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I’m a sucker for a good TEDtalk, but this one from TEDwomen takes the cake. Thanks to Erik Kondo who writes the Street Harassment Disruption blog for passing it along.
written by Liz Dolfi, one of Hollaback!’s many freelance badasses (or as other people call them, volunteers)
One of the most common points made about Hollaback! by critics is that it “doesn’t do anything.” “Ok well, so you took a picture of this guy and maybe if you are one in a thousand victims this will help the guy get caught, but nothing really changes.” This is a common refrain in blog posts and articles written by people who don’t really get what Hollaback! is about.
The toughest thing about this street harassment is that there is nothing to be done. Certain legal changes would be great, but it would be impossible (not to mention unwise) to criminalize many behaviors that characterize street harassment. Street harassment is a no-win situation for those who experience it. Saying something to the person harassing you, even something polite, can lead to escalation and potential violence, but ignoring it and walking away also have a price. In my experience, it can be really damaging to internalize this stuff day after day. What we need is a major cultural shift. We need to create a social environment where yelling sexual comments at people on the street is considered unacceptable, and people speak up when they see someone being harassed. For this kind of change, we need a movement, and that is what Hollaback! is trying to build.
I have spent most of my life in cities, and these things (men yelling on the street, groping me on the subway) started happening to me when I was very young. As a fourteen year old being groped on the tube in London, it was very clear to me that no one was going to help me, and so I internalized what was happening and learned to be quiet and get out of the situation. Now, as an adult, I have a really hard time even getting out the words “don’t touch me” or “leave me alone” because that instinct to be quiet and get away is so strong. In my neighborhood in Brooklyn last year, I stopped doing laundry without my partner so that I wouldn’t have to walk past the guys who sit on the stoop of a nearby building shouting at women all day. I wore jeans in 95 degree weather in the summer because I was more comfortable to sweat it out than to deal with the extra attention that came with shorts or a skirt. Street harassment is part of many women’s daily reality and it isn’t enough to ignore it and walk away day after day, week after week, and year after year.
So why does posting stories about harassment on a blog change anything? Well, if nothing else, Hollaback has changed my life and the way that I cope with street harassment. Using your camera or camera phone is subtle way to take some kind of action when you feel powerless. Of course, the Hollaback! blog is only part of what this organization is doing, but it is a powerful tool. Submitting your photo and story to Hollaback! connects you to an entire community of people who collectively say this is awful, it shouldn’t have happened to you, and it wasn’t your fault.
I may not always respond to street harassment the way that I want to, I don’t always manage to get out my cell phone, and being harassed on the street or the subway still feels awful, but just knowing about Hollaback! ameliorates the sense of powerlessness that used to be so overwhelming. Hearing other women and LGBTQ folks who experience harassment based on perceived gender performance tell their stories helps me to know that harassment is a cultural disease – it doesn’t have to do with me, the way I look, or the way I dress. I no longer blame myself for smiling on a beautiful spring day when some guy takes that as an invitation to ask for sexual favors, and I am getting better at overcoming the compulsion to be apologetic and polite.
Hollaback! has changed the way I experience street harassment and I am not the only one. It has made me an activist for this cause. So when people ask “what good does it do to post a picture on a blog?,” I say “are you kidding?! We’re building a movement!”
We found this little gem here. Maybe next time I’ll try handing this to the turds on the street.
Anti-harassment sentiment is heating up all over the world, and our latest good news comes from the middle east, where a Jordanian grassroots campaign called objecDEFY Harassment has launched with a bang!
With their own YouTube channel and a whole host of PSAs in both English and Arabic featuring unsavory characters and snarky captions like “Seriously. You’re going to let these idiots ruin your life?” and calling for women to take action, we couldn’t be more excited.
With recent headlines calling attention to a Mizo gang rape case and a popular Delhi actress not keeping silent about being groped in public at a half marathon, India’s press is taking a much closer look at the situation on the front lines.
Mid-Day’s “A Tale of Two Cities” is chock full of interviews with psychologists, sociologists, government officials, and women who are sick and tired of being unwilling participants in a war they’re not interested in fighting.
“Their eyes show how much they respect women. Even men who are old enough to be your father don’t feel ashamed to pass lewd comments or touch inappropriately,” says one of the article’s sources.
The ultimate nightmare: being trapped in some sicko psycho’s taxi cab and no one knows you’re there. With things like Facebook’s check-in feature and Foursquare, something that allows women to check into a cab and simultaneously register the car number and driver information should not be light years away. If you’re working on a solution such as this, please let us know.
And it sounds like someone is. Take this quick 10 question survey and hold your breath for something on the market soon. It takes less than 30 seconds and will let its creators know that we want it! CAB SAFETY SURVEY
In the meantime, please help Hollaback collect some information on this subject by sharing your taxi cab experiences in the comment section here.
Due to budget cuts, the city is planning to reduce its Runaway and Homeless Youth expenditures by almost a million dollars this year. Street Outreach Services will be reduced by half and completely eliminated next year. Among the agencies affected is the Ali Forney Center, one of Hollaback!’s partners in New Yorkers for Safe Transit.
Balancing the budget on the backs of NYC’s most vulnerable youth is unacceptable. Citywide, 3,800 teens are homeless; among those 3,800 forty percent are LGBTQ youths. Forty percent! If we want to walk the walk of Dan Savage’s “It gets better” campaign, we have to provide the resources to make “better” possible.
It’s time to take action. On Monday, December 6 at 2pm the City Council is holding hearings on the proposed budget cuts at City Hall. This is an opportunity to have our voices heard, to voice opinions and concerns about the budget cuts. For more information, or if you have any questions, please call LGBT Liaison, Erik Bottcher, at 212 788 5646.
Policy reform is a way in which rape culture is confronted, whether from within the federal government or on campus. Students Active For Ending Rape (SAFER) is asking students around the U.S. to step up to the challenge by submitting your school to their database for a review of its current campus sexual assault policies. If your school does not currently maintain one such policy, SAFER wants to help you create one. If it does maintain a policy, you may be surprised to read what’s included…
Log in to find your school in the Campus Accountability Project’s database and watch this video to find out how to help create a community where rape culture is not promoted or tolerated in any way, shape, or form—engage your school in the discussion and help create lasting positive change for yourself and your classmates!
Film is a powerful way to make social change, and we’re loving this one. It shows how men and women think about, and perceive street harassment differently.
The film points to it’s own conclusions, but why do you think street harassment happens?
A penny for your thoughts…