Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
BY SARAH M., cross posted from our partners at SAFER
Today finds me crawling out of blog hibernation to point ya’ll to the latest installment of “College Boys Just Want to Have Fun…By Demeaning Women and Making Jokes About Rape.” Today’s episode takes place at the University of Vermont, where a puzzling and revolting survey was recently distributed to the brothers of Sigma Phi Epsilon. We were sent a copy of the questionnaire, which mostly consists of benign questions like name, birthday, major, amount of time with SigEp and favorite SigEp memories, hobbies, future goals, etc. It’s actually kind of nerdy and cute, until you get to the final three “personal questions.”
1. Where in public would I want to have sex?
2. Who’s my favorite artist?
3. If I could rape someone, who would it be?
We come across a lot of gross stuff at SAFER, but the contrast here makes this particularly jarring and offensive. It’s not the usual litany of purposefully offensive garbage; it’s a seemingly legit, “normal” survey with this one horrifying nuggets thrown in at the end. The normalization of the question—the nonchalance—is so…disturbing.
As often happens with these kind of “frat shenanigans,” the survey made it into the hands of other folks on campus, who were understandably upset and are taking action. This petition was started last night by “Feminists from UVM” and is already up to 375 signatures. This is what they have to say:
This egregious expression of rape culture is only the most recent example of systemic sexism at UVM. The past year alone has witnessed rape, multiple sexual assaults, and anti-abortion chalking in public spaces. While the university administration has laid off long-time Women’s and Gender Studies faculty and supported sexist institutions like Sigma Phi Epsilon, it has refused to take concerted action to combat sexism and rape culture. We demand that instead of diverting resources into vast salaries for its administrators, UVM should launch an aggressive campaign against sexism and rape culture, and it should expand institutions such as Women’s and Gender Studies and the Women’s Center at UVM. Furthermore, UVM must immediately disband Sigma Phi Epsilon. An institution that discusses who it wants to rape has no place at UVM or in the Burlington community.
Sign the UVM petition and look for updates over at FedUp Vermont, a local grassroots feminist organization. The story hasn’t hit the news yet (campus or otherwise) so there is no word on whether the school will take any action or if the men of Sigma Phi Epsilon have anything to say for themselves, but we’ll let you know if they do. Something tells me this was supposed to “funny.” Ha. Ha. Ha.
BY REBECCA KATHERINE HIRSCH
Rape jokes may not be the WORST source of feminist-hand-wringing, they do have an awful lot of
competition with all those pay gaps, rolled-back abortion and LGBT rights, not mention dehumanizing objectification and all that darned pernicious, underreported sexism of street harassment and inconspicuous misogyny cleverly disguised as family entertainment. But they sure as heck do hold a specially depressing place in every fatigued-with-trying-to-explain feminist’s heart. As Jon Stewart (I think..) once said, “humor only goes as far as your ideology.”
The latest culprit to make light of such physical and emotional trauma is Jersey Shore’s Vinny Guadagnino who recently released “Rack City Mix” including the appalling line “Actin’like I’m raping it.” The Rape, Abuse and Incest National Network (RAINN) immediately condemned the song and Guadagnino defended himself via Twitter saying:
“Whoa! Some people really know how to take things out
of context ! #LearnToListenToMusic …It was fun though!”
As well as, publically apologizing for having “offended anyone.” He later launched a T-shirt line called “I Have A Vision” to combat bullying. I think it’s relevant at this point to reveal some other classy lines from the song:
“I ain’t got a girl … You ain’t got a man …
I’ve got a date for ya … and it’s in my pants.”
The hopeless romantic continues:
“Oh you a fan? You wanna take a pic?
I like your crack girl … I wanna take a hit.
Yeah I’m takin’ it … I’m a get you naked b*tch …
We can f**k and make it fit… boomin s**t and slatin’ it.
Actin’ like I’m raping it …
f** k her til she fakin’ it.”
“If I act like a d*ck … slap me with your t*ts.”
Vinny you eloquent old charmer! It is possible that Vinny was just trying to rhyme with “fakin’ it” as judging by his courtship tactics he probably gets that a lot and restraining orders maybe.
