BY YASHAR, cross posted from the current conscience
The other day, my friend Dina was talking about her experiences of being catcalled—street harassment is a more accurate term—while walking around the streets of New York.
This wasn’t the first time I’ve heard about the epidemic of street harassment. Many of my women friends have remarked about experiencing and dealing with this kind of harassment and how unsafe it makes them feel.
For Dina, one particular instance of harassment on the streets of New York was cemented in her memory. She was walking alone, during the day, on the Lower East Side of Manhattan, when she heard a man taunt her, “Hey baby, you’re lookin’ good…”
“Don’t call me baby,” she responded.
He looked her up and down and said, “…fucking dyke.”
For the record, Dina is straight—not that it would have been okay if she weren’t.
This wasn’t the first, nor will it be the last time Dina faces street harassment. She has been harassed in public places, and on a number of occasions, followed by men. Many studies indicate that almost 100 percent of women will face some sort of street harassment at one point in their lives.
Most men don’t even realize street harassment exists as a very real, serious problem. Yet, many women see this kind of harassment as part of daily life. For the few men who are aware of it, they assume the extent of street harassment is something akin to harmless, or at worst, annoying flirting, which still problematic if that attention is unwelcome.
The reality of street harassment is far worse than what most men think or believe. In cities large and small, women have to contend with comments that range from the mildly offensive to the disgusting. Beyond being verbally harassed, many women are followed and some women are even forced to deal with the same harasser on a daily basis. And for some women, this “harmless” harassment leads to assault.
But I realized, as Dina was telling me her story, that I have never actually been witness to the kind of street harassment my women friends tell me about. If a woman is walking down the street with me, other men generally won’t engage in any kind of harassing behavior towards her because street harassment, like all forms of harassment, is about attacking the vulnerable.
And despite what some readers of this column may think about my gender, I will never know what it feels like for a woman to walk down the street alone. How am I to fully relate to the pain, fear, and humiliation of street harassment when I have never witnessed its full form and lack the the personal experience of being harassed on the street?
Street harassment is simply one issue that plagues women in their everyday life. They are constantly barraged with discriminatory obstacles that we don’t even see as obstacles.
To read the rest the of the article, click here.
A new t-shirt marketed to tweens and teens contains this message:
“I’m too pretty to do homework so my brother has to do it for me.”
Hey, JC Penny: It’s 2011. Your sexist t-shirt messaging sucks. Big time.
That’s right, let’s keep telling young women that their looks are more important than their brains or than doing homework. Maybe they’ll just start believing it.
Sign the Change.org petition to let JC Penny CEO Mike Ullman III know that his paying customers don’t appreciate being disrespected like this and that our daughters will not be wearing sexist propaganda. Ask your friends to do the same.
Thanks to your quick response, JC Penny has pulled the offensive t-shirt from their website and issued this statement:
jcpenney is committed to being America’s destination for great style and great value for the whole family. We agree that the “Too pretty” t-shirt does not deliver an appropriate message, and we have immediately discontinued its sale. Our merchandise is intended to appeal to a broad customer base, not to offend them. We would like to apologize to our customers and are taking action to ensure that we continue to uphold the integrity of our merchandise that they have come to expect.
BY ANNIE BOGGS
Deciding what to wear on a night out is usually a matter of deliberation and accomplished with the help of my roommates. In my college town, as in a lot of other areas populated with young people, there seems to be much more pressure on female students than their male counterparts to dress to the nines and look “cute.” Annoying, sure, but is this harmless or damaging sexism at work?
In this recent New York Times piece, writer Lisa Belkin contrasts the equality college women have achieved in the classroom to the lack of respect they seem to receive in social settings. Mainly using examples of fraternities, she describes a setting where largely “men set the pace”, and the “he chases, she submits” way of thinking seems to be ingrained in college culture.
Of course, sexist fraternity members aren’t representative of all college students. It is true, however, that many think that because we’ve reached certain statistics and quotas that demonstrate equality, we can stop caring about it and stop working toward change. That just isn’t true. Women compose more than half of college students, but that doesn’t mean the same old gendered power division doesn’t exist outside the classroom.
A defining factor, I think, is believing you have the choice of what to wear and how to act, independent of others’ expectations. As a young woman, I was taught that I can wear anything I want (and sometimes I think back in disbelief to the days before women could wear pants!). This sometimes includes short dresses, but I don’t like to think it’s dictated by a societal trend that takes away my agency.
