After spending a half an hour or so reading the stories on the Holla Back website and watching the videos (“and that’s why I Holla Back”) earlier today, my boyfriend and I went to the park. We were sitting on a blanket in the grass reading our respective books and eating food. I was laying down on the blanket wearing a knee-length summer dress when my boyfriend moved over and asked me to switch sides of the blanket with him. He whispered that the man eating his food about ten feet away from us was staring at me and he wanted to block the guy’s view. I thought he was exaggerating a little, but I felt relieved when the man left. Another 20-30 minutes later, he came back. He was wearing a backpack and had stringy blondish hair. I felt him looking at me, but kept my head down and continued reading. When I got up and walked across the park to get some water from the water fountain and walked back to the blanket, I realized he never took his eyes off of me. He even changed his seating positions to get a better view of me. It was enough, I told my boyfriend that I felt uncomfortable and he agreed that it was time to go, but I couldn’t stop thinking about this website. I stood up and looked him right in the eyes. “Will you please stop staring at me?!” I purposely said it in a loud voice so the couple sitting on the blanket near us and the mothers playing with their children nearby could hear me. He said “I wasn’t staring at you.” My boyfriend and I packed up our stuff to go, but before we left I turned around and told the creep “There’s a whole fucking park, stare somewhere else!” My boyfriend flicked him off and the jerk yelled back “Stop being so self-conscious!” I was being self-conscious? He was way more conscious of my ‘self’ than I was. As we left, a man laying on the grass said “Don’t worry about him, he’s always here. He doesn’t mean anything by it.”
Yes, he was only looking at me. Yes, it’s a public place and he is allowed to be there just as much as I am. But my gender is not an invitation to stare, to evaluate, to fantasize, to fetishize, to stare at my body. As we left the park, my boyfriend told me to stop talking about the incident, not to let that pervert ruin my whole day. But I said no. I want to talk about it, I want to discuss how to deal with a situation like the one we experienced. Is it better to ignore the harasser, allowing them to continue their creepy little game but not giving them the attention they so desperately want? Or is it better to do what I did, calling out their inappropriate behavior to bystanders but giving them more attention than they actually deserve? This website has taught me that the calling them out is more empowering, more influential, it proves that we are not the passive objects that these street harassers think we are. And the fact that he’s ALWAYS there? The fact that the women walking their dogs and little girls running through the water park area in their bathing suits in this park every day are doing so under the watchful eye of a strange staring man DOES NOT make me feel better. It doesn’t make me feel better. It doesn’t make me stop worrying. It makes me want to do more. So thank you, considerate bystander. Thank you for doing nothing, and for proving to me that I must do twice as much, ten times as much, because I live in a world where the only way to stop street harassment is to Holla Back!
To help build a world where the may laying in the grass would have said, “I’m so sorry that happened to you, is there anything I can do?” instead of minimizing the situation by saying, “he didn’t mean anything by it,” donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign today. We’ve only got 11 days to go!
I was out with a female friend of mine on Tuesday. We went to a local piano bar and were having some drinks and singing to the music. I was standing and a man had come and talked to my friend. While I was minding my own business singing and dancing a creep grabbed a handful of my butt. I immediately turned and started swinging. I got him twice in the chest and kicked at him to get him away. The blows that I landed were of minimal impact and caused no damage to him, but it startled him. I told him, “Don’t fucking touch me!” he said, “I was just trying to light your fire.” Ugh, gross. I said, “You’re disgusting, don’t put your hands on me.” He apologized several times and disappeared.
Maybe I’m not right by reacting physically, but I’m still proud that I stood up for myself. I’ve never acted so aggressively and people don’t think that a small girl like myself would defend herself. I guess now that guy knows better.
To help build a world where this story would have also included some amazingly supportive bystanders, donate the “I’ve got your back” campaign. Only 11 days to go!
I was uptown alone, waiting in front of a movie theatre for a movie to start, when I noticed an old man staring at me. This continued for a few moment, so I decided to walk past him in order to walk to a nearby store. When I passed, he touched my shoulder and said that I looked pretty, in what seemed to be the creepiest voice he could muster. I decided to ignore him and walk away.
He followed me down the street to the store I was going to, and he waited outside while I browsed. I ended up calling a friend to come to the store and walk out with me, so I wouldn’t pass by him alone.
I hope it doesn’t happen again.
