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BY NICOLA BRIGGS
It’s amazing (shocking, really), the types of things you’ll see if you observe carefully. Much of the time, when you start to become more alert to seeing things going down, you’ll be unable to do anything about it. Here’s an example: When you’re on the subway train, and you witness overtly aggressive behavior, seemingly out of the blue. A young man is shoving an older, conservatively dressed man out of his way as he exits the car. Most people look up just in time from fiddling with their smart phone, the book they’re falling asleep reading, their children pawing at them, whatever, and think “What the hell?” But what they didn’t see was the older man’s briefcase, heavy as a boulder with law briefs, knocking into this poor guy’s knees over and over again as he sat there in front of him. Each time the car swayed, whack! and not even a “sorry” for this young man that had already said, “Dude, watch your bag, you’re hitting my knees!” And what none of them on that car could possibly know was that exactly eighteen minutes before, that young man had just gotten fired from his second job in three months. So the fuse had been lit, but nobody was the wiser, until the older guy was given a shove, which later, when he took off his shirt at the end of the day, resulted in a nasty black-and-blue mark on his shoulder.
So that’s an example of an unpremeditated violent situation, which could have been avoided. Not to say the older man deserved what he got, because there really isn’t an excuse for reacting to behavior which was not intentional in a violent manner, not in a civilized society. The younger man probably should have (a) realized he was in an emotionally impaired state, and checked himself, and (b) gotten up and changed seats, realizing that the other man wasn’t going to stop his insensitive behavior. And of course, if the man hadn’t used his briefcase as a meat tenderizer, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened anyway. But the point is that, much of the time, we may actually be able to “see it coming” so to speak, and stop the train wreck before it happens. Next week, we’ll take a look at the more malevolent expression of violence, the predator-prey relationship. Until then, be safe out there! You never know what is going on in the lives of people standing or sitting right next to you in public.
BY LARA DALE
I live out in New Mexico, but as an ex-New Yorker, I am amazed there hasn’t been a public thank you to the Sofitel Hotel for their prompt, empathic handling of the Strauss-Kahn rape case. I would be on your doorstep right now to discuss this if I didn’t live so far away.
So often in cases like these, the story is dismissed or swept under the rug to such a degree the victim has no chance of a fair trial. Evidence is botched, or pressure is put on in such a way that the victim fears for her life, and the perpetrator walks with zero consequences and cart blanche to assault again.
As near as I can tell from media reports, Sofitel Hotel acted promptly, professionally, and appropriately in this case, paving the way for the victim to be given a fair trial, and the respect and support she needs and deserves. For that, they get zero acknowledgement in the media, and zero thanks from the public.
What kind of message do we as women and victims send when people do the right thing and we don’t acknowledge it? What is the incentive to continue, if nobody cares? If the Sofitel Hotel had handled this improperly, the media would have been all over them, but for doing the right thing they get nothing. I’d like to end this hypocrisy.
Anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault should take comfort that at least one large, prominent organization has morals, and acts on them immediately. I’m just worried that no-one really cares, and so I am asking that anyone and everyone in NYC who cares about this issue, and is in a position of power or influence, to publicly honor and thank the Sofitel Hotel for its actions. Please join me in striving for this, and please do whatever you can to offer suggestions as to how to accomplish this.
Just as we need to point the finger at people who harm us, we need to draw attention to the people who make our lives better. Thank you Sofitel Hotel – you truly made my day with your compassionate response to a traumatized victim! I hope many others agree and offer their thanks and appreciation as well. And may many, many professional businesswomen frequent your hotel, knowing it is a safe and caring environment for all.
By MELISSA FABELLO
A customer came in the other day and marveled at the fact that we got new company shirts. They say the name of the bar on the left side of the chest and our tagline on the back: worth the squeeze. I moved my hair out of the way so that he could examine the shirt, and he said to me, “I promise I’m not trying to check out your boob.” I laughed and said it was okay, and then I turned around to show him the back. “I bet you get a lot of comments about that,” he said. I rolled my eyes and said that yes, we do.
As I made him his smoothie, I started telling him about my time in India, about the instance when a man grabbed my ass on my way onto an auto-rickshaw, who then actually paid for my ride. I said that usually I wouldn’t have let someone pay for me, but I thought that a grope was worth the five rupees it cost to get from one major crossing to another.
When I handed him his drink, he started to pull out his credit card, which got a quizzical look from me. “Oh!” he said. “I already paid, didn’t I?” I told him that he had, but that if he wanted to pay me twice, I’d accept it. “I was so distracted thinking about groping you that I got confused,” he said.
At that moment, another customer walked in, holding one of our frequent buyer cards. “Groping? I’ve got a full punch card,” he said. “What can I get for that?” We all laughed, and the first customer walked out as I started to help the next customer, who is a regular.
“What was that about?” he asked. I explained the story. “That’s a little weird,” he said. “I mean, it was all a pretty normal, innocent conversation until he said he was thinking about groping you. That just took it to another level.”
Isn’t that the truth?
And this whole scenario, as well as others like it that occur at work, got me thinking about the concept of off-the-street harassment: when would-be street harassers come into a situation where they feel comfortable making lewd comments because the surroundings are different. For instance, maybe this man thought it was acceptable to joke about groping me because we were in the oh-so-intimate setting of me making him a smoothie. And I thought hard about my reaction: I had laughed it off, even though I was somewhat uncomfortable, but if someone had said that to me on the street, entirely unprovoked, I would have been livid. So what makes it different?
The same social injustices and power dynamics that cause street harassment cause sexual harassment in other arenas, too, and I think it’s time for us to take a stand against all of it. So the next time someone tells me that I am, indeed, “worth the squeeze,” my answer is going to be: Don’t talk to me like that.
The recent discoveries of eight sets of human remains on Long Ocean Parkway in Long Island, as reported by Melissa Gira Grants in her article for The Guardian newspaper, are testament to the price that society is paying for ‘criminalizing prostitution and forcing sex workers into dangerous marginality.’ Grants brings to light that U.S laws against prostitution pit the police against such workers, thus forcing them not to seek protection from the parties that are arresting and charging them and instead contributing to a ‘social economy of violence against sex workers, where serial killers are simply the most visible perpetrator.’
To read the rest of the article visit: The Long Island Women’s Real Killer
The Hollaback Houston team will be creating a video to illustrate how street harassment is NOT a compliment – by capturing phone video footage (Hollaback! style) of street harassment victims using real comments that were used on them by harassers. These will then be edited together and contrasted with co-directors reading real comments from the internet talking about how it IS a compliment.
Please let the Houston team know if you are interested in participating! This is not limited to March 20 or Houston – contact Hollaback Houston any time before then, and if you can, even make your own clip and just send it to us firstname.lastname@example.org.
On March 20 at noon, Hollaback Houston will have a small event at Market Square Park in downtown Houston to do some videos and talk about street harassment. Just look for representatives at the tables in front of the Niko Nikos stand!
You can also RSVP on our Facebook Event: http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=203926396299935