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I was actually harassed moments after leaving tonight’s book release on “Stop Street Harassment”. It was the strangest thing it was almost as if the whole thing was planned as an ironic joke or something. But I guess I was so angry after the talk that before this guy even finished his sentence I flipped out on him! I saw him leering a me as he was walking towards me and he started to say “Damn baby, you look….” I just lost it. The thing is that I have always had a mixed bag of reactions when dealing with this sort of thing, some of the time I would say something but most of the time I would say nothing and just let it happen to me. It was invigorating to put that guy in his place, especially since I could see that he honestly didn’t expect it! He was with two other guys who said nothing during the whole exchange which may have proven to have humiliated him in front of his friends. I hope this story inspires all women or rather all victims of street harassment to stand up for themselves whenever it is safe for them to do so and to never miss that opportunity. Tonight I was glad that I didn’t.
Submitted by Esmeralda
Editor’s Note: Thank you to Esmeralda and everyone else who came to the “Stop Street Harassment” book launch last night! It was great to see so many people there, and a big congratulations to Holly on this important contribution to the movement!
If you’ve complained to others about street harassment, you’ve probably been told to “toughen up” or “get a thicker skin.” Like as if somehow, the fact that street harassment hurts is your fault. It’s a decision that you make, and if you were just a little stronger, and a little less of a “girl,” the problem would be solved.
When street harassment hurts, it’s not because we’re not strong enough. In fact, I think it’s our strength that makes it hurt more. Street harassment shatters our perspectives on who we are: smart, dynamic, bold; and instead focuses on who we aren’t: bitches, whores, and pairs of tits. So — too often — we just try to ignore it. And it works, sometimes. But most of the time it doesn’t, and the hurt just sits inside us, “like molton lava boiling right underneath the surface of my skin.”
In this incredible piece called “Thinner Skin” the writer talks eloquently about how you can’t just make the hurt of street harassment go away. How it lives inside us. She tells the story of her own sexual assault and writes: ” I’ve been threatened. I’ve been hurt. My friends have been threatened and hurt. I regard any man invading my space and disrespecting me as a direct threat to my well being. Every single time I get verbally accosted, every single time a man sits too close on purpose. Every single time I catch a man, out of the corner of my eyes, sizing me up as bait. I feel that same rage. I am there again.” For survivors of sexual assault, street harassment can feel like ripping a scab off – three, four, five times a day. Any doctor will tell you that’s no way to heal.
A thick skin would be helpful if we wanted to ignore the world’s problems, internalize our pain, and just stay at home. But for the world we’re trying to create, the skin we’ve got will do just fine. We need to be OK with the fact that it hurts because we’re strong, not in spite of it. Because if we keep this myth up that street harassment hurts because we’re weak, it will continue to get passed down generation to generation. Just like it did to us.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to transform street harassment from something that is lonely and isolating, to something that is shareable. The internet is our new campfire, and if we’re going to solve this we have to start by talking about it, by responding to it, by holla’ing back. The world won’t listen if we keep pretending that our silence means it doesn’t hurt.
If you’re not getting an ample supply of street harassment during your commute, while biking, while walking, while shopping, eating, praying, loving, or just generally breathing, then print out this new game from Scary Godmother and enjoy round-the-clock misogyny. Wait, what’s that? You already do? Well maybe you’ll just have to send this link to anyone who’s ever asked why you can’t just take a compliment, then, and hope they’ll get the hint.
In London, Vicki Simister from the LASH campaign has been meeting with policy makers for Oona King (pictured here). King is running for Mayor in the 2012 election – and has recently promised to write street harassment into her policy!
To our knowledge, this is the first time that street harassment has become a major campaign issue. This tremendous leadership is incredible for London, but it is also a model for how street harassment can be addressed in other cities. Her policy even proclaims that street harassment is a “gateway to more serious forms of violence,” something that we’ve been shouting off the rooftops for years now.
Reading policy has never made us swoon more:
“Commission Police reports across the capital about the extent of street harassment, and include it within anti-social behaviour programmes”
The policy also says:
“Taking street harassment seriously
Street harassment is a regular occurrence for women in London, but is barely mentioned in government policy in the past. It is completely unacceptable that women should be expected to put up with casual intimidation, from unwanted sexual comments to being followed or even groped, simply as a result of going out in public. It is also likely that this behaviour acts as a gateway to more serious forms of violence, and so we simply cannot afford to let it go unchallenged. The Mayor should promote a culture in which street harassment is recognised as unacceptable, and women do not have to suffer it in silence. Working with police, boroughs and Transport for London, effective action should include:
• Ensuring that local authorities recognise sexual harassment as a from of violence
against women, and incorporate it into their training and policies
• Identifying London’s “harassment hotspots” and putting more police and community
support officers where they are needed
• Coordinating a poster campaign to challenge this form of behaviour and encourage
women to report it
• Establishing best practice in police responses, including consistent monitoring and
enforcement where there is evidence of persistent harassment
• Working with local councils and community groups to ensure consensus on the unacceptability of street harassment”
Kudos to Vicki from the LASH campaign for making this happen!
