BY EMILY MAY
Hello Hollaback! supporters! Check out this week’s news and updates from the exciting world of Hollaback! and our endeavors to stamp out street harassment.
Out and About: We met with students from Rutgers and NYU to discuss our forthcoming campus harassment initiative. I also met with Councilmember Chin’s office to talk about street harassment in Lower Manhattan.
Support: We are extremely grateful to the Ben and Jerry’s Foundation for supporting our national movement-building work.
Hollaback! Around the World: Hollaback! Bogota participated in the SlutWalk Bogota, Columbia. Hollaback! Twin Cities got a shout out on the University of Minnesota Women’s Center Blog written when their site leader Ami Wazlawwik stepped up as a guest blogger. In celebration of National Women’s Day on March 8th, Hollaback! Winnipeg made it in to Uptown. Hollaback! Istanbul was on the front cover of Turkey’s Today’s Zaman.
Thanks for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment — you make this all possible!
HOLLA and out!
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
West Coast Rapper, Too $hort, came under fire recently for the outrageous “fatherly” advice that he gave in an interview to hop-hop publication XXL Magazine. The singer gives tips to young boys on the “mind manipulation” of young girls, the content of which makes for very uncomfortably and inappropriate listening, particularly for the young audience at which it is aimed.
In response to the incident a coalition of Black and Latina activists have formed called We Are the 44% to counter sexual violence against teens. They issued a statement condemning the interview, and offered a list of demands, which include that both Too Short and all Harris Publication staff members participate in education and sensitivity training on sexual assault/rape, as well as the sacking of XXL Magazine Editor-in-chief Vanessa Satten. (Trigger warning: You can read the transcript of the interview for yourself here).
Initially, Too Short appears to have flip-flopped around his comments, first offering an apology cloaked in denial of responsibility. Yet, in a newly added layer, Too $hort approached feminist writer and member of We Are the 44%, Dream Hampton, to conduct an interview with him to set the record straight in Ebony.com. Some may consider Too Short’s apologies too little, too late, or question the authenticity of his change of heart, but the conversation leaves him in better stead than in his first response to the backlash. It shows that it is possible for a person to alter their dehumanizing attitudes towards women and that if we continue to hold people accountable for hateful speech, there can be a ripple effect of change. In the following extract, Too $hort discusses what he has learned from this incident and responds to the backlash:
“…when I taped the XXL video, my goal was that this was some kind of comedy piece. So I am sitting there and the thing that I am saying’s actually reminiscent of when we as little boys were being bad and (what) we were doing something or learning or practicing. But know I’m understanding that it’s actually it’s a form of sexual assault. And it’s crazy that I’m just now understanding this.”
I’m not going to lie to you…my eyes are opening just from reading the comments, the stuff that is coming from people. They say stuff like, “Does he get it?” I’m reading it and I am starting to get it. I am looking at this and I am looking at all the stuff that they put out, completely from the entertainment industry, from the movies I watched when I was a kid. A rape scene in a movie was pretty normal. They don’t really do it that much anymore, (but) back then a guy would take it and the girl would enjoy it. They put those images out there over and over again and it’s like so much society is ok with the images of aggressive male and female sexuality. I’m just reading this and I’m reading that, and I’m like I am so much a part of that whole “man” thing.”
Whether or not the magazine ultimately decides to fire Vanessa Satten, we can only hope that in the future, their editors will pay closer attention to the content they are implicitly promoting and that musicians in the spotlight, who wield a tremendous potential to influence young people, will consider if they are advocating a culture of violence against girls of color.
“We need to be able to have conversations about what Too Short’s and XXL magazine’s actions perpetuate in our society, but not without rejecting smoke-screen rhetoric. Violence Against Women (VAW) continues to destroy the fabric of our society and men must step up and stop scapegoating women to save themselves.”
Here is a challenge, men: Step up and journey to un-learn all of what you think is cool about what is really VAW from places like Men Can Stop Rape, people like Jackson Katz and films like Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. It is never too late to start, only shameful if you choose not to.
The Upper East Side may have a new serial groper plaguing the streets. On two separate occasions this week, police say a man who is “white, clean shaven, neatly dressed, with brown hair, about 30 years old, 5 feet 11 inches tall, and 180 pounds” has grabbed and groped women before running off.
