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#OurStreets: Hollaback!’s Collaborative Letter Regarding the NYE Cologne Attacks

Hollaback! is a movement to end harassment powered by a network of local activists. We work together to better understand harassment, raise awareness, and provide community-based solutions. We are coming together as a global community to publicly critique the discriminatory and offensive media coverage surrounding the attacks in Cologne.

 

In the face of increased public awareness and media attention in Europe as a result of the attacks in Cologne mostly, but from other German cities as well, it is important to take this moment to dismantle the harmful myths that circulate around street harassment and reaffirm the right to safe and equal public spaces for all.

 

Street harassment – “catcalling,” discriminatory/hate speech, groping, public masturbation, and stalking – is an everyday fact of life for many women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color. According to research from Cornell University, it can cause depression, anger, and fear. Street harassment limits our access to free and equal public spaces and reiterates existing power imbalances.

 

We support the individuals who have been the targets of this violence and street harassment – both in the recent attacks and throughout history. We hear you and we believe you.

 

However, we are disappointed and offended by how many media outlets are portraying the street harassment that occurred on New Year’s Eve in Cologne as a new phenomenon imported by “foreigners or migrants,” when the reality is that street harassment is an ongoing and pervasive issue: one that affects women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color the world over. Street harassment is not a new problem. To report about street harassment as if it was nonexistent before one highly publicized incident, or as if it is only an act perpetrated by migrants is incredibly problematic and frankly, wrong. Hollaback! has been collecting data on harassment worldwide for over ten years. To date, we have received over 9,000 stories of street harassment from around the world. That data is made available to the public through our websites and app, as well as through publications such as “Harassment Is: An exploration of identity and street harassment.” The data shows that street harassment is most prevalent in high-traffic areas, including public transportation and subway systems. Street harassment does not belong to a specific social category. As we’ve seen from the stories of harassment that we collect daily and from the emerging research, individuals who harass come from all racial and class backgrounds. Rather, street harassment is made possible by a society of inequality that determines the freedom of some to movement and safety, leading to unequal access to public spaces.

 

We refuse to allow an increased awareness of street harassment to be used as a tool for racist and xenophobic policies. What has to be reaffirmed throughout the narrative is the lack of freedoms of women, LGBTQ individuals, and people of color in public space.

 

Just last year, Hollaback! held the largest ever global survey on street harassment with Cornell University. We found that over 84 percent of women globally had been harassed before the age of 18, and that over half of individuals responding reported being groped or fondled without their consent in the last year alone. What’s more, according to the European Union Agency for Fundamental Human Rights survey of 42,000 women throughout the EU, over 55% have experienced some form of sexual harassment since the age of 15. In Germany, where the events took place:

  • 85% of German women reported their first experience with street harassment before age 17
  • 66% of German women have been groped or fondled in the past year
  • 70% have been followed by a man or a group of men in a way that made them feel unsafe during the past year
  • 14% of German women have experienced this frightening behavior more than 5 times
  • Over half of respondents noted that they took a different route or transportation, completely avoided an area, changed the time they left an event, or avoided socializing because of street harassment (or the fear of it), and
  • A small amount of respondents even noted that they resigned from their job or skipped work – or even moved cities – because of harassment.

 

What we’ve seen from the overall qualitative and quantitative research so far is that street harassment disproportionately impacts young women and girls, people of color, and the LGBTQ community. Street harassment is an expression of interlocking and overlapping oppressions. It can be sexist, racist, transphobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. Individuals’ experiences of street harassment must be understood within the historical context, societal prejudices, and climates of inequality that inform it. Hollaback! believes that recognizing this intersection of identities and oppressions is key to implementing lasting social change. As such, we believe it is of pivotal importance to dismantle stereotypes of harassment and question media narratives that promote inequality.

 

Our Hollaback! Berlin site writes:

 

Since NYE and the subsequent undifferentiated media coverage, there seems to be a new interest in Germany regarding sexual violence. There have to our knowledge barely been that many reports on and discussions about sexualized violence, the issue or the roots of the problem are not being discussed. Rather the attacks in Cologne and other German cities leave many questions open. Up until today it is quite unclear what exactly happened there, by whom and how was that even possible?

