The Movement

Street harassment and sexism hand-in-hand problems

BY CAITLIN O’DONNELL
cross posted from The Times-Delphic

I’m not sure exactly how it became socially acceptable to honk and catcall at girls when you, see us walking around Des Moines, but I assure you it doesn’t turn us on. I promise I’m not jogging so that you can creepily watch me, and these Target gym shorts I’m wearing are not for your benefit.

Here are a few things that girls don’t think when you honk and/or catcall at them:

That boy must be hot and well-endowed.

Oh baby, I love being objectified.

Yes, in fact, I do want to get in your car with you.

Let me just start by informing you that I am not even a little bit attractive when I am jogging. I promise there is nothing about my appearance that could possibly entice you to honk at me. And if I’m wearing high heels and a skirt that goes up to Tahiti, it’s still creepy and misogynistic when you honk at me—I promise.

What exactly do you expect to come of your honking/objectifying slur encounter? I have no idea who you are, and since you’ve now insinuated that I’m a veritable piece of meat, I really don’t want to find out. I promise no level of “Hey girl, what you doing tonight?” will make me want to get into the back of your Corolla.

It does not make me feel excited that I’ve finally caught your attention, which I was so seeking, because I am not seeking your attention. Also, those girls walking a block ahead of me? They don’t want it either. Really. And when my friend flips you off and I yell, “hell, yeah, sexism!” this is not an invitation for you to come back and say “hi.”

When you honk and catcall at us, it may seem like innocent flirting to you. Perhaps you think you flatter us with your witty attention, or you’re showing off for the charming boys also residing in your car. I like to think that you honk because you’re compensating for something. Or maybe you’re chastising me for being a woman jogging at night, a reminder that the streets are not safe for us poor, fragile little girls. Because here’s what it feels like when you call out to me: a threat.

This is what actually goes through my head when you honk: What if he turns around and comes after me? Why does he automatically think he can intimidate and objectify me? Is ‘idiot’ contagious?

When you honk and yell demeaning things as I pass your car or house, it does not make me want to get to know you better. It actually makes me want to slap you.

This street is not yours and neither is any part of me you can see while I walk down University Avenue. It’s ridiculous that you can generally walk around without fear of harassment from passing cars, but for women, it’s expected that we suck it up and take it in stride every time we leave a building.

Weirdly enough, I have the right to walk somewhere without being called out to, honked at or leered at, no matter what time of day or type of attire, and just because you can’t meet girls in a normal context does not make it OK for you to be a jerk. Leave me alone, and take your sexist, drunken, creepy friends with you.

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The Movement

HOLLABACK Essay Contest!

Want to speak up about street harassment and have your writing published on a website visited by thousands of people a year? Hollaback! is seeking submissions for our first ever essay contest! Winners will have their essays published in Sistersong’s “Collective Voices” and posted under the “resources” section of the site.

The subject of the essay contest is “Academic Discourse and Street Harassment: Where are we now, and where can we go from here?”

In order to answer this question, we are looking for students in all academic disciplines: if you’re a future law student, write us an essay on the legal issues pertaining to street harassment, the gaps in legislative protection and the possibilities for legal change. If you’re into feminist theory, write to us about how feminist movements have addressed this issue. If you’re interested in international affairs, tell us how different countries have challenged this issue. If you’re into math, submit a statistical analysis.

Any college or graduate students are eligible. The best articles will be published on the ihollaback.org website this summer, and will be judged on the basis of academic rigor, clarity, writing style, and their potential to advance the field of street harassment. Financial or other forms of compensation will not be provided, but you can rest assured that your efforts will make the world safer for everyone.

To be eligible, you must:
1) Be a currently enrolled college or graduate student.
2) Submit an unpublished academic work of 2000-6000 words on the topic provided.
3) Submit by August 1, 2011.

Please submit all essays to [email protected]

Entrees will be judged on a scale of 1-10 based on four criteria:

1) Writing skill: including clarity, articulation of arguments, etc.
a. Is the writing clear? Are the arguments presented in a straightforward and logical way?

2) Writing style:
a. Is the writing compelling? Does it engage the reader? Is the writing stylistic and imaginative?

3) Impact: The degree to which the essay contributes something new to the field in which the topic is situated.
a. Does the essay describe the ways in which it presents a unique contribution? Does the author situation him/herself in the context of current academic debates on the subject?

4) Relevance of topic and presentation: Does this topic matter to the work of hollaback?
a. Is there a need for the production of information on this topic at this time? Is it topical, relevant to the work of the movement to end street harassment? Does the article generate new knowledge? Is the information presented in a way that will have impact? (ie. are there analysis or guidelines or documentation that will be useful in furthering the work of an advocacy organization like hollaback, etc)

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demonstration, The Movement, Verbal

Christine’s Story: Tomorrow’s agenda: Holla back!

I am studying in Florence, Italy, for my final semester of college, and I was thrilled at the prospect of getting out of my boring North Carolina town and into a place renowned for culture and fashion. Florence is amazing, but the men feel that they can stop and gape at you, or say all kinds of offensive things, and it’s part of their “culture.” A simple “ciao bella” as I pass by does not offend me–that is the kind of culture that is allowed, that is an appreciation of beauty; unfortunately it is used as a shield to justify more lewd statements.

