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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.
BY OLINDA HASSAN
“Eve teasing”, or sexual harassment is problematic in Bangladesh, especially when we want to talk openly about the aggression South Asian women face day to day on the streets. The phrase has a biblical link- it refers to Eve, the tempting, beautiful woman who inevitably attracts attention from men. So, while “eve teasing” in South Asia refers to the day to day sexual harassment that women face, whether it’s an unwanted touch from a passerby or a cat call from the boys in the corner, the phrase itself blames women, she is tempting, men can’t help it.
Bangladesh’s high courts recently stated that the term “eve teasing” downplays the serious nature of the harassment that women in the country face in their day to day movement. I have seen and experienced my share of eve teasing. I have watched a store clerk eye a girl half his age’s chest and ask her to bring her assets to the store as her mother walked right beside her. This is not something to be ignored, neither should we blame the girl, who could not have been more than 13 years old. The high courts have made this clear, let’s not call this “eve teasing”, let’s use the correct term, sexual harassment.
So how important are words when we talk about these kinds of crimes? When I interviewed several male students at Dhaka University for an opinion-project last year, I was surprised to hear a few of them say that girls are asking for it, even at a time when sexual harassment has been making headlines in Bangladeshi media. Alam, a 20-year old History student said, “What am I supposed to do, when the girl is wearing such a tightly fitted kameez [the traditional dress worn in Bangladesh]? She is at a University, she should be dressing appropriately. I can’t help but look and tell my friends, and try to get her attention when I am bored.” He went on to tell me how girls know that they are going to get attention, so they should protect themselves by dressing accordingly, rather than “complaining” about getting harassed.
In an increasingly globalized world, I particularly enjoy watching girls in Bangladesh dress the way they want and not follow social norms in their clothing. I think that fashion holds a unique story telling power. So why should women have to dress in a way that makes them less vulnerable? Is she taking on the role of Eve when she wears clothes that could, potentially, tempt men? Or is she simply exerting her independence and her right to be who she wants to be on the streets?
Women don’t get harassed on the streets just because of what they wear in Dhaka. Men in Dhaka have basically been allowed to harass women because they were never caught and punished, until now that specific laws have made it a crime. Dhaka’s streets, once dominated by men, are beginning to change as more women are taking on professional roles. Women are increasingly getting educated at one of the highest rates for a developing country. Bangladesh has several female political heads, including its Prime Minister. It is one of the most liberal Muslim-dominated countries in the world. Nevertheless, a patriarchal culture still exists.
Referring back to the notion of words, how important is it to make sure that we use the right words when we talk about violence against women? I followed up with Alam and asked what he thought about sexual harassment against his female peers that take place regularly in Dhaka University. Alam hesitated and said that what his friends did, the cat calling, and sometimes following women was not sexual, or harassment. Then, I asked what he thought about “eve teasing”, to which he responded that it was all innocent and fun.
Calling sexual harassment “eve teasing” makes the aggravation seem harmless and amusing against victims who are purposefully tempting. How do you make a society start saying “sexual harassment” where the culture never really talks about sex and sexual behavior openly? And an even bigger question is, how do you convince a society that victims are not purposefully tempting perpetrators, that men don’t harass women because they are asking for it? Although it may seem like a mountain to climb, there is an answer – education as education fosters change. Both men and women need to be educated about exactly what constitutes sexual harassment, the impact of it, what is acceptable and what is not, only then can we move forward.
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
Yesterday, on the 13th International Transgender Day of Remembrance, we spared a quiet moment to not only mourn the loss of murdered transgender individuals but to raise awareness of the daily dangers and struggles faced by transgender people all over the world. This annual event began 13 years ago following the brutal stabbing and still unsolved murder of vivacious Rita Hester.
The Huffington Post published a wonderful article entitled “Transgender day of Remembrance: 20 Trans Pioneers” celebrating 20 inspirational and trailblazing transgender men and women that have fought their way into the public domain to raise awareness and give the transgender community a voice.
The article includes a slide show of 20 awe-inspiring men and women including college basketball player Kye Allums, “America’s Next Top Model” contestant Isis, actress Candis Cayne, Marci Bowers M.D and “DWTS” Chaz Bono. Their unique stories are testament to the fact that change is possible when you have a voice and you use it.
Here’s two examples to get you started!
The amazing Kye Allums, the first transgender student basketball player.
Gender reassignment surgeon extraordinaire Marci Bowers M.D.
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
According to the GLAAD website at least one transgender person is murdered and several more assaulted every month, with 55% of transgender youth having reported being physically attacked. It is also even more saddening to learn that over 50% of transgender and gender non-conforming individuals have attempted suicide.
So HollaPeople, in light of these terrible statistics you need to listen up because I am about to hit you with some very important knowledge. After reading a Huffington Post article entitled “Transgender or Transgendered” and having had my own quiet moment on Sunday for Transgender day of Remembrance, I came to realize the impact of the words we use to talk about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people and issues. With the help of the GLAAD website I have been enlightened as to how the wrong words can alienate and hurt and how the right words can educate and create inclusiveness.
Although it may seem like only a slight difference between “trangendered” and “transgender” the terms are a world apart in their connotations.
