Voices: Girlfriend and Girlfriend, Actually


“The difference between being hollered at as a woman and being hollered at as a lesbian is simple: in the former, men are trying to obtain you; in the latter, they’re trying to change you.”

We were at the county fair—me, with my long, flat-ironed brown and pink hair, skinny jeans, and gray pumps; her, my girlfriend at the time, with her blue plaid shirt over a sparkling gold tank top, and her perfectly applied makeup. Holding hands, we sauntered through the crowd on our way to rollercoasters and strawberry-topped funnel cakes, when suddenly we heard, hollered behind us, “Are y’all girlfriend and boyfriend?” (more…)

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Honoring National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

In observance of the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day—today, March 10—the New York Department of Health has put together an infographic in an attempt to show the landscape of HIV/AIDS among women and girls in New York City.

“Though this topic can be a sensitive one to discuss, we at the New York Department of Health are working hard to destigmatize this disease because truly the only way to stop its spread is to be educated about it. To help start the flow, we’ve created this startling visual representation of the status of HIV/AIDS for women and girls in NYC.”

For more information, visit the NYC Knows Facebook page.

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The Movement

More Studies, Please

Another opportunity to get involved by donating a few minutes of your time for an online study. An undergraduate student is working on a project related to the effects of street harassment. Please take 15-20 minutes to help her collect data by participating here: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/stash Feel free to share this link with other women.

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Review: Dimitri The Lover? I Think Not.


Not only do we already have societal victim blaming and violence against women, now these issues are compounded by play acting that trivializes both the seriousness of misogyny and its effects on society as a whole.

Remember Dimitri the Lover? Well, he’s making a movie. James “Dimitri the Lover” Sears became an internet sensation in 2008 with his abrasive, bizarre ju-ju voicemail message to a woman named Olga. Currently on YouTube is a teaser trailer for a feature film starring Dimitri that is being developed by producer Brad Goodman of Borat and Bruno fame. The film ostensibly would follow Dimitri’s inane pick-up artistry and his attempt to create “real men.” Will this movie come to fruition? Based on the relative age of both his teaser movie trailer and YouTube interview with producer Brad Goodman, I hope not. (more…)

demonstration, Verbal

Rosie’s story: Growing up amidst harassment

Although I had been harassed in the street prior to this incident this is the first time I felt frightened. Even though it was midday on a saturday and I was wearing baggy jeans and a t-shirt a man in a car decided to approach me, a then 15 year old girl on her own. As he slowed down next to me and said “Hey”, I stopped as I naively thought he might be looking for directions at he was at a dead end. He asked me if I was with anyone and I stupidly said I was alone. He went on to ask if I wanted a lift to wherever I was going, for my number, even though I was obviously underage. It ended when I speeded up walking away down a pedestrian only walkway so he couldn’t follow me. After this I felt scared and wondered what I had done to encourage such behavior. I felt guilty for talking to him, and for thinking he had innocent intentions. Now, as a twenty year old woman, I face harassment every day in the bar I work at and have no problem putting men back in their place! I know now where to draw the line when it comes to “friendly” conversations.

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demonstration, Verbal

k2’s story: Faking orgasms

I was crossing the street and some mid 20 year old guy made fake orgasm sounds. >:(

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demonstration, Verbal

Kristen’s story: #boyfriendFAIL

I was in downtown Santa Cruz playing pool with my husband, my sister and her then-boyfriend, who is in the Army, stationed in Sacramento. The “boyfriend” kept calling other men “fags” and told my sister that he was “gonna rape your pussy tonight.”
I was so shocked I didn’t even know what to say. When I did speak up, I was laughed at for making a “deal” about it.
This isn’t funny and it never will be.
We later discovered that the guy was a con-artist who had scammed several women, including my sister for money.

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demonstration, Nonverbal Harassment, Verbal

Hannah’s story: Getting groceries shouldn’t be nerve-wracking

Just yesterday, I went to a little corner store near my apartment, where I often pick up a few groceries. It was fairly empty, and I had to go into the back, which is around a corner and well out of sight of the front, where the lady at the cash register was. A man came and stood very close to me, and I walked away a bit. (more…)

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Op-Ed: Who’s the Misogynist Now?


Photo by Jack David Savage

“…for all the moaning about Islam, the West’s cultural practices vis-à-vis women leave a lot to be desired.”

Over the last few years I have watched as the Spectre of Islamic Doom has been steadily broadcast across Western society. The result has been less than helpful, to say the least. In Europe the effects are even worse than in North America: laws have been passed either by legislative bodies or by referendum restricting what citizens can wear or even build, lest it be too ‘Islamic’ in appearance.

Whipped up by media using fear to sell more newspaper or TV advertising and accuracy be damned, the majority of the populace has approved of these measures. Sadly, they fail to see that due to the universal nature of the law, they are subject to them as well, and that ominous legal precedents have been established.

In North America it seems there is a similar popular reaction to this patently false fear-mongering, but the Constitutions of both Canada and the United States thankfully prohibit – or will eventually strike down – arbitrary laws that dictate what an individual is allowed to wear.

One of the key messages of this anti-Islam onslaught has been how terribly oppressed women are by Islam. And one only has to look at the record of say, the government of Saudi Arabia, or the ghastly former Taliban regime in Afghanistan to recoil in horror.

And you’d think that would be enough for me too. I was raised by an ardently feminist mother and all I can say is that a lot of it rubbed off on me. For more than 20 years now I’ve been a pro-choice activist, and I hope most of my women friends can say I’ve treated them with the normal respect any human being deserves.

