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Cross Posted from Hips and Hangers
I want to take a minute to talk about something serious- street harassment. I’ve never met a woman that hasn’t had to deal with cat calls, whistles, and/or unwanted advances at some point in her life. It’s something I face about 2-3 times a week as part of my commute to work. Most days I can shrug it off with a witty remark, but Tuesday I dealt with five separate instances of street harassment.
1. 9:00am- On the platform at the train station: ”Good morning beautiful”. I sigh, roll my eyes and walk away.
2. 9:20am- On the bus a guy sits super close and says “hey baby, how’s your day going?”. I say “It was going fine until you invaded my personal space” and change seats.
3. 9:25am- Walking from the bus to work, I get honked at and whistled at by a truck full of workers. The driver almost hits a biker because he isn’t watching the road. I give them the finger and shout “watch the road”. One of the men calls me a stupid bitch.
4. 2:45pm- Out of work early for the Holiday and excited to go meet up with my guy for a late lunch, I’m walking quickly to the bus. While waiting at an intersection for the walk signal a guy says “Excuse me” thinking he’s going to ask me for directions, I acknowledge him. He follows up with “where’s your boyfriend pretty girl.” I say “Please leave me alone loudly” and cross the street.
5. 9pm- Walking with my boyfriend enjoying the beautiful summer evening listening to him tell a funny story when I am distracted by kissy noises and calls of “damn, girl” and “hey sexy” from three men sitting on a stoop. I glare at them, drop my boyfriend’s arm and say “You’ve got to be kidding me.” He looks confused because he didn’t hear any of it. I explain what happened and that I would have said something back to them had he not been with me. They outnumbered him 3 to 1, and I didn’t want to start anything. I then vent to him about my day. I’m shocked that this happened with him. Normally men don’t bother you if you appear to “belong” to someone else.
By the end of the day I felt unsafe, pissed, annoyed, anxious, and sad.
I don’t know what it is that makes some men think that I get dressed for them in the morning, but I don’t. I get dressed for me. This sundress is for me! Women deserve to live in a culture where we can walk freely in our communities without fear of harassment or assault.
Recently, we spoke with Maggie Hadleigh-West, filmmaker of the fascinating 1998 street harassment documentary film, War Zone. As Maggie describes on her website, War Zone is about “sex, power and what happens when men—either knowingly or unknowingly—threaten a woman’s right to walk undisturbed on the streets.” In shooting the documentary, Maggie turned her camera on catcallers, giving us all a peek into the mind of the harasser. Here’s what Maggie had to say about her activism, what inspires her, and War Zone, her amazing videoHOLLA:
Most importantly, where can we find War Zone?
http://www.snagfilms.com/films/title/war_zone, or my website if you just want to see the trailer, http://www.yomaggie.com/
Tell us a bit about how you got involved in activism and the street harassment movement.
Well, for as long as I can remember I’ve been an activist. My first feminist outrage was realizing I was going to probably have to change my name when I married some guy! I was about 6. Also I grew up with two brothers and a very sexist father so from the beginning I was very clear that there was an extreme inequity. The first time I remember championing anything was I was in elementary school, and I was defending kids that were mentally challenged. That was second grade or something like that.
As for street harassment, I became pretty outraged about street abuse some time in my early 20’s, and when I moved to New York in my late 20’s, I became really crazed about it!
Is that awareness what inspired you to film War Zone? Was there a specific trigger point?
It was a combination of that awareness and some experiences in my personal life—I had a boyfriend at the time that I really loved, and he really didn’t seem to understand the impact street harassment had on me. I would talk to him about my experiences, particularly about a specific group of men in the neighborhood who repeatedly harassed me, and my boyfriend recommended that I carry mace and spray the guys. I remember thinking to myself, “this guy who loves me doesn’t understand the threat of street harassment or how it impacts my feeling of safety. These guys know where I live!” and I knew that was also true of other men in my family. It occurred to me that most men probably didn’t quite “get it” either. That was my early inspiration, although I didn’t really know what I was going to do about it. Then one day I bought a camera. I woke up the next morning and thought “Oh. Now I have a weapon!”
Interesting, so the film just sort of developed out of your growing interest and conversations you had about street harassment.
Yea. That’s generally how I work on all my films. “Player Hating: A Love Story,” my most recent film, developed right out of War Zone. I noticed that many of the men who were on the streets were disenfranchised men, and I started to think about how those men dealt with the disenfranchisement they felt from the overall culture.
That lack of understanding about the impact of street harassment that you mentioned earlier seems unfortunately widespread—in a news interview about War Zone, I saw a reporter describe street harassment as “street flirting.” What did you think of that?
Well, he, like many, was just ignorant of the impact of street harassment. And sadly, for some men, they do think of their harassment as flirting.
Your film really did capture the wide range of how men view their harassment. What do you think of as the most memorable moment or interaction captured in War Zone?
