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For more than a year now I have passed the same guy on my walk to work at least once if not multiple times a week. He’s a middle aged man who wears dark rimmed glasses and flamboyant brightly colored suits always walking west on Lake Street. He also makes a very obvious point to look me (and every other woman in a one block radius) up and down every time I walk by him– sometimes I will have walked 10 or 15 feet past him and I turn around and he is walking with his head turned all the way around still looking at my behind. He always tries to lean in way too close with a “Hey baby” or a “Looking fine, girl” or making that awful kissing noise– that’s his favorite. This is the way you call a dog, dude. It does NOT make me want to sleep with you. In fact, it makes me want to kick you in the groin.
Normally I am pretty good at ignoring idiots like this, but the fact that I experience this on a regular basis from the same person– that I can spot him from a block away and know what is coming– totally infuriates me. I have given him the dirtiest looks I can muster, stared him down, told him he is disgusting, but I’m pretty sure he gets off on that because his behavior never changes… if anything, he gets a little braver and lingers a little longer and he’s still the same awful creep that I can expect to run into almost every morning.
A guy with a leaf-blower was out in front of this building – it’s not a church, but it has a steeple. I was just going for a nice morning walk, and noticed that he was walking alongside of me for a little while, a few feet away. I looked over at him, and he gave me a really creepy smile. A cop car drove by, and I told him to leave me alone. I started walking faster, and he did too, but then eventually turned and started leaf-blowing again. I can only imagine he was on the job. What was even more infuriating was that there was a nice-looking guy presumably walking to an office nearby, and I looked at him with a look of frustration trying to say with my eyes ‘can you believe how awful he’s being?!’, and that guy just gave an ‘it’s none of my business’ grin and walked away. Come on, bystanders!
I was walking my dog and my step-mother’s dog on the lawn. My dog was on a leash and I bent down to pet him. As a vehicle drove by, a male voice shouted “Bend over!”
I was so shocked that this was happening in a residential neighborhood in Winthrop Maine that I wasn’t able to react. As the vehicle drove off (I can’t even remember what it was), I flipped my middle finger, but it didn’t make me feel better.
By REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
20 years ago this month College Professor Anita Hill took to the witness stand at the confirmation hearings of Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Despite being accused of “flat-out perjury,” Hill courageously revealed to the world that whilst working under Thomas’, the Supreme Court nominee had not only pressured her for dates, but, had boasted of his sexual prowess and regularly, with great detail had described pornographic films to her.
Two decades later on October 15 prominent scholars, attorneys, journalists, activists and our very own Emily May came together for New York City conference “Sex, Power and Speaking Truth: Anita Hill 20 Years Later” to celebrate the controversy that not only launched modern day public awareness but redefined stock assumptions of exactly how sexual harassment manifests itself. And I was lucky enough to bag myself a ticket.
Anita Hill gave a wonderfully casual and gracious talk about her experiences regarding intersectional racism-sexism in the wake of her 1991 hearing. Amidst the rejuvenating hullabaloo a poignant moment stood out to me. Hill referred to polls revealing that 70 percent of Americans felt that she had been treated fairly by the all-white, all-male Senate Judiciary. I asked myself how is this possible? Largely due to gender stereotyping and the myth of manipulative women. The severity of such stock perceptions is their impact on an honest woman’s testimonial. I believe that this form of sexism survives by condoning the “boys will be boys” attitude, whereby a male is above the law by virtue of his boyhood. A woman, particularly one of color with all the historical baggage of colonization and slavery, is seen as sexually available by default. To protest sexual harassment, in this instance, is ridiculous because “boys will be boys.”
Anita Hill made no apologies for audaciously confronting her attacker and celebrating her tenacity 20 years on will hopefully educate and inspire the next generation of empowered women. The conference yielded the notion that education starts from the ground up. Actively speaking the truth is the first step to enacting legislation against any type of harassment to create an environment where people take women seriously because women take themselves seriously. I encourage women to speak up and defend themselves! If you hear:
Take him on:
“Oh hey, you think I’m sexy? Well, geez! I just feel like I’m walking home! But tell me about that…”
Issues of gender-based stereotyping, violence and sexism in general should not be a taboo subject, bring it up at family dinners, in friendly emails, on Facebook or Twitter, at school, in the park or at the store. Being a kick-ass, sassy and change inspiring feminist is a fun and full-time job and it pays off to be empowering yourself and those around you. Show people that the stereotypes are wrong all we want is gender equality and mutual respect.
