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BY EMILY MAY
When I became ED of Hollaback! last year I was 29 and was terrified. Everyone told me it was impossible to launch a nonprofit in a recession, especially one with a atypical model addressing a rarely-discussed issue. I knew no one with big money (our biggest donor to date I met in line for the bathroom), and went for 8 months with no salary living off of my nonprofit-work’s savings to bring it to life. Today Hollaback! is alive and well thanks to sweat, tears, and kickass volunteers, and I want to show other folks (especially those uncomfortable with traditional leadership models because they’ve traditionally been used to oppress them) that it’s not only possible, it’s critical that we step up if we are going to create a world that we want to live in. And what better way to do this than through a webseries?
Enter Up and UP. In the words of founder Kristen Dolle,
“Up and UP is a webseries about the revolution that’s taking place in New York City, where extraordinary, young women are building businesses and leading movements to shape a better world. These girls bring a new generation of icons to the mix of Gloria’s, Arianna’s and Hillary’s. I believe these girls have the power to create a new culture of cool around awesome women, women who are using their intelligence to both generate revenue and improve the state of the world. This content is desperately needed in a male- dominated media landscape and serves as an excellent vehicle for these young women to get their messages out to the broadest audience.”
I met Kristen Dolle, the creator of Up and UP, last year and immediately loved her compelling vision. We need to present people with alternative views of leadership — and we need to start to undo some of the media’s less-than-compelling representations of women. I think this project accomplishes both. But it won’t accomplish either unless it gets funded.
As the month of September draws to a close, many young students are already starting to focus on what their mid-term projects will be, coming to terms with that mystery meat served up in the cafeteria, and getting into the rhythm of heavy amounts of school work after a summer of freedom. This is the life of a typical middle-schooler, and it doesn’t seem to have changed that much over the last twenty years. But one thing has ~ the prevalence and viciousness of girls getting bullied by other girls. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a new phenomenon by any means, it’s just that it seems to be taking a particularly virulent form now. Dangerous, even, but not just physically. All of us probably remember either seeing or even being a party to bullying, even before we reached the relative sanity of high school or college, but there is a not-so-subtle difference. Young female students seem to be showing more aggressiveness toward each other, and now with the flourishing of social media, the ways that they can inflict harm have become more cruel, more public, than ever before.
Typically, when we think of bullying, the image of some poor kid being pushed around on the playground comes to mind, but girls as a cohort tend to bully each other in less physical ways, especially as they get older. Young girls are emerging into adulthood not only by growing in mental and physical maturity, but also by grappling with the all-important issues of body image, and it’s close cousin, self-esteem. They are more vulnerable and hence, susceptible, to all the messages that we and their peers are sending them about themselves every day. So it makes it incredibly easy for an insecure girl to hurt another girl’s feelings, to crush her already fragile self-confidence, especially when it comes to sexuality.
The teen world in many ways tries to mirror the gravitas of the adult world, and that can translate into damaging rumors being accepted as fact. Assaults on reputation, or character assassination, is one weapon which some girls may use, especially out of jealousy. Other common methods are ostracism and harassment, in the form of name-calling. These can work particularly well when used as a group, to gang up on their target. Although the threat to a girl of being bullied and harassed by a fellow male student is very real, most bullying of girls is perpetrated by other girls. Facebook-posted, texted, yelled, and whispered epithets like ‘slut,’ ‘bitch,’ and ‘whore’ can have long lasting effects on the psyche and future ability to form healthy relationships. And sadly, perhaps because many adults have either been subjected to this treatment, or they were perpetrators themselves, not enough has been done about it. Next week, we’ll take a look a some of the ways a girl can effectively fight back, from Facebook to in-person encounters, so that she can regain her power as an emerging woman.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
Are you familiar with the concept of “the gaze”? The gaze is a common term usually spoken about in art or cinema, yet I think it’s most interesting in feminist film theorist Laura Mulvey’s interpretation. Mulvey, in her article “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema,” says that films are another way for patriarchal culture to dominate by establishing a masculine “gaze” which permeates the film-viewing experience.
Say what? Basically, the viewpoint of the camera and the male protagonist are one and the same, and this is what the audience sees. The female character is left objectified, with only a passive role. The woman is the “bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning,” Mulvey says. Although she is mainly referring to the classic Hollywood films of the mid-20th century, I definitely think the gaze lives on in more modern films.
Take the film trope of the Manic Pixie Dream Girl. She is played by actresses like Kirsten Dunst and Zooey Deschanel. She has no concrete goals or thoughts of her own, but mainly exists to liven up the male protagonist’s boring, emotionless life. She is, as Mulvey would say, made to be an object who we see only through the male gaze. Learning this trope, I was shocked to discover some of my favorite films make use of this! Although I still enjoy them, I am now constantly on the (difficult) look out for fully-developed female characters.