The generation of women in college have the most freedom women have ever had, and therefore more expectations, so I can understand the writer’s frustration with the current college culture and definitely think it should be further discussed. Do older generations just not “get” this new kind of female empowerment, or did women’s equality truly get lost in the shuffle somehow? Please let me know your thoughts in the comments section!
BY ANNIE BOGGS
If you’re like me, you distrust the summer blockbuster season for its general obsession with superheroes, mindless violence and sequels. With the exception of “Bridesmaids” and the somewhat controversial “The Help”, this year was no different. The end of the summer brings some optimism, however, with several upcoming movies covering uncharted territory (read: women’s and LGBT issues, here and abroad). At a screening of “Another Earth”– a wonderful film I would definitely recommend- I saw the three following film previews that peeked my interest and reinstated my faith (a bit) in the movie industry:
And finally, this trailer was released a few days ago and takes a look at the, ahem, accidental history of the vibrator during the Victorian era, titled “Hysteria” for the illness doctors were attempting to cure. No release date set for the U.S. yet.
Awesome, am I right? Films that actually reflect lives of those who are not white, male and wearing superhero suits are a plus in my book. Support films like these and maybe, someday, blockbuster season will be filled with diverse stories of women (a girl can dream!).
cross-posted from Lipstick Feminists
It is not an invitation
that I want it
or give it
or that I hook.
My short skirt
is not begging for it
it does not want you
to rip it off me
or pull it down.
My short skirt
is not a legal reason
for raping me
although it has been before
it will not hold up
in the new court.
My short skirt, believe it or not
has nothing to do with you.
My short skirt
is about discovering
the power of my lower calves
about cool autumn air traveling
up my inner thighs
about allowing everything I see
or pass or feel to live inside.
My short skirt is not proof
that I am stupid
or a malleable little girl.
My short skirt is my defiance
I will not let you make me afraid
My short skirt is not showing off
this is who I am
before you made me cover it
or tone it down.
Get used to it.
My short skirt is happiness
I can feel myself on the ground.
I am here. I am hot.
My short skirt is a liberation
flag in the women’s army
I declare these streets, any streets
my vagina’s country.
My short skirt
is turquoise water
with swimming colored fish
a summer festival
in the starry dark
a bird calling
a train arriving in a foreign town
my short skirt is a wild spin
a full breath
a tango dip
my short skirt is
But mainly my short skirt
and everything under it
BY ANNIE BOGGS
As a college student and pop culture junkie, I see firsthand everyday that feminism, or women’s issues in general, simply isn’t very “cool” anymore. Open any mainstream women’s magazine and see basically any major motion picture and it’s apparent. It exists very much so on corners of the Internet, and no doubt in some communities across the country, but generally it is believed as passé.
Yet, as a self-described feminist, here I find myself interested in the movement.
Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of HBO’s Gloria Steinem documentary, “Gloria: In Her Own Words,” which debuted Monday night (see more screening times here). After the screening Steinem herself was there for a Q & A with the audience. It was awesome just for her presence alone, but she also had some inspiring and surprising things to say about young people and the future of the movement. “Young women get such a bum rap,” she said. “Young women are much more supportive of all the issues than older women.”
So maybe it’s not so bad that some young women don’t know who Gloria Steinem is. Maybe it’s enough that they be knowledgeable and supportive of the issues out there that directly affect them. There’s a tendency of mine to think of the movement in terms of the one in the 1960s and ’70s- marches and hearings and sisterhood! But as Steinem said at the Q & A, there is no single face of feminism anymore because feminists are everywhere. It’s not a centralized movement, but accepts the diversity of women everywhere.
At the end of the documentary when asked about advice she would give to young women, she says, “Don’t listen to my advice, listen to your own advice.” In a way, that’s the greatest advice she could have given. We live in a completely different world than the second-wavers did. Hollaback! personifies this. As a Hollaback! volunteer for the last month, I saw firsthand the breadth of the movement and how they connect via Skype, social networking, blogging and email with sites all around the world. This is how movements happen now. And I’m excited to be a part of it. (Awesome side note: Steinem herself gave a shout out to Hollaback! founder Emily May yesterday.)
I’m Annie, a college student and aspiring journalist, and I’m happy to be joining the Hollaback! blogger team! Stay tuned for more blogs on college issues, pop culture and news briefings. Until then, if you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments section.