Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
By Shawna Potter
Rebecca Nagle and Hannah Brancato are organizers, artists, activists and educators working in Baltimore, MD. Hannah Brancato began working to end violence against women when she created an art advocacy program based in a domestic violence shelter. She received her MFA in Community Art at the Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA), a program focused on art as a means to create social justice; and is currently an adjunct professor in MICA’s Fiber Department and Art History Department. Rebecca Nagle is an internationally exhibited and collected artist with works in the New Museum, NY and Ssamzie Art Warehouse, South Korea. Nagle organizes Baltimore’s four-day international radical Transmodern Arts Festival and its queer cabaret the Charm City Kitty Club.
I had a chance to sit down with them at Rebecca’s art studio, located in Station North Arts District.
I had a blast at your launch party for YES! Consent Is Sexy and I was hoping to share more information with all of HOLLA-World. Can you tell us more about the history of FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture?
HANNAH: It started out as an exhibition we curated at the Current Gallery in the fall of 2010 There was a huge crowd and a lot of conversation and we realized it was really important and we should do it again. So, we’re currently formulating a proposal to have the show tour several different colleges, some of them falling onto the top 10 party schools according to Playboy. Our rationale behind that is that the kind of dialogue that happened around FORCE would be really useful in the college setting, where a lot of date rape is happening.
REBECCA: In addition to our effort to upset and challenge the culture of rape, we’re also working to promote a counter culture of consent via a new underwear line called YES! Consent Is Sexy. It’s that extra reminder to check in with people with you’re in the heat of the moment.
You screened the underwear yourselves, choosing really bright, even fun, colors. Why is that?
REBECCA: We’re riffing off of Victoria’s Secret PINK line, targeted specifically towards high school and college age girls. This fall they came out underwear with these flirty statements like “unwrap me” or “jealous”, but a few of them struck a chord with us because we felt they reinforced this idea that “no” means “yes”. One of them says “NO” in big letters, and underneath in small letters it says, “peeking”. Another says, “STOP staring” and the other that is really disturbing is “Give a little, get a lot”. So it is this young, liberated sexuality, but it is reinforcing these ideas that “No” and “Stop” are not ways for young women to set boundaries, but are ways for them to flirt, and that is not OK.
Your underwear has statements like “Yes”, “No, “Maybe” and “Ask First”, which your website says helps to “celebrate our belief that good communication creates good sex”, but some might ask: is it too late to emphasize communication when the pants are already off?
REBECCA: No! (laughs) I feel like that is the most important time to emphasize communication. I think that the whole consent conversation isn’t just whether or not you want someone in your bed. Sex is so complicated and varied, as are people’s personal boundaries, and a lot of unwanted sexual experiences come from assumptions. Someone assuming that because you’ve given the green light for this, you’ve given them the green light for this, that, and the other. I think our culture has this idea that rape is a very clear situation of someone physically overpowering someone else. The reality of a lot of sexual violence and coercion, the way that people are actually experiencing it, is a lot more confusing. I think the only way to combat that holistically is to promote an alternative, to promote consent and communication.
What about the times when gaining consent is not a priority, when there is a clear-cut perpetrator and victim?
HANNAH: We realize that rape is used as a weapon of war and that it can be perpetrated by strangers, and that there are a lot of issues besides this one part we are tackling. We are fully aware of that. But this is one of the ways in which a lot of people are experiencing rape and it is one of the ways that we feel that we can do something about it. We feel that we can actually change some of those perceptions. If this exhibition is successful, we can start to create some of those connections and solidarity with those people who are working towards ending gender-based violence at all levels. We know this is not the only way rape is happening, but it is one of the ways that rape is not being recognized for what it is, and that is the biggest issue.
So this is mostly about the importance of communication to prevent date-rape type situations?
REBECCA: Well, communication is not just about preventing rape, but about promoting a more healthy sexuality. For a survivor, it can be really important for a partner to check in with them during sex. It can be really important to have the space some days to say “today I don’t feel safe, so even if we did this thing yesterday, I can’t do that today” So it’s not just about wearing panties with “Ask First” to prevent rape, it’s about having a more healthy sexuality where people are having conversations and feeling safer and it is more empowering for people if partner’s are checking in with them.