To help build a world where this truly doesn’t happen again, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign. Only 11 days to go!
I was in the bedding aisle of Target when a large, tall man starting coming down the aisle. I moved my cart so he could pass by and as he did I heard him say something. The only word I can make out was “attractive”. I said, “Excuse me?” and he, unabashedly yet creepily, repeated himself, “You are a VERY attractive woman”. I responded, “I find that VERY offensive”. He began to apologize as he shuffled down the aisle (it was apparent he was not actually shopping for anything), and I decided to give him more of a piece of my mind. I told him that women don’t appreciate those comments, that my husband wouldn’t either, and that it was highly inappropriate. I quickly walked away and found a Target employee who, thankfully, responded quickly and sympathized with my distress. He called a security officer. The verified that the man left the store and offered to stay with me while I shopped and to walk me to my car.
What enraged me about this is that men are able to shop without being approached or made to feel uncomfortable. But because I am a woman, I cannot shop in peace.
To help build a world where more stories end with bystanders as supportive as this Target employee, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign. Only 11 days to go!
My story is not as traumatic as some of the others, but it affected me greatly in two ways. First, we live in a small town, where, mostly, people are friendly and polite. More importantly, my young daughters and their friend witnessed it – not the way I want them to know the world.
We often ride bikes to a local convenience store to get some exercise and a frozen drink. The girls (ages 10 and 13) and I like to sit in front of the store to rest and watch cars go by. We each pick a color of a car and count the passing cars to see who tallies the most. Innocent summer evening fun. Since it’s a friendly community, the girls often wave to cars and vice versa.
One day the girls waved to a pickup truck with a young couple inside. The male driver yelled “Slut” at them. The girls looked at me and asked what he said. I told them he yelled “Squirt”, but they didn’t believe me.
The incident came up quite a few times over the next week. They don’t understand why somebody could say something so hurtful to them. I said that he was probably hurtful and rude to many people. My youngest daughter said “he wouldn’t have yelled at a boy. And if he did, if we were boys, he would have picked a different word. Boys can’t be sluts.”
It upset me that in this crucial phase when they are learning what it will mean to be a young woman, instead of a little girl, that they already have encountered a man who is disrespectful to women.
To help build a world where being a woman isn’t defined by being yelled some rude thing by some drive-by creep, donate to the “I’ve got your back” campaign.
In 2010 I studied at TAFE NSW, the port macquarie campus, I was 22 years old. The year began with one student commenting constantly that ‘he is a man and I am a woman’ so he could ‘have me’. I quickly explained my sexuality to him and thought that was that. A few months went by and he started harassing me shockingly, yelling “You are a sin against god.” across the science lab at me while the teacher was in the room. She somehow seemed to miss these comments.
He would follow me to the carpark asking me to dinner and always offering to help, trying to get me to come over to his house. It got worse as he made comments like, “so that’s where you live” and “Is your little sister as hot as you?” and at one point he cornered me in the carpark and pulled out live ammunition, saying he had the gun in the glovebox of his car, his car was parked 3 spaces away from mine. I felt threatened, he was physically bigger and constantly spoke of how many people he had killed when he served in the armed forces.
When he was angry he punched objects and made dents so everyone could see, he threw tables and chairs when the teachers were not around and other students just ignored him, when searching for witnesses, nobody spoke up, I was all alone.
At my breaking point with the only advice given by my mother to “Ignore him”, I listened to my partner instead and filed the complaint. When I did, they ignored the harassment and focused on the live ammunition he had brought onto the campus. The police took him from class and searched his car and he was kicked out for 2 weeks but upon returning, the barrage of hateful comments returned with him.
By this time I had befriended members of his group and found out he had been harassing other students and they didn’t like him anyway. As a group we ignored everything he said, gave no sympathy and did not invite him when we went on trips together, we openly excluded him because of his behaviour.
By the end of the year I found out he had moved on to another girl and is stalking/harassing her. He hasn’t learnt and is still in the area.
I’m forever watching out when I hang with my little sister, I’ve changed my look in the hopes he won’t recognise me at a glance. I don’t want him to know what she looks like just in case he starts harassing her.
If you believe in a person’s right to chose their sexuality without the threat of violence and are tired of “just ignoring” creeps like this, please help us by donating now.
