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A white car stopped to let me cross the street at El Cerrito Plaza. Suddenly, I start to hear strange noises that sounded like animals. The animals were the two men in that white car who screamed aloud so that anybody in the street could notice I was the “cause” of all that noise (at least that’s how I felt). Then they said something about my ass.
I’m not American, English is not my mother tongue and I felt so desperate that I couldn’t find the words to respond to that assault. I just crossed the street as if nothing happened, as if no stupid animal full of testosterone was in that car.
I’m really only sharing this story for two reasons:
1. I said nothing at the time and venting about it here with be something of a catharsis.
2. My mom is an old-school feminist. For context, she joined the boy’s track team back in the day–despite hearty protests by parents and staff–in order to force the school system to instate female sports teams. In other words, my mom is awesome and I want to express why.
My home town is a pretty nice area, but it’s also the hub of a lot of tourist activity. My basic rule is to avoid downtown at all costs because while the locals are typically upstanding folk, the tourists we attract are usually… well…
My mom and I stopped off at a gas station the other day on our way to go shopping and when we were returning to our car we saw that a van of at least four guys had parked beside us.
I’ve had so many experiences with cat-callers that I was filled with dread at the very idea of walking by. The driver even had his door opened, blocking my way to the passenger door. “Oh great,” I thought. “Here we go.”
But before I even got close, he pulled his door closed and for a brief moment hope filled me. Perhaps this was not going to be yet another story I’d share with my friends to the tune of “Why in God’s name do men behave like–”
“HEY BABY! WHOOO!”
And it was not simply one of them, but all of them howling and shouting and trying to get my attention.
I ignored them, got in the car, and pulled the door shut.
But my Mom? She didn’t say anything. She never has to. She simply gave them one look–a look capable of melting steel–and IMMEDIATELY the abuse stopped. The driver even began to wave his hands in a way that highly resembled someone pleading to not be shot.
This is not the first time my mom has put an end to abuse without saying a single word. She is only 5’2 and 100lbs, but if you holla at her daughter, she will rock you with just one look.
By LAUREN ZINK
“…we need to highlight the fact that most men are not violent or abusive in their relationships. To these men I would say — speak out. Let it be known among your peers that you do not support or condone abuse. This is important, because men who use violence in their relationships often assume that the men they know do too. We need to change that belief system, and it’s other men who can most effectively get that message across. In some of the gang rapes we have heard about, many people knew what was happening, but chose not to intervene or get help. I know that it is not easy for men to step forward, but it can make a real difference.” – Lynn Rosenthal, first-ever White House Advisor on Violence Against Women
Hollaback Atlanta’s Lauren Zink discusses the importance of male allies and responsible bystanders in the movement to end sexual violence: Let’s Hear it For the Boys
This neon blue ‘Help Point’ was spotted at a 6 train station, and the new subway announcement encouraging riders to ‘say something’ not only if they are the victims of unlawful sexual conduct but also if they see it has already gone into effect. Readers reported hearing it at the 49th St. subway station last Friday.
Use these blue help points to report creeps, wankers, gropers, and stalkers. We’ll be keeping our eye out for other possible improvements in the system, like respectful MTA and NYPD employees who respond appropriately to reports of abuse.
BY CAITLIN O’DONNELL
cross posted from The Times-Delphic
I’m not sure exactly how it became socially acceptable to honk and catcall at girls when you, see us walking around Des Moines, but I assure you it doesn’t turn us on. I promise I’m not jogging so that you can creepily watch me, and these Target gym shorts I’m wearing are not for your benefit.
Here are a few things that girls don’t think when you honk and/or catcall at them:
That boy must be hot and well-endowed.
Oh baby, I love being objectified.
Yes, in fact, I do want to get in your car with you.
Let me just start by informing you that I am not even a little bit attractive when I am jogging. I promise there is nothing about my appearance that could possibly entice you to honk at me. And if I’m wearing high heels and a skirt that goes up to Tahiti, it’s still creepy and misogynistic when you honk at me—I promise.
What exactly do you expect to come of your honking/objectifying slur encounter? I have no idea who you are, and since you’ve now insinuated that I’m a veritable piece of meat, I really don’t want to find out. I promise no level of “Hey girl, what you doing tonight?” will make me want to get into the back of your Corolla.
