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This is written by Anna, who plans to start a Hollaback in France!
I’m very sorry for what happened to Sabriya. I’m a French woman who has lived one year in New York City. I don’t live in Paris, but I have to say that I’ve felt much more relax and safe during my staying in NYC that I had in my hometown. Maybe NYC is such a huge city that everyone is more or less anonymous: no one really cares about how the others are dressed, or how they behave. You don’t have time to look at a stranger who looks unusual in the street and wonder “what do I think about this?” At least, it is the feeling I had.
I don’t want to talk about a cultural difference between our countries as street harassment exists everywhere around the world. I’ve been street harassed in NYC a few times. Two men gave me the “Hey cutie”, others the kissing noise, one put his hand into his pant and smiled when I walked by him, a truck driver honked at me and my girls friends, and, the most disgusting, a man masturbated in front of me in Coney Island.
From my experience, street harassment in France is more intrusive and happens more often. I mean men often come closer, engage a conversation with you. And they stay, they don’t just pass by.
Unfortunately, I have very little information on street harassment in France, we actually don’t even use the terms “street harassment”! The newspapers articles that I found treated it as a game or as a form of flirting. As for the forums/websites, they’re often full of racist comments. That’s one of the reasons I decided to start a Hollaback France. Here are the links of two articles (here and here) written by sociologists (in French) about violence in public spaces and women’s fears.
We are proud to welcome HollabackPGH to the scene! HollabackPGH is run by two smart, energetic, and dynamic organizers. In their introductory post they wrote:
“We hope that one day, everyone will be free from street harassment, whether it stems from your gender, race, sexual orientation, or anything else. We dream of a world where people don’t have to worry that others will harass them based on their appearance or identity when they’re just trying to get to work or to a party, and where everyone feels safe to walk alone and take public transportation without hearing phrases like “Hey baby, nice ass,” or experiencing the horror of being followed home or groped. We want to be a part of a movement that says that this is NOT OK, and we hope that HollabackPGH! can serve as a rallying point to fight back!”
Let your friends in Pittsburgh know, it’s time to stop walking on and start holla’ing back!
I’m a New Yorker living in France and I was wondering if you had any information/statistics/articles on street harassment in France. The reason I’m inquiring is because, yes, obviously as a woman (of color) I’ve experienced this type of thing everywhere, but I’ve seriously never experienced it to the degree that I do in France and I’m wondering what is up. Just today, during my 1.5 hour trip grocery shopping, I was followed by a guy who kept telling me I was elegant, a guy stopped dead in his tracks to watch me walk by, a guy yelled from across the street that I was “ravishing”, a guy purposely (and obviously) went out of his way to brush up against me while with his WIFE in the pasta aisle, and the finale: a man waiting at a stop light in his car psssssssssst-ed and called me over.. as if!! I’m tired of people telling me I should feel complimented or that it’s because I’m attractive or because of what I’m wearing. I hadn’t showered, had no make up on, had my hair up and was wearing a T-shirt, cardigan, jeans, flats. It’s seriously at the point where I HATE leaving my house and it doesn’t help that a month ago a guy in a secluded area of a park approached me and lifted up my skirt. I’ve started warning friends that I can’t stay out past dark bc I already know I WILL BE harassed by someone on my way home. I want to think that there’s no difference in male privilege/entitlement between the two countries, but my experience is telling me otherwise. I have never felt so intimidated by this type of harassment.
Submitted by Sabriya
EDITOR’S NOTE: We don’t speak french, but if you know of any resources please send them to us and we’ll pass them along to Sabriya.
September 14, 2010
This letter is in response to your Officer inquiry dated September 7, 2010 regarding sexual harassment by a postal employee.
The issue you raise about employee behavior is one that concerns every postal manager. Postmaster General John Potter has continually stressed the seriousness of sexual harassment against or by any employee.
Every customers should immediately report such incident of unacceptable behavior immediately to a supervisor, station manager, or a postal official that is on the premises who can promptly address the issue, such as you have done. The manager has taken the appropriate action to ensure that this employee’s behavior is corrected.
