Sitting on a street cafe, sipping my latte in trendy and cultured Central London on a hot summer’s evening, I thought it couldn’t be any better. I paused from reading my novel to admire the smells, sights and noises of the streets – only to find a group of young men, dressed in jeans and brash confidence, staring at me from the opposite side of the street.
I blinked, turned away and automatically pulled down the hem of my knee-length blue summer dress; not exactly provocative, but even when wearing something revealing is no excuse for sexual harassment, it was my first instinct. I tried to ignore them, but out of the view of my peripheral vision, I could see them still gawking.
My breathing quickened as I glanced at them, and saw them crossing the street and coming towards me. I stopped, to find the cocky ringleader demand my number, claiming that he saw me “checking him out” and that I want him. I calmly said no, but was taken aback; he knocked my chair back so that my dress flew up, displaying my underwear, which his friend caught an image of on his phone. They heckled and sauntered away. Another young man sat near me helped me up, and then chased down the street for the gang! He pushed the ringleader into a wall and warned him never to do anything like that again. They left sulkily.
The kind young man returned to the cafe, making sure I was alright. Seeing that this was the example all men should follow as he was such a gentleman, I fell in love and we got married a few years later 🙂
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
The lull between Christmas and New Year is the perfect time for reflection, you’ve consumed four times your body weight in turkey and paralyzed on the sofa you are forced to think of this year’s events. Was it, for instance, absolutely necessary to reiterate the rules of Monopoly to your family in such an abrupt manner? Also, given the substantial bundle that you spent on that spectacular NYE dress that you can now neither pull past your knees or your shoulders, was it essential to buy enough food to feed you and a large army twice over in the event of a nuclear holocaust?
Amidst these important ponderings hopefully you had time to contemplate Hollaback’s State of the Streets Report! It is truly awe-inspiring to see the movement grow from a tiny sapling to a beautifully flourishing revolution. This year Hollaback! has inspired international leadership by training young women and LGBTQ individuals to build their own grassroots movements centered around street harassment, they have managed to shift public opinion and have gained international press from the NY Times to the BBC.
Hollaback! has engaged the attention of numerous elected officials, as well as organizing the first New York City Council world hearing on street harassment. But most importantly Hollaback! has encouraged you the readership to find your voices and speak out on street harassment. To date the organization has published over 3,000 stories of all varying forms of street harassment. But the action does not stop here!
We still need your help! We need to keep spreading the word and educating the masses about what behavior is acceptable in public spaces and how to keep our streets safe. We still need to encourage the world to find their voices and Hollaback! for themselves and for other people. YOU DO HAVE THE POWER TO END STREET HARASSMENT!
My suggestion is that on December 31 you save the $200 you were going to spend on some pretentious club where they make you line up for 30 minutes, only to enter an empty bar, sporadically dappled by people in jaunty headwear that haven’t smiled since the mid 90s when it became unpopular to do so in photos. Save it and then donate it to Hollaback! There’s no better way to see in 2012 than joining a bloody brilliant revolution that involves everyone! 99 per cent of women will experience street harassment in their lives (Kearl 2010) and this study does not even include LGBTQ and Men. Street Harassment, in all its ugly forms, is something everyone on earth shares and together we can stop it. So let’s not procrastinate any longer get your hand in your pocket and donate to a truly worthy cause so the next generation won’t have to!
Happy New Year Hollabackers!!
There were two men in their mid 50’s in the elevator. As soon as I get in I hear “sexy, sexy, sexy”. I did not react because I had just finished dining with my dad and cousin and the last thing that was crossing my mind was that I would have to deal with sexual harassment. The old man became quiet right after my dad entered the elevator with me. Then, my dad noticed they were drunk.
Lesson I learned today: Sexual harassment is UNEXPECTED, I have to be more aware of my surroundings, and carry my pepper spray at all times!!! If my dad would have not been there, the harassment could have been much worst!
Thousands of Israeli protestors gathered on the streets of Beit Shamesh, West of Jerusalem on Tuesday evening demonstrating against ultra-Orthodox Jewish extremism that caused the harassment of an 8-year-old Jewish girl on her way to school, as well as the systematic abuse of women all over the town.
According to the BBC, protestors sprang into action following a nationwide documentary, which revealed that school girl, Naama Margolese, was terrified of walking to school. Naama said she lived in fear of being abused in the street or even being spat at by ultra-Orthodox men that have been regularly protesting outside a religious girls school about the so called ‘immodest dress’ code of the children.
Naama’s mother, Hadassah Margoleese told the BBC that the school children were having nightmares about the daily abuse. She told reporters about her daughter:
“Whenever she hears a noise she asks, ‘are they there, are they out there?’”
The ultra-Orthodox minority is seeking to segregate men and women and to enforce a strict interpretation of religious laws.
In retaliation the people of Beit Shamesh have stood together in solidarity holding signs saying “Free Israel from Religious Coercion.” Israeli President Shimon Peres is supporting the protest telling reporters:
“The entire nation must be recruited in order to save the majority from the hands of a small minority”.
