I am so glad I found this space– this experience has left me with a very lonely and awful feeling all day. I am visiting New Orleans for a business convention, so I am required to wear business professional attire. Because I am short, I prefer to wear “skinny jeans” style dress pants because I look like I am swimming in wide leg pants. My clothing was form fitting because, plain simply ,that is more flattering on me and because I feel confident wearing that style.
While walking to lunch in the french quarter I was called to repeatedly by different men. At first it didn’t bother me because I took it as “southern charm,” but when I walked past a convince store in front of a group of men, they literally were screaming at me. One man even said that he “was horny.” I felt mortified and objectified. While I silently stormed away another group of men at the end of the street continued where they left off. Further down a man pulled his car over to ask “if he could walk me home” that night. I could not believe these men had the nerve to make me feel this way. I felt ashamed for the way I was dressed (even though I was completely business appropriate). I wish I had the nerve to say something, but I was honestly scared that I would just provoke them. I am trying not to let this experience taint my otherwise amazing time in New Orleans.
Thank you, Hollaback, for giving me an outlet to vent. These stories are hard to share.
It happened so fast.
It happened before I could think.
But, it happened.
It was a little thing, I guess, in the scale of street harassment.
But it was big too, because every little act of disrespect and aggression adds up to something larger in a world where being a female out in public makes you sexual prey.
Which is why I wish I had done something to protect the women he might do this to in the future.
Cause most women don’t like to be sniffed in public. That’s right I said sniffed.
Yeah, SNIFFED. Like a dog.
Here’s how it happened, girlfriends.
I was standing outside a grocery store in another town when a man came up behind me, got as close as he could without touching me…..and sniffed me.
Yeah, SNIFFED me. Like a dog.
My back had been to the store, so I didn’t see the man until he walked around me and went to his car. He shot a creepy smile over his shoulder, letting me know that he knew exactly what he had done.
I stood glued to my spot on the sidewalk, stunned by the guy’s brazen disrespect in such a public place. I watched him get in his car, still smiling his creepy smile. I watched him drive away, laughing to himself. I was pissed, but mainly I counted myself lucky that it hadn’t been something worse. At least he hadn’t touched me, I thought. Or yelled something humiliating. He was just a sad, pathetic guy who got a cheap thrill from sniffing women in public places. I was unharmed and I could laugh about the story with my friends.
But the more I thought about the incident it didn’t make me laugh, it made me MAD! Not just mad at the creep, but mad at myself.
Mad at myself because I hadn’t done anything. I just let him drive away, not even because I was that scared, but mainly because I was being selfish.
I say selfish because in my reaction to this guy I was thinking only about myself. “I got out of it. I wasn’t hurt. I didn’t live in the city where it happened.” Those were my thoughts as I silently watched him drive away.
But really my thought process should have been more like this: “What if he does this to one of us again? What if he does something worse to someone else? We need to stick together.”
The “we” of course, is all women, because whether you believe in the concept of global sisterhood or not, we are all in this together when it comes to street harassment.
When you confront or report a street harasser, you’re doing it not just for yourself, but for the future women the harasser may target. Getting catcalled at a construction site? When you call in and complain you save not just yourself, but all the future women walking by that site from unjust humiliation. When you get harassed by someone in a car? Get the license plate number if you can and call the authorities. You may never see the harasser again but some other women will, and your call could be what gets the harasser pulled over and scared off that type of behavior.
And if you get sniffed?
Well, I’ve thought a lot about what I could have done in the situation. Like I said it happened very fast and I think the first thing you should think about in any confrontation is your own safety.
Thinking back I wish I had at least taken a picture of the guy and his license plate with my camera phone. I would have felt safe enough to do that and I could have turned the picture and a description of the event into the managers at the grocery store he’d been exiting and of course the local police.
Sniffing somebody is strange enough, but all I can think about is how my police officer relative later told me that behavior like that is usually a first step to guys trying to touch women (or do worse) to them out in public.
Could I have done something so that if this guy tries to do something worse to a woman some of his information would already be on file? Or has he already done something worse (and my gut told me he was a pretty serious creep), and turning in the pictures could have helped another woman find justice?