“We, as activists and saboteurs who seek to upset the status quo, are in a place of danger and we need to protect ourselves. And yet, we are about to be free and we are not going to stop.”
Why do you HOLLA? Because any kind of harassment is not okay!
What’s your craft? I’m a lawyer.
HOLLAfact about your city: Chandigarh is one of the cleanest and most well-planned cities in India
What was your first experience with street harassment? My first experience was when I was 16 years old. I was walking from home to a nearby market and a group of boys started following me. They were hooting and commenting. My first reaction was to find a way out of the situation. I quickened my pace and entered a shop where I knew the owner. I stayed inside until I saw them leave.
Define your style: I am an eternal optimist. I like to believe the best of people. I try to understand why people do the things that they do. No one is inherently evil and if you just try a little, you can connect to the human inside of everyone.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? All harassers would have to pay a $100 fine for each incident of harassment and the money would be used to fund Hollaback! campaigns all over the world!
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? To let go of judgements.
My superheroine power is…positivity!
What inspires you? The amazing strength of the human spirit.
In the year 2020, street harassment…will be a thing of the past.
A few months ago, I was just walking down a street and minding my own business. When I heard shouts behind me, I turned around and saw a car driving past with about four men in it shouting comments like “Alright, Sexy”, and “I’d smash your back doors in”. I was fifteen at the time, and even though I’d had a few looks and comments before it really scared me, and I was really shook up by the whole situation. Something should definitely be done about this, it may be seen by men as a bit of banter, but it’s completely insulting and derogatory. A few if my friends have also had experiences like this, and none of them have been impressed.
On Sept. 12th, 2011 at roughly 11:30 PM I was walking to a bar on Congress St. I had dropped off two friends, then went with another to park. Walking to the bar after parking, I was approached by an unknown male, very obviously chemically impaired (glassy eyes,profuse sweating.) He was initially shouting about being kicked out of one of the bars, then realized I was Trans* and started unleashing a string of transphobic slurs and threats, telling me that I did not belong in that part of town. At one point he physically confronted me, bumping his chest into me and shoving me. A very firm knee to the groin did not deter him, nor could his companion, a short man, convince him to stop. Fortunately, the woman I was walking with entered the bar next door and dispatched the bartender, who promptly dialed 911 and came out to assist, causing the assaulter to flee down an alley.
I was walking from the metro to my apartment today when this gross guy came up behind me. I knew he was saying something to me but I just pretended not to notice him because I was wearing headphones. Then he started speaking really loud so I could hear him over the earphones: “You’re a really beautiful woman.” I’m positive this ugly mofo thought he was doing me a favor but it was just embarrassing. I just pretended not to notice him over my music even though he was in my face. I arrived at the entrance to my apartment and went inside.
This happens to me a lot in the 2 minute walk between the metro and my apartment and it’s infuriating. I pledged to speak up the next time one of these perverts was close enough for me to confront them (they often just things as they drive by). But in that moment, I couldn’t do it. I thought, if I piss this guy off, he’s going to know where I live and it will only make things worse. I was so angry at myself because immediately after I got home I thought of all the things I would have liked to say to him. More than anything, I wanted him to feel mortified like he made me feel in front of my own home, without letting him know he had gotten to me. Here’s what I would have like to have said:
Smiling like I was interested, I’d say “You’re pretty confident, aren’t you?”
And he’d respond with some kind of “Yes.”
And then with a straight face, I’d love to have said: “Well you shouldn’t be. You’re shorter than a 4th grader.”
Maybe next time I’ll have the courage?
WE NEED A HOLLABACK LA. This city is filled with creeps.
It appears to me that much of the cultural devaluation of the “feminine” comes from the long-held myth that there is an intrinsic difference between the genders.