He called the protest a preservation of the state of Israel’s “character against a minority which breaks our national solidarity.”
Globally and in Turkey, street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence, yet one of the least legislated against. Due to the prevalence of physical and verbal harassment in public spaces, Canımız Sokakat conducted research on the nature of street harassment in Istanbul. We wanted to see understand street harassment beyond the numerous stories we’ve received.
Here are our results:
One respondent to the survey explains: “Whether it is verbal or physical harassment, even after many years, unfortunately, one cannot forget it.” Another respondent echoes a similar sentiment: “It has been two and a half years since that incident, but I still feel fear and panic riding buses.” These feeling could be why 93% of our respondents consider street harassment an important issue today:
This research is only the beginning for us. We know there are hundreds of thousands undocumented stories of street harassment and that there are so many victims and bystanders who have been silenced by a culture that supports harassers. Research like this is one major step to understand street harassment in Istanbul and ultimately combat it. Any questions on our research, email us [email protected]. And help us out submitting your story of street harassment today!
BY EMILY MAY
Take one look at our State of the Streets Report and you’ll know we’ve had an incredible year. But here is the stuff that is never covered in the press, but it is the absolute backbone of every move we make: YOU (yes you) ARE AWESOME. Now we are asking you to be awesome again, and donate to our end-of-year campaign.
We aren’t a traditional nonprofit, and you aren’t traditional supporters. You are risktakers. In May of 2010 I jumped off the cliff to start Hollaback! and built wings on the way down. And you jumped with me.
I know that I get a lot of credit for launching Hollaback!, but it has never just been me. Then we built a board of another 15. Now we’ve got 150 sites leaders in 45 cities, 16 countries, and 9 different languages. And now we have 17 volunteers with titles in our New York office. Everything you see is made by them: the program, the 45 websites, the apps, our logo, our merch.
We wouldn’t exist without our voluteers – but we also wouldn’t exist without our supporters. In California, a young lesbian woman is tithing 10% of her income Hollaback! until her church accepts her. She works at Starbucks and makes approximately $500/month.
With every donation that comes through the door, whether it is $5 or $5000 — I think to myself oh my god — this is it. This is what fuels us. And I’m not just talking about the reality of financing. I’m talking having people like you in the world who feel so passionately about this work that they are willing to give anything to make it happen. That, to me, is revolutionary. Because it is what fuels the revolution. The revolution that everyone said couldn’t be done.
So thank you for being here. Thank you for being awesome. You sustain us, nourish us, and literally put the food on our plates that makes us able to continue to do this work.
Please support our work by making an end-of-year gift to us today.
Michigan State University is known for being a “party school”. This is not why I attend, however many young ‘men’ I have met take pride in this reputation and find it necessary to act immaturely on campus.
My freshman year I was walking to a nearby bus stop to go to meijer. It was about 5pm and already getting dark out, and I was by myself.. I was already feeling wary. As I walked by one of the dorms a pickup truck with 4 younger men inside pulled up next to me with its windows rolled down. I pretended not to notice, but knew they would say something.
The boy in the passenger seat yelled at me “my buddy here wants to take you out back and rape you!” I’m not kidding. I can’t remember what went through my head, but I acted like I ignored them and kept walking. When the truck was out of sight I realized what just happened…I started shaking and crying, and dialed my best friend right away.
Over a year later this plays over and over through my head. I wish SO bad that I had gotten the license plate number and turned the boys in to the police. WHERE do boys learn that it is ok to stalk a girl BY HERSELF and harass her or threaten rape?? (the ‘out back’ thing confuses the shit out of me too)
To the young women out there: there are evidently men out there who think it’s ok to do things like this. if something like this happens to you, CALL THE COPS IMMEDIATELY.
I was dressed in baggy sweats, but I’m sure that the moment they noticed my gender, they made me a victim.
I was walking to the CVS and saw a man standing there leaning on a railing near the store. He looked very unkempt and I tried to walk past without making eye-contact. As I walked by him he literally yelled “Why you teasing me like that! Why you teasing me like that!” Then he shook his entire body (like someone would do if they were cold) to make his point.
Then as I entered the CVS, he asked me if I could get him some food. Not to be unkind, but after I have been harassed, how do you expect me to want to give you food?
When I left the store, I took the opposite route from the one I had taken before to avoid the man. And even then it seemed that he had been waiting for me to come out because he shouted after me. I was relieved that he didn’t follow me.
As a woman I have been harassed on the street too many times, and I am just fed up. I’m tired of feeling uncomfortable in certain situations simply because I am a female. And I’m tried of how brave and arrogant men can be on the street. They behave this way because they know that nothing well to be done about their behavior.
I’m tired of always being viewed as a piece of meat by certain men on the street even though I never provoke or do anything to warrant that kind of reaction. I’m also tired of men thinking that cat-calling/verbal harassment on the street is ok. I sometimes want to tell the men off but I’m afraid of what their reaction will be.