If you experience such an incident in the future, please do not hesitate to contact the to ensure that immediate action is taken.
Please accept our apologies for having to endure such unacceptable behavior.
Submitted by Raven
EDITOR’S NOTE: When you experience harassment by someone working for a company that you can hold accountable – by all means do so! We’ve had a lot of success with that on the site – and this is another great example of it.
The deadline for the Justmeans Paperless Challenge is Wednesday the 15th, and Hollaback! is so close to winning! But we need your help. To help us reach our goal, we are giving away FIVE Hollaback iPhone 3GS covers.
1. Vote for Hollaback!, and comment on why street harassment matters or why Hollaback! rocks.
2. Link to the competition on your facebook or twitter page, using this link (http://www.justmeans.com/contestidea?ideaid=ODU4) and our handle. We are @ihollaback on twitter, or Hollaback! on facebook.
If we win, we’ll use the funds to overhaul our website (and say goodbye and good riddens to pepto-bismol pink). We’ll announce the winners of the competition on September 16th.
Thank you for all your support. We couldn’t do it without you!
On October 12th, we are collaborating with Envision Williamsburg and Feministing to bring you the best happy hour ever! Envision Williamsburg recently completed a community research project that showed street harassment as the form of sexual violence that caused the most concern for Williamsburg residents. To tackle this, Envision Williamsburg is looking to do a number of community-based interventions, but their awesome efforts have been stifled by a cut in funding to their parent organization, the New York City Alliance Against Sexual Assault. Your $5 suggested donation will go towards directly supporting Hollaback! and Envision Williamsburg’s efforts to build a street harassment free city.
If you are able to volunteer for this event, we need your help. We’re holding a silent auction at the event, and we’ll be giving free Hollaback! iPhone covers to anyone who brings an item (or items) valued at over $50. Can you contribute? Contact us at holla (at) ihollaback.org.
If you’ve complained to others about street harassment, you’ve probably been told to “toughen up” or “get a thicker skin.” Like as if somehow, the fact that street harassment hurts is your fault. It’s a decision that you make, and if you were just a little stronger, and a little less of a “girl,” the problem would be solved.
When street harassment hurts, it’s not because we’re not strong enough. In fact, I think it’s our strength that makes it hurt more. Street harassment shatters our perspectives on who we are: smart, dynamic, bold; and instead focuses on who we aren’t: bitches, whores, and pairs of tits. So — too often — we just try to ignore it. And it works, sometimes. But most of the time it doesn’t, and the hurt just sits inside us, “like molton lava boiling right underneath the surface of my skin.”
In this incredible piece called “Thinner Skin” the writer talks eloquently about how you can’t just make the hurt of street harassment go away. How it lives inside us. She tells the story of her own sexual assault and writes: ” I’ve been threatened. I’ve been hurt. My friends have been threatened and hurt. I regard any man invading my space and disrespecting me as a direct threat to my well being. Every single time I get verbally accosted, every single time a man sits too close on purpose. Every single time I catch a man, out of the corner of my eyes, sizing me up as bait. I feel that same rage. I am there again.” For survivors of sexual assault, street harassment can feel like ripping a scab off – three, four, five times a day. Any doctor will tell you that’s no way to heal.
A thick skin would be helpful if we wanted to ignore the world’s problems, internalize our pain, and just stay at home. But for the world we’re trying to create, the skin we’ve got will do just fine. We need to be OK with the fact that it hurts because we’re strong, not in spite of it. Because if we keep this myth up that street harassment hurts because we’re weak, it will continue to get passed down generation to generation. Just like it did to us.
We have an unprecedented opportunity to transform street harassment from something that is lonely and isolating, to something that is shareable. The internet is our new campfire, and if we’re going to solve this we have to start by talking about it, by responding to it, by holla’ing back. The world won’t listen if we keep pretending that our silence means it doesn’t hurt.