Probably Joe, the guy at the end of the movie. When I filmed him I wasn’t actually shooting for the movie—when I turned on the camera I had thought of it as collecting evidence because I was certain he was a predator. So I was in a totally different frame of mind compared to the rest of the movie. I was calm during regular shooting because I was gathering information, not trying to protect myself and other women.
Do you have any other memorable street harassment stories that you can share with us?
I have so many. One of the most surprising was when a seven year old boy harassed me, referencing my body parts, and it was just so clear he was copying something he’d heard from an older man. Another time, there was a guy on my street who I always tried to ignore because he was a drug dealer, and one day I was wearing a man’s winter coat as I passed him by. He called out to me “Baby, you’re getting fatter!” and I turned around and said “You’re getting stupider!” and we actually both started laughing. Another time I was on the subway, and I saw some young boys target me, and one kid walked up to me. He didn’t say anything but just took a physical stance and stepped into my personal space. I didn’t move at all, and he was about 10 inches from my face when I just smiled really big at him and said “WHASSUP!!” And he just burst out laughing. Another story I can relay happened to a friend– a guy was getting aggressive with her, she got scared and wasn’t sure what to do, so she turned around and yelled really load in his face, “DO YOU KNOW THE TIME??!!” And I think that just seemed so crazy that it worked in terms of him leaving her alone.
So you have definitely seen a wide range of types of harassing behaviors. What do you think is the best way for people to combat street harassment?
Just get out of the space—to me, safety is the most important thing, because of the relationship between street abuse and sexual assault, rape, and murder. It can be a very direct trajectory sometimes. Also using non-confrontational, non-aggressive, classic “sexual assault” language, like “stay away,” “I’m not interested in you,” being definitive but not escalating the situation, and then absolutely reporting the incident later on.
We’re all about reporting! Do you remember how you first heard about Hollaback?
Yes, some of the founding members of Hollaback had contacted me about War Zone a few years back when it had just begun.
It’s a great video resource. Do you have any other favorite resources on street harassment that you’d recommend?
“Back Off” by Martha Langelan was a good resource years ago, but I’d don’t know if it’s been updated-or even if it needs to be, but I really think Hollaback is the best resource.
Thanks! So what else do you think everyone should know about street harassment?
I feel like the most important thing that isn’t addressed a lot is reporting things to the police, or to organizations like Hollaback, when women are harassed. It’s just so common, and so rarely reported, and I think that increasing reporting is going to be one of the things that will eventually change everything.
Just because the temperature is rising, doesn’t mean that street harassment has to.
We would like to give a special thanks to everyone who donated to our Indiegogo campaign against campus harassment. We have been busy mailing out Hollaback! tote bags, Hollaback! stickers, and cool “I’ve Got Your Back Pins” to our awesome donors. We also sent Hollaback t-shirts to our social media contest winners. We hope that you wear your new Hollaback! gear with pride, knowing that you are helping bring awareness to campus and street harassment. We are now one step closer to ending sexual harassment on college campuses and around the world.
Here’s some more very exciting news for you: New York University will soon become the first college to host its own on-campus Hollaback! The launch of NYU’s Hollaback! is slated for this coming fall, and the team here at Hollaback! headquarters is looking forward to working closely with the NYU site leaders over the course of the coming school year. You can follow Hollaback! NYU on Twitter
Or join their Facebook page here:
This summer, we’ll be working on creating how-to guides and educational resources so that even more students can bring Hollaback! to their college campuses in the future!
HOLLA and out-
It had been sunny all day. A bit windy, but sunny.
7pm, night is setting in. Eighteen or so lovely enthusiasts show up at the entrance of De Brouckère Metro station to start Hollaback!Brussels’ 2nd CHALK-WALK. We have chalk, self-made banners, flyers in hand – and a lot of badass energy!
and then.. It starts to rain.
But: Who living in Brussels will let her/himself be deterred by such a negligible fact as rain?
Exactly: No One.
The covered roof of the entrance of De Brouckère proves to be a perfect hideout – we huddle together and after some troubled looks towards the pitch-black sky, we start writing on the pavement, there, on the spot.
More and more people running from the rain join our shelter – slowly it gets crowded under there – and they become (unintentional) bystanders watching us while we write our colorful messages. We hand out flyers, explain what we are doing, why we are here. It feels exciting; unusual for some, thrilling for others.
And then the rain stops pouring … just for a second. With the urge to move on, we look for areas that are at least slightly covered so our chalk messages are not immediately washed away. We run to another protected area.
More chalk-walkers come forward and write how they feel about street harassment, how it affects them, what they think should be done about it. We talk with bystanders, passers-by and rain shelter seekers. Reactions range from “Oh, is it that bad in Brussels?” (from tourists) to “Yeah, it happens a lot, you’re right” to “Wow, finally someone is doing something about it” to “You girls are amazing”. And it starts to sink in how important this is, being on the street like this, talking with people, starting a dialogue. But also for ourselves: It’s empowering, it liberates us from certain fears, and being in a group like this reinforces the fact that we ‘have each other’s backs’.