I don’t want to beat myself up asking too many questions. I can’t change how I responded to a past situation, but I can think about how I’ll act in the future. The next time I’m harassed I hope I think not just about myself but about all of us — all the women out there who just want to be out in public without feeling like a target.
And if I can do something to make the next women’s life a little safer I’ll feel like I’ve done my part.
Hello Hollaback supporters and revolutionaries!
Take a look at this week ‘s HOLLAnews and updates with February’s first installment:
–Mumbai in Town! This week we met up with Aisha from Hollaback! Mumbai who has been super busy heading up the revolution in Bombay. Hollaback! Mumbai, in collaboration with the families of murdered Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez, are responsible for change.org petition: Demand Justice for Two Men Killed Trying to Stop Street Harassment, which demands justice for the brutal murders of two bright, brave young men and calls for recognition of the prevalence of street harassment in Mumbai and across India. Also, check out Hollaback! Mumbai’s awesome press coverage in online news publication Hindustan Times.
-In the Press: I was interviewed for online fashion market place, I-ELLA.com. We also got a shout out from the Pixel Project, a non-profit organization that works to end violence against women (VAW) by delivering innovative, powerful viral campaigns across various online and virtual channels including social media. Our lead developer, Jill Dimond, was also featured on mobile app blog, Fueled.com.
-Meetings and Partnerships: We met with the Caruso Foundation and the Transit Workers Union to talk about future collaborative works to stamp out street harassment once and for all!
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!
Collective Action for Safe Spaces/Holla Back DC! are joining forces for a public performance oversight hearing of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) held by the Council of the District of Columbia. Check out this blog piece that is cross posted from Collective Action for Safe Spaces.
Sexual comments, leering, groping and public masturbation: sexual harassment happens a lot on public transportation in Washington, DC. Collective Action for Safe Spaces/Holla Back DC! has beentracking and speaking out on this issue for three years. Now we’re doing something more – testifying. And we need your help.
We need people to testify with us about the issue of sexual harassment on public transportation during the late afternoon of Wednesday, Feb. 22, for a public performance oversight hearing of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) held by the Council of the District of Columbia.
We are looking for people:
1) Willing to share a story or stories about sexual harassment on metro trains and buses,
2) Who can talk about sexual harassment they’ve witnessed,
3) Who can be part of the audience to help fill the room.
Testimonies are only 3 minutes long (about a page and a half). If you want to learn more about writing and presenting compelling testimony or want feedback on a draft, we will hold an optional training on Saturday, Feb. 18, 1-3 p.m. at the Southeast Library (across the from Eastern Market metro station). Susie Cambria will lead the training.
If you’re interested in providing testimony or helping to fill the room, please contact [email protected] by February 17.
If we have enough people testifying, possible outcomes could be:
Council Member Muriel Bowser (who is overseeing the hearing and is from Ward 4) will be aware of the issue and could even propose legislation to help prevent sexual harassment on Metro.
Council Member Bowser could question the Director of Metro to find out why our concerns have not been addressed.
The Director of Metro could be more likely to address our concerns and take actions we recommend such as providing training for employees.
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
You probably don’t frequent women-hating websites all that often. Luckily, you have others to do the dirty work for you! A blog aimed at college-aged men called Barstool Sports, showcases a slew of dehumanizing attitudes toward women while disguising itself an entertainment website: “By the common man, for the common man”. By portraying their degrading attitudes toward women as some sort of normal, socially acceptable viewpoint to hold, they participate in the continuation of women being treated as nothing more than objects to be rated by their appearance alone. This winter, the group has been hosting a “Blackout Party” tour near college campuses throughout the East coast and the Midwest.
Just a few of the shining comments to come from Barstool Sports’ site:
PS – Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid-January. However if a chick passes out that’s a grey area though.
Even though I never condone rape, if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right? I mean skinny jeans don’t look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6’s.
