Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
BY NICOLA BRIGGS
It’s amazing (shocking, really), the types of things you’ll see if you observe carefully. Much of the time, when you start to become more alert to seeing things going down, you’ll be unable to do anything about it. Here’s an example: When you’re on the subway train, and you witness overtly aggressive behavior, seemingly out of the blue. A young man is shoving an older, conservatively dressed man out of his way as he exits the car. Most people look up just in time from fiddling with their smart phone, the book they’re falling asleep reading, their children pawing at them, whatever, and think “What the hell?” But what they didn’t see was the older man’s briefcase, heavy as a boulder with law briefs, knocking into this poor guy’s knees over and over again as he sat there in front of him. Each time the car swayed, whack! and not even a “sorry” for this young man that had already said, “Dude, watch your bag, you’re hitting my knees!” And what none of them on that car could possibly know was that exactly eighteen minutes before, that young man had just gotten fired from his second job in three months. So the fuse had been lit, but nobody was the wiser, until the older guy was given a shove, which later, when he took off his shirt at the end of the day, resulted in a nasty black-and-blue mark on his shoulder.
So that’s an example of an unpremeditated violent situation, which could have been avoided. Not to say the older man deserved what he got, because there really isn’t an excuse for reacting to behavior which was not intentional in a violent manner, not in a civilized society. The younger man probably should have (a) realized he was in an emotionally impaired state, and checked himself, and (b) gotten up and changed seats, realizing that the other man wasn’t going to stop his insensitive behavior. And of course, if the man hadn’t used his briefcase as a meat tenderizer, the whole thing wouldn’t have happened anyway. But the point is that, much of the time, we may actually be able to “see it coming” so to speak, and stop the train wreck before it happens. Next week, we’ll take a look at the more malevolent expression of violence, the predator-prey relationship. Until then, be safe out there! You never know what is going on in the lives of people standing or sitting right next to you in public.
BY CLAIRE LIGHT, cross posted from her blog.
Up front I’m telling you that this is about Hollaback’s “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, to create an online and offline movement to end street harassment. I’ve donated and I hope you’ll consider doing the same.
Boy, it’s been a long time since I posted. Actually, the last time I posted was right around the time that I moved back to San Francisco. And I’m so glad to be back.
But I don’t tell people that one of the reasons I’m so glad to be back in the city is that the amount of harassment I encounter has gone waaaaaay down. The main reason I don’t mention it is that the reactions of many people break my heart. Too many people, upon being told in general that I get a lot of harassment, act uncomfortable — with me! — and don’t offer me any sympathy, much less engage in any discussion. I’m talking about abstract conversations here, where there’s no immediate danger, and all I’m doing is communicating.
It’s so much worse, then, when the harassment happens in front of your friends or social circle and they do nothing or act uncomfortable with you, as if you were the one who had done something wrong. I know that those situations can be sometimes scary or emotionally heightened. But think about the general emotional orientation of someone who doesn’t, when the scary moment is over, automatically offer help and sympathy to a friend who has just been verbally assaulted.
I mean, c’mon, people! How hard is it to say to your friend who was just harassed, “I’m sorry you had to deal with that,” or ask her “are you alright?”
It’s those simple offerings that can make the difference between you being part of the problem, and you being part of the solution. Either you kick a friend who’s just been kicked, or you blow on her bruise and offer her salve. Why is that such a hard choice?
The immediate sympathy and help is key, but what’s an even greater act of friendship is listening, discussing, and helping your friend to process the harassment, to understand it, contextualize it, and help render it less powerful. Treating your friend as a thinking, feeling adult who is capable of understanding what has happened to her, and capable of insight, is a really important part of being an empowered woman in a society that often treats us as meat.
And the greatest act of friendship — and righteousness — of all is intervening on the spot, and standing up to the harasser for and with your friend.
This last one — standing up for your friends — should be automatic. If it isn’t, maybe it’s time to think long and hard about how you were raised, and what choices you learned to make to survive. Yeah, I was a bullied kid and I threw other outcasts under the bus if it would save me … when I was in grade school. But now I’m an adult, and every failure of mine to protect and support my friends when they are attacked is my failure, not theirs. And yes, as an adult I’ve failed many times, or been weak or stupid in my support. But I’m glad to say that there have also been times when I was mindful enough to succeed in supporting and backing up my friends. And I strive to be that person every day.
I’m thankful for those fierce friends of mine who have done all of these things: Jaime, Patty, Cyndie, Robynn, and others whom I’m forgetting right now. (There have been so many incidents over the years, and when I was younger I deliberately forgot about it when friends failed to support me, so I managed to also forget when they did support me.)
