Athens GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Duke University, NC, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Flagstaff, AZ, Houston, Iowa City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, Oneonta, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Providence, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, Twin Cities, West Georgia (University)
By LOU LaROCHE
“Activism” has become a modern-day dirty word for some, synonymous with dodgy police tactics, professional protesters and “grubby-looking transient types” who seem to like complaining about everything. It’s very easy, when watching news footage of the latest actions being taken, to feel divorced from other types of people who don’t just have opinions but feel the need to shout, march and break stuff because of them.
But actually, that’s not what activism is about. From the end of slavery to women’s suffrage to ending Third World debt, activism is about not just complaining about something, but getting those complaints to the right people at the same time that other people are doing the same thing. Seems obvious, right?
Yet somehow society’s need to get up and change things from time to time, to say “Enough is enough” has been translated to mean action taken only by those who identify themselves as being on the far fringes of society. Yet everyone has opinions, and everyone gets frustrated when they’re not heard. So how is it that more “mainstream folk” came to feel that it wasn’t our place to demand hearing?
About three weeks ago, I was on a bus with my autistic five-year-old son, traveling through Bristol, UK. Three older teenagers got on and – though my child was plainly visible – proceeded to verbally abuse me (graphic sexual language), touch me, run their fingers through my hair and laugh at my demands that they stop. When another passenger threatened violence, I took my child, complained to an indifferent bus driver and got off the bus.
About three days ago I gave up hope of finding anyone save my closest female friends who would care at all about what happened to me (and my son) that night. Met with constant indifference, “Boys will be boys” and “Well, no-one was hurt, were they?” I’d fallen foul of the crime we all commit when this happens to us: I chalked it up to experience, pushed it to the back of my mind and let life continue. I’d tried to use my voice and had been told, quite clearly, to shut up.
Then I read about Hollaback! And I became an activist.
This campaign isn’t about gathering together disgruntled women in enough numbers to grab a quick media spot on the news before being forgotten. It’s about a constant and sustained refusal to put up with aggressive verbal and sexual harassment in our public places. It’s not about “action” in any brutal sense, but about collecting our experiences together and using the sheer multitude of them to draw attention to what we have to deal with almost every single time we leave our homes and workplaces. It’s about raising the profile of this sort of unacceptable behaviour and about letting women and gay men (and anyone else who is victimised in the street) know that they DO NOT have to put up with this any longer. Like all proper activism, Hollaback! is about empowerment and change.
To be a Hollaback! activist, you just need to talk to someone. No marching. No sign-waving. No throwing stuff through windows. No rubbing shoulders with complete strangers. Share the story of what happened to you on the website with hundreds of thousands of women from around the world; it’s surprising how good it feels to actually say out loud “This happened and it was horrible” and know that no-one is going to palm you off with “Don’t know what you’re making such a fuss for” or “They’re just playing about”.
But Hollaback! isn’t a victims’ club, either – you don’t even have to have experienced this first-hand to jump in. Try asking the next woman you see if she’s ever been cat-called in the street and whether she thinks that sort of thing is acceptable. If her reply is something along the lines of “It’s disgusting”, tell her about Hollaback!
In that moment, to your enormous surprise, you’ll have become an activist, too.
Lou lives in Bristol, England, and will be leading July’s Hollaback Bristol launch. To get involved, please email us.
We live in a world where pop icons make feminists furious. Straight from the pages of Ariel Levy’s Female Chauvinist Pigs and Susan J. Douglas’ Enlightened Sexism, girls are constantly being fed an offensive image via music videos and lyrics: that women are supposed to be submissive, demure, and – above all! – sexy. So every once in a while, when a female artist makes a move (however small) toward making a statement, it should be commended.
So I’m here to talk about Ke$ha.
(I can hear you all booing already; hear me out.)
While Ke$ha might not be the poster child for appropriate behavior (anyone who’s seen her “TiK ToK” video can tell you that), she does arguably represent some facet of feminism: doing what she wants and not giving an F-U-C-K what anyone else things about it. But rather than starting a debate about whether or not Ke$ha’s party girl image represents feminism in a positive light, what I’d like to do is draw specific attention to one of the songs on her debut album, Animal, “Dinosaur.”
