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By VIOLET KITTAPPA
Much of the media attention this week on the sexual assault committed against reporter Lara Logan in Cairo has been filled with two strains of hatred—misogyny and racism—and supported by ill-informed and undeserved measures of American superiority in gender equality. In place of meaningful examination of the crime has been flippant commentary from sources we’d hope have a better understanding of the real situation, not least among them Nir Rosen and Simone Wilson.
In an effort to denounce what happened to Logan, many commentators have lazily used one Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights statistic on the prevalence of harassment in Cairo over and over again, omitting statistics from other sources showing equal and larger numbers of women being harassed in America, Japan, France, Argentina, Jordan, Australia, and England, to name a few—barely stopping short of saying, But that would never happen here.
Others have indulged in waxing proudly on the freedoms afforded American women, using mainstream media’s favorite defense mechanism—ethnocentrism. Poorly.
“How many Bahrainian women, after all,” wrote the Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan, “would produce an ass-cam video,” referring to an irrelevant YouTube clip, sending readers off googling ‘ass-cam’ and thinking about all of the ways in which Egyptian and American societies are different, instead of prompting them to ask why rape is happening in both places, and what part of our society is so broken that it can’t been fixed?
Because it does happen here.
What better ‘American’ example than Woodstock 1999, where four women experienced sustained sexual assaults and rape during daylight music sets on festival grounds packed with Pepsi products, ATMs, and MTV cameras.
During the 2000 Puerto Rican Day Parade in New York City, a 29 year-old kickboxing instructor named Anne Peyton Bryant, out for some afternoon rollerblading along Central Park South, was doused in water and beer, shoved to the ground, groped, and partially stripped of her clothing. An eighteen year old nearby had her underwear ripped off and was raped by finger while the men screamed, chanted, and cheered their fellows on. Bryant fled her attackers as the crowd moved on to assault dozens of other women, and tried in vain to capture the attention of police officers assigned to the area sitting on the steps of the nearby Plaza hotel. She was told to come back and file a report when she had calmed down a bit.
Thirty men were indicted in the case on felony sex abuse, rioting, and assault charges, including a 14 year old boy. Among the worst offenders was the younger brother of a NYC cop who took part in more than 15 of the assaults. Bryant became the mouthpiece for the events that day, enrolling in law school, speaking publicly about what happened to her, and filing charges against the city and NYPD for failing to respond to her pleas for help. Seven years after the crimes, she settled for $125,000.
So Logan’s assault is not an isolated or uniquely Egyptian incident. Failing to acknowledge our own widespread, homegrown brand of misogyny ensures that the anger and hatred behind these acts of sexual violence will continue to exist unchecked. Subverted public opinion borne of sloppy language choice and hateful media commentary ensures we’re busy reading whatever afternoon doldrums-inspired rant some journalist with a return key could spit out instead of considering what sorts of social programs and comprehensive government-backed studies will be required to remediate our own rape culture.
When we include the color of a journalist’s hair and details of her sex life alongside coverage of her sexual assault, what we are effectively telling the American public is that she asked for it. And when we half-heartedly try to convince anyone that we’re lucky to be female in America and not Egypt, we draw an unfair comparison and avoid solving the problem, perpetuating the same crimes of which we write.
TheStar.com reports that a Toronto police officer publicly apologized after telling a room full of law school students to whom he was giving a presentation, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.”
Toronto Police spokeswoman Meaghan Gray said cautioning women on their state of dress is not part of any police training,
“In fact, this is completely contradictory to what officers are taught,” she said. “They are taught that nothing a woman does contributes to a sexual assault.”
Where else are we seeing embarrassed people and institutions apologizing for the bad behavior of sick and hateful employees? Apologies are great, but let’s start eradicating the hate mongering before it begins by doling out real consequences for real misogyny. Read the full article here.
I was walking home after getting off the streetcar on a nice day in late spring/early summer. A middle aged man in a convertible drove past and honked his horn. A few minutes later, the same man drove up slowly alongside where I was walking and started talking to me “hey, you’re beautiful, you look so good today. You should come have coffee with me, etc.” I politely told him no thank-you, repeatedly, until I finally had to tell him that I had a boyfriend (because I don’t deserve to be left alone otherwise, right). He finally drove away. But I was so disturbed by it, and because I was going home to an empty house, that I walked past my house and through a secret laneway, making sure not to go up my stairs until I was sure that the car was not in sight. Needless to say I locked the door.
Submitted by Angela
One of our holla’ers found this on Female Gazing. We’re thinking we’ll print a few and see what the harassers think. I am sure harassers love paperwork.
Here is the welcome speech that she gave at Hollaback Baltimore’s launch party! Hear Shawna talk about why street harassment matters to her, to Baltimore, and to the world. It’s pretty powerful stuff – it gave me chills!
In this study, you will watch a short, randomly selected video of an individual and make decisions and predictions about his/her behavior and emotions. The survey should take approximately 20 minutes to complete and all responses are strictly anonymous.
We get inspiring emails from around the world, but this one stood out to us. It’s from a mother in Birmingham, Alabama, who is looking to start a Hollaback in Birmingham this summer. She writes:
“You are probably familiar with the iconic “southern belles” of movie lore. While this is a stereotype, it is somewhat grounded in truth. In Alabama, most women are taught that our strength lies within our ability to quietly endure whatever befalls us. We are constantly told that we can neutralize the institutional violence against our persons by putting on a friendly face. Not only does this create an unbearable cognitive dissonance (after all, we’re taught that human lives have value, but are asked to devalue our own), it is also a fallacy. Study after study has proven that this response can actually single us out as good victims to predators. I want to inspire other women to stand up for themselves. I want to create solidarity in my city, which has been so scarred by racism, classism, and sexism. It’s time for the women of this community to come together and confront these old fallacies, which have been used to silence us for too long.”
As a fellow southerner, this one gave me chills. This is a sign of good things to come from Birmingham.
Our copywriter Domenique found this while searching the internet for design-inspiration. LOVE.
Today at school I was walking to Geometry with my friend, when from behind I heard a guy say, “Watch this.” He then proceeded to take his hand and tickle the underside of my butt. I immediately turned and hit him with my lunch bag, but he laughed it off, and no one tried to help me. I wish I had kicked him in the nuts. I now feel just as bad as I did last spring when some eighth grade boys wouldn’t leave me alone.
Submitted by Austin Girl