Growing up, an easy label to attach to myself was “tomboy” because I was “like a boy” in that I did not like dresses or pink. But now I do like dresses and pink and I’m still me but no longer considered a “tomboy.” How odd! “Tomboy” itself is an unfair idea. I’m not ‘like a boy’ if I dislike pink. I’m like a biological female who sometimes does. It’s a color. A color is not characteristic of a gender.
As spirit-lifting author and transgender activist Kate Bornstein says “Gender attribution is phallocentric. One is male until perceived otherwise.” I think this universal acceptance of man and “maleness” as being normal (hence, a tomboy is ‘like a boy’ since boys and males are the standards against which we measure things) unfairly marks non-males and non-“masculine” behavior (such as enjoying the color pink) as abnormal. Women, not being men, are Other, Alien, Anonymous; the helper, the obstacle, the enemy, the prize.
So, voila! My humble plea: Let us not think in polar opposites. Let us bust some myths.
The myth that men are and should be stolid and unfeeling cuts off menfolk from actual human feelings. The myth that men are weak to their sexual desires (which are generally defined as heterosexual, dominant, impulsive and darned sloppy) is a myth that limits the full scope of men’s sexuality and reduces men to the state of a childlike predator. (See: Hugo Schwyzer http://www.hugoschwyzer.net/
The myth that women are pure, pretty princesses is weird, dehumanizing and unrealistic. And much worse is the myth that women are depraved and must be controlled and censored in order to prevent great, scary, mysteriously feminine things (like what–equality?). This myth cuts off women’s sexual development and tells a great, socially-accepted lie about what women are (non-sexual) and what they can be (slaves).
Both of these myths—men as helpless beasts and women as evil ninnies—hurt EVERYONE. In this polar-opposite construction of gender differences, men are hapless attackers; women perpetual victims and no one goes home happy. If we can break out of the system that tells us what we are, if we can stop being manipulated by false ideas that sell stereotypes about our sexual potentials, then we can freely express ourselves sexually and ethically without fear of sexual assault.
In essence: We are not dissimilar males and non-males, but friends! There are no absolute, essential qualities inherent in any gender. I advocate a smashing of the old lies and myths so we can more realistically see ourselves as diverse, sexual people of many stripes. Onward!
BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
Know that jaunty feeling when you’re walking down the street and see a fine-looking individual? Don’t punch them in the face. Because that’s what it feels like to be piercingly stared to the ground, whistled at, lip-smacked, pinched and bullied.
I’ve been doing some thinking about that common street harassment excuse that these things are “just compliments.”
This defense brings up a tricky double bind.
The male privilege (taught, not innate) to stare, mock and hurt (a privilege that many men don’t even consider, never having being raised as women to be constantly alert to attack) exists on an unpleasant continuum of dehumanizing actions that stretches from lewd gestures to physical assault. In other words, the philosophy that Women are Prizes, not people—pretty ornaments, immaterial support systems or peripheral cast members to the Everyman—can encompass everything from mockery to rape.
“Sexuality” as presented in this traditional predator-prey mold is adversarial. Man attacks woman. End of story. And in this impossibly limited characterization, the ONLY way a woman is allowed to receive any power without recourse is to enjoy the male attention, to be a happy recipient of condoned male attention or aggression.
But EVERYONE wants to be admired. This is not a FEMALE trait. Everyone wants to admire. This is not a MALE trait. We all want the same things. The issue is context, duration, awareness of situations. Men are taught to pursue. Women are taught to take it or internally fight it, but certainly not do anything to protest the system that created it.
Everyone wants to look and be looked at in comfortable, erotic, safe situations. But it’s not a compliment if the recipient’s response is anger or hurt. So how do we get to more equilateral gender relations? I suggest 1) valuing and teaching clear communication skills and 2) encouraging people to express desires and boundaries with awareness of the other person’s desires and boundaries.
In other words: The next time you see a hot chick/cad/fellow person on the street, smile. Say hello. Do a little dance if you can’t keep it inside. But don’t be mean. No one wants to bang the mean person. After all, no kind expression of interest will ever warrant the desperate defense that it was “just a compliment.”