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Bonnie Zare is a Gender & Women’s Studies Professor at University of Wyoming. She traveled to Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh and lead a workshop on street harassment using Hollaback! resources.
In January, I met with a group of non-privileged teens who, after having suffered the misfortune of being abandoned by their parents, live at Aarti Home in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh. As part of the New York based Women’s Education Project, I was leading a series of classes on women’s rights, human rights and children’s rights (although actually this was my 6th visit to the Home as I am a frequent visitor and year-round volunteer fundraiser). I turned to ihollaback.org for a set of helpful exercises to think about the problem of street harassment. The students particularly liked the exercise of “pretending to make a film about harassment” and drawing a world without street harassment (see sample drawing).
Although nearly everyone understood the learning objective, one student drew a picture of a few ants, clustering around sugar. Underneath it said “when beauty is there, the ants are drawn to it.” The older students, called me over. They said scoldingly, “This is not right.” I let it go. Later when we discussed some of the most compelling drawings, I brought it to their attention and asked them why it was not fitting. They said, “What do ants have to do with it?” The artist said, giggling apologetically, Mmen can’t stay away from beauty. It’s in their nature.” I said, “Beauty is not the issue. Maybe some people get more harassment than others, but it is not a compliment. It is not a sign of your beauty. And men don’t have to do this biologically.” Ants may like sugar and men may like women, but verbal harassment is not an ok way to show liking someone. I think the majority understood what I was saying.
Awkward moment: When discussing street harassment, Board member and observer Durga called out, “You see, women don’t get harassed on the streets in the West. So it is a problem that can be solved. Why must our men do this? Women are beautiful there too, no? But they don’t get harassed.” I felt weird because I immediately had to correct her. Me: “Oh, they do. I was harassed and called all sorts of names when I was younger. Mainly in major cities…. Perhaps it is not as frequent as in India but it occurs.” Both she and the teachers looked a little shocked and a few people basically said that they did not believe me. I said,”I got these exercises from a US group called hollaback.org (as I had already told them). Why do you think the US group formed in the first place? Because they were experiencing harassment and wanted to make people aware of the size of the problem.”
Late on a weeknight in December, I was walking through the mall food court on my way back to the bus stop after buying Christmas presents. As I walked by the Sbarro (an Italian-themed fast food place), its solitary employee, a man in his thirties, yelled “that shirt looks real nice on you, but it’d look better off.” I didn’t respond and kept walking, but as I got farther away I turned to look back, and accidentally made eye contact with him. He then yelled, “that’s right, bitch, you look at me when I talk to you,” came out from behind the restaurant’s counter and began following me, yelling obscenities the whole way, from “I’d lick you from your toes to your nose,” to “just bend over the escalator and let me take you.” I didn’t want to run, so I walked fast, with him about ten steps behind me the whole way, terrified that he was going to hurt me. There was almost nobody in the mall at that time, and I didn’t see anyone around to help, so I began heading for the H&M, which I knew was still open and would have employees on duty. His comments got more angry over time, with things like “you stuck-up bitch” or “well, now i’m just going to have to hate fuck you, you know that?” Eventually, a female security guard appeared who yelled at him and told him to “go back where he came from,” telling him if she caught him doing “this” one more time she’d report him to his manager. Horrified, I asked her how often she had caught him harassing women, and she calmly responded, “he’s just a creep,” and told me to just go home.
in a cab. just as i am settling in for the ride theres this male voice real weird & whispery: just like youre dressed now? just like youre dressed now? tell me? tell me? the voice rasps. when you get home how will you undress? how will you take off your clothes? tell me? omg. its the fucking cab driver. you can let me out here driver i say even tho its about 15 blocks before my destination. now his weird whispery becomes sweaty nervous. n-n-no money he stammers pulling over. i w-w-wont take m-money. as i get out of the cab he is still saying i d-dont want money. dont worry i reassure him cuz you arent getting any. ear rape?
on another day trapped in a phenomenally fierce evening rush hour gridlock trying to get home from work. each bus goes out of service after only a few blocks. gotta keep changing buses — 5 times altogether. finally settled into a blessed seat on a bus thats going — hallejuiah! — all the way uptown along the regular route. anti stress deep breathing brings on a deserved little lite nap. ah. crack open my eyes to see how much further. feel stranger eyes on me. across the crowded aisle this guy is looking at me & looking down at his crotch looking at me & looking down at his crotch & playing with his penis — making it get hard & move around inside his pants & looking rite at me waiting for me to look so i can see him jerking off & looking at me looking at him while he is jerking off so he can cop a free thrill. ugh ugh ugh. eye rape?