“…if I walk into my local Blockbuster right now, I can rent any one of over 200 movies which feature young women being raped, stabbed, shot, beheaded, torn in two, crushed, chopped up, eaten, burnt alive and eviscerated. For entertainment purposes.”

But this message about Islam oppressing women just doesn’t cut it for me. While I concede that Islam treats women like second-class citizens, so do nearly all religions. The other Abramic faiths certainly hold this in common with their younger cousin. And in many of the regions where Islam is now dominant, before it came along things were generally much worse for women; Islam was a definite step up, and it at least recognized women as full human beings precious to Allah, and deserving respect.

Of course there is more to any society than just its religion. Cultural practices and mores can persist from very ancient times, alongside and even in opposition to widely-practiced faiths (for example, female genital mutilation, which many imams oppose). I suspect the position of women in Afghanistan would not be much different if that country had remained Buddhist or become Christian along the way.

And here’s the thing; for all the moaning about Islam, the West’s cultural practices vis-à-vis women leave a lot to be desired. In France they pass coercive laws to ban the hijab, a headscarf worn in observance of the Koran’s instructions for the faithful – both men and women – to dress modestly. Yet the message to women in the West to be sexy and flirtatious is non-stop. In France, where the State threatens to forcibly strip women of their hijabs, the President’s wife is a former model, with plenty of nude pictures of her available for all to enjoy. Here in North America we see girls asking daddy for a boob-job for their 16th birthday. In the West there is freedom for all to make some degree of sexual display. But who could deny the great cultural pressure to do so as well?

Are those kinds of cultural demands any better than an obligation to cover up? And not only are women expected to be on constant display, Western society demands they play another role as well – victim.  This is what I mean;  if I walk into my local Blockbuster right now, I can rent any one of over 200 movies which feature young women (correction: sexy young women) being raped, stabbed, shot, beheaded, torn in two, crushed, chopped up, eaten, burnt alive and eviscerated. For entertainment purposes.

The horror movie industry, which is considered perfectly mainstream, makes fat profits feeding us images of women being murdered – again and again and again. No one is forced to see a film like that – people voluntarily hand over their money so they can have those images imprinted into their minds forever.

To me that speaks to something so profoundly misogynistic it’s hard to find the words for it. That the victims in these films are being punished for their overt sexuality (which the audience is both savouring and conflating) only reinforces the stark hate behind these images.

The easy commodification and consumption of images of torture, rape and murder seems a far worse thing than a woman wearing a hijab in public. Yes, it’s quite possible she doesn’t want to but her family is making her wear it. But it is equally possible she wears it because she is proud of her faith. Or feels naked without it. Or she wants to de-emphasize sexual attributes so men will  just deal with her as a person with a brain who deserves respect.

In fact I’m not a huge fan of organized religion. I don’t have much of a spiritual sense, and if religious prophets have spoken words I heartily endorse, time and again organized religion twisted and betrayed those words. But there is no doubt in my mind that we are experiencing an alarming upsurge in public Islamophobia. Several times I’ve even been forwarded fearful e-mails claiming all Muslims are planning to kill us infidels. I can only roll my eyes at that.

That’s because I live in a thoroughly Muslim area and most of my neighbours are Pakistani or Afghan. There’s a big beautiful mosque two minutes from my door. It is clear to me, in my daily contacts with Muslims, that they are as kind, as grumpy, as open and as blinkered as anyone else walking this Earth. The constant demonization and discrimination is unacceptable. Especially not from a self-righteous society that claims to value equal rights but gets off on watching women being turned into hamburger.


Nick Van der Graaf is a writer living in Toronto, Canada. This article appeared on his blog, neodemokratia, on February 15, 2011.

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demonstration, Verbal

Zoe’s story: Filthy bus ride!

The other day while returning home from the city centre on the bus (number 3 if you know it!) I was a victim of street harassment. As anyone living in a city in the UK knows at the back of a bus, on the top level, you will often find groups of young men smoking pot and playing loud irritating music from their phones. On this particular afternoon at 5pm I was walking down the bus isle to be confronted with a barrage of catcalls, starting with ‘that girls got ladders in her tights’ (maybe not overtly sexist or sexual but lets face they would never comment on a mans clothing in this way), this proceeded to more sexual comments ‘got a nice face though’ etc… This was a little intimidating and I decided to ignore them, as in this situation I felt totally powerless. However a girl in front of me on the bus starting confronting them saying ‘we’ve had to listen to you the whole journey and now your harassing a girl, a total stranger you don’t know’, this led to incredibly sexual and insulting remarks directed to her regarding her weight, sexuality, clothing from around eight young teenage boys, around the ages of 15-19. This resulted in a very loud slagging match across a busy bus. Without a doubt confronting these boys made the situation worse, and although I felt I should join her and stand up for myself I said nothing but thanked her and told her it was pointless. I did not want to face more abuse and insults, and frankly put myself in a dangerous position by starting an argument about street harassment. Immediately after this even a man behind me started to mutter things in my direction about slashing peoples faces open and how he had a gun. I feel slightly disappointed that I didn’t stand up for myself in front of these boys but this only would have given them fuel for more harassment. But unless women assert themselves how will it ever end. A catch 22.
The saddest thing about the entire experience was the fact the boys did not see anything wrong with their initial comments, saying things like ‘you don’t even know me girl, I’m not like that, I respect girls’. They did not see this as in anyway a type of sexual harassment.

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