So, why do both the line of underwear and the curated art show?
HANNAH: For us, the counter culture of consent is important because the actual artwork that is in FORCE deals with survivors telling stories about being sexually assaulted and raped, and also montages of how pop culture and media culture perpetuate rape by putting damaging images out there. So it is a show that is really intense, not only explaining rape culture, but also showing examples of rape culture, right? But there is also the counter culture of telling stories that need to be told. We feel, as both activists and educators, its important that the project is multi-faceted. It’s not about just showing a problem or pointing to something, but it’s also about proposing an alternative to that culture, like how else can things be? Another theme of the show, or one of the conceptual underpinnings, is this idea of how rape becomes naturalized, or people think it is biology, that we’re born this way, and so one of the things we’re trying to deal with is how we’re taught. How we’re taught violent behaviors, how we’re taught to have these power struggles and how we’re taught to use sex as a way of getting control. I think in the whole conversation surrounding YES! Consent Is Sexy some of our original project has gotten lost.
Are there any local organizations or artists out there inspiring you, or even working on similar issues?
REBECCA: Probably SlutWalk! (laughs)
REBECCA: SlutWalk and Hollaback! are the two things I feel like….
I did not plan that, internet.
REBECCA: No, but seriously, we feel there is a new generation of young feminists doing interesting things with feminism and using fresh tactics. So, Hollaback!, SlutWalk, Feministing.com, all this new stuff cropping up using social media to address some of these issues and push things further. We like to think of ourselves as part of this new feminist movement.
HANNAH: Definitely there are other artists working on similar things, but I couldn’t claim to know all that is going on.
A lot of this new wave of brash, in your face feminist activism that you consider yourselves to be a part of has received critiques from women of color for being too exclusive. How are you making sure that FORCE doesn’t shut anyone out? Is it here to include everyone’s story or is it more personal?
REBECCA: I like to use the magnet/container analogy (laughs). One of the reasons feminism (and rightly so) is accused of leaving people out is that sometimes feminism tries to be this box with clearly defined boundaries. Like “here is the feminist box and everything in this box is feminism and everything outside of it is not feminism”. I think it is a problem because anytime you want or need to grow you have to break that container. I like to think about the way we’re working on this project, we’re not creating a clearly defined box of what FORCE is, but we have some core values. We want to end a culture of sex that is disempowering for people, that violates people, that is about coercion and violence, and instead promote an alternative culture of sex that is empowering and pleasurable for everybody involved, and that is the magnet. So if you want to work towards that, then we’re on board. People might have different takes on it. This issue is going to be personal for a lot of people, it’s personal for us, and so we recognize that. In feminism and especially when you deal with sexual violence, it is OK for people to do it in different ways, to have different feelings about it and see it differently. But I think we can have some core values that we’re all on the same page about.
HANNAH: I think it is difficult to resist the temptation to box it in because of the criticism we get. It’s interesting; I had never been accused of not being a feminist before.
HANNAH: So, here’s the thing, so while we are being accused of not fitting into the box, how do we still keep what we’re doing as a magnet and not a box. The automatic response would be to be defensive and put up walls, right, but actually what we’re trying to do is reach out to people who have critiques and invite them to participate in a dialogue. I think we’re going to do a video to document some of the disagreement, because what happened overYES! Consent Is Sexy is representative of the larger disagreement where people are saying “third-wave feminist sluts,” which is all over the place right now, so I think this is a microcosm of something that is happening on a larger scale, so hopefully documenting it will help. We’re super aware of it, which doesn’t mean we won’t make mistakes, but we try to be really open about the fact that this is a process and we’re open to suggestions.
What types of things do you find yourselves saying to partners in bed most often, what do you have to communicate most often that isn’t assumed?
REBECCA: (laughs) Hmm, do I want to share this on the blog?