I was grabbing takeout with my boyfriend and decided to wait outside the cramped store and get some air. I had just sat down on a bench when an old man approached, staring at me the whole time. I assumed he would lumber past, but he changed his direction at the last minute to stand right in front of me and asked “Are you alone?” I surprised the creep and myself with a strong NO and walked quickly towards a group of people until he passed.
What upset me most was that I could not feel safe at 7 p.m. on a busy street simply because I am female and by myself. The creep’s question captured perfectly what feels threatening about being harassed on the street, the feeling that there’s no one there to help. THANK YOU, Hollaback, for your work to empower girls to stick up for themselves and for each other!
BY KC WAGNER AND EMILY MAY, reposted from Women’s eNews.
The community around fighting street harassment is growing stronger and has pointed to its pervasiveness. K.C. Wagner and Emily May say more research is needed to lay the groundwork necessary to end this type of harassment.
(WOMENSENEWS)–The rape allegations against former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and now Egyptian former bank chair Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar by two hotel maids have refocused the world’s attention on the risks that women face by going to work.
Comments about someone’s body, assumptions based on race or sexuality, inappropriate touching, gestures, or sexual requests–it seems that everyone either has a story or knows someone that does. And we never know when these situations will escalate.
As egregious as the allegations are against Strauss-Kahn and Omar, there’s a fundamental difference between harassment in the past and today. Today, a name exists for what has happened, systems of accountability are in place and laws protect those who are victimized.
Even this limited progress has not extended to the streets though. Today a silent epidemic rages on. Street harassment–or sexual harassment in public spaces–is fast becoming the flashpoint issue for an emerging generation of activists, just as workplace harassment was in 1980s. And like in the 1980s, a solid coordination of activism, research and analysis is needed to move street harassment from the background to the forefront.
In 1991, when the Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas case captured the public’s attention about “sexual harassment,” activists, academics, legal scholars, legislators and practitioners had been at least a decade “in the trenches.” They had already been developing vehicles for women’s voices across the country, analyzing crisis counseling and hotline records, conducting scientifically based studies and writing academic articles, articulating a feminist jurisprudence, defending women in court and beginning to influence workplace prevention and policies and challenging workplace norms. A strong platform from this decade of academic and activist work was in place to challenge the victim-blaming and vilification of Hill and to continue the fight.
Street harassment is no different than workplace harassment in its purpose and its effect. It is meant to put victims in their place, to remind them that they are objects and that their safety is a privilege, not a right. As a result, people change jobs, leave apartments or whole cities and suffer long-term stress and anxiety orders.
Now young activists internationally, at nonprofits such as Hollaback! and in projects such as Stop Street Harassment, Blank Noise Project and WomenSpeak, are beginning to stand up and say “no more.”
In 2005, a group of young friends, men and women from ages 21 to 24, were telling their stories of street harassment. When they walked alone, they felt vulnerable and powerless; when they would yell at the instigators of the harassment, the situation escalated; police did not seem to respond to their concerns. One of the men in the group said to his female friends: “You live in a different New York City than we do.”
They did what many youth would do when faced with a similar challenge: they started a blog. Called Hollaback!, it was intended to bring awareness to street harassment. They were quickly inundated by others’ stories and supporters. Today 24 Hollaback! sites are up and running, from Croatia to Argentina to Atlanta. This newly forming community of voices combines story-telling with on-the-ground activism. And with coverage in The New York Times, the BBC and NPR in the past year, the world is clearly listening. We believe the time is right to tackle this long overdue issue once and for all.
However, the leaders of the movement to end street harassment face a challenge similar to the early days of the workplace harassment movement: little data.
Activists working to end street harassment have responded by collecting crowd-sourced data. With the more than 2,000 stories collected and mapped on ihollaback.org through Hollaback!’s iPhone and Droid applications, we know that no one is alone in his or her experiences. Street harassment impacts young women in particular, with factors like race and sexuality tending to increase the frequency and severity of the harassment. A study conducted through an online survey tool by Holly Kearl, published in her 2010 book “Stop Street Harassment,” indicates that between 80-100 percent of women have been harassed at some point during their lives.
But knowing that crowd-sourced data is self-selecting and cannot paint a broader, more complete picture, street harassment activists are asking for more.
In October 2010, over 100 activists crowded into a standing-room-only city council room at New York City’s first ever hearing on street harassment, hosted by Councilmember Julissa Ferrarras, and sounded a call for more research.