We walk on from shelter to shelter and when the rain finally stops, for real this time, we go to reclaim the biggest spot we had marked on our map: “La Bourse”.
There, we notice it works really well to write with chalk on the pavement when it’s still quite wet ;-), who’d a thought. A large group of bystanders circle around us, trying to read, thinking we’re doing a performance of some sort. We enter into conversations, some are difficult to walk away from, some are awesome & encouraging, some require a lot of energy, some feel good, others not.
Rue du Midi is our end-point of the night. Everyone’s elated. This was so awesome. This is what we should do every day! …. This reinforces that things can change.
So Brussels… our message to you dear friend:
You DO have the power to end street harassment!!Reclaim the street, every day!
Your Hollaback!Brussel team
Up next for July/August/September: Self-defense classes with Garance and a Big Holla Party! More news soon!
Cross-Posted from HollaBack! Boston
Here at Hollaback!, we often talk about, well, holla-ing back! And we all agree that it’s important to speak up and to fight back. But we also agree that it’s unrealistic to expect that everyone will do that. We also agree that it’s not always safe, because the situation could escalate. And we know that some days you’re just too tired to tell yet another harasser to STFU. And we know that some people just plain don’t want to say anything! And all of those things are a-okay!
When we tell people that there is a “right” and a “wrong” way to handle street harassment, we get into that victim-blaming rhetoric that we all hate so much. Recently, a guy responded to something on my Facebook by telling me that if I just “took control of the situation” by telling a guy to go away or [asking another male for help] that I could “end street harassment.” There is so much wrong with that line of thinking, but what I want to focus on is the idea that if I just acted a certain way, this harassment could and would stop. It’s the implication that I’m somehow to blame for the harassment because I didn’t react to it properly, which is no different than telling me that I should have worn something different/walked somewhere different/done something different in order to avoid harassment/rape.
Ruth Graham says:
The message behind this is simply this: whatever you need to do to feel safe, just to do it. You’re under no feminist obligation to shout ‘em down every time they shout up. But just know that you do not have to take it as a compliment, you do not have to feel that you have done something wrong, worn the wrong thing, or behaved in the wrong way. And most of all, you do not need to accept it. You are not wasting time if you make a complaint, and what they have done is not okay. 80 – 90% of women have experienced sexual harassment, and though we might describe it as ‘low level abuse’, it is still fundamentally wrong, and it’s time society started fully recognising that.
Read the rest of her post here.
So even though we love and encourage you to hollaback and to share your story with us on this site, we also want to assure you that, just like eating a Reese’s, there’s no wrong way to respond to street harassment. We trust that whatever response you choose is the right one for you in that moment, and makes you no less a part of our movement to end street harassment!
If you remember a few weeks back, we got a grant to do some strategic planning at our first ever board retreat at the Omega Institute. Check out the video they did on all the organizations that were invited!
Now, for some updates:
Our site leaders win funding! Congrats to our Hollaback sites in Czech Republic, Philly, Baltimore, and Croatia for winning $1k towards their efforts to combat street harassment from Worldwide Visionaries.
Jezebel’s 5th birthday, and we got honored! The official announcement will be up on Jezebel next week, but for now check out this super cute picture of me and our interns (from left to right) Rikera, Sunny, and Natalie from the party last night.
Our 6th class of Hollabacks are in training! They include:
Sheffield (in South Yorkshire)
Victoria, (BC) Canada
Their webinar on how to localize the movement through on the ground activism takes place tomorrow.
Knight Civic Media Conference in Boston! I was honored to be invited. Check out the speaker videos, here.
Shout-out and profiles! This week I was profiled by SPIN magazine and Ashoka’s Changemakers, and we got awesome shout-outs from Scenarios USA, Sadie Magazine, France 24 Observer, and Days of Pink Tumblr. The more media attention we draw to street harassment, the quicker people learn that street harassment is not OK!
Remember: all this is possible because some bold people (perhaps you) told their stories. Let’s keep sharing our stories and keep growing this movement.
HOLLA and out –
Cross Posted from HollaBack! Boston
Here’s wishing you a sunshine-y and harassment-free weekend!
image credit: Kid With Experience
Cross-posted from Hollaback! Philly
We are so excited to announce that our proposal for a two month advertisement campaign in both Philadelphia subway lines was just accepted! Check out our winning proposal here.
Below is our video intro to the project!
The HMAP Challenge:
Don’t we all love lending our support to a valuable cause? As a Healthy Masculinity Action Project (HMAP) Ally, Hollaback! has done just that through the social media world.
But HMAP is more than Facebook posts and Tweets advocating the idea of healthy masculinity—it’s about starting a necessary conversation in society and making a difference. And despite the great advantages and global connections social media provide, we can’t forget about the power of direct, one-on-one communication.
That’s why Hollaback! is encouraging you to take the Healthy Masculinity Challenge. All you have to do is talk to two people about healthy masculinity. It’s a conversation we should all be having, and a great way to prepare for the Healthy Masculinity Summit, October 17–19, in Washington, D.C.