REBECCA: I generally let people know that I like people to check in, I ask them what their boundaries are, what do you like or not like, if they have any STD’s. And it is interesting because some people are excited to talk about it, some people have never been asked that before and don’t know how to have that conversation, some people think it is not sexy and it busts their mood. But for me, I am way more comfortable and excited about a person when they are excited to have that kind of conversation…. And it’s nice that it has been happening recently! (laughs)
You can practice what you preach!
REBECCA: Yeah, totally!
(HANNAH’s originally published answer has been left out for privacy reasons. It wasn’t totally crazy though, so don’t get any kinky ideas!)
One more question. Can you be satirical when it comes to being sexual?
HANNAH: Well, less about being about satire, it’s really about subversion, which is an important distinction.
REBECCA: We talked about this a lot, and we had to give each other therapy, because when people are posting negative comments online…
HANNAH: Yeah, never has there been this much attention on anything I’ve done, not until we took some photos of people in their underwear. I hesitate to say that because I think it validates some people’s arguments. We’re not ignorant to what we’re doing, we understand the implications of it and we’re doing it with as much awareness and consciousness as possible. And I think it is important to do because the fact of the matter is there is nothing wrong with a naked body, but there is a lot wrong with the way naked bodies are used; to perpetuate a rape culture, a patriarchal culture, but that doesn’t mean that there is something wrong with a naked body in and of itself. I think continuing to use this tactic to divert attention away from victim blaming, to start to address the actual issue, like shifting the conversation away from self-defense and towards perpetrators learning that sex should not be a method of gaining control, that kind of thing. I think these tactics are successful in doing that when it comes down to it.
REBECCA: I’ve been thinking a lot, too, about the complication of the photographs we put out of women in the underwear and people’s strong reactions to them. I feel like I personally have had this life experience where I got really angry about the ways I felt objectified as a young adult and victimized as a woman, and I went through this period where there were no high heels in my closet, I shaved my head, I wore pants; I was super butch in college. Then these little things like heels and dresses started trickling back into wardrobe and it was finding a way to feel comfortable being feminine and sexy and feeling like my sexuality was my own and not for other people to control and manipulate and dictate and objectify. And that is a really hard space for any woman to stake out, because there is so much baggage placed on women’s bodies and the choices that women make about the way that they present their bodies. So I think it is really radical, what SlutWalk does, to create spaces where all forms of expressions can be OK and safe and empowering. And I think our culture needs that, I don’t think that business suits are the answer to women being objectified, you know; I think it should be an option for women. Pants should be an option; bikinis should be an option; women should be able to be powerful in whatever situation they feel powerful and self-actualized in.
BY EMILY MAY
Hello supporters and revolutionaries! Check out this week’s news and updates from the exciting world of Hollaback! and our endeavors to stamp out street harassment once and for all.
It’s National Anti-Street Harassment Week March 18-24! And there are so many ways that you can get involved and take action: join our board, support the movement and come to our March 22nd event “I’ve Got Your Back” or check out this Huffington Post article Ten Things You Can Do To Stop Street Harassment for more ideas.
Presentations: I had the honor of presenting to the US Department of State delegation from Europe “Empowering Women Against Domestic Violence” along with Victoria Travers.
Out and about: I attended Rutgers University to talk to young activists at the Women’s Center, as well as giving a plenary in their knowledge and power class. The university’s online publication, The Daily Targem also honored us with a laurel in their Week in Review: Darts and Laurels. Later today I will be attending the Denim Day 2012 planning meeting along with our partners Day One, YWCA Brooklyn, NYC Coalition Against Sexual Assault, the Joyful Heart Foundation, the Manhattan and Queens Borough President’s Offices.
Collaborations: Veronica and I met with Alyson Greenfield of the Tinder Box Music Festival for possible future partnerships. Catherine and I also met with Nils Knagenhjelm who created the bSafe Smartphone App. Check out Catherine’s interview with him here.
Hollaback! around the world: Aisha Zakira of Hollaback! Mumbai was the subject of Daily News & Analysis article Run for a Cause: Let’s Stop Gender-Based Violence.
