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.
I was walking south on 7th Ave on my lunch break. As I crossed 27th, a man on a bicycle passed behind me and said “big ass!” I turned around and when I made eye contact with him he winked. I flipped him off. He continued east on 27th (or so I thought) and I continued south on 7th Ave. As I crossed 26th, I saw him pull up next to me, having apparently turned around (going the wrong way back down 27th) in order to follow me, flip me off, and call me a bitch. I screamed something at him – I was so angry and freaked out that I can’t remember what I said – and he sped off south on 7th Ave.
This happened around 3:15 on a Monday with people everywhere. Not one person reacted, came to my defense, or asked me what had happened or if I was okay afterward.
Meet Jenn Gallienne of the Hollaback! Baltimore team, a sassy mover and shaker dedicated to making positive change in the world and an all round awesome lady.
Why do you HOLLA? Because it is TOTALLY UNACCEPTABLE to be objectified and harassed on a daily basis because of your gender identity, sexual orientation, race/ethnicity, sex etc. IT IS NOT OKAY that it has become a social norm that our society has settled on as being part of our daily lives. ALL OF US deserve to walk down the street feeling SAFE without being objectified. Also, because my friends and loved ones in the LGBTQQI community deserve to be in public without being called a “faggot, a dyke, a tranny, an it.” They shouldn’t have to be afraid to hold their partner’s hand and they shouldn’t have to change their appearance. These are OUR streets too! It’s time to claim them!
What’s your signature Hollaback? A glare.
What’s your craft? Petting Cats, Making cupcakes, advocating, and social workin’ my heart out.
HOLLAfact about your city: Edgar Allen Poe’s grave is here.
What was your first experience with street harassment? I don’t know if I can recall my very first experience but I definitely vividly remember the first time I got called a dyke walking down the street with my best friend after school. My friend got so upset she punched the guy that was calling us names. In the year 2020, street harassment will be finally accepted and recognized as a form of gender based violence. However, I don’t think the fight will be over yet.
What do you collect? Memories. Cupcake themed things. Tattoos. Those positive quotes that come on a yogi tea bag. Letters. Cards ( I have a whole wall of them).
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? I am just going to quote Ariel Gore here “Your heart is the size of your fist, keep loving, keep fighting.”
What inspires you? My father, my step-mother, survivors, those investing their lives to making this world a better place. CHANGE. Hope. Movers/shakers/believers/Doers!
The music block at our school is shared with the neighbouring boys’ school, and the boys’ field is between the girl’s school and the music block.
So I was walking back from the music block at break when a nasty little boy from… well I don’t know what year but can’t have been any older than 13, said ‘Hey good looking’ to me in a gross ‘I’m obviously being a dick’ kind of way.
So I carried on walking like I usually have the few times this has happened.
I was already feeling stressed and annoyed about the exams coming up and how the lesson hadn’t gone so well, so I was very annoyed.
But then two steps away instead of completely just walking off I turned around and screamed ‘F**K OFF!’ at him.
The look on his face annoyed me even more, because it was like ‘I didn’t deserve that shouting’. But he did.
If this ever happens again and I’m not feeling so stressed, I’ll take the time to stop whoever he is, tell him exactly why he’s being and arse and why he should never do it again.
Because a 16 year old girl shouldn’t feel intimidated or worried walking THROUGH HER OWN SCHOOL by a boy YOUNGER THAN HER.
I also think I will make some posters to hand to a teacher at the boys’ school on why being a creep is wrong.
Because they obviously need to learn.
(I’ve written way more that i should but man I’m so angry by this. Even though it wasn’t THAT bad…)
As a young female college student, I had always been told not to walk home alone or take the “short cut” if it was unsafe. But I’d taken the short way home plenty of times in this city to get home from the library, especially in the dark, and have had no problems. On the way home from a friend’s house tonight, I was in a rush to get home. I had a weird gut feeling when I thought about taking the short cut- I have to pass a run-down convenience store, and a section of government housing- but I ignored it. That was a mistake.
I was just about at the end of the short cut, almost home, when a group of 3 or 4 guys came out of nowhere and began to follow me. At first, they were distant. But they shouted “Nice ass!” and “Hey sweetie!” after me, just as I turned the corner to walk down my street. I picked up my pace; they turned onto my street and continued their cat-calling, even more vulgar while they laughed. I turned down into my driveway, and knew I couldn’t go to my house. At first I went around the other side of it, and waited. Then I saw my neighbor’s light on. I rang her doorbell and desperately hoped she would answer and I could then ask to come inside; but she didn’t. The group of guys saw me, and stood at the end of my driveway, continuing their taunting. I had no idea what they wanted, or what I should do. Luckily, they left shortly after. I went to my own house, where my roommate let me in.
Ladies, LISTEN TO YOUR GUT! It can prevent situations like this.