How can in a situation with more than 1000 people present and obviously a large police force as well, how can women be groped, abused and violated without anyone – and that includes the police – intervening?

One answer to this is that German society does not have any strategies against sexualized violence. What these events brought to light is that German society, and that includes and its members and official bodies, does not know what to do against sexualized violence. The laws are inefficient and do not protect women from violence, as pointed out by several women’s rights organizations in Germany.

The same politicians that are now pretending to care about violence against women are instrumentalizing the events to pursue a racist agenda aimed at refugees.

We as Hollaback! have been working around the issues of sexualized violence for a long time and each and every story on our blogs proves that street harassment is an everyday issue – not only in Germany. Germany has a blatant sexism problem and with the ever growing openly racist movements, German society, media and lawmakers must not only learn to deal with sexualized violence, they must understand the intersections of sexism and racism.

Completely out of focus in the overtly racist and white male dominated discourse “after” Cologne are the victims of sexualized violence. Only few reports from women who were there NYE have been published. Barely no attention is given to the situation of refugee women either. The public discourse in Germany is not interested in actually dealing with sexualized violence. As a space of empowerment and community, Hollaback! invites all people facing sexualized violence to use their power and tell their stories.

What we need is not new asylum laws, what we need are safe spaces for ALL women. An open call to end violence and an effective law enforcement and support system for victims and survivors of sexualized violence.

 

When discussing both the realities of street harassment, as well as community-led solutions to the issue, we need to recognize the facts: street harassment is an ongoing and persistent issue that often targets individuals’ identities and it occurs most often (though by no means exclusively) in high traffic areas. It is perpetuated by individuals of all backgrounds and cultures. It is by no means a “city” problem or a “Cologne” problem — it is a global problem and it affects all of us.

 

We call on the public and on the media to challenge their narratives of what street harassment is and to dismantle harmful myths that promote further discrimination and inequality. We call on the public to join us during a day of action on street harassment this February 4th to chalk walk, share our stories, and map our harassment with #ourstreets. Together, we can change the narrative and ensure safe and equal access to public spaces for all.

 

Signed:

 

  • Hollaback! Headquarters
  • Hollaback! São Paulo
  • Hollaback! London
  • Hollaback! Amsterdam
  • Hollaback! Ottawa
  • Hollaback! Czech / (Ozvi se!)
  • Hollaback! Bahamas
  • Hollaback! Bosnia and Herzegovina
  • Hollaback! Dresden und Umgebung
  • Hollaback! Berlin
  • Hollaback! Edinburgh
  • Hollaback! Poland
  • Hollaback! Croatia
  • Hollaback! Italy
  • Hollaback! Vegas
  • Hollaback! Vancouver
  • Hollaback! Baltimore
  • Hollaback! Korea
  • Hollaback! Cuenca

Translations: Polish, German

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campaign

Harassment Is Campaign

On October 15, Hollaback! is launching “Harassment Is: An exploration of identity and street harassment”.  Using stories from the Hollaback! sites, the guide invites the reader to practice recognizing how people’s identities and oppressions overlap and how that can affect how they walk down the street.

As part of the “Harassment Is” campaign, we are organizing a #harassmentis tweetup on October 17th at 1pm EDT – we invite all of you to join in and contribute.

Using the hashtag #harassmentis, we encourage people to tell their stories of what street harassment can look/feel like.  We believe that expanding this conversation is the first step for all of us to create solutions and responses to street harassment.

It all starts with telling your story.  On October 17th, tweet what #harassmentis to you and, when you submit stories to the Hollaback! sites, tag them with #harassmentis to expand the conversation around street harassment.

 

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Article, campaign, demonstration

Knockout Barstool Takes on Blackout Tour

BY CATHERINE FAVORITE

You probably don’t frequent women-hating websites all that often. Luckily, you have others to do the dirty work for you! A blog aimed at college-aged men called Barstool Sports, showcases a slew of dehumanizing attitudes toward women while disguising itself an entertainment website: “By the common man, for the common man”. By portraying their degrading attitudes toward women as some sort of normal, socially acceptable viewpoint to hold, they participate in the continuation of women being treated as nothing more than objects to be rated by their appearance alone. This winter, the group has been hosting a “Blackout Party” tour near college campuses throughout the East coast and the Midwest.