In the press: Hollaback! along with Stop Street Harassment, Men Can Stop Rape and Girls for Gender Equality, was mentioned in Jezebel article How to be a Good Guy on the Sidewalk, giving advice to men on how to establish that they are not a threat when encountering women in dark, secluded, public areas.
We Got an Award! Hollaback! has been honored with an MYD Engendering Progress Award on March 21st in Manhattan. This is their 3rd annual event to honor women leaders, activist, entrepreneurs and philanthropists.
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!
The Women’s Media Center recently published their 2012 Report on the Status of Women in the US Media. Although the findings show that women have gained a strong foothold in some areas, the vast majority of fields in American media are still occupied by men.
Some of the report’s key findings (from 2011) include:
-Women represented 21.7% of guests on Sunday morning news talk shows airing on NBC, CBS, ABC, CNN, and Fox News.
-Women comprised only 18.1% of all radio news directors.
-The “Heavy Hundred” the “most important radio talk show hosts in America” selected by the editors of Talkers magazine with input from industry leaders, included only 13 solo women hosts and three women who co-host shows with men.
-In sports news, women represented 11.4% of all editors, 10% of all columnists, and 7% of all reporters.
-Of the top 250 domestic grossing films, women were 5% of the directors, 14% of the writers, 18% of the executive producers, 25% of the producers, 20% of the editors, and 4% of the cinematographers.
-In the key behind-the-scenes role in entertainment television, women were 18% of the creators, 22% of the executive producers, 37% of the producers, 15% of the writers, 11% of the directors, 20% of the editors, and 4% of the directors of photography.
A point of interest in the report was that:
“Girls and women between the ages of 13 and 20 are more likely than others to be referred to as attractive (21.5% versus 13.8% of 21-30 year-olds and 3.9% of 40-64 year-olds).”
It also pointed out that, in both film and television, women and girls seldom held leadership roles and were less likely than male characters to achieve their goals.
The sexualization of young women and girls is particularly troubling, when one considers that this very same age demographic is mostly likely to be watching the depiction of themselves. As the report notes:
Research has shown that underrepresentation and negative depictions in media have broad societal effects. How women are represented in media affects gender equity in general. It is important to determine the causes of underrepresentation and stereotypical depiction and to develop practical approaches to improving the status quo.
The constant one dimensional portrayals of female characters as hyper-sexual cannot possibly have a positive impact on how women are treated in real life. Shallow media depictions of women and girls only further ingrains the message that being attractive is the most important, if not the only indicator, of a woman’s worth. Indeed, just how strongly the media influences our perceptions reveals itself everyday on the street. Why else would some people expect women to be flattered or appreciative of “catcalls”, whistles or compliments on her appearance from strangers?
Though the report does not forecast sunshines and rainbows for the current state of women in the media, it offers suggestions for determining how to identify the causes of the under-representation of women in American media.
In November of last year Hollaback! posted an article urging readers to support sisters Martha and Lorena Reyes after their unfair dismissal from the Hyatt Santa Clara.
In September of last year, sexually explicit, photoshopped images of the two housekeepers were displayed on the company bulletin board by a co-worker. A few weeks later they were let go for the “fuss” that they had made. We at Hollaback! urged you to help have them reinstated in their jobs with back pay.
While you have been signing the petition, over 150 universities nationwide have released a statement calling on Hyatt Regency to “uphold the dignity of women” and rehire the sisters. Women’s and Gender Studies Faculties from several universities have initiated a petition that has been signed by over 700 students and faculty members nationwide.
Faculty in Chicago and the Bay Area lead delegations yesterday to members of Hyatt’s Board of Directors to deliver the petition and as soon as we find out the outcome we will post it here. It is so amazing to see awesome people joining forces to make a change for the good.
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
Last Friday hundreds of men and women gathered in the streets of Johannesburg for the “Mini Skirt March” organized by the ANC Women’s League to condemn sexual violence in South Africa.
The march began in Johannesburg’s Central Business District at a taxi rank on Bree Street. 300 protesters turned up brandishing banners and kitted out in skirts and mini skirts of all varieties.