Criticizing rape jokes is not a feminist issue, irrespective of offending women or rape victims, it is an issue for everyone. Exposure to the unchallenged association of violation with humor sends the message that
violence is laughable. By not challenging these jests the jokes pass as innocuous, thus trivializing and normalizing the notion of rape.
I would encourage all joke-tellers, but mostly joke-hearers to think of the responsibility and power they possess in upsetting the current paradigm where violence and sadism are no big deal.
In conclusion: If you hear a rape joke, take a stand! You know? Comment, question, challenge! Silence is the enemy here, since silence inthe face of injustice—as all those ‘First they came for the Catholics…’ posters I saw growing up make clear—is tantamount to colluding with the enemy.
Only YOU can prevent institutionalized violence (and forest fires, perhaps)!
Over the past year and half I have struggled, celebrated, struggled, and celebrated again in the process of getting Hollaback! off the ground. There were those first eight months when I didn’t get a salary and ate a lot of rice and beans (I hate rice). Then there was the ridiculous amounts of press we got (People, Time, CNN, ABC, NPR, what! what!) or me flying around the world to spread the gospel. If you’ve ever met me, I’ve probably tried to convince you to volunteer for Hollaback!. So many of you did, whether it was a little tweet or a major undertaking.
Today the result is nothing short of an activist fairytale. We are in 45 cities, in 16 countries, and in 9 different languages. We’re partnering with government, we’ve taken down four major corporations to date (for being jerks), and on any given day there are over 200 people around the world working to bring Hollaback! to life, even though only two of us get paid. Here’s the funny part about starting a revolution though: only awesome people get it. Institutions? Not so much. People with tons money? Very rarely. We’re working overtime to fix this little problem and bring on an earned income revenue stream, but for right now we’re staring down a budget gap the size of disaster in January. It’s super scary, I’m not going to lie.
So I’m heading straight towards the honeypot of awesome on this one (that is you). We’re having a campaign right now to raise $25,000 before December 31st to keep this movement moving. I want you – yes you – to give. Scratch that: I NEED YOU TO GIVE. And I need you get everyone else you know to give too. We’ve got 25 sites already signed up to launch this Spring, and we can’t stop now. Please donate. And let’s end 2011 with a bang.
Sometimes we have to return to the basics. It is important for us to explain exactly what constitutes “Street Harassment” for our new readers as well as consolidating the knowledge of our existing audience. I speak to many people that are aware, vaguely aware, unaware or totally unsure of what is appropriate in public spaces. This is because the perennial problem of street harassment is something we are used to and have come to accept and ignore. So now it’s time to set the record straight.
Street Harassment is any form of behavior, verbal or physical, between strangers in a public space that is unwanted, disrespectful, threatening or violent. The best way to know if this has happened to you is to ask yourself how the abuser/incident has made you feel, if you feel ashamed, angered or forced to stare at the floor, walk faster or dive into a shop – you should not tolerate it and you should definitely Hollaback!
Street Harassment affects everyone, men, women and LGBTQ folk, although statistically it happens to certain groups more frequently than others, not a single individual on the planet is impervious to it. It manifests itself in all manner of ways from wolf whistles to assault. Popular Anti –Street Harassment site Stop Street Harassment has defined the varying types of street harassment:
“It ranges from leers, whistles, honks, kissing noises, and non-sexually explicit evaluative comments, to more insulting and threatening behavior like vulgar gestures, sexually charged comments, flashing, and stalking, to illegal actions like public masturbation, sexual touching, assault, and murder.”
A few months ago I met a man via my husband who asked me “where do you draw the line in street harassment?” It is interesting because I do not believe that he was a pervert or a mean person, just an ignorant product of the “boys will be boys” mentality that trivializes the act of abusing another person on the street. He continued:
“Well what exactly can I say to a woman on the street?”
For this poor chap, my advice was that it was probably best for him to say nothing at all and maybe he should imagine being bound by an imaginary line that forever lies just ahead of him. I could not blame him entirely because we are constantly exposed to images that suggest such behavior is acceptable. There is a scene in “The Hangover” where the characters cruise a cop car down the Vegas strip, using the loud speaker Bradley Cooper’s character informs a woman on the street something to the effect of “you have an awesome rack”, having already accepted the other humorous parts of the movie so it is widely accepted as “harmless fun”. However, I am sure the majority of people out there would not like to have their “rack” or any other part of them referred to by a total stranger on the street.