Firstly, the correct term is “transgender” used as an adjective. For example, you can refer to an individual as a “transgender person” or a “transgender advocate,” vocabulary to avoid would be “transgendered” as this implies a condition. It is important that the word “transgender” is always used as an adjective and not a noun, so do not call anyone “a transgender” or refer transgender people as a whole as “transgenders.” Also absolutely, always do not use tranny, trannie, she-male, he-she, it or shim, these are not cool and very offensive!
GLAAD has a wonderfully enlightening website with lots of transgender resources to help make our world more inclusive and accepting.
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
Have a good look at this dumb-ass, waste of skin caught on CCTV having groped a woman as she was boarding the M train at Broadway-Lafayette on the morning of November 10.
The perpetrator is said to be a 35-year-old man with a large build, carrying an iPad and wearing a backpack. After the assault, he fled the scene, but was not clever enough to avoid the subway security camera.
So look closely at the picture and help the police apprehend this degenerate so we can teach him to respect others and keep his grubby paws to himself. If you recognize this man or have any other information please call the NYPD Crime Stoppers Hotline at 800-577-TIPS or log onto the Crime Stoppers Website www.nypdcrimestoppers.com or text 274637(CRIMES) then enter TIP577.
Occupy Denver has now joined numerous other organizations standing in unity with Hollaback! and those working on the ground at Occupy to allow everyone to feel safe and confident in occupied spaces.
The news comes following numerous complaints across the U.S about harassment at the Occupy movements. In Occupy Denver alone there have been reports of harassment and sexual assault, including the sexual assault of a 14-year-old runaway girl, who remains in hospital.
For women and LGBTQ people to participate equally in the Occupy movement, we must be safe in occupied spaces. We know that harassment and assault happens everywhere — and that the Occupy movement is no more immune to it than our nation’s parks and parking lots — but we also know that a movement where women and LGBTQ individuals are not safe is not a movement that serves the interests of the 99%.
In solidarity with those who are already working on the ground to make safer spaces, we call on all General Assemblies of the Occupy movement to adopt anti-harassment and anti-assault as core principles of solidarity. To realize these principles within the movement, we call on General Assemblies in every city to empower women and LGBTQ occupiers with the time, space, and resources necessary to ensure that every occupied space is a safe space.
If your organization supports this call for safer spaces, please email [email protected] or [email protected] to be added to the list of co-signers. If you know other groups that have not yet joined this call to action, please contact them and ask them to stand with us! Let’s work together to make a safer world for everyone!
BY VICTORIA TRAVERS
Hollallujah for a new bill that will protect Massachusetts Transgender people from prejudice and hate crimes! The state Senate followed the House on Wednesday morning in passing a transgender civil rights bill. Governor Deval Patrick is set to sign the bill, but when exactly is not yet certain. This would make Massachusetts the 16th state to treat transgender people as a protected class. May the domino effect continue!
According to co-sponsor of the bill and state Representative Carl Sciortino Jr. “Transgender people individuals in Massachusetts face unacceptably high levels of violence and discrimination in their daily lives… This bill will extend our statutory rights and hate crimes protections to the transgender community.”
In a study conducted by the Williams Institute in April 2011, approximately 33,000 people in Massachusetts identify themselves as transgender. And according to a National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Taskforce 2009 survey 97 percent of transgender individuals reported that they were harassed or mistreated at work, with 47 percent of people complaining that they had been either denied a job or sacked for identifying as transgender.
This awesome news comes amidst Transgender Awareness Week, which will come to a close on November 20th with Transgender Day of Remembrance, a memorial to victims of anti-transgender hatred or prejudice.
On December 5th our very own Hollaback! Executive Director, Emily May will join the Chair of the National Organization for Women Young Feminist Task Force, Jerin Afria; Coordinator of Community Violence Prevention at the Center for Anti-Violence Education, Susan Moesker; and New York City Council member Manhattan District 5, Jessica Lappin, to discuss and advise on how to combat gender violence on New York’s subways and public spaces.
This exclusive event will begin at 7pm on Monday December 5 at Hunter College, Lexington Avenue at 68th.
Talking Back is sponsored by Hunter Women’s Rights Coalition; Manhattan Young Democrats Transportation and Women’s Issues Committee; New Yorkers for Safe Transit; Hollaback!; and the National Organization for Women.
Be a change-maker, Hollaback! and join the conversation!
MUMBAI: On October 20th, a group of friends went out to have dinner and watch a cricket match. After dinner, a drunk man harassed a few of the girls in the group. Defending the girls, Keenan and Reuben reprimanded him. Jitendra Rana returned with a large group of his friends and stabbed Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez. Keenan was held down and stabbed until he was disemboweled. He was rushed to the hospital by his friends, his girlfriend Priyanka telephoned his parents on the way. He died soon after his father arrived at the hospital. Reuben was in a critical condition but succumbed to his injuries ten days after the attack.
We mourn the loss of two brave men who had such bright futures ahead of them. Two men who were not willing to accept the harassment of women they cared about. Two men who stood for a world where every person can feel safe and confident in public spaces. Please sign this petition, which calls for a non-bailable jail sentence for the men who committed this heinous crime. Join us as we stand for a world without street harassment. Join us as we stand for the bravery of people in Mumbai, across India and around the world that take a stand against street harassment. Join us as we stand for justice for Keenan Santos and Reuben Fernandez.