During the hearing, advocates called for a study that would produce the data needed to address street harassment in New York City. The study would look at the long-term impact of street harassment and the effectiveness of both formal and informal solutions in making people feel safer in their communities.
It would be the first of its kind at a time when governments internationally are searching for solutions. In this ever-tightening budget year, a study on street harassment is a relatively inexpensive method for New York City to lead the way. More important, such research provides an opportunity to provide concrete solutions to a deep-seated social issue.
Street harassment activists know they have many more battles ahead. But research is a critical early step as it allows us to move this issue from an individual to a collective experience. If we wait, we fear that yet another generation will have to endure the same harassing experiences.
Now is the time for City Council to take this small first step toward a day when street harassment is taken as seriously as workplace sexist behavior.
Early this spring, I was running with other members of my high school girls track team. We were waiting for our coach, and we decided to stretch in an empty driveway along the street. Suddenly, one of us noticed a man in another driveway nearby, holding up a cell phone towards us and apparently taking a picture of us with it. A similar incident happened another day, when a man in a car photographed us as we were running. Both perpetrators left immediately after the incidents.
A few months after both of those incidents, I was running with a few other girls around the downtown area of our town. As we were standing at a corner and waiting for the light to change so we could cross, a man happened to walk towards us along the sidewalk. He appeared to be in his 40s or 50s, had apparently not shaved in a few days, and was wearing dark sunglasses that hid his face. As he passed us, he appeared to be looking at our legs, and we did not realize until he was past us that he had said ‘beautiful’ as he walked by us, quietly. This shocked all of us, and we were not sure it had happened until we looked at each others’ faces and knew all of us had heard it. He walked away as if he hadn’t just harassed us, and we pretended the same for the rest of our run.
We have also been yelled at by kids our age or younger. Once kids in a restaurant we ran past yelled “work those thighs!” repeatedly at us, and both the first time we ran past and as we ran back the same way. A few times, boys who were still in middle school yelled at us, talked about us, or even briefly tried to block or follow us as we were running.
Female athletes have the right to exercise in public (even in short running shorts) without being harassed and objectified! The fact that we happen to be wearing shorts does not remove our right to exercise, and our right to be treated like human beings, not pieces of meat. We did not react to these incidents and call out the perpetrators, and just put up with it, even though maybe we should have done something. This is a way that society treats female bodies as things to be looked at, while male bodies belong to those who inhabit them and are for their own use. (Often shirtless) male runners never worry about things like this; it is immediately accepted that they are not showing off their bodies, so that they can be objectified, but instead that they are running to become faster, and that their small amount of clothing is nothing more than a necessity for running in hot weather.
BY EMILY MAY
As a quick look at our global network of 24 sites will show you, street harassment is a global problem. Too often, governments are afraid to tackle it and resign themselves to tired old idea that there is nothing you can do about it. But not the UN. They are taking it on head first, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet said:
Women, youth and children — especially girls — face particular risks in [cities]. Whether on city streets, public transport or in their own neighbourhoods, they are subject to abuse ranging from harassment to sexual assault and rape. This daily reality limits their freedom to participate in education, work, recreation, and in political and economic life — or to simply enjoy their neighbourhoods.
On July 1st I’ll be heading to UN Women’s Safe Cities Conference in Cairo, Egypt. The Safe Cities project has been doing some amazing work in five cities around the world, and now they are partnering with UNICEF and UN-HABITAT to expand this project to 20 cities internationally. From their site:
Potential interventions may include:
- Enabling women and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives such as decisions on budgets and local infrastructure
- Establishing female councillor-led committees for effective response to sexual violence and crimes in communities
- Increasing street lights in high-risk areas, including the use of solar lights which are cost-effective and more resilient to damage and vandalism
- Training of community police units to prevent gender-based violence
The five-year initiative will be piloted with municipal leaders. Dushanbe, Greater Beirut, Metro Manila, Marrakesh, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, San José and Tegucigalpa are among the cities currently being considered.
Sounds amazing, right? But wait for it: it gets better. From UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet:
We will also promote data collection, build baselines and develop indicators through women- and youth-led initiatives and innovative efforts, such as mapping through text messaging and the use of Geographic Information Systems in women’s, youth and child safety audits.
Yes. You are not dreaming. The UN is looking into launching women and youth-led crowd-sourced data collection to incidences of harassment and assault!
We will keep you posted on the progress. But suffice it to say, we are oh-so-excited.