Regardless of sex, creed, color or choice of outfit everyone has the right to feel safe and confident on the streets without fear of any varying violation of their person or personal space. We have the power to end street harassment and we will. Join the revolution, it’s freakin’ awesome!
Twenty-two-year-old Franca Ogbu has spent the past year in a hospital bed, after falling victim to an acid attack while studying at Federal University of Technology that left her in extreme pain and deeply disfigured. She has undergone 11 surgeries and needs 13 more — meanwhile, the perpetrator of this horrific assault remains out on the streets.
Fellow student Chibuzor Bright Nkire was promptly expelled, along with a group of accomplices, for pouring acid on Franca because she refused to date him. However, nobody has been prosecuted for this vile crime yet.
When we talk about street harassment we usually talk about verbal harassment, groping, public masturbation, assault… but acid attacks? We don’t often talk about them but we should. So we’re starting to, right here, right now. SIGN THIS PETITION! Real justice is living in a world where these things never happen in the first place. But until we get there — let’s at least hold the people that do these things accountable.
The movement to end street harassment takes another giant leap forward today as an additional 11 Hollaback! sites launch internationally, adding to an already vibrant network of 34 sites across four continents. Each site is run by a team of local advocates who are deeply committed to working on-line and off-line to end street harassment in their communities.
“I decided to start a Hollaback! because I wanted to be a part of a collective of dedicated and passionate activists fighting to make the streets safe for women all over the world,” said Hollaback! Palo Alto Founder Viviana Arcia. The organization expected to only launch in five cities this year, but is now in 45 cities across 16 countries, with leaders speaking more than nine different languages — each with the same message: street harassment must be put to a stop. New locations include Bogota, Colombia; Boston, MA; San Luis Obispo, CA; Chennai, India; Dusseldorf, Germany; Minneapolis, MN; Montreal, Quebec; Palo Alto, CA; Portland, ME; Santiago, Chile; and Winnipeg, Canada.
“What we tend to forget is that preventing sexual harassment in the long run is about changing our attitudes, not just ensuring physical safety. This is where we come in with Hollaback!” said Hamsini Ravi, Project Coordinator Hollaback! Chennai.
Local Hollaback! site leaders run their local blogs and organize their communities through advocacy, community partnerships, and direct action. Site leaders are as diverse in their backgrounds as they are in their experiences of harassment. Hollaback! reports that 44% lesbian, gay, bisexual, and queer, 26% identify as people of color, 76% are under the age of 30, and 90% are women.
“Women and members of the LGBTQ community have always been taught that street harassment is inevitable and something that we need to accept, smile at, or ignore,” says Cara Courchesne, Director of Hollaback! Portland, Maine. “Hollaback! changes that storyline.”
Hollaback!’s international sites are already having an impact. In Querétaro, Mexico, site leaders have developed a workshop to promote cities free of harassment for all people. In the last two months, 600 young people have taken part. In Baltimore, MD, the site leader has organized several successful events, including an Anti-hate Prom and the Baltimore SlutWalk. In Croatia, site leaders are creating a survey that will allow them to collect data on street harassment that will then be used across the Hollaback! network, giving Hollaback! an ability to compare street harassment across cultures.
On Friday the BBC published a story documenting the fear felt by some Saudi conservatives and clerics, that allowing women to drive would “end virginity” as well as increase prostitution, pornography, homosexuality and divorce. It is staggering that anyone, let alone more than a small collection of Saudi men, would be the bearers of such a mind-bogglingly, ridiculous misconception.
The report comes after 34-year-old Shaima Jastaniya was sentenced to 10 lashes after being caught committing the abominable crime of driving a sick relative to hospital. Jastaniya was spared following a personal intervention from King Abdullah, who as part of his reform process, has hinted that the ban on women drivers might be under review.