And I’m also remembering people who shall remain nameless — some of them people I greatly respected — who stood by and did nothing. And, though I forgive quickly, I’ll never forget. As MLK said:
In the end, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends.
You’re not alone — in being harassed, in feeling helpless, in not knowing what to do. But tackling street harassment as it happens in front of you is your responsibility, as it is the responsibility of every citizen of a free state.
Please donate to the Hollaback “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, and start (or continue) to get everyone’s back on this.
Check out the CNN.com article called “Mobile Tech Fights Sexual Harassment!” The article profiles our campaign – and why it is so important. But without your full support, the campaign won’t happen. The end of our campaign is a little more than a week away, so if you haven’t donated yet, please do it now!
BY EMILY MAY
Here’s a short video I made with my mom and my aunts this weekend in support of Saudi Women’s driving rights (and yes, I was raised by a pack of women):
Hollaback is partnering with “Honk for Saudi Women” and we encourage to to show your support by making a short video! Here’s how it works:
Videos take minutes to make:
1.) Just say you support Saudi Women’s Driving Rights
2.) Honk (if you can’t film in a car, just say “beep-beep”)
Upload to YouTube, send video link to email@example.com and put http://chn.ge/HonkForSaudiWomen in the video description.
US House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi has publicly expressed her support for “Honk for Saudi Women.” Saudi Princess Ahmeerah wants to drive; Secretary of State Hillary Clinton publicly backs Saudi Women’s Driving Rights; and over 1500 people have asked Oprah to make a “Honk for Saudi Women” video .
Beep, beep! Let’s make a world where everyone has the right to walk or drive safely and confidently!
Help us reach our goal by spreading the word! Here are some suggested emails and tweets. And as always, thank you so much for your support! We couldn’t do it without you.
Email: A personal email from you is the most effective strategy. Here’s an example of what you could send:
Dear friends and family-
As you may already know – I’m a huge fan and supporter of Hollaback!. Hollaback! is an international movement to end street harassment (sexual harassment in public space). Over the past year the organization grown like wildfire to 24 cities in 10 countries, and it seems that this is only the beginning.
They just launched this new campaign called “I’ve Got Your Back.” The campaign is designed to get bystanders to intervene when they see someone being harassed. “I’ve Got Your Back” takes Hollaback!’s work to the next level by providing a real-time response to those who are harassed. How it works:
I’m really excited about this new campaign, and I think it has the ability to change the way we experience public space. Street harassment can be incredibly scary, and it disproportionately impacts young folks, women, and LGBTQ individuals. By having each other’s backs – we aren’t just providing real-time relief to people who are harassed – we are strengthening our community.
I hope you’ll donate. With every donation made to this campaign, Hollaback!’s Board of Directors will match it 1:1, so if you donate $25, it’s really $50.
Thanks so much in advance –
You and your awesome self!
Suggested tweets and status updates: Autoschedule a tweet a day to make sure your followers get the message, and don’t forget to tag us so we can retweet and thank you! Here are some suggestions:
Twitter: It’s gonna take all of us to end street harassment. Invest in it with @ihollaback’s “I’ve got your back” campaign: http://bit.ly/m7spul
Twitter or Facebook: I donated to @iHollaback’s “I’ve got your back” campaign and you should too!
Facebook: What if street harassment happened you weren’t alone? What if that guy at the other end of the train, or down the street, had your back? @hollaback!’s new “I’ve got your back” campaign is going to make this happen, but they need your help. Link: http://bit.ly/m7spul
Thank you so much for all your ongoing support and to all of you who have already donated! We’re gonna win this, and it’s going to be because of you.
Reposted from Hollaback Philly
Pride and street harassment against the LGBTQ community have been weighing most heavily on my mind this weekend, especially since I got a text from a friend on her way to Pride that read “Just crossed the NJ/NY line in the tunnel and couldn’t help but think how fucking strange it is that equality exists on one side of the line and not the other”. So, suffice it to say I was ecstatic when I saw a lesbian street harassment scene on my beloved show, True Blood, tonight!!
Which one makes me more of a nerd – that I’m obsessed with HBO’s True Blood, or that I paused the episode when I saw the street harassment scene so I could quickly transcribe it and post it for you all? No need to answer that question.
Scene: Tara is outside the backdoor of a venue (no one else is there) after winning a boxing match. The girl who lost the match comes out to where Tara is smoking a celebratory cigarette. They start kissing and a few seconds into their kiss, a drunk man approaches and starts staring, moans and interrupts them.
Man: “Don’t mind me. I don’t want to distract from the show.”
Girl: Looks at the man, and says “Go on, fuck off.”
Man: He walks toward them from behind the fence. “You taking requests? I’ll give you ten if you eat each other out, that’s what, umm, five each.”