 

Just a few of the shining comments to come from Barstool Sports’ site:

PS – Just to make friends with the feminists I’d like to reiterate that we don’t condone rape of any kind at our Blackout Parties in mid-January. However if a chick passes out that’s a grey area though.

Even though I never condone rape, if you’re a size 6 and you’re wearing skinny jeans you kind of deserve to be raped right? I mean skinny jeans don’t look good on size 0 and 2 chicks, nevermind size 6’s.

Thankfully, there is a new group in town called Knockout Barstool. We applaud a letter they wrote earlier this week, taking down the rape-culture promoting blog and “Blackout Party” tour. There is a big difference between allowing free speech on college campuses and turning the other ear to the hate speech of an organization. Today, Barstool’s “Blackout Party” tour comes to Boston. Here at Hollaback!, we fully support Knockout Barstool’s requests that Northeastern University denounce the hate speech of Barstool Sports:

We demand Northeastern University and its administration stand for women and denounce Barstool Sports and the NU Blackout Party. These organizations do not represent the values of our community nor our institution. As President Joseph Aoun said in a recent email to the university: “While we should actively engage different opinions and points of view — and this may result in strong and intense discussions—we will not tolerate any conduct that creates a hostile or intimidating environment for members of our community.” Barstool Sports and their blackout party creates a hostile and intimidating environment for women. We must demand an equal and safe university culture.

A recent post by Barstool Sports about the work of Hollaback!’s Executive Director, Emily May revealed the tired occurrence of insulting a woman’s appearance because they took issue with what she had to say. In so doing, Barstool tried to reinforce the notion that the worst possible thing a man could say to a woman is that he does not want to sleep with her, rather than choosing to have a civil conversation with her.

Thank you, Barstool Sports, for providing us with such an apt example of why we must continue working.

–You might notice we did not link to Barstool Sports’s website, as we do not wish to give them the satisfaction of more site hits. Please enjoy the following screen shots instead (misspelling of “harrassment” included).

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Article, campaign, demonstration, News, Street harassment in the media

International Anti-Street Harassment Week, March 18-24

BY CATHERINE FAVORITE

Come “Meet Us On the Street”, for International Anti-Street Harassment week, from March 18-24, to take a stand against street harassment! Last year’s first International Anti-Street Harassment Day was so successful, with over thousands of people participating in 13 countries, that this year, the folks of Stop Street Harassment are dedicating an entire week to raising public awareness to end gender-based verbal harassment.

 

In speaking out against catcalls, sexist comments, public masturbation, groping, stalking, and assault, you will help to create a sustained dialogue surrounding how women, girls and the LGBTQ community must endure a level of verbal and physical street violence that continues to be an inevitable reality for far too many people. The widespread acceptance of gender and sexuality based street harassment has created a silent suffering that wrongfully places the burden of street harassment onto those receiving the harassment, leaving harassers free to continue. In the past, a casual acceptance of street harassment for LGBTQ individuals, women and girls has created a stigma of shame and silence. International Anti-Street Harassment Week is a way of countering this. By making this a part of the public discussion, we can change the culture of acceptance surrounding street harassment. No one should have to change the way they walk to school or work, or worry if their clothing might draw unwanted attention. This week is about calling for the right of everyone to be treated as equals in all shared public spaces. Just as sexual harassment is not tolerated in schools, work or at home, we should not accept it from strangers on the streets, either!

 

Meet Us On the Street offers many ways for how you can participate, whether by taking to the street on March 24th with your friends and community, bringing up street harassment in conversations, to tweeting about it (#NoSHWeek) and changing your Facebook photo during the third week of March. You can also organize action in your community and submit it to the map so others in your area can find out about it.

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campaign

MTA Gettin’ it Together

While we won’t crown the MTA with official Hollaback Hero status just yet, they are certainly on their way.