(Sidenote: If you’re interested in some more common female tropes in movies, I suggest you read Mindy Kaling’s recent delightful article in The New Yorker.)
I also realized this “gaze” extends to everyday life. Many times I have been uncomfortable on the street due to staring, which, like in cinema, establishes a type of control and makes me feel somewhat powerless. I’m sure many Hollaback! readers are also familiar with this. Making someone conscious of their staring would be a brave step, and reminds me of Barbara Kruger’s famous work (shown above, via The Chicago School of Media Theory) which renders the gaze somewhat powerless by calling the gazer out.
Luckily, a lot of the power divisions in movies have dissapeared with the introduction of independent cinema and more female-centered films. But the gaze still lives on in many ways. Have you encountered the “gaze” in everyday life?
BY ALEX ALSTON
I glued myself to my Droid, using Tweetcaster to keep me updated. Riot police gathered outside of the prison where he was being held. There were reports that even the Ku Klux Klan made an appearance in Jackson last night. Indeed, the eyes of the world were on Troy Davis, the Supreme Court of the United States, and our so called “justice system.” We have been here before, Oscar Grant, Rodney King. Certainly, we thought we had come just a bit too far to see it happen again. We were wrong. Regardless of Troy Davis’s guilt or innocence, there was no gun linking him to this crime, there was no DNA evidence linking him to this crime, there were 10 eyewitnesses. 7 of those 10 either recanted their testimony in part or completely, or charged that they were coerced by police into testifying against Davis. Despite those facts, despite a world-wide outcry, Troy Davis was executed for shooting a police officer in Georgia in 1989 at 11:08p.m. on September 21, 2011. Make no mistake about it, there is nothing liberal or conservative about this tragedy. There was simply too much doubt for this man to be put to death. Again, this system is failing us all; men, women, white, and black (yes a white man was put to death in Texas yesterday as well). Duke’s own Dr. Mark Anthony Neal remarked, “Every generation has to cross their River Jordan; this is your River Jordan.” I hope we make it.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
This post is in honor of one of my favorite shows, Parks and Recreation, which returns for its fourth season this Thursday. (Yay!) Along with being hilarious, the show also shows gives us a rare subject in today’s network television shows — a female main character who is strong, complex and a self-described feminist.
For all those who are missing out on this delightful show, Leslie Knope is the name of this character, played by Amy Poehler. She is a person who is very competent in her small-town government job. She also has aspirations of being the president of the United States. She has photos of Hillary Clinton and Sandra Day O’Connor by her desk. She has relatable relationship triumphs and problems.
Basically, she’s a realistic and driven modern-day lady. It shouldn’t be that rare on TV, but it is.
Along with being a relateable character, she’s also adorably quirky, like many of the show’s other characters. Her quirkiness is contrasted with the extremely logical persona of her best friend Anne, played by Rashida Jones. Another refreshing part of the show is its inclusion of a strong female friendship. Like all friendships it has its ups and downs, but its a friendship extremely valued by the characters and a large part of the show’s plotlines. It also doesn’t revolve around men.
So, if this show were a movie it would definitely pass the Bechdel Test. And what’s most refreshing is that you do see a personal progression of Leslie’s character through the seasons of the show. Hopefully this season she will be better (and more feminist) than ever! I’m ending my spiel, but please do check out the show on Thursday. And if you haven’t already, check out the clip from this Sunday’s Emmys broadcast of the leading ladies of comedy coming up to the stage in a faux beauty pageant set-up. As one commentator said, “Who’s saying women aren’t funny now”?
BY AMALIA SIRICA
This past week, to commemorate the 17th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act, Vice President Joe Biden announced his “1 is 2 many” campaign. In an impassioned speech that can be viewed here, he urges us to step up and take action.
At the heart of this new campaign is the notion that victims of sexual violence are more than mere statistics. I love the name “1 is 2 many,” because I think that too often we look at a number and think, “oh just 1 in 5? that’s not that bad,” but in reality we should be thinking, “1 is WAY too many.”
One of my favorite parts of Biden’s speech describes his position on bystander intervention. “There’s no such thing as an innocent bystander when it comes to the abuse of a woman,” he says. “If you know of it, if you see it, you have an absolute obligation to stop it.”
I was glad to hear him say this, because I think that too often campaigns will focus on “teaching women how to protect themselves,” when really we should be teaching others to be socially responsible for the communities they reside in.
While overall I responded positively to “1 is 2 many,” I did take issue with some of the language that Biden used.
I cringed a little when he said, “One more thing, guys: If you know somebody’s being abused or see someone being abused, be a man. Step up. It could be your sister. It’s your obligation. Thanks guys. We need your help.”