“Old man, why are you staring at me?” starts the catchy song. “Mack on me and my friends, it’s kind of creepy.” And while the song is specifically about older men looking for young girls, it speaks to street harassment in general with lines like “hitting on me – what?” and “come on, dude, leave us alone.”
As a high school teacher, I’ve overheard more than one female student quote the song and then turn to her friend like, “Seriously, why do they do that?” inadvertently inciting an entire conversation dedicated to the injustices of gender-based violence inextricably laced inside street harassment. They share stories, vent, and leave the conversation feeling justified and validated – this is a problem, and I’m not alone. And isn’t that what Hollaback! is all about?
Now, I’m a Ke$ha fan and will defend her to the death, but I think that even her haters have to admit that, with this track, she’s taking a step in the right direction.
Melissa A. Fabello lives in New England, where she volunteers for various feminist organizations and runs the lesbian blog and community ToughxCookies.
I am studying in Florence, Italy, for my final semester of college, and I was thrilled at the prospect of getting out of my boring North Carolina town and into a place renowned for culture and fashion. Florence is amazing, but the men feel that they can stop and gape at you, or say all kinds of offensive things, and it’s part of their “culture.” A simple “ciao bella” as I pass by does not offend me–that is the kind of culture that is allowed, that is an appreciation of beauty; unfortunately it is used as a shield to justify more lewd statements.
I was walking home last week, and at an intersection waited for the light to change. A guy next to me eyed me, and then starting talking to me; I ignored him, which was easier since I was listening to my ipod, but he would not give up. From that intersection he followed me over four blocks to my apartment, trying to speak to me the whole time. He was so thick-headed that I thought it better not to turn and say anything, but to get away as quickly as possible; the language barrier also would have made it difficult. I made it home and took great pleasure in slamming the door in his face. What shocks me, though, is that all of the streets I walked were full of people, and it was 1 o clock in the afternoon, and no one did or said anything.
I frequently wear heels and dresses, but that DOES NOT mean that I am asking for it, and I dress solely for myself, not for men. This site has inspired me and I hope to admonish my next harasser, who I am sure I will encounter at some point tomorrow.
I was standing on the platform waiting for the train when I noticed that a small man had leaned on a pillar near me. He was a little too close, so I just took a few steps away and continued to wait. A few minutes later I realized that it looked like he was masturbating. Just from my peripheral vision, I saw what looked like him touching his fully exposed genitals. All I wanted to do was get away from this creep, but as I walked away, he followed me and continued to station himself within my vicinity, and moved whenever I moved.
As the train pulled in and he walked nearer to me I yelled “You want to get the fuck away from me!” to which he responded by spitting on me.
My only instinct during this whole thing was to get away from this pervert. He exposed himself to me and followed me, and getting other people involved was the last thing on my mind. It’s kind of intimidating, and I didn’t expect to feel like that when confronted with a situation like this. I always assumed that I’d be prepared to kick someone in the balls if they ever tried something like this with me, but when the moment came I think I was in shock.
Looking back, I should have yelled and been more vocal and gotten everyone on that platform’s attention. Even though I stood up for myself by recognizing what he was doing and telling him to get away from me, I should have gone a step further.
I feel fortunate that nothing worse happened – that he didn’t try to touch me or follow me on the train – but I will be prepared to make a scene if this ever happens to me again and make sure that there is one less disgusting human being who is able to do this to other women.
I go to a very small school of only 100 kids, so I feel very awkward and nervous submitting this. But then I remember what a parent said to me 3 nights ago and I reconfirm the inappropriateness of the comment and feel the need to share.
