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BY EMILY MAY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR
On Saturday morning, March 6th, 2011, an email went out over our listserve from Inti Maria, our site leader in Buenos Aires. It read, “”I’d like to see her to tell her I would break her asshole with my cock” This is what a JOURNALIST wrote about me today — on the printed page they changed it but he made a POINT of including his original version on his blog.” The changed version wasn’t much better. It read, “break her argument with my cock.”
Tears immediately welled into my eyes. Hollaback/Atrevete Buenos Aires launched only a month ago. I knew our work was controversial, but I never thought it would lead to a public rape threat from a prominent journalist and professor. This wasn’t just an asshole. This was an asshole with a mouthpiece.
I quickly g-chatted Inti Maria. She was shaken, but OK. She decided to leave the country for a few days to be safe.
Both Inti Maria and I knew we had to take action, but what do we do? Our model was premised on the power individual activists who were committed to bringing the movement to end street harassment home. None of our site leaders have funding or on-the-ground infrastructure. It is the beauty of our model, but now I could see it was also a tremendous risk.
I spent a day reaching asking a lot of super-smart people for advice. The advice was across the board, and it struck me that this decision was going to have to be made based on gut instinct. As we weighed our options, I just kept coming back to one of our core organizational values: “we’ve got your back.” We needed a response that showed Inti Maria that we had her back, and showed all our site leaders that if this happened to them, we would have their backs too. We also needed a response that would set a precedent: Hollaback takes violent threats and actions seriously. And if that wasn’t a tall enough order, we needed it to be based in Buenos Aires. Engaging our networks in the United States would quickly lead to a US v. Argentina dynamic that would be ineffective, and just quite simply wasn’t our style or our message.
We decided to launch a petition on change.org in Spanish, with the English translation under it. Our lead blogger Violet wrote it, Gaby who runs Hollaback/Atrevete Mexico City translated it, and all our site leaders united to blog it, facebook it, and tweet it. Ultimately, over 3,500 people signed it from 75 countries.
When the publication that Juan Terranova worked for – El Guardian – wouldn’t budge, Inti Maria, Violet, and Gaby worked with the incredible team at change.org to target the magazine’s two main advertisers. We organized another petition that put pressure on Fiat and Lacoste pull their advertising, and it was signed by over 1,700 people. In historic and precedent setting move for the Argentinean media, both companies pulled their advertising and publicly announced their disapproval of Terranova’s threat. Lacoste wrote, “our brand has suffered from being associated to comments we disapprove of.”
The rest is history. A public apology was issued by both Juan Terranova and El Guardian, and Terranova’s column was cancelled at the request of the magazine’s main stakeholder. And although we don’t take joy in another man losing his job, we are pleased that another journalist will have an opportunity to write a column absent of rape threats. And as for Terranova, hold your sympathy. Rumor has it he’s getting a reality show.
But this story isn’t just about some asshole with a mouthpiece. It is a story of what happens, when people ban together to do the right thing. It is a story of what it means to have the backs of people you’ve never met. It is a story of an incredible team. Inti Maria wrote,
“The other day I made a comparison to a friend between Hollaback and a bee hive. I said I felt like a bee because we are organized, strong, active and when we get mad — we act together. He said, “you are a strong bee,” haha. But the point is I feel strong because we are all strong together. Right now it feels like we’re taking down the bear of institutionalized misogynism in the media!”
Even Juan Terranova agrees with us on this one. In his apology, he wrote, “Hollaback is a powerful organization, influential and organized, and I am sure they will get what they want.”
In nonprofit terms, we are a tiny organization with only one full time and one part time staff member. But in real terms, we are a team of over 100 people in 10 countries and six languages. I know for many, it is hard to understand how Hollaback works without a traditional office space, or a traditional organizing model. It is hard to understand how people who have never met each other can work together to create impact, and why all these tremendous activists are working ten, sometimes twenty or thirty hours a week unpaid.
The only way I can explain it is this: have you ever been part of an incredible team? Was there ever a time in your life when you completely trusted the people you worked with, when you would have done anything for them, when everyone had everyone else’s back, and when those things made you work faster, smarter, and better than you ever thought possible? Chances are you have. It may have been fleeting, but you know what I’m talking about. And chances are you’d give anything to have that feeling back.
But that is what it feels like to be part of Hollaback: we are an incredible team. Independently, we are like bees. Weak, small, and always buzzing that street harassment is not OK. Collectively though, we’re working together seamlessly to make the impossible possible. To bring awareness to an issue that has been ignored for too long, and to lead this movement in our own communities.