While I’m sure his intentions were good, this appeal to men has always irked me. Why is it necessary to remind them that the women being assaulted could be their sister? Isn’t it enough to say that a member of their community is in need? And on top of that to encourage them to, “be a man”? It feels downright paternalistic, and a little patronizing…
I’m happy the nation’s leaders are taking notice of these issues and making them a priority. But I also yearn for a day when a woman could count on her community for help just because she is human, and not because she might be a stand-in for a blood relation.
BY ALEX ALSTON
I personally think the idea that only women can be feminists is a myth constructed by a male-dominated society. Quite frankly, it has done much in the way of dividing men and women working toward gender equity, as it is often wielded by patriarchal ways of thinking. However, one of my professors and I recently sat down and began discussing the somewhat problematic, in our respective opinions, phenomenon of men in academia (or any other discipline) promoting themselves as feminists when in fact their actions suggest otherwise.
The specific case in question involved Tulane University professor Shayne Lee and his book entitled, Erotic Revolutionaries: Black Women, Sexuality, and Popular Culture. (If you haven’t heard about the debacle please google it.) Lee was once a part of a group of black professors, all men, who very vehemently and consistently articulated their place as “black male-feminists.” The problem arose when Lee’s work was critiqued by a colleague of his, Dr. Tamura Lomax. For whatever reason Lee responded hostilely toward his colleague via text message and facebook. Dr. Lomax expressed that she felt physically threatened and intellectually demeaned by Lee’s comments toward her. Lee, however has defended his position even as the situation has deteriorated and many of his colleagues, both men and women, have firmly denounced his behavior as neither feminist nor professional. The point both my professor and I stressed was that a commitment to feminism from a man, cannot simply be lip service. There are inevitably various ways to practice feminism, but physical intimidation and insults cannot be readily incorporated into a feminist framework of responding to a colleague. Like Lee, there are many “progressive men” operating in different disciplines and different spheres that don’t mind calling themselves feminists. Part of my experience at Hollaback! taught me to value the meaning of the term and to not just lump myself in simply because I could be mildly cognizant of sexism. I certainly don’t claim to be the authority on who is and who is not a feminist, but I will say there is a real problem with the almost flippant use of the word on the part of some men to serve their own ends. A feminist in speech only, is no feminist at all.
T-Mobile has responded to our petition and provided the requested phone numbers to the NYPD. However, T-Mobile slowed down a police investigation of a sexual assault, endangering more people. We continue to be in discussion with T-Mobile to get clarity on their policy.
Hollaback! launches online petition at change.org to demand action from telecommunications giant
(Brooklyn, NY) – Hollaback!, an international movement dedicated to ending street harassment through mobile technology, today called on telecommunications giant T-Mobile to release vital information pertaining to a sexual assault case in New York City. An attack in Brooklyn in July, after which the suspect called the victim’s cell phone from a blocked number, marks the sixth of such assaults to occur in the area since March; the information provided by T-Mobile could be key in leading to the arrest of the perpetrator. The on-line petition is available here.
“Withholding information that could lead to the arrest of a man who poses a violent threat to women across New York is not just irresponsible, it’s unconscionable,” said Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May. “By refusing to assist authorities in this case, T-Mobile is sending a message to sexual predators everywhere that their acts will go unpunished. It’s time the company do the right thing and disclose vital information that will help prevent future rapes.”
The victim, a 22-year old woman, woke up in a car in July with two men on top of her. She screamed and tried to get away, and they let her out of the car — taking only her phone. She was left with bruises and a broken zipper. The details of what happened before she woke up remain unknown.
“As a south Brooklyn resident, I am outraged. T-Mobile’s policy has left my wife, my friends, and all the residents of South Brooklyn at risk,” said Samuel Carter, co-founder and board chair of Hollaback! and publisher of Overflow, a local south Brooklyn magazine.
According to T-Mobile’s Customer Proprietary Network Information (which includes call details and call location information) the company will not disclose such information without a customer’s permission. The NYPD has already submitted one failed subpoena, and is in the process of submitting subpoena’s with higher courts. According to the NYPD, T-Mobile is notorious for their failure to cooperate in criminal investigations.
The most recent reported attack in South Brooklyn occurred on September 6, 2011 and marked the seventh attack since March. Many of the other six attacks happened either late at night or in the early morning. While several women were able to escape, one woman was raped in her apartment vestibule.
BY EMILY MAY
Comedian Alex Carabano points out how completely ridiculous holla’ing is in this little video. And he’s right. If you could take street harassment out of it’s scary/lonely/isolating context it’s freaking ridiculous. Problem is – outside of comedy – you can’t take it out of that context. It’s always gonna be scary. That’s the point.
But what if we took the power out of their words and DID laugh at them? Would it escalate, deter them, or make them cower in shame? HOLLA with your stories of laughing-back. We’d love to hear.