Anna North at Jezebel makes a great point in her recent post “Rich White Dudes Can Be Gropers Too.” Anna focuses on avoiding perpetrator stereotypes and bad anti-rape advice like “stay out of ‘bad’ neighborhoods,” and instead concentrating on catching the bad guys:
“The case of the well-dressed groper busts a number of stereotypes about sexual predators: that they attack only at night and only in poor neighborhoods; that they’re unattractive men who can’t get women to notice them; that they’re never rich white guys. Law & Order: SVU, for all its faults, actually does a good job of challenging some of these myths: its perps are frequently powerful, good-looking white men. But the idea that all assaults are committed by certain kinds of men in certain kinds of places remains strong. The Upper East Side gropings are a reminder that telling women to stay away from “bad” neighborhoods at night isn’t going to stop assault. To do that, we need to stop the perpetrators. And since gropers sometimes escalate to more serious crimes, let’s hope the NYPD catches this one soon.”
Warning women to stay out of “bad” neighborhoods at night, as if there were a protective bubble of gender equality floating over places like the Upper East Side, is indeed laughable. Yet, this is still some of the most dispensed advice women receive on how to not get assaulted, that and “don’t wear skirts because then you’re just asking for it.” Thank you for that nugget of advisory gold.
REPOSTED FROM SAN LUIS OBISPO
The Metro Station and the citizens of DC are in a current debate over what constitutes as sexual harassment: is it mere flirtation or unwanted attention? Surprisingly, many officials have defended the right to sexually harass, implying that too much sensitivity has blurred the distinction between compliments and harassment. They have yet to explore how someone might feel when a stranger approaches them in a confined space (often at night) and makes them feel uncomfortable and scared.
The DC chapter of Hollaback, also known locally as CASS (Collective Action for Safe Spaces), has decided to take the matter to local government. With claims that transit police are not tracking reports of harassment and giving little consideration to gender-based harassment, activists are seeking out transit employee training, governmental action, and awareness. Hollaback has also pointed out that while New York, Boston, and Chicago have all instituted PSA campaigns against this issue, DC is still lacking anything to address a serious and frequent problem.
When reading Hollaback reports in cities where public transportation is an essential part of daily life, it is evident that there have been countless situations where a person feels violated, vulnerable, and unsafe. The DC chapter is commendable for taking action and going to their government. The Gender Equity Center for Cal Poly is also planning to talk to our city council on how to make this town safer for all people. If you feel that you have something to say about town safety, harassment, or you just want to show support, it is highly suggested that you attend this meeting. More information will be released in the coming weeks.
As I arrived at my bus stop several people (all women) were already standing there. There is another bus stop at the other side of the street, where a young man was standing.
As soon as he noticed me he started yelling all these derogatory things, he called me a dirty slut, said he was going to rape me, … I was really scared but he didn’t cross the street and I had to take my bus so I tried to completely ignore him. This went on for about 5 minutes, when his bus arrived and he left.
That’s when I started crying.
You don’t have a “HollaBack” in my city, Kathmandu, Nepal, but I think this story is important none-the-less. Even if it’s just to get it out of my own head and heart, and shared.
I’m really moved by what you do at HollaBack, and think it’s an incredibly important and smart movement. It’s great timing for me, as I just learned about this website today, and was harassed 2 days ago, with (I feel) little I can do about it here.
While walking down my dirt road, I was feeling more confident and attractive than usual here. It was warm outside and for the first time in months I was able to wear a long flowing skirt and a v-neck t-shirt. (Nothing revealing by any means)
I was only maybe 20 feet away from my house door, when a motorcyclist came speeding by. On his way past, he stuck out his hand, and grabbed my breast. He passed by so fast, I really had no defense against it. Even when I turned away to yell at him, I realized, I speak English, he most likely speaks Nepali, my words were of no use. 🙁 If he had been going any slower I think I would have tried to push over his motorcycle. I was furious at his nerve, and the fact I was defenseless against it.
So, he went speeding away. It happened so unexpectedly I can barely remember what he looked like, much less felt there was anything I could do about it.
Since the incident, I’ve felt less safe in my own neighborhood. I think, “what if he lives near me?” “what if he sees me often and I’ve just never noticed him?” I don’t like this feeling of fear and lack of safety in the area in which I live.