Thankfully, there is a new group in town called Knockout Barstool. We applaud a letter they wrote earlier this week, taking down the rape-culture promoting blog and “Blackout Party” tour. There is a big difference between allowing free speech on college campuses and turning the other ear to the hate speech of an organization. Today, Barstool’s “Blackout Party” tour comes to Boston. Here at Hollaback!, we fully support Knockout Barstool’s requests that Northeastern University denounce the hate speech of Barstool Sports:
We demand Northeastern University and its administration stand for women and denounce Barstool Sports and the NU Blackout Party. These organizations do not represent the values of our community nor our institution. As President Joseph Aoun said in a recent email to the university: “While we should actively engage different opinions and points of view — and this may result in strong and intense discussions—we will not tolerate any conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating environment for members of our community.” Barstool Sports and their blackout party creates a hostile and intimidating environment for women. We must demand an equal and safe university culture.
A recent post by Barstool Sports about the work of Hollaback!’s Executive Director, Emily May revealed the tired occurrence of insulting a woman’s appearance because they took issue with what she had to say. In so doing, Barstool tried to reinforce the notion that the worst possible thing a man could say to a woman is that he does not want to sleep with her, rather than choosing to have a civil conversation with her.
Thank you, Barstool Sports, for providing us with such an apt example of why we must continue working.
–You might notice we did not link to Barstool Sports’s website, as we do not wish to give them the satisfaction of more site hits. Please enjoy the following screen shots instead (misspelling of “harrassment” included).
REPOSTED FROM HOLLABACK HOUSTON
Co-director Ricki here… I stumbled across The Arkh Project yesterday while bumbling around on the net, and thought it would be and thought it would be worth checking out and supporting.
The Arkh Project is a project to create a 3D RPG video game that “focuses on queer people and people of color as main characters” and is currently being developed and designed by queer folks and POC. Any money donated goes to the development of the game, as all volunteers and coordinators are donating their free time to the project. How cool!
Plus, if you’re into linear RPGs… it looks pretty awesome
BY EMILY MAY AND CATHERINE FAVORITE
Today Gawker featured the story of a woman who witnessed public masturbation on the subway — and the pictures she took in response. While we are happy to see Gawker highlighting the issue of street harassment, their analysis was off. Way off.
“Obviously, there’s no proof of lewd behavior in these pictures, just one woman’s story so, who knows, this guy could be innocent [emphasis added].
What is it with the media’s insistence that women’s reports of sexual violence are untrustworthy? It’s an old myth that stands in the way of progress. The FBI says that “unfounded” rape claims stand at 8%. But that tiny little 8% gives the media enough ammo to question all reports of sexual violence. Articles like Gawker’s tend to have a silencing effect on the rest of us, which is perhaps why 75-95% of rapes go unreported, making rape the “most under-reported crime” according to the American Medical Association. But why stop at questioning the victim? Gawker also offered the victim a little advice:
Also, it’s probably wise to contact the police before reaching out to a gossip blog when a crime has occurred.
Oh, Gawker. We know you’re DC-based so let’s fill you in on how this goes down. If you tell the NYPD, they might ignore you. If they don’t, you have to sit in front of a big black book of all the sexual offenders in the subway. If you don’t get totally freaked out and run screaming, you *might* find your guy. And then what? It’s a long, painful court process. No wonder victims turn to the internet for reprieve. And no wonder we have a robust “no coulda woulda shoulda” policy. Victims of sexual violence deserve to have whatever response makes sense to them most, because after all, it wasn’t their fault.
So Gawker, next time someone shares their experience of street harassment with you, perhaps you could politely suggest that gentlemen of the world refrain from public masturbation? It seems like good advice to us.
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
Come “Meet Us On the Street”, for International Anti-Street Harassment week, from March 18-24, to take a stand against street harassment! Last year’s first International Anti-Street Harassment Day was so successful, with over thousands of people participating in 13 countries, that this year, the folks of Stop Street Harassment are dedicating an entire week to raising public awareness to end gender-based verbal harassment.
In speaking out against catcalls, sexist comments, public masturbation, groping, stalking, and assault, you will help to create a sustained dialogue surrounding how women, girls and the LGBTQ community must endure a level of verbal and physical street violence that continues to be an inevitable reality for far too many people. The widespread acceptance of gender and sexuality based street harassment has created a silent suffering that wrongfully places the burden of street harassment onto those receiving the harassment, leaving harassers free to continue. In the past, a casual acceptance of street harassment for LGBTQ individuals, women and girls has created a stigma of shame and silence. International Anti-Street Harassment Week is a way of countering this. By making this a part of the public discussion, we can change the culture of acceptance surrounding street harassment. No one should have to change the way they walk to school or work, or worry if their clothing might draw unwanted attention. This week is about calling for the right of everyone to be treated as equals in all shared public spaces. Just as sexual harassment is not tolerated in schools, work or at home, we should not accept it from strangers on the streets, either!