on still another day when i finally finally get home after 3 hours for a trip that usually takes no more than 45 minutes theres 2 messages on the machine both in a mega decibel screaming maniac voice promising me an immediate $2500 line of credit with mastercard! thats rite! $2,500.00 if i will only call this toll free number rite now! 1-800-338-8055! limited time offer! call now! 1-800-338-8055! call now call now call now & tell us what name you want on your card! tele-electronic rape?
c hattie gossett 2013
no use without permission of writer
These 3 poems are excerpted from hattie’s (work in progress) one woman show. This Sunday, 9 June, hattie will be doing a free open rehearsal with live musical soundscape at n.y.u. — admission is by reservations only and the reservations list closes on Thursday at 5pm. The invitation can be found here
At a bar, a creepy guy next to me started taking pictures of the female bartender without her knowledge/consent.
Not a great start to the day. At 9am I’m standing waiting for the crosswalk at a busy intersection in my town and this kid (maybe 18 or 19) is leaning up against a wall and he starts saying “You’re sexy…What are you up to…We should hang out sometime”. Kind of repeating this over and over. The area was filled with people all going about their business. So I called him out- loudly – and told him to leave me alone. It made a scene and got everyone’s attention.
I know sometimes it’s dangerous to try to stand up for yourself, when you’re one on one with a harasser. But when someone’s victimizing you like that they want to feel tougher and more in control than you. But, when there’s a crowd of people on your side- you take back control!
My girlfriend and I were just walking through the front doors of our apartment building, when some red-faced guy just barked out: LESBIAN! I turned back to glare at him and he just sneered. He added: I guess I’m jealous! I hate that our orientation defines how people view us and that so many guys see lesbians through the same scope; mere sex objects.
Welp, today I am a “ghetto bitch” because I didn’t “smile”. And somehow I feel bad about it? Not fair.
Here’s our weekly update:
As part of the RaiseForWomen Challenge with the Huffington post and Half the Sky, Hollaback! Intern Julia Daye published a piece on in the Huffington Post titled “Shaping Stories of Violence: Power of the Online Bystander.” Check it out!
Hollaback! Chennai covers the story of a street harassment workshop in Kadapa, Andhra Pradesh. The leader of the workshop, Bonnie Zare, turned to Hollaback! for materials to use during the workshop. Horray for spreading resources!
Hollaback! Edinburgh attended the Scottish Parliament’s Cross-Party Group (CPG) on Men’s Violence Against Women and Children last week. There, hollas reported on their work to-date, survey results on street harassment, and some forthcoming plans.
Hollaback! Boston welcomes Nicole, the newest edition to their HollaTeam! This upcoming June, Boston hollas are partnering with Boston GLOW (Girls’ Leadership, Organized Women) to host a workshop in June on spotting, stopping, and responding to street harassment. In preparation for the workshop, Boston invites you to fill out this survey. Check out their newest post on their site, “Understanding Street Harassment” by Kayla. In this week’s edition of Boston’s “Introducing” series, hollas interview Katie, a Boston-based writer and editor. Finally, Hollaback! Boston is saying goodbye to one of its founding members, Jane Carper. Thank you Jane for all you’ve done for this Holla family!
Hollaback! Philly celebrated the launch of their street harassment comic book this past week at Locust Moon Comics. This weekend, hollas are heading to Philadelphia Wizard Con to exhibit their new publication.
I am walking down the street and a man says” you got a lot of ass come here to big daddy”. I ignore him and he calls me a hoe.
Stopped into a pub for a nightcap and some food after attending a fun lecture elsewhere. I used to feel safe at this neighborhood pub but things have changed. I sat at the far end of the bar where there are no gambling machines and drank my wine. Drunk guy comes over from mid bar to tell me “how pretty I am”. “Thank you. I have a boyfriend”. He leaves for a minute but comes back protesting to his friend “how pretty I am”. Clearly not caring that I don’t wish to talk to him at all! “please leave me alone” I say and I get up and go to the bathroom – hoping he will go sit down and leave me alone. After spending extra time in the bathroom I come back out. He’s still there! The random guy next to me tells him to leave me alone. I ask for my check and prepare to leave. He keeps trying to talk to me. After having asked three times and being frustrated I took my purse and hit him in the head with it. . It worked! Everyone laughed at him which made him leave! I will use that move again. Wanted to share.