Girl: -I couldn’t make out the first bit, but the last bit she says “I don’t take requests, but I can crush your spine so bad you’ll be sucking your own dick”.
Tara: holds the girl back, “It doesn’t matter, he won’t remember any of this tomorrow.”
Man: “I will if i get me some of that chocolate banana swirl how about 20 dollars
Girl: “That’s it, pervert, we’re not fucking prostitutes.”
Man: “Come on, everyone’s got a price.”
Girl: (angrily heads toward the man) “That’s it!” (Tara holds her back).
Tara: Walks right up to the man, and calmly says “I’m sad for you buddy. Sad that you gotta hassle women on the street, sad that you gotta make a asshole of yourself for the attention, sad that you gotta offer money cuz there ain’t nothing else about you that’s worth loving.” Takes the $50 bill. “That’s for me not reporting you for solicitation”.
If only she would have whipped out her cell phone, taken a picture of the drunken asshole, and Holla’d back to us!! Bravo HBO!
BY KC WAGNER AND EMILY MAY, reposted from Women’s eNews.
The community around fighting street harassment is growing stronger and has pointed to its pervasiveness. K.C. Wagner and Emily May say more research is needed to lay the groundwork necessary to end this type of harassment.
(WOMENSENEWS)–The rape allegations against former International Monetary Fund Chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and now Egyptian former bank chair Mahmoud Abdel Salam Omar by two hotel maids have refocused the world’s attention on the risks that women face by going to work.
Comments about someone’s body, assumptions based on race or sexuality, inappropriate touching, gestures, or sexual requests–it seems that everyone either has a story or knows someone that does. And we never know when these situations will escalate.
As egregious as the allegations are against Strauss-Kahn and Omar, there’s a fundamental difference between harassment in the past and today. Today, a name exists for what has happened, systems of accountability are in place and laws protect those who are victimized.
Even this limited progress has not extended to the streets though. Today a silent epidemic rages on. Street harassment–or sexual harassment in public spaces–is fast becoming the flashpoint issue for an emerging generation of activists, just as workplace harassment was in 1980s. And like in the 1980s, a solid coordination of activism, research and analysis is needed to move street harassment from the background to the forefront.
In 1991, when the Anita Hill v. Clarence Thomas case captured the public’s attention about “sexual harassment,” activists, academics, legal scholars, legislators and practitioners had been at least a decade “in the trenches.” They had already been developing vehicles for women’s voices across the country, analyzing crisis counseling and hotline records, conducting scientifically based studies and writing academic articles, articulating a feminist jurisprudence, defending women in court and beginning to influence workplace prevention and policies and challenging workplace norms. A strong platform from this decade of academic and activist work was in place to challenge the victim-blaming and vilification of Hill and to continue the fight.
Street harassment is no different than workplace harassment in its purpose and its effect. It is meant to put victims in their place, to remind them that they are objects and that their safety is a privilege, not a right. As a result, people change jobs, leave apartments or whole cities and suffer long-term stress and anxiety orders.
Now young activists internationally, at nonprofits such as Hollaback! and in projects such as Stop Street Harassment, Blank Noise Project and WomenSpeak, are beginning to stand up and say “no more.”
In 2005, a group of young friends, men and women from ages 21 to 24, were telling their stories of street harassment. When they walked alone, they felt vulnerable and powerless; when they would yell at the instigators of the harassment, the situation escalated; police did not seem to respond to their concerns. One of the men in the group said to his female friends: “You live in a different New York City than we do.”
They did what many youth would do when faced with a similar challenge: they started a blog. Called Hollaback!, it was intended to bring awareness to street harassment. They were quickly inundated by others’ stories and supporters. Today 24 Hollaback! sites are up and running, from Croatia to Argentina to Atlanta. This newly forming community of voices combines story-telling with on-the-ground activism. And with coverage in The New York Times, the BBC and NPR in the past year, the world is clearly listening. We believe the time is right to tackle this long overdue issue once and for all.
However, the leaders of the movement to end street harassment face a challenge similar to the early days of the workplace harassment movement: little data.
Activists working to end street harassment have responded by collecting crowd-sourced data. With the more than 2,000 stories collected and mapped on ihollaback.org through Hollaback!’s iPhone and Droid applications, we know that no one is alone in his or her experiences. Street harassment impacts young women in particular, with factors like race and sexuality tending to increase the frequency and severity of the harassment. A study conducted through an online survey tool by Holly Kearl, published in her 2010 book “Stop Street Harassment,” indicates that between 80-100 percent of women have been harassed at some point during their lives.
But knowing that crowd-sourced data is self-selecting and cannot paint a broader, more complete picture, street harassment activists are asking for more.