I also feel like my fears aren’t helpful. What IS helpful is being aware of my surroundings, learning from my experiences, and sharing them with other women to move forward to fight against this sort of street harassment that happens every day.
Since hearing about HollaBack, I feel more comfortable discussing this with people in my neighborhood as well to keep from it happening again. Thanks HollaBack for giving me an outlet. 🙂
By Shawna Potter
Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato are organizers, artists, activists and educators working in Baltimore, MD. Hannah Brancato began working to end violence against women when she created an art advocacy program based in a domestic violence shelter. She received her MFA in Community Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), a program focused on art as a means to create social justice; and is currently an adjunct professor in MICA’s Fiber Department and Art History Department. Rebecca Nagle is an internationally exhibited and collected artist with works in the New Museum, NY and Ssamzie Art Warehouse, South Korea. Nagle organizes Baltimore’s four-day international radical Transmodern Arts Festival and its queer cabaret the Charm City Kitty Club.
I had a chance to sit down with them at Rebecca’s art studio, located in Station North Arts District.
I had a blast at your launch party for YES! Consent Is Sexy and I was hoping to share more information with all of HOLLA-World. Can you tell us more about the history of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture?
HANNAH: It started out as an exhibition we curated at the Current Gallery in the fall of 2010 There was a huge crowd and a lot of conversation and we realized it was really important and we should do it again. So, we’re currently formulating a proposal to have the show tour several different colleges, some of them falling onto the top 10 party schools according to Playboy. Our rationale behind that is that the kind of dialogue that happened around FORCE would be really useful in the college setting, where a lot of date rape is happening.
REBECCA: In addition to our effort to upset and challenge the culture of rape, we’re also working to promote a counter culture of consent via a new underwear line called YES! Consent Is Sexy. It’s that extra reminder to check in with people with you’re in the heat of the moment.
You screened the underwear yourselves, choosing really bright, even fun, colors. Why is that?
REBECCA: We’re riffing off of Victoria’s Secret PINK line, targeted specifically towards high school and college age girls. This fall they came out underwear with these flirty statements like “unwrap me” or “jealous”, but a few of them struck a chord with us because we felt they reinforced this idea that “no” means “yes”. One of them says “NO” in big letters, and underneath in small letters it says, “peeking”. Another says, “STOP staring” and the other that is really disturbing is “Give a little, get a lot”. So it is this young, liberated sexuality, but it is reinforcing these ideas that “No” and “Stop” are not ways for young women to set boundaries, but are ways for them to flirt, and that is not OK.
Your underwear has statements like “Yes”, “No, “Maybe” and “Ask First”, which your website says helps to “celebrate our belief that good communication creates good sex”, but some might ask: is it too late to emphasize communication when the pants are already off?
REBECCA: No! (laughs) I feel like that is the most important time to emphasize communication. I think that the whole consent conversation isn’t just whether or not you want someone in your bed. Sex is so complicated and varied, as are people’s personal boundaries, and a lot of unwanted sexual experiences come from assumptions. Someone assuming that because you’ve given the green light for this, you’ve given them the green light for this, that, and the other. I think our culture has this idea that rape is a very clear situation of someone physically overpowering someone else. The reality of a lot of sexual violence and coercion, the way that people are actually experiencing it, is a lot more confusing. I think the only way to combat that holistically is to promote an alternative, to promote consent and communication.
What about the times when gaining consent is not a priority, when there is a clear-cut perpetrator and victim?
HANNAH: We realize that rape is used as a weapon of war and that it can be perpetrated by strangers, and that there are a lot of issues besides this one part we are tackling. We are fully aware of that. But this is one of the ways in which a lot of people are experiencing rape and it is one of the ways that we feel that we can do something about it. We feel that we can actually change some of those perceptions. If this exhibition is successful, we can start to create some of those connections and solidarity with those people who are working towards ending gender-based violence at all levels. We know this is not the only way rape is happening, but it is one of the ways that rape is not being recognized for what it is, and that is the biggest issue.
So this is mostly about the importance of communication to prevent date-rape type situations?