I was walking home last week, and at an intersection waited for the light to change. A guy next to me eyed me, and then starting talking to me; I ignored him, which was easier since I was listening to my ipod, but he would not give up. From that intersection he followed me over four blocks to my apartment, trying to speak to me the whole time. He was so thick-headed that I thought it better not to turn and say anything, but to get away as quickly as possible; the language barrier also would have made it difficult. I made it home and took great pleasure in slamming the door in his face. What shocks me, though, is that all of the streets I walked were full of people, and it was 1 o clock in the afternoon, and no one did or said anything.

I frequently wear heels and dresses, but that DOES NOT mean that I am asking for it, and I dress solely for myself, not for men. This site has inspired me and I hope to admonish my next harasser, who I am sure I will encounter at some point tomorrow.

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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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The Movement

HOLLAwho? Meet Alberta.

Meet Lauren Alston, the Rocker fighting street harassment in Alberta, Canada.

Why do you HOLLA? I HOLLA because I am more than just body parts, because I’m not on this planet to please someone’s eyes, and so that street harassment doesn’t become accepted as part of what we get for walking down the street.

What’s your signature Hollaback? Probably more of a disgusted facial expression. What I say depends on the situation, but I like: “It’s sad how you guys still haven’t figured out that it doesn’t work!”

What’s your craft? Finishing my Science degree Specializing in Psychology at the University of Alberta. My goal is to pursue a career in Neuropsychology.

HOLLAfact about your city: Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, is Canada´s Festival City, hosting over 30 festivals every year!

What was your first experience with street harassment? Getting called “hey sexy” by some random man when I was about 12 or 13. At the time I was uncomfortable. It’s disgusting how I was even viewed as a sexual object since I was still a kid.

Define your style: It honestly depends on my mood. There usually is a little rocker thread somewhere I guess :)

What do you collect? Music, textbooks, beanie babies (woo TY originals!), wish I had more graphic novels…
Say you’re Queen for the day.  What would you do to end street harassment? That’s a good question. It is tough because I think the biggest issue with street harassment is that it is ingrained in our society. It is something so ubiquitous that it has become accepted and often unattended to.  It is a slow process when attempting to change the culture of a society so I´m not sure what I would do in only one day…

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Anything worth anything is hard work.

In the year 2020, street harassment … is a widely discussed issue and has been addressed by the government!

Follow Lauren and HollabackAlberta on Twitter!

 

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demonstration, The Movement, Verbal

Rachel Tori’s Story: “I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time”

Untitled from Rachel Tori on Vimeo.

On Thursday, I had planned to go to a cheap taco place, go meet up with friends for dessert at Junior’s, and have an enjoyable day.

This group of teens has said things to me on and off in my area for a year and a half. I’ve tried everything – calling 311, calling the local precinct, attempting to reason with the ringleader after separating him from his friend, calling the local precinct, videotaping an incident, and calling the precinct a third time.

When I saw a group of young men out, I put my point and shoot in video mode and turned it on in my bag. When one of them yelled to me, I pulled the camera out and got a shot at their faces. They taunted me more, and I was set to walk away and bring my videos to the precinct the next day, though lord knows bringing anything sexual to the police is a gamble. One of them pulled down his pants and showed me his (surprisingly hairless) ass, to which I yelled without thinking “OH HELL NO, I’M FROM BROOKLYN, YOU BETTER KILL ME OR LEAVE ME ALONE.” One of them threw his cigarette at me, and said, “You better leave before we decide to kill you.”

I called 911 this time, and the officers tried to be nice, but they were too slow to respond, and the butt-flasher and cigarette-thrower had gone. Their friend got a summons for being aggressive and spitting, but that doesn’t exactly help.

Jesus fucking Christ, I just wanted a taco. Whenever a man on the street says something too vile or personal to ignore, I get this intense adrenaline rush that would probably enable me to pick a car up off my foot. It’s really uncomfortable – my heart starts beating so fast, I shake slightly, and I’m just so angry I can’t think straight. How dare someone say that to me, treat me like I’m public property because I’m a woman, and truly believe they are entitled to my time, my response, their satisfaction. I shouldn’t need to feel prepared to die to run errands in my neighborhood in broad daylight. I’d rather die than live in fear, but I wish I didn’t even have to think that way.

I know I didn’t handle this in the best way possible, but it isn’t my job to respond well to groups of men who intimidate me – I didn’t choose to be their target. They were wrong to target me.

Everyone I told this story to has said I’m so brave, but I couldn’t leave the house on Friday because I felt so fatigued after all of that adrenaline the day before. I went out with my boyfriend on Saturday, but I’m having a panic attack over the thought of going outside alone today, even if I avoid the area. If it’s not these guys, it will be others, and if it’s not today, it will be this week. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time, especially if the police respond so slowly. I’m afraid of dealing with being treated like public property for the rest of my life, no matter how I carry myself or respond. I’m afraid of what I’ll have to do next time to survive, and what that’s going to do to me.

