolgirls and working females the daily commute is plagued by vulgar drivers with the self-control of a rabble of rabid mutts.
The severity of this issue manifests itself in the inability for the female to remove herself from the situation. She is trapped in silence until she reaches her destination, acutely aware that she neither wants to make a scene nor raise attention to incidents like these.
Islamabad resident Faiza Bibi told Pakistan Today that the vast majority of drivers harass their female passengers verbally and physically by making lewd comments and touching them whilst changing gear as they sat they sat next to them in the front seats. She continued:
“Women have no other option since they have to sit on the front seats, next to the driver, because they are the only seats meant for women.”
Khadija Ali of the Alliance Against Sexual Harassment told Pakistan Today that the country’s Sexual Harassment legislation applies mostly to situations occurring in the work place and suggested that women dealing with such incidences should complain to the police. However, one commuter, Attiya Nawaz complained to a traffic police officer that some bus drivers were pulling the curtain behind the front seats so that passengers in the back seats could not see them harassing the women.
According to a survey conducted by the Social Research and Development Organization, 92 percent of commuting women and girls would prefer female-only buses, a facility that does not exist. Despite government past plans to provide a women only public transport system, financial constraints have prevented the plans moving forward.
This report comes a day after a ZEENEWS.com story covering Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar’s address to a reception hosted by Commissioner Adam Thompson, where Khar told guests that women in Pakistan were “more empowered than those in other developing countries.” How can this be if they live in fear of travelling to school and work everyday? 92 percent is a staggering number that feel so frightened that they would rather have female only transport
So, we at Hollaback! want to encourage the Pakistan ladies to do exactly that! Do not accept this! We need a Hollaback! site in Pakistan to raise public awareness of street harassment and educate people about what behavior is acceptable on the streets and on public transport. I have messaged Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar about the situation and will keep you all posted on her comments. In the mean time if you know anyone with contacts in Islamabad that would like to launch a Hollaback! site then encourage them to do so! We all need to work together to Hollaback! at harassers on the streets of Pakistan and on public transport.
Here’s a big thank you to Hollaback! Baltimore for sharing with us this awesome questionnaire to help research the correlation between women in leadership positions and their own experiences of domestic violence. The survey has been comprised by Hollaback! affiliate, grad student and Feminist Eye View blogger, Linda Kokenge. Linda worked with Carol Olsen of the Rape Crisis Center in Virginia to try and gather some empirical evidence.
Check out her abstract here and then answer the questions!
“Women who take on leadership roles in the nonprofit or service sector represent a unique group within society. These women tend to work well in a myriad of high stress/low resource situations and have a solid understanding of the social problems that impact the surrounding community. Often times these attitudes and behaviors are not only found in her work life, but in her interpersonal relationships and perception of self. This can become problematic for women in these leadership positions who experience domestic violence in her personal life.
According to the National Collation Against Domestic Violence, domestic violence “is an epidemic affecting individuals in every community, regardless of age, economic status, race, religion, nationality or educational background.” As this is widely understood as true, women who work in nonprofit leadership roles are not immune to domestic violence. Though these women represent a unique group that has its own set of obstacles to overcome when coping with domestic violence, there is very little academic or public attention directed to the issue. I became aware of it only after reflecting on the personal relationships that I maintained while serving as an AmeriCorps VISTA member in Baltimore City. Even after recognizing that a relationship was violent, I was reluctant to leave because it felt like I was giving up; I knew of women that experienced levels of abuse that were far more dangerous than my own and believed that I could handle the situation. The pressures placed on women to maintain a successful intimate relationship while excelling professionally combined with such social factors as stigma and fear of alienation contributed directly to the way that I coped with the violence. I believe that this also holds true in similar experiences of domestic violence.”
This research project looks at the unique obstacles that women in leadership positions have to overcome when coping with domestic violence. Linda Kokenge worked with a woman named Carol Olson, an executive director of a rape crisis center in Virginia, to create a survey in order to gather some empirical evidence. Take part and fill out the survey here!
Meet Becca Lee, the collector of words fighting street harassment in Des Moines, IA.
Why do you HOLLA? Because I can. It’s my right.
What’s your signature Hollaback? Stop harassing women!
What’s your craft? Ripping books to shreds–not literally, but somewhat. I’m finishing a master’s degree in literature.
HOLLAfact about your city: Des Moines is the 3rd largest insurance capital of the world (after London and Hartford, CT).
What was your first experience with street harassment? I was in college. It started with honks and whistles as I walked to class, which bothered me, but not enough to do anything about it. Then a harasser started repeatedly making sexual comments about me right outside of my apartment building. I felt unsafe to even walk to my car, which was right next to my building, and I just couldn’t keep quiet anymore. That’s when I found Hollaback!