The march, the first of which took place in 2008, was organized in response to the sexual harassment of two young women as they stood in the Noord Street taxi rank last December. The pair were taunted by a group of men about their clothes, groped, snapped with the harassers’ cellphones and masturbated in front of. Both women were in attendance at the march.
Friday’s demonstration was supported by a number of prominent political figures, including South Africa’s Minister for Women, Children and People with Disabilities, Lulu Xingwana, as well as, several other activist groups.
The World Health Organization published a study last September, which revealed that 42 percent of South African women aged 13 to 23 have experienced sexual assault “during social outings.” This is also a country that deems “Corrective Rape” as a justifiable “cure” for “being a lesbian.”
BY EMILY MAY
Hey there supporters and revolutionaries! Check out this week’s news and updates from the world of Hollaback!
Out and about: International movement intern Natalie attended a Hunter College V-Day event in Manhattan to spread the Hollaback! gospel and today, international movement coordinator Veronica will take a trip to Columbia University to talk about the wonders of Hollaback! at their V-Day event.
Hollaback! around the world: Aisha Zakira and the rest of the Hollaback! Mumbai team spoke at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences last night in Mumbai, India. The team talked about the myths surrounding street harassment, bystander intervention and how to respond to street harassers. I also met with Shawna from Hollaback! Baltimore, who recently celebrated their one year anniversary with party Dance Your Panties On. So congratulations Hollaback! Baltimore!
In the press: I was featured in the New York Times, along with several other travel experts, this week giving handy travel tips to keen explorers. I told them:
“The mile-high club is only cool when it’s consensual… You’d be surprised at the number of people who think groping people in their sleep, masturbating under blankets or harassing fellow passengers is a good idea. And if you experience or witness any of these behaviors, don’t be afraid to tell the flight staff.” Read the full article here!
I was also a guest this week on the Tonya Hall Show, talking about social media and social change. Hollaback! Mexico had a shout out in online publication Kaja Negra and Hollaback! Chennai was featured in online publication Women’s Web, discussing the necessity of changing attitudes towards street harassment.
Join us: We need new board members! This is an exciting opportunity to be part of a new initiative, and to help lead the way as we explore new platforms for making social change in a networked world.
Thanks Hollaback! supporters for another fantastic week of fighting street harassment and keeping the revolution alive!
HOLLA and out!
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
The TSA, the government body responsible for protecting the nation’s transportation systems to ensure safe travel, have received several complaints from women who claim to have been targeted by airport screeners to view their bodies.
According to online magazine Wired.com, Ellen Terrell, who travelled from Dallas-Ft. Worth International Airport told CBS News that a female agent appeared to be singling out certain females on request from male agents in an adjacent room. Terrell was even directed through the scan a number of times because the picture was said to be “blurry.”
Following the third scan the TSA agent apparently became agitated telling her co-workers on her microphone:
“Guys, it is not blurry, I’m letting her go.”
Terrell told CBS that she felt “totally exposed” and was positive that their only motive for sending her through the scanner multiple times was to “have a nice look” at her body.
Another woman said that she felt “targeted by the TSA employee to go through the see-you-naked machine because” she is “a semi-attractive female.” While another said:
“The screener appeared to enjoy the process of picking someone rather than doing true random screening. I felt this was inappropriate. A woman behind me was also ‘randomly selected.’”
CBS contacted the TSA and this is the response that they received:
“All of our millimeter wave technology units including those in Dallas have been upgraded with additional privacy enhancements that no longer display passenger-specific images… To further ensure passenger privacy and anonymity, a privacy filter was applied to blur all images.”
Good job too! It seems like a no brainer to me that males would be allowed to view females in the “see me naked machine,” particularly as pat-downs are always performed by the same sex, the same policy should be put in place for the scanning agents. I am absolutely happy to endure the most extensive of airport security to ensure complete safety when travelling, however, it is truly staggering that there are degenerate creeps that would abuse not only the system, but would violate an individual’s fundamental human right to privacy. Terrorists are not in the habit of hiding weapons of mass destruction in their bras.