My school puts on a production called, “scene night” in which the advanced theater class does individual scenes rather than a whole play. So each student gets their own scene. I chose a scene that was beautifully written and funny, hoping to explore comedic theater a little more and show my acting dexterity. I memorized for days, and determined the perfect blocking and finally got to preform my scene. It went smashingly. I was a playing the part of a reference librarian that was defending her career choice. She was trying to explain that reference librarians were not bland people as the status quo might say, and were instead romantic intellectuals. There was one part where I climbed on top of my reference desk, explaining my ‘fantasy’ while talking to an imaginary patron. It was somewhat about seduction but not about sex. After the performance, which I was immensely proud of (it was my final performance at the school before I graduated) while we were all schmoozing about with the audience, one of the other kid’s parents came up to me very close and introduced himself as, “Mr. X’s Dad” and then said, “You looked so sexy up there..I mean really sexy.” Put on the spot I said something like “Thank you, I had a good time.” And turned away looking for someone to talk to. But I really wanted to tell him not to stand so close to me, and that his comment was really inappropriate. He was just nearly pressed against me, and I could smell his breath! And it wasn’t like he was complimenting my performance..he was telling me I looked appealing to him. Why do I care what you think of me, Mr. X? I’m not trying to turn you on! I know he didn’t mean to be offensive and probably thought I’d be flattered by the comment but I was creeped out and told my mom as soon as I was far enough away. My mom responded with, “You know I’ve always gotten a creepy vibe from him…I think he just doesn’t know how to be social though.” She moved on from it an encouraged me to do the same but all I’ve felt since the comment is I must not have portrayed my character well. I must have made it too sexual. But my mom is also consequently my director and had seen me rehearse it nearly 20 times. She wouldn’t have let me continue with the monologue if it was too sex-riddled. She would definitely have said something. I just wish my experience wasn’t tainted by this man’s comment and that it didn’t make me feel like the one time I really extended my comfort zone, I was mis-percieved by people.
New Yorkers United Against Sexual Violence is campaigning to ensure funding for sexual violence prevention and treatment programs. Please sign this petition to help the all of the programs throughout NYC keep working toward a city free of sexual violence.
From their website:
Sexual violence affects all New Yorkers, regardless of class, race, gender expression, sexual orientation or age. It is estimated that in a city of 8 million residents, that over 1.2 million women and 200,000 men have been sexually assaulted in their life. Anti-sexual violence programs work tirelessly to help survivors heal and to develop safer communities.
In 2011, organizations doing crucial anti-sexual violence work in New York City are woefully underfunded. The limited funding available to these organizations makes victims of sexual violence in New York City a truly underserved population. We urge the City Council to stand with us against sexual violence and support the city wide Sexual Assault Initiative for $720,000 in the 2012 budget.
Video cross-posted from Hollaback Mumbai
“I enjoy eve teasing, but when someone ‘teases’ my girlfriend, mother or my sister, I feel hurt. That is when I realize it is wrong to eve-tease.”
‘Eve teasing’ is the gentle ‘boys will be boys’-type term given to street harassment in India, much like ‘cat calling’ in the United States—terms that downplay the severity of the issue. This 4-minute film by Akshara, a leading women’s organization founded in Mumbai in 1986, features interviews with ‘eve teasers’ and the women they harass; set to music.
Dear Hollaback! Readers,
My name is Nicola Briggs, and many of you may have heard of me from this website. In late November of 2010, a video of me confronting a sexual predator on the subway was posted on YouTube, and Hollaback! published this video, which has now been seen by well over one million people. This recording, made by an anonymous bystander, was of a very intense and difficult moment for me. I had just realized that a man standing behind me had been trying to rub himself against me, and when I turned around, I saw that he was completely exposed, wearing a condom. At first, I thought I was seeing things, it was so surreal. “Could this stranger really be standing in front of me like that? This can’t be happening to me…” Then the creep tried to cover himself up with his messenger bag, but I needed to make sure I wasn’t going bonkers ~ so I grabbed the strap of his bag, and yanked it away from his body, and there it was again, in all it’s little glory.
