“It is not my problem or my responsibility to prevent men from assaulting me”
Teamed up with fellow NYC activist and student, Sarah VanDenbergh, I had an awesome time representing HollabackNYC at the world premiere of the “Hot Pussy is No Way to Say Hello” campaign in Union Square on April 3.
After moving from a small town to NYC for graduate school at NYU, Sarah was quickly disgusted by the amount and degree of street harassment she received when she stepped out her front door. Appalled by the common misconception that street harassment is sometimes provoked or asked for by the woman and that the woman is responsible for preventing her own assault, Sarah’s thesis puts the offending men and their bad behavior under the spotlight, in a reversal of roles.
“Most of the research, discourse, media, and news coverage around sexual harassment discusses it through an individual framework focusing on the victim. The solution that that framework leads to is the victim helping herself. There is very little to do with the male. It is not my problem or my responsibility to prevent men from assaulting me. It is a man’s problem and a man’s responsibility. It was therefore the goal of my project to change a “woman’s problem” into a public prerogative.”
Seven life-sized cardboard cutouts of male silhouettes were placed standing up in Union Square, each with a different sign on his chest: “I grope women on the train almost every day,” “I masturbate on women on the L train,” “I objectify women’s bodies.” Two black boxes were placed at the foot of two figures that played 108 looped recordings of lewd, derogatory, and offensive comments made to women taken directly from the Hollaback website. For this part, Sarah had several of her male friends record the phrases. They included such Hollaback classics
as “Hey bitch! You want a stick or a dick?” and “Which one of you am I going to rape first?” and were played loudly for passersby to hear. We handed out postcards with the campaign motto that encourage women to take a photo of their harasser and submit it to Hollaback.
Responses were mixed; surprisingly, the overwhelming majority were positive. One girl, who appeared on the verge of tears, said “Your work here is pretty hard to swallow, but it’s effective.” Others weren’t so supportive; one man said he liked what we were doing, but that the comments being projected from the recordings were “harsh”. Our response? “YEAH, THEY ARE. That’s why we’re here.”
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