I’m so happy that I have this sight as a forum to speak out about this.
BY EMILY MAY
There is nothing like a fresh batch of hate mail to get me motivated. Back when we first started Hollaback!, hate mail made me feel so crappy inside. What can I say? I was socialized to be a girl and make everyone like me — even the people I didn’t really like. It took a while for me to re-socialize as an activist and realize that you’re not making change unless you’re pissing people off.
Allow me to geek out on nonprofit-performance-management stuff for a second, but it is really hard to measure social and behavioral change in society. Is Hollaback! succeeding when we get more stories or less? How do we know when people have the “click” moment that makes them stop harassing? How do we know how we contributed to it? Hate mail seems like as good of a metric as any. So bring it, haters. We’re quite pleased with ourselves that our vision of a world without street harassment has made you so deeply uncomfortable.
And now, a message from our hater of the day. Typos were left intact. Oh, and I should put a RAGE warning on this:
“WOMEN KNOW WOMEN ARE ALWAYS TO BLAME. WOMEN ARE THE TROUBLE STARTER. WOMEN ARE ALWAYS GUILTY. WOMEN HAVE NO RIGHT TO BE ON THIS PLANET. YOU KNOW WHERE YOU BELONG. WHY DONT YOU LEAVE… I AM USA WASHINGTON DC CAPITOL DISCTRICT OFFICIAL. I AM USA LAW. I SEE STRAIGHT THROUGH THIS HOAX OF WOMEN. YOU WOMEN ALWASY ASSAULT AND BATTERIZE EVERYONE. YOU WANT EVERYONE TO BE YOUR SLAVE. YOU ALL ARE SO EVIL. OTHER THAN EVIL WHAT ELSE CAN YOU DO? QUIT SLAVING THE POLICE AROUND THE TOWN LIKE CLOWNS.”
By Laurel Long for Hollaback Bmore!
In January of 2011, I started working on an undergraduate thesis on street harassment. This began with me reading everything I could get my hands on about street harassment. Unfortunately, there is not a lot of academic literature on the topic; what few articles do exist tend to be on the blogosphere, which is not a source a student can frequently cite for a paper. This shows street harassment, with its accompanying terror, is made invisible by the academy. Therefore, it is likely not mentioned in Women’s Studies or Sociology classes, limiting students’ likelihood of considering the subject of relevance. Yet, perusing academic literature, one can find articles on every aspect of sexual harassment in the workplace and school environments. Who benefits from street harassment being left off the table? Not women.
Anyone who has written a serious academic paper knows that it is your job to explain exactly why your findings are relevant. Clearly, street harassment is of importance because it (negatively) affects so many women, but it is also significant as it plays a role in keeping women subordinate to men. I believe it’s important to not just hold individual men accountable for their behavior, but to step back and look at what role men’s street harassment of women and other target groups plays in a patriarchal society. We need to ask: why is street harassment used as a weapon against women? In my opinion, part of the answer to this is that it keeps public space marked as male territory. It also is part of a larger set of male violence against women, as the reason women are afraid of what might seem like minor cat-calling to men, is that sexual innuendos are backed up by the threat of sexual assault. Many women, including street harassed women, are survivors of sexual assault, battery, and rape. As Turkheimer notes, “A hierarchy looks very different from the bottom than from the top.” Thus, in order to help women feel comfortable sharing their experiences of street harassment, I limited my groups to women only.
Several of my participants proposed “raising your kids right” as a way to prevent street harassment. However, children do not exist outside of the society in which they live. When there are rewards for harassing women—respect from peers, affirmation of a dominant, heterosexual identity—how one is raised doesn’t get to the root of the problem. It also doesn’t take into account that street harassment is one part of a male-centered, male-identified, and male-dominant society. Nor do parental actions do anything about the fact that there are zilch consequences for almost all street harassers. If men gain from harassing, and can do so with impunity, what incentive is there to stop?
Most women I interviewed did not think that legal measures against street harassment can be feasibly implemented. One reason for this is that street harassment is currently such a vague, subjective term. Yet, sexual harassment in the workplace and schools is prosecutable, although women do not monolithically agree on what constitutes sexual harassment. While I am also wary of involvement of the legal system, I do think having a law in place says that women matter and that we cannot be hurt in this way. Even having signs up about such a law might ward off some men from harassing women and other target groups. We need to remember that once issues such as incest and battery seemed overwhelming to deal with. Think how far we have come legally on these issues in a matter of decades. Then think where we can be in another few decades with the issue of street harassment. Re-starting consciousness raising (CR) groups to talk about street harassment and other issues that affect women’s lives would no doubt be helpful as well. As long as we keep quiet about street harassment, declaring it not important enough to talk about, it will never be defined as a problem. I am positive that we will figure out a way to deal with the problem posed by defining street harassment when working to end street harassment. Don’t take that to mean I need to be ordered to “smile, baby,” just because I am optimistic about the direction of this movement.
Note: You can find Laurel’s entire thesis right here.