Meet Us On the Street offers many ways for how you can participate, whether by taking to the street on March 24th with your friends and community, bringing up street harassment in conversations, to tweeting about it (#NoSHWeek) and changing your Facebook photo during the third week of March. You can also organize action in your community and submit it to the map so others in your area can find out about it.
In 2003, my childhood best friend and I took a trip to NYC to celebrate her birthday. We got second row tickets to an amazing play, staring her favorite actor. It was supposed to be an amazing trip for us, something to remember for a lifetime. Sadly, I will remember it for all the wrong reasons.
We took the subway during rush hour to get to Times Square in time for what I think was a 7:00 performance. We were all dressed up, each wearing cocktail dresses among a sea of bland commuters. The train was utterly packed to the gills. We stood, sharing a pole, facing each other on the train. When there are that many people cramped in a tight space, you are bound to get bumped and jostled by backpacks and suitcases. I found my rear being repeatedly “bumped” by what I initially thought was a suitcase. I began to get suspicious and used a technique that my friend and I had employed many times in the past. I made it clear to her I was a little suspicious about what was going on behind me without saying a word. I quickly stepped to the side, so as to leave whatever was going on behind me immediately exposed to her line of vision. The look on her face was not at all what I expected to see, as it reflected what she had not expected to see—a short man with his pants unzipped, and his erect penis hanging out.
That “bump” was him continually rubbing his penis up against my rear end. Thankfully, we were coming to our station. I was completely shocked and had no idea how to react. I will be forever grateful to my friend for grabbing my hand and running up the steps. We started screaming “Rape” on the top of our lungs. Disturbingly enough, the man began to follow us. Somehow we lost him in the crush of people.
Disoriented and upset, we made it to our performance. I was too disturbed to leave my seat during intermission. I couldn’t bear the thought of someone getting close to me in the lobby. After the show, we had a wonderful experience meeting the actors. I was so bothered by the thought of getting back on the subway, I called a male friend of mine from nearby and he escorted us on the train back to our hotel. While waiting for him, a mounted police officer happened to come by. I stopped him and asked if I could tell him something, even though I knew he couldn’t do anything about it. He was so kind and understanding and his attention to me in that moment actually helped.
I am not the kind of woman to not react–especially to this kind of abuse. This is just evidence that any one of us can be so taken aback that we don’t know how to react. To this day, I am totally paranoid about using public transportation of any kind. This is in part due to a bus driver that harassed me in my home town shortly before the subway incident.
All told, that (literal) jerk-off took a great red cocktail dress from me, a feeling of safety on public transportation, and what should have been an unmarred vacation with my best friend.
I work at a restaurant. At work last weekend, a male patron called me “darling”. I find this very offensive, objectifying, disrespectful to my intelligence, and dehumanizing – I am not his significant other and he is a total stranger.
I told him: “Don’t call me darling.” He responded, shocked: “What?!” I said, “Don’t call me darling. I’m not your girlfriend.” He said, “I didn’t know!” I said, “Now you know.” He began arguing: “I call everyone that!” I said, “Well, now you know not to call me that. We’re done.”
When he left, he shouted at me, “Thanks a lot, Toots!” I replied, “Don’t call me Toots either!” as he walked away.
I told my manager about it and asked if we could ban him from the restaurant. She said no, because this wasn’t “sexual harassment” as defined in a course on workplace harassment she recently completed. She told me to just suck it up as there was nothing that could be done.
In her response, I heard several undertones: that either she really did believe she had limited options in responding to such incidences, and/or that she thought I should just sit down and shut up – relax and “learn to live with” offensive, derogatory, gender-based remarks, simply because I work in a customer service-oriented industry.
I don’t know what to say to my boss, aside from the fact that I feel (am?) entitled to stand up for myself against unwanted gender-based verbage from patrons, and disappointed that she didn’t have my back in this particular exchange.