I feel honored to be buzzing alongside the most badass bees on earth, and knowing that no matter what comes our way, we will always have each other’s backs.
My co-worker was just turning 21 and she had planned for a small group of people to head to some clubs in Hollywood. After the rest of the group ordered drinks- I had to drive home so I stayed sober, a sloppy, drunk man came up behind me. He proceeded to shove his hand down my shirt, groping me and exposing myself to the entire club.
I hadn’t been in the club for more than 10 minutes and was simply waiting for my friends to receive their drinks. My friend’s boyfriend saw the incident and told club security. The man was kicked out for the night, or so I thought.
Later on in the evening, I happened to run into him again where he proceeded to call me a dumb bitch for telling on him and that it was just a funny joke.
1. it wasn’t funny
2. you’re disgusting.
Anita Roberts tells the story of the sexual violence she experienced in her youth, and how it helped her discover her child, her “bitch,” and ultimately, her wise woman.
I live in one of Dallas few truly walkable neighborhoods, which I love. Near my house is a pizza parlor, Zini’s Pizza, where the delivery guys hang out in the side alley between drop-offs. I walked by midday to head over to the convenience store, and the guys (two of them) whistled at me, thrust their pelvises in my direction, and made sexually suggestive remarks. I complained to management on their Facebook page wall (after all, if my body is up for public discussion, surely I’m within my rights to post on their wall rather than telephone a manager) and they deleted it almost immediately. So I reposted it. I intend to keep doing so until I get a response.
Navy guys are the worst. I don’t know what it is, but they really are the worst kind of creepers, even if you think you know them well.
A friend of mine was going out on deployment, and his request was to have a night of drinking and merry-making at another friend’s place before he left. I didn’t want to go, mostly because I know how this particular group is when drunk. I stayed sober and on guard all night, sitting quietly with the only other 3 girls there.
When I’d finally had enough and convinced my ride that we were leaving, we had to make our round of goodbyes. Most of the guys went for the hug, some for the high-five.
The man of honor picked me up by my ass and proceeded to attempt to dry hump me against a tree.
The idiot woke up in the morning covered in bruises and walking funny.
Don’t Mess with VA girls!
It was a mix of verbal and stalking it seemed, though it was not a prolonged stalking… just a creeper van with two creeper creeps inside parked nearbye saying stuff like “hey honey, come closer- want to have a good time?”, sounding like the usual potential rapists many of us have encountered in our walks to work, drives home, and even from acquaintances.
I was dumbfounded at first. It brought up memories of being approached at ages as young as twelve (at least when i had begun being aware of what this sort of attention was), and made me feel ill, sick and just downright disturbed- but then it clicked, I was angry, and almost amazed at how blatantly rude this was and that no one, not any women, girl, boy, or man deserves this form of disrespect.
I stopped and waited for a second to confirm that they were really addressing me (dangerous I know, but I just needed to know) and as soon as it was certain that I was the only person near bye, in creepy talking range, I said clearly, without yelling or shaking (i was surprised that it was possible), as if just stating an indisputable fact, “You are disgusting” made eye contact and everything- even laughed and smiled at them in a you are incredibly pathetic sort of way.
They didn’t say anything back. Maybe they’re not used to someone they are sexually harassing sticking up for their own right to walk without feeling like they may be killed or raped.
I quickly ducked back into a store I was in before to make sure it wouldn’t escalate to violence since people being that creepy cannot be trusted. I waited a bit and they were gone. On the drive home I kept kicking myself saying I should have said “you sound like a rapist” and “does your mom know you are a creep to women?” but really, all I really wanted to do was kick them.
And you know what if it hadn’t been directed at me, I would have said that they are creeps too. This should never go unresponded to. It doesn’t matter who it is directed at.
These comments are unwarranted and verbally abusive. I just wish they weren’t so *&$#in’ normal and seen as the *&^%in’ status quo. If we are vigilant in our abilities to speak up for ourselves and for others then maybe, just maybe, we can make some real social progress. I only hope it can be achieved sooner rather than later (though it should have never been an issue to begin with).
I mean we are taught to be respectful to human beings right? (at least I was) Are women not people to some men?