In response and as a means of preventing any reform on the ban, Saudi academic, Kamal Subhi presented a report to the Shura, Saudi’s legislative assembly, detailing the detrimental affects that would result in allowing women to drive. It was in this report that he stated that there would be no virgins left in Saudi if women were able to drive. Other profoundly stupid statements, of which there are many I am sure, included Subhi describing a incident in an unnamed Arab state:
“All the women were looking at me,’ he wrote. ‘One made a gesture that made it clear she was available… this is what happens when women are allowed to drive.”
I am certainly intrigued by the nature of this brazen “gesture” that the women made toward Subhi that made her seem available, could it be an eyebrow twitch, a blink, or something as sexually available as scratching one’s nose? I can certainly think of one particular gesture that I would like to throw is way. I would also like to learn more about the correlation between women drivers and homosexuality/prostitution/divorce/pornography, perhaps women will conspire to produce the “HPDP laser bus”, which will be driven around, brainwashing people with a magic laser. No of course not, how ridiculous.
On a serious note, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has a long history of female oppression, Saudi women cannot vote or drive and are unable to leave the country without the approval of a male guardian. Despite this, change is possible and it is in our hands. Sign this petition to help Support Saudi Women, so they can enjoy the same things that we take for granted.
Listen up Hollafollowers the Violence Against Women Act is up for reauthorization and we at Hollaback! implore you to contact your Senators to make sure the bill gets their support.
Since its inception 1994, the VAWA has saved countless lives, providing a lifeline for those that find themselves in situations of domestic violence, dating violence, sexual assault and stalking. It has vastly improved the federal system to meet the needs of victims, BUT, there is more to be done.
The reauthorization of the bill will build upon the act’s existing successes and continue to work toward breaking the cycle and culture of violence. Yesterday Senators Patrick Leahy and Mike Crapo introduced a bipartisan bill to reauthorize and improve the VAWA and they need our help by getting other Senators excited about the bill.
Call your Senator(s) TODAY and ask for them to be original co-sponsors of VAWA. Let’s keep their phones ringing! Here’s the numbers for all the Senators, so let’s get dialing and release our inner change maker!
Sessions, Jeff – (202) 224-4124
Shelby, Richard – (202) 224-5744
Boozman, John – (202) 224-4843
Murkowski, Lisa – (202) 224-6665
McCain, John – (202) 224-2235
Kyl, Jon – (202) 224-4521
Rubio, Marco – (202) 224-3041
Chambliss, Saxby – (202) 224-3521
Isakson, Johnny – (202) 224-3643
Crapo, Mike – (202) 224-6142 – (thank him!)
Risch, James – (202) 224-2752
Kirk, Mark – (202) 224-2854
Lugar, Richard – (202) 224-4814
Coats, Daniel – (202) 224-5623
Grassley, Chuck – (202) 224-3744
Vitter, David – (202) 224-4623
Moran, Jerry – (202) 224-6521
Roberts, Pat – (202) 224-4774
McConnell, Mitch – (202) 224-2541
Paul, Rand – (202) 224-4343
Collins, Susan – (202) 224-2523
Snowe, Olympia – (202) 224-5344
Brown, Scott – (202) 224-4543
Cochran, Thad – (202) 224-5054
Wicker, Roger – (202) 224-6253
Blunt, Roy – (202) 224-5721
Johanns, Mike – (202) 224-4224
Heller, Dean – (202) 224-6244
Ayotte, Kelly – (202) 224-3324
Burr, Richard – (202) 224-3154
Hoeven, John – (202) 224-2551
Portman, Rob – (202) 224-3353
Coburn, Tom – (202) 224-5754
Inhofe, James – (202) 224-4721
Toomey, Patrick – (202) 224-4254
DeMint, Jim – (202) 224-6121
Graham, Lindsey – (202) 224-5972
Thune, John – (202) 224-2321
Alexander, Lamar – (202) 224-4944
Corker, Bob – (202) 224-3344
Cornyn, John – (202) 224-2934
Hutchison, Kay Bailey – (202) 224-5922
Hatch, Orrin – (202) 224-5251
Lee, Mike – (202) 224-5444
Johnson, Ron – (202) 224-5323
Enzi, Michael – (202) 224-3424
Barrasso, John – (202) 224-6441
By Rebecca Katherine Hirsch
On July 14 of this year, co-founder of Young Women for Change, Noorjahan Akbar and 25 others prepared to embark on a rare journey through the streets of Kabul: the organization’s first march against Street Harassment.