In October 2010, over 100 activists crowded into a standing-room-only city council room at New York City’s first ever hearing on street harassment, hosted by Councilmember Julissa Ferrarras, and sounded a call for more research.
During the hearing, advocates called for a study that would produce the data needed to address street harassment in New York City. The study would look at the long-term impact of street harassment and the effectiveness of both formal and informal solutions in making people feel safer in their communities.
It would be the first of its kind at a time when governments internationally are searching for solutions. In this ever-tightening budget year, a study on street harassment is a relatively inexpensive method for New York City to lead the way. More important, such research provides an opportunity to provide concrete solutions to a deep-seated social issue.
Street harassment activists know they have many more battles ahead. But research is a critical early step as it allows us to move this issue from an individual to a collective experience. If we wait, we fear that yet another generation will have to endure the same harassing experiences.
Now is the time for City Council to take this small first step toward a day when street harassment is taken as seriously as workplace sexist behavior.
BY EMILY MAY
As a quick look at our global network of 24 sites will show you, street harassment is a global problem. Too often, governments are afraid to tackle it and resign themselves to tired old idea that there is nothing you can do about it. But not the UN. They are taking it on head first, UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet said:
Women, youth and children — especially girls — face particular risks in [cities]. Whether on city streets, public transport or in their own neighbourhoods, they are subject to abuse ranging from harassment to sexual assault and rape. This daily reality limits their freedom to participate in education, work, recreation, and in political and economic life — or to simply enjoy their neighbourhoods.
On July 1st I’ll be heading to UN Women’s Safe Cities Conference in Cairo, Egypt. The Safe Cities project has been doing some amazing work in five cities around the world, and now they are partnering with UNICEF and UN-HABITAT to expand this project to 20 cities internationally. From their site:
Potential interventions may include:
- Enabling women and young people to have a voice in decisions that affect their lives such as decisions on budgets and local infrastructure
- Establishing female councillor-led committees for effective response to sexual violence and crimes in communities
- Increasing street lights in high-risk areas, including the use of solar lights which are cost-effective and more resilient to damage and vandalism
- Training of community police units to prevent gender-based violence
The five-year initiative will be piloted with municipal leaders. Dushanbe, Greater Beirut, Metro Manila, Marrakesh, Nairobi, Rio de Janeiro, San José and Tegucigalpa are among the cities currently being considered.
Sounds amazing, right? But wait for it: it gets better. From UN Women Executive Director Michelle Bachelet:
We will also promote data collection, build baselines and develop indicators through women- and youth-led initiatives and innovative efforts, such as mapping through text messaging and the use of Geographic Information Systems in women’s, youth and child safety audits.
Yes. You are not dreaming. The UN is looking into launching women and youth-led crowd-sourced data collection to incidences of harassment and assault!
We will keep you posted on the progress. But suffice it to say, we are oh-so-excited.
BY ALEX ALSTON
When we think of the great social movements of the twentieth century we often think of the great icons that appeared at the helms of these struggles. A charismatic preacher from Montgomery who had a dream, a Catholic commander-in-chief who asked us to ask ourselves what we could for our country, or a revolutionary journalist who told us women needed men as much as fish needed bicycles. From Angela Davis to Allen Ginsberg, we have no shortage of heroes and heroines to look back on. By the same token, when we think of these great movements and these icons, we can’t help but think of the historic protests they orchestrated: Greensboro’s first sit-in, the Stonewall Riots, draft card burnings at UC-Berkeley, the list goes on and on. From Mississippi to Vietnam and back our national memory is full of battlegrounds, theaters for resistance, and the stories they still tell unto this day. But as we look toward the future, we would do well to remember the cornerstones of these movements, the foundations for past protest. It has always, and will continue to be a reality that a movement will only ever be as grand, as powerful, as inevitable, as its stories.
As moving as a speech might be, or as crippling as boycott may become, only a story can harness the power, the passion, and the pain of a movement. As the NYPD quelled the uprising outside of Stonewall on that fateful summer night in 1969 with brute and hateful force, they were not aware that for every blow they dealt, a story was being beaten out of the long-oppressed LGBTQ community. When Bull Connor’s vicious police dogs and firehoses bore down on the child marchers in Birmingham, he had no clue that in killing this march, he was helping the blacks of the Deep South give birth to a story. These were stories that would be broadcast to the corners of the world. Ultimately the oppressor’s hand can only be forced in accordance with the proliferation of injustices. You see silence, is a movement’s greatest enemy.
And so I implore you, all of you, to never stop telling your stories. It is with our stories that we will speak back to and against oppression. It is with out stories that we will change the world. We cannot afford to keep quiet any longer.