This neon blue ‘Help Point’ was spotted at a 6 train station, and the new subway announcement encouraging riders to ‘say something’ not only if they are the victims of unlawful sexual conduct but also if they see it has already gone into effect. Readers reported hearing it at the 49th St. subway station last Friday.

Use these blue help points to report creeps, wankers, gropers, and stalkers. We’ll be keeping our eye out for other possible improvements in the system, like respectful MTA and NYPD employees who respond appropriately to reports of abuse.

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campaign, The Movement

Help Rid NYC of Sexual Violence

New Yorkers United Against Sexual Violence is campaigning to ensure funding for sexual violence prevention and treatment programs. Please sign this petition to help the all of the programs throughout NYC keep working toward a city free of sexual violence.

From their website:

Sexual violence affects all New Yorkers, regardless of class, race, gender expression, sexual orientation or age. It is estimated that in a city of 8 million residents, that over 1.2 million women and 200,000 men have been sexually assaulted in their life. Anti-sexual violence programs work tirelessly to help survivors heal and to develop safer communities.

In 2011, organizations doing crucial anti-sexual violence work in New York City are woefully underfunded. The limited funding available to these organizations makes victims of sexual violence in New York City a truly underserved population. We urge the City Council to stand with us against sexual violence and support the city wide Sexual Assault Initiative for $720,000 in the 2012 budget.

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

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‘Eve Teasing’ and ‘Cat Calling’: Different Names, Same Old Shit

Video cross-posted from Hollaback Mumbai

“I enjoy eve teasing, but when someone ‘teases’ my girlfriend, mother or my sister, I feel hurt. That is when I realize it is wrong to eve-tease.”

‘Eve teasing’ is the gentle ‘boys will be boys’-type term given to street harassment in India, much like ‘cat calling’ in the United States—terms that downplay the severity of the issue. This 4-minute film by Akshara, a leading women’s organization founded in Mumbai in 1986, features interviews with ‘eve teasers’ and the women they harass; set to music.

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campaign, Street harassment in the media, The Movement

Fiat Issues Informal Confirmation of Split with El Guardian

Bringing to two the number of advertisers who have agreed to pull funding from Argentina’s El Guardian, Fiat issued this Facebook post in response to campaign pressure:

“…we would like to make it clear that Fiat and all of its employees in any parts of the world condemn any form of violence – be it against women, children, ethnic or religious minorities, including any attitude inciting violence, as also set out in the “Pacto Global Compact”, of which Fiat is one of the signatories in Argentina. We are carefully evaluating the situation and we will keep you informed through our usual communication and conversation channels. In any case Fiat advertising campaign on El Guardian already terminated on April 7.”

El Guardian maintains innocence of wrongdoing and has refused to terminate its relationship with the journalist in question.

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campaign, demonstration, HollaZine, Street harassment in the media

Toronto SlutWalk Draws Hundreds

Toronto Police representative Michael Sanguinetti’s words of wisdom to students at York University in January that “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized” was the basis for Sunday’s inaugural “SlutWalk,” drawing close to 1000 men and women fed up with institutionalized victim-blaming and shaming.

From the SlutWalk site:

Historically, the term ‘slut’ has carried a predominantly negative connotation. Aimed at those who are sexually promiscuous, be it for work or pleasure, it has primarily been women who have suffered under the burden of this label. And whether dished out as a serious indictment of one’s character or merely as a flippant insult, the intent behind the word is always to wound, so we’re taking it back. “Slut” is being re-appropriated.

Watch MoxNews.com’s report here:

By VK

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campaign, demonstration, The Movement

Take Part in Sexual Assualt Activism Month!

This April marks the tenth anniversary of SAAM (Sexual Assault Awareness Month), and the awesome activists at SAFER (Students Active For Ending Rape) are calling for a push from awareness to activism, making this years’ SAAM stand for Sexual Assault ACTIVISM Month.   Students, recent alumni, parents, and teachers are encouraged to participate by “pledging” a direct action against sexual assault this month, whether by fundraising, submitting their definition of accountability to the SAFER website, or checking up on their schools’ sexual assault policy and pushing for reform where necessary.

Check out this video for some student submissions of what accountability looks like to them:


 

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