Student Noorjahan wrote in her New York Times Opinion Pages blog:
“Every woman I know, whether she wears a burqa or simply dresses conservatively, has told me stories of being harassed in Afghanistan. The harassment ranges from comments on appearance to groping and pushing. Even my mother, who is a 40-plus teacher always dressed in her school uniform, arrives home upset almost every day because of the disgusting comments she receives, sometimes from youth half her age and sometimes from white-bearded men who sit by the roads.”
So, with a scant 10 police officers for protection and armed with a healthy dose of hope, pride and solidarity, Akbar and 25 others marched from the Afghan Culture House, past the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission to Kabul University, where they were joined by more than 50 more supporters and a flurry of media coverage. In the face of criticism these brave activists brandished banners saying “Islam and the law forbid the harassment of women” and “I have the right to walk in my city safely!” The events of July 14 left Akbar brimming with pride she said:
“Thursday, July 14, 2011 was the first day I felt like I belonged to the city I have lived in for most of my life. I realized that the women who were walking in their high heels and headscarves–as well as their male supporters–had so much strength and power waiting to be unleashed, and it made me so proud to be among them.”
Reading about these events reminded me of SlutWalk, the worldwide series of protests against sexual and domestic violence. I helped to organize the NYC protest and news of this Afghan protest struck me as similar. While this protest doesn’t use clothes as the pretext to introduce the topic of sexual discrimination, the feminist goals of SlutWalk and Young Women for Change are similar: To fight for a world where people are treated with dignity–regardless of appearance, regardless of identity. As these young women and men in Kabul have shown, harassment is not going to be accepted without a fight—or a protest.
I am reminded of the criticism that SlutWalk received: that it was an ignorant parade that unknowingly promulgated the sexist patriarchy by wearing “sexy” clothes or that the protesters were privileged white people who weren’t inclusive of or respectful of the qualms and realities of people of color or that the protesters were disinterested in gender-based violence that occurred in non-Western parts of the world.
Well, I would say that this protest and this kind of sober-minded rebellion against oppression is a great example of people taking a public stand and operating on their own terms, using their own methods. To me, whichever methods people use are ultimately interchangeable. The goal is to draw awareness to an issue that needs correcting. So whether a feminist protest uses flashy clothing, strong chants, meaningful signs or silent solemnity or simply walks in opposition, we’re all challenging the status quo by upsetting the present order with a protest.
SlutWalk was never about provocative clothing, instead it used provocative clothing to draw attention to the culture of victim-blaming, just as Young Women for Change’s march was not just about street harassment. It is about fighting a greater culture that blames victims, and both trivializes and denies the impact of abuse.
Whatever anyone wears, of course, is never an excuse for violence and harassment. These Afghan women are bravely fighting a worldwide system that belittles and ignores harassment. Whether in Afghanistan or New York, we are all fighting the same fight—to retain our dignity and feel confident, safe and free in our homelands.
Sisters Martha and Lorena Reyes arrived at the Hyatt Santa Clara, where Lorena had been employed for 24 years and Martha for 7, during “Housekeeper Appreciation Week” to find degrading, sexually suggestive images of their faces photoshopped onto bikini-wearing cartoon women.
Humiliated and outraged, Martha removed the offending articles and refused to return them to a coworker that was insistent on hanging them back up.
Regardless of both sisters’ exemplary records, a few weeks later they were terminated from their jobs at the hotel.
Now, humiliated, furious and jobless, Martha and Lorena are fighting back and they need your help. They’ve started a Change.org petition demanding reinstatement in their former jobs, along with back pay for the hours they’ve missed since being fired. Click here to sign Martha and Lorena’s petition now.
You have the power to make a change today, sign Martha and Lorena’s campaign to get them reinstated in their jobs at the Hyatt Santa Clara with back pay.