I was waiting for the bus stop today, around 10:30AM. To pass time I was reading a local paper and was very engrossed. I noticed a man near me but assumed he was also waiting for the bus. A moment later I looked up and he had a digital camera pointed directly at me and had just snapped a picture of me. Shocked, I asked if he had just taken a photo of me and he smirked and said it was a good picture. I took a step towards him and he started backing off immediately- I told him I didn’t want him to take that photo and to delete it. He basically began mocking me and saying it was just a photo and he had the right to and there was nothing I can do. I started shouting at him that it was not his property. He turned and literally started jogging off. I screamed at him that what he did was so disrespectful, and another woman at the bus stop took after him screaming. I stayed put, feeling helpless and that it was pointless to chase him. He laughed at us saying his camera took pictures, didn’t shoot bullets, and that there was nothing illegal about it. He ran away down the street. I felt and feel so humiliated. Maybe it sounds like just a photo, but I don’t know this person, I didn’t consent to this, and he clearly took it to make me uncomfortable and to get off on invading somebody else’s privacy and enjoying their vulnerability. I tried to report it to the police and the (male) office took the perp’s side saying it wasn’t a crime because he didn’t hurt me.
It just feels like such a violation, that as a woman I am never safe, somebody can have my image and jerk off to it or share it on the internet or get off on invading my privacy no matter where I am or what I am doing.
So for anybody traveling through Hynes area in Boston, watch out for a skinny, pathetic, disgusting male, early 30s, 5-7″ish, slimy looking, bad teeth, digital camera, and the support of the Boston Police Department.
Earlier this year, I was offered the opportunity to work as a teacher apprentice for a professor who was considered one of the best in the communications department. I was offered the position because of my hard work in the field, and immediately accepted his offer. Little did I know that he had a history for harassing female students and was hiring me for other reasons.
The first couple of months went by with no trouble, but during the third I began to feel very uncomfortable. As a “gift” for handling the lab by myself for a week, he presented me with real silver earrings. At the same time, whenever I would work at a certain station with him, he would get uncomfortably close. I would ask for him to move politely, but he would either laugh it off or shift even closer. I knew I needed to tell someone– and soon.
I turned to my female co-worker. She revealed to me that similar things had occurred between him and other women, but the women were too afraid to voice their complaints for fear of being fired or having points deducted from their grades. (If we were to work with him, we had to be in at least one of his classes.) One girl received a pair of hand-knitted socks while another was constantly presented with gifts whenever he returned from a trip. My co-worker continued by telling me that she and several other ex-workers found a certain online bookstore with his wish list on it. Included were books like “How to Woo Younger Women for Men Thirty-Five and Older Volume Two” and “Inside Japanese Sex Houses.”
I was outraged! How could no one report such foul things? I knew then and there that I had to be the one to speak up even if my grade was affected.
My co-worker and I filed a complaint at the Human Resources Department. I then filed one at the Sexual Harassment office and wrote a letter to the head of the Department of Communications. Despite all of my attempts, the case was shut down for lack of evidence. The website was considered “hearsay” and my complaints were nothing compared to other cases (i.e. physical harassment and/or rape) in their eyes.
Tenure was also keeping him safe even though other people had spoken negatively about his classes.
At the end of the day, yes, I am furious about the results. However, I was neither ashamed nor afraid to be the first to speak the truth. I encourage other young girls to do the same if in a similar situation. Your voice is a mighty tool- use it, no matter what anyone else says! Who knows? I might be the pebble that gets the boulder rolling…. I do hope so.
Day One: I was on the bus and the bus stops near my home, but I had to cross the street to first get home. Many people got off the bus with me, and were walking in the same direction as me. I thought it was unusual that one guy stop and motioned for me to go ahead of him just so he could blow his nose. I crossed the street (he didn’t) and walked as slowly as I could because I suspected he could be watching me to see where I live. I kept looking behind me and eventually hid behind my neighbors car to make sure he was out of sight and could not see me. I thought I might be paranoid but better to be safe.
Day Two: Not exactly the day after but close by… on the same bus, the same guy. I see this guy get on the bus. Doesn’t immediately occur to me who he is(I see a lot of the same faces on the bus). He gets on a few stops before my stop. I find it unusual that he gets off at my stop when I’ve only seen him twice at this stop(Wouldn’t I have noticed by now if he lived around here?) and that he would get on just to get off (not even near a store) I walk slowly once again and turn around to make sure he is out of sight.
It also later occurred to me(as I had tried to remember his appearance) that he seemed to fit the description of a guy my sister had had problems with a while back. This guy had went to our brother(noticing that they were related after seeing them in the parking lot) to ask for her number. Both descriptions were somewhat short guy in a baseball hat and hoodie.
