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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.
If you’re not getting an ample supply of street harassment during your commute, while biking, while walking, while shopping, eating, praying, loving, or just generally breathing, then print out this new game from Scary Godmother and enjoy round-the-clock misogyny. Wait, what’s that? You already do? Well maybe you’ll just have to send this link to anyone who’s ever asked why you can’t just take a compliment, then, and hope they’ll get the hint.
In London, Vicki Simister from the LASH campaign has been meeting with policy makers for Oona King (pictured here). King is running for Mayor in the 2012 election – and has recently promised to write street harassment into her policy!
To our knowledge, this is the first time that street harassment has become a major campaign issue. This tremendous leadership is incredible for London, but it is also a model for how street harassment can be addressed in other cities. Her policy even proclaims that street harassment is a “gateway to more serious forms of violence,” something that we’ve been shouting off the rooftops for years now.
Reading policy has never made us swoon more:
“Commission Police reports across the capital about the extent of street harassment, and include it within anti-social behaviour programmes”
The policy also says:
“Taking street harassment seriously
Street harassment is a regular occurrence for women in London, but is barely mentioned in government policy in the past. It is completely unacceptable that women should be expected to put up with casual intimidation, from unwanted sexual comments to being followed or even groped, simply as a result of going out in public. It is also likely that this behaviour acts as a gateway to more serious forms of violence, and so we simply cannot afford to let it go unchallenged. The Mayor should promote a culture in which street harassment is recognised as unacceptable, and women do not have to suffer it in silence. Working with police, boroughs and Transport for London, effective action should include:
• Ensuring that local authorities recognise sexual harassment as a from of violence
against women, and incorporate it into their training and policies
• Identifying London’s “harassment hotspots” and putting more police and community
support officers where they are needed
• Coordinating a poster campaign to challenge this form of behaviour and encourage
women to report it
• Establishing best practice in police responses, including consistent monitoring and
enforcement where there is evidence of persistent harassment
• Working with local councils and community groups to ensure consensus on the unacceptability of street harassment”
Kudos to Vicki from the LASH campaign for making this happen!
After a short hiatus, ‘this week in street harassment’ is back with a whole bunch of updates.
First of all, we have two internship opportunities for anyone who is interested in getting more involved in the movement to end street harassment:
RightRides for Women’s Safety is currently looking for a Media and Outreach Intern. RightRides for Women’s Safety builds safer communities for women and LGBTQ individuals through community organizing, policy advocacy, direct service programs, and anti-violence education with the goal of fostering greater safety awareness and individual empowerment in New York City. The full job description is available here.
Check out this fantastic article on street harassment in London. This piece in The Guardian discusses how widespread street harassment is and the impact it has on women, as well as providing information about the anti-street harassment movement. Organizations like Hollaback! and the LASH campaign are leading the charge as women and LGBTQ folks speak out and the world starts to pay attention.
Also from the Guardian, some women, tired of being harassed while biking around the city, have started a Hollaback! style mapping project! Awesome. Also, why are there so many men out there who think that “hey- you should ride me” is a good line to use on cyclists???
Our own Emily May is interviewed at No Country for Young Women and reminds us that Hollaback! is all about creating a response. The situation can escalate if you yell and walking away gives you that horrible I-can’t-believe-I-have-to-internalize-this-crap-everyday feeling, but Hollaback gives you a way to respond and a community to support you!
This street harassment based webcomic could be my life on a bad day. Thank to the always entertaining and irreverent ladies at Jezebel for posting it – as they point out, having your experience dismissed and belittled can be as frustrating and painful as the original harassment.
Indonesia is the latest country to introduce women-only spaces on public transportation. While this obviously doesn’t do anything to address the larger issues that have made groping on trains such a problem (except perhaps for acknowledging that harassment is a serious and wide-spread issue that affects numerous women), it is a welcome relief in the mean time.
Finally, I know that this creep who has been walking around squirting semen on women is old news at this point, but on behalf of everyone here at Hollaback!, let me say EW.
When author Holly Kearl wrote her Master’s thesis on street harassment she had no idea it would develop into a book, let alone a career. Join us on Friday, September 10 in New York City as we celebrate the release of Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women, the first book ever to comprehensively address the pandemic street harassment plague that demoralizes women daily around the globe. It has been a long time coming.
Author Holly Kearl will be available to sign copies and activists from HollaBackNYC, RightRides for Women’s Safety, and Girls for Gender Equity will be there to help keep the celebration rolling. The event is free and open to the public.
Please join us to celebrate one of the movement’s first groundbreaking new developments and let us enjoy the good company of the men and women who have helped make this possible.
Who: This event is free and open to the public!
What: Book signing and release party
When: Friday, September 10, 2010; 7:00pm
Our amazing volunteer Avital tracked down Monique Hazeur, who is in the process of developing a new documentary on street harassment! We couldn’t be more pleased. From their site: “This is the official trailer for the feature length documentary that explores how women deal with this daily violence. It will especially look at how women are fighting back and defining their own personal and public spaces.The documentary adds to a bustling dialogue on gender and body politics, as it delves into women’s rights to exist freely in society.”