REBECCA: Well, communication is not just about preventing rape, but about promoting a more healthy sexuality. For a survivor, it can be really important for a partner to check in with them during sex. It can be really important to have the space some days to say “today I don’t feel safe, so even if we did this thing yesterday, I can’t do that today” So it’s not just about wearing panties with “Ask First” to prevent rape, it’s about having a more healthy sexuality where people are having conversations and feeling safer and it is more empowering for people if partner’s are checking in with them.
So, why do both the line of underwear and the curated art show?
HANNAH: For us, the counter culture of consent is important because the actual artwork that is in FORCE deals with survivors telling stories about being sexually assaulted and raped, and also montages of how pop culture and media culture perpetuate rape by putting damaging images out there. So it is a show that is really intense, not only explaining rape culture, but also showing examples of rape culture, right? But there is also the counter culture of telling stories that need to be told. We feel, as both activists and educators, its important that the project is multi-faceted. It’s not about just showing a problem or pointing to something, but it’s also about proposing an alternative to that culture, like how else can things be? Another theme of the show, or one of the conceptual underpinnings, is this idea of how rape becomes naturalized, or people think it is biology, that we’re born this way, and so one of the things we’re trying to deal with is how we’re taught. How we’re taught violent behaviors, how we’re taught to have these power struggles and how we’re taught to use sex as a way of getting control. I think in the whole conversation surrounding YES! Consent Is Sexy some of our original project has gotten lost.
Are there any local organizations or artists out there inspiring you, or even working on similar issues?
REBECCA: Probably SlutWalk! (laughs)
REBECCA: SlutWalk and Hollaback! are the two things I feel like….
I did not plan that, internet.
REBECCA: No, but seriously, we feel there is a new generation of young feminists doing interesting things with feminism and using fresh tactics. So, Hollaback!, SlutWalk, Feministing.com, all this new stuff cropping up using social media to address some of these issues and push things further. We like to think of ourselves as part of this new feminist movement.
HANNAH: Definitely there are other artists working on similar things, but I couldn’t claim to know all that is going on.
A lot of this new wave of brash, in your face feminist activism that you consider yourselves to be a part of has received critiques from women of color for being too exclusive. How are you making sure that FORCE doesn’t shut anyone out? Is it here to include everyone’s story or is it more personal?
REBECCA: I like to use the magnet/container analogy (laughs). One of the reasons feminism (and rightly so) is accused of leaving people out is that sometimes feminism tries to be this box with clearly defined boundaries. Like “here is the feminist box and everything in this box is feminism and everything outside of it is not feminism”. I think it is a problem because anytime you want or need to grow you have to break that container. I like to think about the way we’re working on this project, we’re not creating a clearly defined box of what FORCE is, but we have some core values. We want to end a culture of sex that is disempowering for people, that violates people, that is about coercion and violence, and instead promote an alternative culture of sex that is empowering and pleasurable for everybody involved, and that is the magnet. So if you want to work towards that, then we’re on board. People might have different takes on it. This issue is going to be personal for a lot of people, it’s personal for us, and so we recognize that. In feminism and especially when you deal with sexual violence, it is OK for people to do it in different ways, to have different feelings about it and see it differently. But I think we can have some core values that we’re all on the same page about.
HANNAH: I think it is difficult to resist the temptation to box it in because of the criticism we get. It’s interesting; I had never been accused of not being a feminist before.
HANNAH: So, here’s the thing, so while we are being accused of not fitting into the box, how do we still keep what we’re doing as a magnet and not a box. The automatic response would be to be defensive and put up walls, right, but actually what we’re trying to do is reach out to people who have critiques and invite them to participate in a dialogue. I think we’re going to do a video to document some of the disagreement, because what happened overYES! Consent Is Sexy is representative of the larger disagreement where people are saying “third-wave feminist sluts,” which is all over the place right now, so I think this is a microcosm of something that is happening on a larger scale, so hopefully documenting it will help. We’re super aware of it, which doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes, but we try to be really open about the fact that this is a process and we’re open to suggestions.
What types of things do you find yourselves saying to partners in bed most often, what do you have to communicate most often that isn’t assumed?
REBECCA: (laughs) Hmm, do I want to share this on the blog?