I think this guy has a childlike mental disorder and doesn’t have very good boundaries. I don’t see, at least for now, any violent or forceful intentions.
Lara Logan’s Courage
Last night, I, as well as millions of other women sat on the edge of our seats as we listened to the Emmy award-winning CBS journalist tell the harrowing story of her sexual assault in Cairo. I clearly remember watching the footage of that celebration in Tahrir Square on February 11, thinking that this was a shining moment for humanity at large, not just Egyptians, never believing that that particular moment in history could be sullied by something like this. But when the news first came out about the assault, it was not widely talked about, having been overshadowed by the jubilance surrounding Egypt’s independence. Having visited Egypt three times in the past, I was very aware of the problems that Egyptian society has had with sexual violence, and was keenly disappointed that not more attention was brought to the attack on Lara Logan. When the announcement was made that she was ready to tell her story in her own voice, I felt extremely grateful for her candor and courage.
In the 60 Minutes interview, Lara shows great poise, not mincing words or using euphemisms for her experience. She talks about how the mob of more than 200 men tried to tear her limb from limb and in her own words “raped her with their hands,” for more than twenty-five minutes. She endured this assault after being separated from the protection of six men, including a local Egyptian fixer, her producer, the cameraman, two Egyptian drivers that acted as security, and a former Special Forces bodyguard, which shows the brutal force of the mob attacking her. Only when the mob dragged her into a fence, and she fell into a group of Egyptian woman, and then was finally carried out by Egyptian soldiers did she escape further assault.
Immediately upon news of the attack, there were those who asked what she was doing in that situation, somehow insinuating that she had no place there. But Lara Logan, named CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent in 2008, has reported from some of the world’s most dangerous combat zones, including Zimbabwe, Kosovo, Angola, Mozambique, Gaza, the West Bank, and the front lines of Iraq and Afghanistan. She has been intrepid throughout her career, and has been committed to giving others a voice in the midst of conflict. The fact that she was able to speak so openly about her life-threatening experience should give other women hope in similar circumstances. While my own experience of assault on the subway does not even approach what Lara went through, I can speak from personal experience and say that being able to express what happened to you is not only cathartic, but is profoundly helpful to so many women who are told to keep their mouths shut and live in shame for what was done to them.
Around the same time as Lara’s assault, another woman, a Canadian tourist, was raped in the back of a taxi cab in Cairo, and upon her return home, she was told not to speak about it. This is unacceptable. How are we to heal, and own every part of our experience, without turning in on ourselves? How are we going to open society’s eyes and thereby bring about a change in the way women are viewed ~ not still as chattel, but as equals? Monkey see no evil… It’s time to lift up the rotting log in the forest of misogyny, and see what lies beneath.
It must have been an uncomfortable experience for the viewers of 60 Minutes last night to hear about such a terrifying experience, in graphic detail. But I for one appreciated this bare-bones honesty ~ Lara made no effort at covering up what happened to her, and because of this, she was able to literally bring into people’s homes the brutal reality of sexual assault. She mentions how her female colleagues thanked her for breaking her silence, because usually “women never complain about incidents of sexual violence, because you don’t want someone to say, “Well, women shouldn’t be out there.” In fact, there were those in the media and in academia who immediately jumped on the victim-blaming bandwagon, including right here in New York City.
Nir Rosen, a fellow at NYU’s Center on Law and Security, had to resign his fellowship because of wildly offensive comments he made on Twitter, belittling the seriousness of the attack on Logan. Even during his apology, he said that the comments were just meant to be a joke between friends, which is perhaps even more disturbing.
Simone Wilson of LA Weekly felt the need to point out her Lara Logan’s physical attractiveness and rumored sexual history, leading the “report” with one of Logan’s glamour shots. Besides being unforgivably tacky and insensitive, Wilson’s response shows the persistent misunderstanding by many that sexual assault is somehow motivated by sexual desire, merely akin to how a man would approach someone he found attractive for a date. This is simply not the case, as women and girls have been subjected to sexual assault at all ages, in all manner of dress, at all times of day and night, in isolated surroundings, and as in Logan’s case, in dense crowds.
Nir Rosen and Simone Wilson join the ranks of victim-blamers everywhere, but I can tell you with some relief, that their odious views have been roundly censured by everyone with a conscience. I send my warmest thanks and support out to Lara Logan, who has given a voice of empowerment to every woman who has survived sexual violence.