Define your style: Lots of caffeine and loud shoes.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? I would replace the “Pledge of Allegiance” with the words “I will respect other people. I will keep my hands to myself. I will take “no” for an answer. I will be a decent human being.”
What do you collect? Words. Books, quotes, lyrics, lines of poetry, movie lines, you name it.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? If you’re not pissed off, you’re not paying attention.
My superheroine power is… corrupting young adults with my radical queer feminist ideals. Because civil rights are anti-American, ya know…
What inspires you? People who respect others!
In the year 2020, street harassment…will still be offensive. It is not, never has been, and never will be OK.
BY THE HOLLABACK! FAMILY
At Hollaback!, we believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident, without fear of harassing language or actions whether they’re walking home from work, going to school, or at a protest. Over the last weeks, the Occupy Wall Street movement has created a space where individuals can talk, share ideas, demonstrate and collaborate on ways to end economic injustice. We are excited by the momentum that this movement has created in its push for social and economic change, and we stand in solidarity with the Occupy Wall Street movement and share in their mission to create a just and equal world for all.
Hollaback!s exists in 34 cities in 14 countries around the world, and as representatives of Hollaback! we would like to publicly offer our support, as a resource and as activists, to Occupy Wall Street and its Occupy counterparts worldwide. Our research shows that high rates of street harassment often occur in crowded spaces, and unfortunately, the Occupy sites are not exempt and a number of incidences have been reported. Sexual harassment and assault are unacceptable in any context.
Let’s work together to build a world where everyone can live, walk and Occupy free from street harassment. If you want to join the movement, join us by signing onto the Safe Spaces Support Team at OWS.
I crossed the street with the pedestrian light, but this pickup truck was rolling into the crosswalk so I waved as I walked by. He honked at me, so I turned around and he was flipping me off, I flipped him off, and he used his hand and tongue to gesture fellatio. I yelled “Really?”, and he continued to flip me off and put his hands in his mouth in lewd ways. I don’t know what he was saying because I was listening to headphones, and then flipping him off and walking away.
BY NICOLA BRIGGS
Twenty and thirty years ago, women of all ages had to contend with harassment in the forms of scary in-person attacks, hate (snail) mail, and maybe a breathy phone call or two. But while these remain the weapons of choice for mean, insecure kids and dangerous psychopaths alike, women today have to deal with something much more insidious ~ cyber bullying. Who is a target for this type of behavior? At school, a girl may have made a few enemies just for standing out in some way ~ maybe because she grew taller than her peers, appeared sexually developed when they weren’t yet, always got the best grades in class, had a stutter, was a little heavier, seemed to be prettier, wore older clothing instead of the latest trends…..the list goes on and on, and none of this negative attention is her fault.
The point is that it does not take that much to stand out from a cohort that values conformity above all else, to bolster a still-fragile sense of confidence and security, so if a girl is perceived “different” in any way, she could become a target for just about any form of harassment. Today, we are talking about how to protect oneself from a “cyber bully,” from one person or even a group of people who use the Internet to carry out a campaign of defamation and psychological breakdown. The first thing is to remember that a cyber bully is essentially a coward, and needs to hide behind the computer to feel safe and in control. This can seem difficult to defend against if you’re always joining chat rooms, social networks, and instant messaging. But you can start by choosing an e-mail address and screen name that don’t reveal that much about who you are (obviously not using your real name or your well-known school or work nickname), where you are (what school, what workplace), and what you do (your major in school, what classes you’re in, or what occupation you have). This is such a simple method of precaution that most people forget to take, but it can save a lot of headaches down the road. Identity theft is real, and the less information a harasser or even an outright criminal has about you and your interests, the better. Also, young girls (and boys) need to stay away from any screen names that mention their age, or interest in sexuality. Predators love this kind of thing, and once the wrong kind of attention is invited, you just never know who is really speaking to you in that chat room.
Other key pieces of information to protect are any personal contact details. It’s difficult to keep sending someone hate mail if they can’t find you. If they are stupid enough to put a threat in writing, by all means save it. A paper trail can help save a woman from many forms of harassment, and be a strong motivation for a parent, a school official, an employer, or even law enforcement to act in your best interests. But most importantly, do not bottle it up inside if you do feel that you or someone you know is a victim of cyber bullying. Sometimes it’s downplayed, because the harasser is not “right there,” but the psychological effects of it can be devastating. In future posts, we’ll go into more ways that you can ensure you’re not a target. Until then, stay safe (and hopefully anonymous in those chat rooms)!
You don’t know me. You don’t know how my day has been going. You don’t know why I am at the bar with my friends, and you certainly have no business making judgements based on my facial expressions. You could have tried to not be an ass and actually struck up conversation, but if you are just going to open with “Smile!” you will get nothing more than a glare.
I’m not going to smile for your male-privileged approval. Stop wasting your time.