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The Movement

Sophie’s story: You don’t have to “get used to it”

This story happened quite some time ago, but when I think of stories apropos to Hollaback, it is these that jump out at me:

Three summers ago, I was living in Brooklyn with my boyfriend at the time. I am from a fairly small town; I’d certainly encountered my fair share of street harassment there, but nothing compared to the huge volume I encountered every day in NY during my commute to work. I would complain about it to my boyfriend and he would brush it aside with comments like, “well, you’re hot, baby,” and, “that’s just the city.” One day, on the way to work, a man I walked past growled, “I would ride that.” I told my boyfriend about it, and he turned it around later that day and used it as a joke, yelling it to me out the window of a car when his friend picked him up.

That same friend of his and I got into an argument another day about street harassment. He said that the catcalls, etc. were compliments and I shouldn’t feel threatened or stereotyped. “Being hot is not a BAD stereotype,” he informed me. “I’m Puerto Rican, and if someone yelled at me, ‘hey, you must play really great baseball,’ I would say, ‘thank you, yes I do.'” My boyfriend thought this was hilarious.

I should note that the boyfriend was NOT an asshole or a bad boyfriend or in any way abusive to me or disrespectful of me otherwise. He was and still is a caring kind and smart person who I genuinely respect. I would say the same of his friend. But they could not understand the feeling of violation that came with street harassment, and in not understanding, they invalidated the anger and fright and disgust I felt on a DAILY BASIS. To them, that was simply New York, and it was a part of the city that came along with all the rest of it. And who, after all, was I to try and question the norms of a city that wasn’t my own? I just had to learn, like all the rest of the women there, to deal with it.

I did learn to deal with it. The sexual slurs rolled off me like water by the end of my summer there. Or so I told myself. But then came one morning in August, by which point I felt myself much better suited to the city (I could not only navigate the trains, I could give directions). I was headed to work at about 7 AM, walking to the F train on Second Ave. The LES in the mornings is a very different place than the LES at night; rather than loud pretty twenty-somethings, the streets are filled only with the homeless who slept there the night before. I was walking past many groups of homeless men and was otherwise entirely alone on the street. Then I saw one homeless guy lumbering towards me. Here we go, I thought, preparing myself for an unpleasant encounter, kicking myself for never having bought the pepper spray I’d promised my mom I’d get back in June. The man got to about a foot in front of me, raised his head, looked me right in the face, and said, “Well at least somebody’s beautiful this morning, and it sure ain’t me!” He laughed, and I laughed from relief, and he went on his way, wishing me a nice day. I laughed at myself the whole day, thinking how paranoid I’d been and how prejudiced it was for me to assume that a homeless guy was inevitably going to harass me. The thing this made me realize, though, is that my prejudice was borne of a larger fear. The silence around street harassment DOES contribute to prejudice, and it contributes, too, to an overall feeling of worry, shame, and fear that had me walking to work in a paranoid state. And though the man did comment on my appearance, I was GRATEFUL for it because I had been so sure that what was coming would be explicit or a threat.

Looking back on this time now, I realize I was deeply misinformed and unsure in regard to street harassment. I am moving back to New York in a couple of months, and thanks in part to Hollaback, I am doing so with more confidence and feelings of empowerment than I otherwise may have. Had I known about this site three years ago, that summer could have been more golden than it was.

one comment 
The Movement

sarah’s story: Teach boys to respect women!

I’m only fifteen but these kinds of things happen to me and my friends all the time, from older men and from boys our age. Last summer I remember walking to the beach with my friend, we were both wearing shorts and t-shirt and bikini’s, and a car full of boys, at least in their twenties were screaming at us as they drove past, and they drove past more than once. I mean, we should be allowed to wear summer clothes without feeling we’re asking for it! We don’t get a lot of nice weather here so when we do, we should feel alright to wear whatever we want without people harrassing us.
Another night, we were standing outside a video stop when a car pulled into the parking lot, rolled down it’s windows and started shouting at us. We got quite scared and went back inside the shop but they drove right up outside it and it looked like they were waiting for us to come out. Luckily, my friends mom came to pick us up in time.
And more recently, I was at a teen disco when a group of boys came up behind me and smacked my ass. It was not only painful and embarrassing, but they then kept asking me to get off with one of them. I tried to give them a piece of my mind but they just seemed to think it was funny.
The thing I find worst about the harrassment is that young boys, my age do it too so that’s means it’s getting passed on to new generations. I think they should teach more respect in schools, so that men can be more respectful in the future and that girls can learn to respect themselves and stand up for themselves.

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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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Street harassment in the media, The Movement

Lacoste Terminates Relationship with El Guardian; Now We’re Looking at You, FIAT

Rape-desirist Juan Terranova’s hateful writings have just cost his publisher, Argentina’s El Guardian magazine, major advertising dollars from Lacoste:

“Lacoste disassociates itself from the El Guardian journalist’s statements and more generally from any statement offensive to women and men. As we have already indicated, these statements go against our values.

We further confirm that we do not have any future advertising plan with this magazine.”

FIAT has not yet responded. Keep the pressure on:

Petitions by Change.org|Start a Petition »

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