What could be more badass than that? Stay tuned. We’ll keep you posted as we figure out ways to collaborate with Monique, our newest HOLLAhero.
We are seeking a Policy, Research, and Development Intern to join our dynamic team of volunteers. Responsibilities include:
This intern will report directly to Emily May, executive director. This position takes place off-site (we do not have an office yet) and regular check-ins are required. The candidate must have good communication skills, a passion for ending street harassment, and live in the NYC area. We currently are accepting applications for fall 2010 and the preferred arrangement is to extend through Spring 2011. The estimated time commitment is 10-20 hours, and the internship is unpaid. If you are interested, please send a resume and cover letter to holla (at) ihollaback.org.
As many of you know, we are an all-volunteer team that work long hours above and beyond our regular jobs to make Hollaback happen. We are inspired and invigorated by each and every post that comes in, and we respond personally to all the fan mail. The letter below was too honest, too beautiful, and too important to keep to ourselves. I hope you enjoy it, and remember: keep holla’ing back!
Thank you so much for what you do, I really hope that your website continues to grow and create more awareness for as long as possible.
I’m only 17 years old, and I moved to the city 2 months ago. Every day I’ve been getting unwanted and unsolicited attention from strange men. I didn’t want to tell my parents because I knew they’d either think I was exaggerating or want me to come home as we come from a very small, sweet town where nothing like this has happened in twenty years.
Thankfully, I don’t have any horror stories, but I feel like I’m always dealing with ‘Hey Beautiful’ or ‘That’s a real nice dress you got there’ or ‘seductive’ stares or ‘accidental’ subway touching. I’m a ballet dancer and whenever I walk back home beet red and sweaty I always get comments and uncomfortably sexual gestures directed at me.Until I came across your website I didn’t know that this constituted as sexual harassment. It’s amazing how extensively they cover plagiarism in high school, but not sexual harassment. I knew it made me very uncomfortable, especially men in groups, but I felt like I was making a big deal out of nothing because the words were ‘nice’ (I’ve never been sworn at) even though the intent wasn’t.
I’m an extremely quiet, shy, insecure person and I feel like these jerks can sense that and prey on girls like me. But when I came across your website, I felt a sense of empowerment and comfort in the knowledge that others recognized that this was really happening and that it was wrong. I feel like a lot of people write off street harassment like it’s no big deal, so I was worried that if I told someone, they would just say I was being oversensitive and silly.
God (or whichever deity you do/don’t believe in) bless you, what you’re doing takes incredible courage. I really can’t thank you enough for helping for me to feel justified in my discomfort, to know that I wasn’t being oversensitive. Sorry if this is kind of rambling, I just wanted to let you know how much I truly appreciated the work you do.
Nothing ruins a bike ride on a gorgeous summer day like creeps making sexual comments from the sidewalk. Harriet Walker discusses harassment and biking in London, and wonders why biking seems to draw harassers like a magnet.
Gawker posts their own hollaback, entitled “Have you seen this masturbating gentleman?”
The amazing Holly Kearl has an op-ed in the Huffington Post – check it out for a great introduction to the problem of street harassment.
One of the first questions people always ask me about Hollaback! is whether it is legal to take someone’s photo and post it online. Gizmodo reminds us that in public spaces, all photos are fair game. As anyone who has had a creepy guy with a camera phone take a pic of them knows, this can be a pain, but at least we can point a camera back at them. Let’s reclaim the gaze and Hollaback!
We are totally crushing on the changemakers social media blog – check out this post on NYPD’s manipulation of assault statistics, which includes a Hollaback shout-out!
“Between 80% and 100% of women have been harassed in public places, particularly on their way to work.” Holly Kearl tells us why employers should care.
Here is a hilarious list of harassment and assault prevention tips that are “guaranteed to work.” In response to constant warnings to dress modestly, walk in pairs, etc, this blogger provides the novel suggestion: DON’T assault people! My personal favorites are: “USE THE BUDDY SYSTEM, if you are not able to stop yourself from assaulting people, ask a friend to stay with you while you are in public” and “When you see someone walking by themselves, leave them alone!”
Human Rights Watch recently released a report on the harassment of female and transgender Cambodian sex workers on the street and in police custody. Just a reminder: no matter what you are wearing, how you gender present, or why you are on the street, STREET HARASSMENT ON THE BASIS OF SEX, GENDER, SEXUALITY AND PERFORMANCE OF GENDER AND SEXUALITY IS NOT OK!
Street harassment is a constant problem for women in Jakarta, and the Jakarta Press has started to pay attention.
Our Vision, Our Voices discusses the status of Street Harassment worldwide.
Check out the London Anti-Street Harassment Campaign!