It does not make me feel excited that I’ve finally caught your attention, which I was so seeking, because I am not seeking your attention. Also, those girls walking a block ahead of me? They don’t want it either. Really. And when my friend flips you off and I yell, “hell, yeah, sexism!” this is not an invitation for you to come back and say “hi.”
When you honk and catcall at us, it may seem like innocent flirting to you. Perhaps you think you flatter us with your witty attention, or you’re showing off for the charming boys also residing in your car. I like to think that you honk because you’re compensating for something. Or maybe you’re chastising me for being a woman jogging at night, a reminder that the streets are not safe for us poor, fragile little girls. Because here’s what it feels like when you call out to me: a threat.
This is what actually goes through my head when you honk: What if he turns around and comes after me? Why does he automatically think he can intimidate and objectify me? Is ‘idiot’ contagious?
When you honk and yell demeaning things as I pass your car or house, it does not make me want to get to know you better. It actually makes me want to slap you.
This street is not yours and neither is any part of me you can see while I walk down University Avenue. It’s ridiculous that you can generally walk around without fear of harassment from passing cars, but for women, it’s expected that we suck it up and take it in stride every time we leave a building.
Weirdly enough, I have the right to walk somewhere without being called out to, honked at or leered at, no matter what time of day or type of attire, and just because you can’t meet girls in a normal context does not make it OK for you to be a jerk. Leave me alone, and take your sexist, drunken, creepy friends with you.
Want to speak up about street harassment and have your writing published on a website visited by thousands of people a year? Hollaback! is seeking submissions for our first ever essay contest! Winners will have their essays published in Sistersong’s “Collective Voices” and posted under the “resources” section of the site.
The subject of the essay contest is “Academic Discourse and Street Harassment: Where are we now, and where can we go from here?”
In order to answer this question, we are looking for students in all academic disciplines: if you’re a future law student, write us an essay on the legal issues pertaining to street harassment, the gaps in legislative protection and the possibilities for legal change. If you’re into feminist theory, write to us about how feminist movements have addressed this issue. If you’re interested in international affairs, tell us how different countries have challenged this issue. If you’re into math, submit a statistical analysis.
Any college or graduate students are eligible. The best articles will be published on the ihollaback.org website this summer, and will be judged on the basis of academic rigor, clarity, writing style, and their potential to advance the field of street harassment. Financial or other forms of compensation will not be provided, but you can rest assured that your efforts will make the world safer for everyone.
To be eligible, you must:
1) Be a currently enrolled college or graduate student.
2) Submit an unpublished academic work of 2000-6000 words on the topic provided.
3) Submit by August 1, 2011.
Please submit all essays to [email protected]
Entrees will be judged on a scale of 1-10 based on four criteria:
1) Writing skill: including clarity, articulation of arguments, etc.
a. Is the writing clear? Are the arguments presented in a straightforward and logical way?
2) Writing style:
a. Is the writing compelling? Does it engage the reader? Is the writing stylistic and imaginative?
3) Impact: The degree to which the essay contributes something new to the field in which the topic is situated.
a. Does the essay describe the ways in which it presents a unique contribution? Does the author situation him/herself in the context of current academic debates on the subject?
4) Relevance of topic and presentation: Does this topic matter to the work of hollaback?
a. Is there a need for the production of information on this topic at this time? Is it topical, relevant to the work of the movement to end street harassment? Does the article generate new knowledge? Is the information presented in a way that will have impact? (ie. are there analysis or guidelines or documentation that will be useful in furthering the work of an advocacy organization like hollaback, etc)
Walking, not having a good day, have my headphones in.
Some old guy loudly says hi, I mumble hi back and keep walking, he keeps shouting at me long after I have passed by.
I just ignored him so didn’t really hear what he was saying, but he was clearly pissed off that I didn’t stop to talk with him.
Guess what, folks? Sometimes people have bad days and are not going to be all smiles, and WOMEN ARE PEOPLE, TOO.
Some random stranger angrily shouting that I should smile more and pretty ladies should be friendlier isn’t going to make my bad day any better.