A 24-year-old rapist has escaped a prison sentence in Turkey while the only female judge was on leave on the grounds that the sex was consensual because the victim did not scream.
For two years, the woman, who is a mentally disabled widow and mother, was raped by her neighbor, who threatened to kill her and her 3 children when she said she did not want to have sex with him. It was only after discovering that the woman was 8 months pregnant, that he was arrested. Prosecutors were able to convict him based on the DNA evidence taken from the baby.
Without considering the woman’s mental state, the fact that her life was being threatened and that her children’s lives were being threatened, the court has relied on a rigid, outdated misconception on the definitions of rape. In a country where 45 percent of girls and women between the ages of 15 and 60 have experienced physical or sexual assault, it can be difficult to see how Turkey is making inroads for gender equality. Yet, despite the troubling statistics, the voices of Turkish women and girls continues to grow in the face of increasing inequality for women. Additionally, 78 members of Turkish Parliament elected last year were women. Since the lone female judge’s absence may have carried significant sway regarding the lack of justice the rape survivor received when the rapist was released early, it could have easily played out differently had more female judges been present.
It may still be an uphill battle ensuring women have adequate legal protections from rape, domestic violence and harassment, however, as more women continue to enter the workforce, run for public office and make up almost half of college students, Turkey’s legal system will gradually be forced to acknowledge the rights of women.
BY CATHERINE FAVORITE
Chick-Fil-A, the American chicken restaurant has made quite a name for itself of late and it’s not for their chicken strips. Via the restaurant chain’s charity, WinShape, the organization has donated over $2 million to groups that promote anti-gay rhetoric, such as Focus On The Family, Exodus International and the Family Research Council.
Hillary Dworkoski has created a Change.org petition New York University: Stop Serving Anti-Gay Chick-Fil-A on Campus. Her petition letter reads as follows:
While Chick-fil-A denies having an “agenda against anyone,” an investigation by Equality Matters revealed that Chick-fil-A’s charitable arm, WinShape, donated nearly $2 million to anti-gay groups in 2009 alone. That $2 million supported groups such as Focus On The Family, Exodus International, and the Family Research Council.
And New York City’s only Chick-fil-A is located in a cafeteria in a New York University dorm.
NYU prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community. Unfortunately, maintaining a contract with an anti-gay vendor like Chick-fil-A undermines what makes this university so great.
While the NYU Student Senators Council recently voted not to remove vendors for political reasons, they did retain that the school could remove vendors that violate human or labor rights. As Secretary Clinton recently announced, “gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights.” As such, I respectfully request that NYU remove Chick-fil-A from campus.
By signing this change.org petition, you will help send a strong message to New York University, an institution which “prides itself on being a diverse, open and inclusive campus community,” that by keeping the chain they are doing the exact opposite of what they preach.
Journalist Jeffrey Goldberg summed up the Chris Brown’s/Grammys debacle perfectly on Twitter last weekend when he said:
“Chris Brown? I don’t look to the Grammys for moral clarity, but, really? Do the words ‘felony assault’ mean anything at all?”
And The Atlantic writer is not the only person that feels this way. The Grammys and Executive Producer Ken Ehrlich have been receiving criticism left, right and center for giving Brown a second chance to perform at the event. Particularly after Ehrlich dared to say that the Grammys were victims of the grisly 2009 incident. Of course our hearts bleed and our violins play for the trauma that must have been caused to the Grammys, compared with the injuries sustained by Rihanna that showed welts above her eyebrows, bruises on her cheeks and bloodied lips.
Despite turning himself, it seemed that 1,400 hours of community service, domestic violence counseling and a 50 yard restraining order was a trivial punishment for the crime. The most disturbing fallout from allowing Brown to play the Grammys were twitter responses to his performance such:
“”Not gonna lie, I’d let Chris Brown beat me.”
Which is why we need to act! Activist Brett Simons has started Change.org petition The Grammys: Apologize to Domestic Violence Victims. The petition already has 1,090 signatures but it needs 1,500. So get clicking and make sure the Recording Academy understand the severity of their actions.