Despite the fact that I don’t live anywhere near New York, I’d like to submit my experience;
I’m a young caucasian girl and pretty oblivious at times. It was dark and I was taking the city bus home from a peer-education group meeting. I nearly always sit in the back of the bus because the drivers like to talk to pretty young girls if they’re sitting close enough. My city is pretty racially segregated and I happen to live in the ‘black’ part of town that’s up at bat for gentrification. The racial tension in the neighborhood is hideous and, at times, I’m ashamed of the color of my skin. This bus was predominately occupied by african-americans. I was feeling eyes crawling on my stupid whit skin and I was trying not to look as uncomfortable or out of place as I felt. I was listening to my ipod and texting my friend and trying to feel ok when I noticed these two older guys looking at my chest. One of them had dreadlocks with a receding hairline and the other had a cigarette tucked behind his ear. About thirty seconds after I noticed them, they both pulled their sunglasses over their eyes. They were talking to each other but I couldn’t hear what they were saying so I casually turned the volume of my music all the way down. Then Mr. Dreads pulled out his phone and they started talking about the camera function. Mr. Cigarette was saying something to the effect of ‘Oh that’s nice! Look at that resolution!’ The camera lens was pointed at my chest. I didn’t want to say anything and I didn’t want to move. I know that if the guys had been my same race, I’d have felt confident enough to yell at them but because of the pre-existing tension, I was unsure of how to deal with them. I didn’t (and don’t) want to be painted as racist but I felt it then. I was a minority in the situation but those men would have claimed me to be the aggressor. After a bit of thinking I worked up the courage to zip up my sweatshirt and turn my body slightly away from them.
I haven’t seen them since and hopefully won’t again. I’ve never been so uncomfortable and unsure of myself. I couldn’t even tell my mom about it for fear she would revoke the little freedom she gives me.
Submitted by Casper
NOTE: As part of our anti-racism policy, we do not identify the race of the harassers in the post, unless the relevance to the story is “clearly and constructively” explained. We felt this was a good example of that.
After a short hiatus, ‘this week in street harassment’ is back with a whole bunch of updates.
First of all, we have two internship opportunities for anyone who is interested in getting more involved in the movement to end street harassment:
Hollaback!NYC is looking for a Policy, Research and Development Intern to join our team of volunteers. Check out the details here and send cover letters to firstname.lastname@example.org.
RightRides for Women’s Safety is currently looking for a Media and Outreach Intern. RightRides for Women’s Safety builds safer communities for women and LGBTQ individuals through community organizing, policy advocacy, direct service programs, and anti-violence education with the goal of fostering greater safety awareness and individual empowerment in New York City. The full job description is available here.
Check out this fantastic article on street harassment in London. This piece in The Guardian discusses how widespread street harassment is and the impact it has on women, as well as providing information about the anti-street harassment movement. Organizations like Hollaback! and the LASH campaign are leading the charge as women and LGBTQ folks speak out and the world starts to pay attention.
Also from the Guardian, some women, tired of being harassed while biking around the city, have started a Hollaback! style mapping project! Awesome. Also, why are there so many men out there who think that “hey- you should ride me” is a good line to use on cyclists???
Our own Emily May is interviewed at No Country for Young Women and reminds us that Hollaback! is all about creating a response. The situation can escalate if you yell and walking away gives you that horrible I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-internalize-this-crap-everyday feeling, but Hollaback gives you a way to respond and a community to support you!
This street harassment based webcomic could be my life on a bad day. Thank to the always entertaining and irreverent ladies at Jezebel for posting it – as they point out, having your experience dismissed and belittled can be as frustrating and painful as the original harassment.
Indonesia is the latest country to introduce women-only spaces on public transportation. While this obviously doesn’t do anything to address the larger issues that have made groping on trains such a problem (except perhaps for acknowledging that harassment is a serious and wide-spread issue that affects numerous women), it is a welcome relief in the mean time.
Finally, I know that this creep who has been walking around squirting semen on women is old news at this point, but on behalf of everyone here at Hollaback!, let me say EW.
I have a trick for you. Get a camcorder (I got a handheld mino camcorder) and when someone who is ON THE JOB, especially if it’s “drive by harassment” and they’re driving a company vehicle, take down the name (if possible) and license plate (definitely a must!) and report them! I have done it so many times (Well, not that many, lol) that I’ve gotten rid of some bad apples. Hell, the threat alone will scare them. AlSO, ALWAYS have a recording device. I do, and it scares them faster than a gun (especially if they’re job is on the line or they’re driving) I don’t know if it will work in NY, but I know it works in Cali like a charm and better than any gun or pepper spray! Below is my street harassment report by an employee and how I’m handling it.