Dear Jackson Heights Chachi, internet troll, chicaschicas2, bungabunga, chaci1, genius at IP address 126.96.36.199 and 188.8.131.52 (did you move or get new internet service in December?)
While we realize that you’re probably very lonely and angry, we’re beginning to become a little concerned for your wellbeing.
Maybe you’re so wrapped up in trolling the internet and leaving insightful comments that you don’t realize it has become an obsession and it is probably eating away at your already diminished mental health.
Since December you’ve left close to 50 comments on various posts on our site, some of them only minutes apart, usually very late at night (but at all times of day, really) when you should be sleeping soundly or out having fun with friends. And while we have published none of them, you continue to leave them. They offer such contributions to society and progressive social thought as:
“I touched ma ass. I’m turning myself in. Where do I go to get my brain enema?”
“endonde esta el bathroom? I need to do caci! Muchas gracias!”
“Chicas? Where can I find Lulu’s international house of chicas?”
“someone touched my peepee on the train. can you help me?”
“Got my rub on with my cat. Pass it on. I look at a girl’s booty on the train and now I’m full of guilt and remorse so flagellated myself while at the same time passing gas. It was awful. Pass it on.”
“Men of America, if you’re not a buff and thick top man like myself and you can’t live without your fish, forget U.S. women, they are not worth all their bullshit. Go overseas asap. Trust me. Leave the women on these shores to bitch and moan with each other. Pass it on.”
“Don’t hate punk bitches. love, Don Juan poo poo pants.”
and of course, the Chachi classic:
“SAY NO TO FISH!”
We’ll be blocking your IP address so that even we can’t see your sweet sweet poetry (as you can understand, the redundancy is getting a little boring), but please seek help for yourself.
Thanks and good luck,
p.s. Say yes to fish!
Occasionally we get inspiring success stories about justice being served. This is one of them. The original hollaback is posted below the update.
UPDATE: I received a call form the Manhattan District Attorney’s office on 4/12, notifying me that the perpetrator will be arraigned in court on May 6th, and asking if I’d be willing to verify the statement I made to the police. I should be receiving a copy of my statement in the mail. I am going to call the DA’s office back, as I really feel it is important for me to be present at the arraignment, although my presence is not required. (I am starting a new semester at school that week, so if the arraignment would cause me to miss an entire class session, I might not be able to go – I am praying that’s not going to be the case). I’m not sure whether I’ll be able to make a brief statement to the judge, but if it is allowed, I plan to do so.
Re-posted from April 8.
I was headed home to Brooklyn for the day at about 2:30 p.m. after finishing a final exam at school in Manhattan. I was listening to a podcast and briefly closed my eyes between Rector and Whitehall. When I opened my eyes, there was a man sitting directly across from me (no other passengers were seated in this section of the train) masturbating with his genitals completely outside of his pants. His eyes were nearly closed. I got up and got loud, shouting, “What the are you doing jerking off in front of me?! That’s disgusting!” He got up and headed to the door at the other end of the car. I was so glad that a large, middle-aged man near where I had walked to in the car looked at me and said he had seen what happened. I told the man I didn’t want to let the guy get away, and he offered to help me. We walked to where the perpetrator was standing and stood right behind him. As soon as the doors opened at Whitehall, the perp bolted, and the fellow commuter and I flew after him.
I reached the perp first and grabbed the sleeve of his sweatshirt, bringing him down on the stairs. Three men helped me detain him on the stairs until the transit cop FINALLY came 10 minutes later. During that 10 minutes, the perp pleaded with me to let him go and to think of his family, he also kept trying to get away, but he knew he was too outnumbered to really make a run for it. Once the cop came, the other men departed. After a few minutes, the perp tried to get away from the cop by jumping the turnstile. I ran after him and grabbed him from behind by the belt, bringing him down to the ground. He resisted arrest, but the cop was finally able to handcuff him and he was arrested and taken into custody for public drunkenness and lewdness and I gave a formal statement to the police at the nearest substation.
I felt so good about not just keeping my mouth shut and letting this pervert get away with it. Even if nothing much happens to him, I feel happy with my decision to take action. On a side note, it was completely ridiculous to have to wait for 10 minutes for the transit cop to arrive. I also had to clearly state to the cops that I wanted to press charges against the guy, rather than them just giving him a warning.
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.