REBECCA: I generally let people know that I like people to check in, I ask them what their boundaries are, what do you like or not like, if they have any STD’s. And it is interesting because some people are excited to talk about it, some people have never been asked that before and don’t know how to have that conversation, some people think it is not sexy and it busts their mood. But for me, I am way more comfortable and excited about a person when they are excited to have that kind of conversation…. And it’s nice that it has been happening recently! (laughs)
You can practice what you preach!
REBECCA: Yeah, totally!
(HANNAH’s originally published answer has been left out for privacy reasons. It wasn’t totally crazy though, so don’t get any kinky ideas!)
One more question. Can you be satirical when it comes to being sexual?
HANNAH: Well, less about being about satire, it’s really about subversion, which is an important distinction.
REBECCA: We talked about this a lot, and we had to give each other therapy, because when people are posting negative comments online…
HANNAH: Yeah, never has there been this much attention on anything I’ve done, not until we took some photos of people in their underwear. I hesitate to say that because I think it validates some people’s arguments. We’re not ignorant to what we’re doing, we understand the implications of it and we’re doing it with as much awareness and consciousness as possible. And I think it is important to do because the fact of the matter is there is nothing wrong with a naked body, but there is a lot wrong with the way naked bodies are used; to perpetuate a rape culture, a patriarchal culture, but that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with a naked body in and of itself. I think continuing to use this tactic to divert attention away from victim blaming, to start to address the actual issue, like shifting the conversation away from self-defense and towards perpetrators learning that sex should not be a method of gaining control, that kind of thing. I think these tactics are successful in doing that when it comes down to it.
REBECCA: I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about the complication of the photographs we put out of women in the underwear and people’s strong reactions to them. I feel like I personally have had this life experience where I got really angry about the ways I felt objectified as a young adult and victimized as a woman, and I went through this period where there were no high heels in my closet, I shaved my head, I wore pants; I was super butch in college. Then these little things like heels and dresses started trickling back into wardrobe and it was finding a way to feel comfortable being feminine and sexy and feeling like my sexuality was my own and not for other people to control and manipulate and dictate and objectify. And that is a really hard space for any woman to stake out, because there is so much baggage placed on women’s bodies and the choices that women make about the way that they present their bodies. So I think it is really radical, what SlutWalk does, to create spaces where all forms of expressions can be OK and safe and empowering. And I think our culture needs that, I don’t think that business suits are the answer to women being objectified, you know; I think it should be an option for women. Pants should be an option; bikinis should be an option; women should be able to be powerful in whatever situation they feel powerful and self-actualized in.
BY EMILY MAY
Hello supporters and revolutionaries! Check out this week’s news and updates from the exciting world of Hollaback! and our endeavors to stamp out street harassment once and for all.
It’s National Anti-Street Harassment Week March 18-24! And there are so many ways that you can get involved and take action: join our board, support the movement and come to our March 22nd event “I’ve Got Your Back” or check out this Huffington Post article Ten Things You Can Do To Stop Street Harassment for more ideas.
Presentations: I had the honor of presenting to the US Department of State delegation from Europe “Empowering Women Against Domestic Violence” along with Victoria Travers.
Out and about: I attended Rutgers University to talk to young activists at the Women’s Center, as well as giving a plenary in their knowledge and power class. The university’s online publication, The Daily Targem also honored us with a laurel in their Week in Review: Darts and Laurels. Later today I will be attending the Denim Day 2012 planning meeting along with our partners Day One, YWCA Brooklyn, NYC Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Joyful Heart Foundation, the Manhattan and Queens Borough President’s Offices.
Collaborations: Veronica and I met with Alyson Greenfield of the Tinder Box Music Festival for possible future partnerships. Catherine and I also met with Nils Knagenhjelm who created the bSafe Smartphone App. Check out Catherine’s interview with him here.
Hollaback! around the world: Aisha Zakira of Hollaback! Mumbai was the subject of Daily News & Analysis article Run for a Cause: Let’s Stop Gender-Based Violence.
In the press: Hollaback! along with Stop Street Harassment, Men Can Stop Rape and Girls for Gender Equality, was mentioned in Jezebel article How to be a Good Guy on the Sidewalk, giving advice to men on how to establish that they are not a threat when encountering women in dark, secluded, public areas.
We Got an Award! Hollaback! has been honored with an MYD Engendering Progress Award on March 21st in Manhattan. This is their 3rd annual event to honor women leaders, activist, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!