Dear Sir or Madam:
I want to report sexual harassment and outrageous behavior by your employee, G***, while on the job. On September 1, 2010, between the hours of 6:48 pm and 7pm, I was driving down Whilshire, away from Santa Monica and headed towards Beverly Hills when I noticed that your employee, took my picture, while he was driving. I inquired G*** as to whether he did it or not. He proudly said, “Yes, I did take your picture,” with glee. When I started recording him, that is when he took off. I was able to get a pic of him and of his license plate, a Virginia license plate. I feel strongly that what he did was not only morally and ethically wrong and reflects badly of your company, but reflects an absolute disrespect for women and a perverted, predatory attitude towards us. Who knows how many women he has done this to as well as what he is doing with those pictures. Based on how G*** proudly proclaimed that he did it, it’s obvious that he has done this predatory behavior in the past and has gotten away with it, which is why he felt so comfortable admitting to this. Women are not objects and I want to see Gene strongly reprimanded so that he won’t do this behavior again or else the next time he does this, instead of the next victim reporting it, they’ll decide to sue. In attachments are two stills from the video I took. My name is Raven Williams and my phone number is (witheld). Thank you for taking the time out to read my complaint and please take this matter fastidiously.
Submitted by Raven Williams
This morning I was waiting at the bus stop, on my way to work, when a skeezy looking dude sat near me. Out of the corner of my eye I could see that SOMETHING was going on. When I looked, he had everything out and was, shall we say, choking the chicken. I was the only person around. For a moment I was just shocked and didn’t know what to do, but then I remembered reading about street harassment and how important it is to react. So I did. I yelled and caused a scene. Sadly, no one else witnessed my brilliant display of swearing and gesticulating, but anyway, he left. I only wish I had said something clever about his pathetic willy.
I have had people yell out of car windows, make comments while walking next to me (‘do you like wearing g-strings?’ – I held eye contact and didn’t say a word until he freaked out and crossed the road) and all the rest of it happen to me, but I’ve never seen someone actually whip it out and give it a tug. Truly, what the hell?
Submitted by Sarah
I thought I’d submit this because it happened a few days ago and I’m still pissed off about it. I wish I knew what I could have done to make it better. I don’t know if you’ll be able to use this or not, but here goes.
My three roommates and I are coming back from a wonderful late dinner. We’re all girls in our early twenties. I keep writing defensive sentences about our appearance (“we weren’t dressed as clubgoers, we’re all pretty average schlumpy nerds actually”) and I really hate that I feel the need to do that, but anyway. As one of us is getting out her keys to get into the building, some scrawny young dude in a white t-shirt walks up to us, alone. “Hey. Hey. Hi. Hi. Hello, girls. Hi.”
There goes the residual happiness from our awesome dinner out! We all do the classic ‘oh fuck’ maneuver of putting our heads down, turning away, ignoring every word and hoping the unwanted stranger goes away. A sick feeling of tension spreads through the group because we are awkward and afraid. I get so ANGRY, though. I am FURIOUS. If we’d had even one guy with us, I bet this scrawny fuck wouldn’t be talking shit because he’d be scared, but a group of four girls is nothing, right? (Even though we could so take him. I bet we could so take him.) But to him we’re nothing, and the fact that there is zero conceivable reason that four young women would want to communicate with some random strange guy at midnight on the Upper East Side just hasn’t penetrated this fellow’s thick cranium. What the hell doesn’t he get? Why does he think this is okay? Does he get off on knowing he frightens and alarms us? (Yeah, probably.)
And this always happens. You always shut up because you don’t want to say anything just in case you’re talking to some crazy dangerous guy who’ll flip out. You don’t want to cause a scene, you don’t want to embarrass anybody, you don’t want your attempt at defending yourself to backfire. You want to close your eyes and for the issue to go away and then later you think, “I wish I would have said something. I could have said something.”
Well FUCK THAT. I’m so SICK of shutting up all the time, and I want him to know that his actions are bloody unwelcome, so I DO say something. “It is midnight, and we are trying to get into our apartment. Nobody wants to talk to you. Go away,” I snap at him furiously. My friends are all still quiet as the one roommate fumbles her keys in her nervousness. No one backs me up.
“Aw, now how you gonna talk to me like that? What if I was crazy and had a gun or a knife? What if I was one of them crazy guys that would just go all crazy on you?”
So many responses spring to mind (“Yeah, you wanna be crazy around the corner from a packed bar? You wanna act crazy in the middle of the street? You wanna watch me dial three crazy numbers on my crazy cell phone, idiot? Yeah, if you had that shit, wouldn’t you have used it by now?”), but the tension is so thick and sour in my throat. I don’t want to give credence to this fool’s statement by engaging him in conversation. He isn’t worth any of my time. He’s obviously not there for any reasonable reason. No debate will register with this one, no argument will work. I don’t want to act sweet or nice. I want to be that one mean-faced Bronx bitch you don’t fuck with ’cause she’s obviously crazy (read: can and will defend herself). But the roommate finally gets the keys to work, and we pile inside, shutting the door behind his insipid questions and implicit threats.
None of us bring this up ever again. It was our last night at the apartment, by the way, and our last dinner as a group, because the lease expired and we were going our separate ways. And it was one of the girl’s birthdays, to boot. She turned 20. I still wish I could have said or done something that shut his cravenly, smug face up and make him rethink EVER harassing ANY female EVER again. FUCK him.
Submitted by Nathalie
I was walking to the office, minding my own business, and two guys from the other side of the street look at me. One of them yells, “Hey there lady!”
They were out of sight by the time I pulled out my camera.
Submitted by K.