When the perpetrator saw the expression on my face, he knew it was on, and hastily mumbled “I’m sorry.” But his sociopathic reaction, which showed no understanding whatsoever of the gravity of his actions, was the final catalyst for me to respond in the way I did. As many of you saw from the video, I announced to the entire subway car what he’d been doing, and let him know that he wouldn’t get away with it, and was going to prison. (Insert numerous expletives.) I also enlisted the support of other passengers to help me detain him, and shame him, all of us taking pictures with our cell phones. Upon exiting the train, the perpetrator was immediately arrested by transit police. He was then convicted, is now a registered sex offender for life, and was also deported at the end of his all-too-brief prison term.
Oh yes, oh fucking yes.
It’s about time that we show the sexual predators of the world that we will not accept “business as usual” anymore, and that we refuse to sit in silence and pain any longer, as we are victimized just because of our sex. When a woman is faced with someone trying to violate her personal boundaries, it is completely appropriate that she raise her voice and GET LOUD. In fact, her physical, psychological, and spiritual survival depend upon it. I’m writing you now to encourage you on that path ~ and to let you know that I’d like to share alternative ways of successfully defending yourself, if and when the need arises. I’ll be writing a weekly column, called Nicola’s Got Nerve, which will be a frank discussion of street harassment, dominance, awareness, and methods of self-defense for women in public. It will be a supportive forum where you can ask me questions, and where I will address your concerns about traveling through the city in safety and with confidence. My years as a Tai Chi instructor, and the fact that I’m only 5’ tall (and won’t take crap from anybody!) have prepared me well for this moment in my life. I hope to share with you what I’ve learned on my own journey, to make yours easier, and look forward to getting to know you!
Peace and Balance,
To submit a question to Nicola for next Monday’s post, please email it to her here.
On Thursday, I had planned to go to a cheap taco place, go meet up with friends for dessert at Junior’s, and have an enjoyable day.
This group of teens has said things to me on and off in my area for a year and a half. I’ve tried everything – calling 311, calling the local precinct, attempting to reason with the ringleader after separating him from his friend, calling the local precinct, videotaping an incident, and calling the precinct a third time.
When I saw a group of young men out, I put my point and shoot in video mode and turned it on in my bag. When one of them yelled to me, I pulled the camera out and got a shot at their faces. They taunted me more, and I was set to walk away and bring my videos to the precinct the next day, though lord knows bringing anything sexual to the police is a gamble. One of them pulled down his pants and showed me his (surprisingly hairless) ass, to which I yelled without thinking “OH HELL NO, I’M FROM BROOKLYN, YOU BETTER KILL ME OR LEAVE ME ALONE.” One of them threw his cigarette at me, and said, “You better leave before we decide to kill you.”
I called 911 this time, and the officers tried to be nice, but they were too slow to respond, and the butt-flasher and cigarette-thrower had gone. Their friend got a summons for being aggressive and spitting, but that doesn’t exactly help.
Jesus fucking Christ, I just wanted a taco. Whenever a man on the street says something too vile or personal to ignore, I get this intense adrenaline rush that would probably enable me to pick a car up off my foot. It’s really uncomfortable – my heart starts beating so fast, I shake slightly, and I’m just so angry I can’t think straight. How dare someone say that to me, treat me like I’m public property because I’m a woman, and truly believe they are entitled to my time, my response, their satisfaction. I shouldn’t need to feel prepared to die to run errands in my neighborhood in broad daylight. I’d rather die than live in fear, but I wish I didn’t even have to think that way.
I know I didn’t handle this in the best way possible, but it isn’t my job to respond well to groups of men who intimidate me – I didn’t choose to be their target. They were wrong to target me.
Everyone I told this story to has said I’m so brave, but I couldn’t leave the house on Friday because I felt so fatigued after all of that adrenaline the day before. I went out with my boyfriend on Saturday, but I’m having a panic attack over the thought of going outside alone today, even if I avoid the area. If it’s not these guys, it will be others, and if it’s not today, it will be this week. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time, especially if the police respond so slowly. I’m afraid of dealing with being treated like public property for the rest of my life, no matter how I carry myself or respond. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time to survive, and what that’s going to do to me.