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BY NANCY A. DAVIS
It was just another typical Tuesday. I was in the Port Authority Bus Terminal waiting for the A train. All I wanted to do was get downtown. I waited by a pillar, minding my own business. I felt someone staring at me, but brushed it off as paranoia. I looked around and saw him – he was checking me out all right. He gave me one of those head-to-toe looks, that just makes me cringe. I slid back behind the pillar, hoping the A train would arrive soon.
I hopped on the train, and found a spot to plant my feet. I took a deep breath and thought He’s gone. I then felt a pair of eyes upon me again. It was him, and he was still staring and making obscene gestures. I moved to another part of the car to stand when some other passengers exited the train. He moved with me. I turned around, not looking him in the face. I could hear his heavy breathing behind me. My skin was crawling from being stared at like that.
I then moved to another car and he followed me there too. Now I was really freaked. I am a small woman. No way would I be able to fight this person off if he acted up. The sad part is, no one even noticed or said anything about him staring straight at me or about him following me to the next car. No one.
We should not have to be subjected to this. This is why I donated. Some people think it is acceptable to speak to anyone in a suggestive manner, or that staring for a long time is acceptable. It is not okay. We need help. We need you. Please donate to Hollaback! and let women not just here in the United States, but Worldwide know – that you have their back.
I have so many other stories of harassment. For instance, when I was seventeen (years ago), a friend and I were followed out to my car by a man working at Home Depot (who had approached us in the store, and checked us out back by the tires away from everyone else….. already creepy. He was much older and way bigger). He asked how old we were, we answered 17, and he then asked when our birthdays were. When we told him we had just turned 17, he paused and said, “Well…. I mean, if you girls ever want to hang out, just holler at me.”
Things like that happen a lot. And lesser incidents like being whistled or kissed at from a moving car (whether or not I’m walking with a group or a boyfriend, regardless of dress) happen even more often (just last night, actually).
But what made me want to post was a conversation I had with my current boyfriend tonight. We were at a pizza place and I went to go to the bathroom. While passing the men’s room, I heard two guys talking. “Aw man, the line is longer than the women’s room!” “Well, men are smarter than women, so…” I missed the rest, and I may be overreacting but the tone of his voice… it sounded like he meant it. And whether he did or not, it reminded me that there are men who truly believe that they are more intelligent than all women simply by the virtue of their penis. It bothered me, and when I told my boyfriend about it, he sort of blew me off and dismissed it. “I’m sure he was just joking,” etc.
Later, he asked what was wrong and I explained that it seemed that every time I bring up an instance of sexism or objectification, he doesn’t take me seriously and seems to think I’m making it up (this has happened before). I assured him that I wasn’t. And actually, he understood and apologized. We continued talking and I said, “I have had hatred thrown my way before, but most of what I have to deal with is the kind of sexism that is patronizing, objectifying, dismissive, perv bullshit. But the thing about that is… It’s a weird thing – trying to be tough and strong while knowing that there are men twice my size who, if they wanted to, could throw me across a room or punch me out and take advantage of me. And I can fight, and I would, but I can’t deny the difference in physical strength. And when I am objectified, it disturbs me. If they don’t see me as human, what’s to stop them from doing those things?”
(sidetrack: I just caught myself thinking, “If I were stronger, I guess I wouldn’t have to worry as much.” WTF!? I am 5’0″ and around 110 lbs. I’m in pretty good shape, and I’m fairly muscular. Still, there is only so much I can do for my size. But what bothers me about my thought is the whole “might makes right” mentality that I was JUST guilty of, even though I’m so opposed to it. “Oh, if I were stronger, I’d be safe.” As if we’re animals. Just because a man is stronger than me, that does not give him the right to use that against me. It shouldn’t be about me fending a man off, it shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. Why is he bothering me at all? You can’t logically promote the idea that men are more intelligent/rational/capable than women (you know us gals and our periods) and then at the same time suggest that they (men) are so overcome by their irrational, savage, animal instincts at the sight of a woman’s [insert body part, depending where you are] that they can’t help but commit a rape. Not only is it misogynist, it lacks consistency and just doesn’t even make any fucking sense. Anyway…)
I think tonight helped him get a better idea of why I take things like this seriously. He’s a good guy and I know he wants to treat others with the respect they deserve. He just needed to hear me articulate what bothered me. I know a lot of men like this – men who just need to hear the women in their lives explain why sexism/objectification is so disturbing to us. Thank you, Hollaback, for providing a venue.
We are so strong. Let’s use our strength to build a world where we don’t need physical strength to feel safe. Donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign today.
Developed by our friends at Blank Noise Project, in India.
This video was created by the Safe Horizon Safe Harbor Student Leaders, who, after hearing that the city was considering a public service announcement campaign about street harassment, decided they would show the city what could be most effective.
In this tight budget year, funding from the city wasn’t available for a PSA campaign, but the council was able to support an initiative that will allow the city to collect more data on street harassment and provide a real-time response to it (more details to be released in the coming months).
A special thank you goes to Councilmember Christine Quinn, Councilmember Julissa Ferraras, and Councilmember Brad Lander for their bold vision and support of Hollaback! and the movement to end street harassment! We are so proud that NYC as boldly taken on this important issue that effects our community and our city.
We’d also like to thank the Safe Horizon Safe Harbor Student Leaders for bravely speaking out about their right to feel safe on the streets (and a special thanks to Rachel Henes and Rebecca Forlenza for helping them to share their voices).
Recently, I was able to use Hollaback!’s Web site as an educational, inspirational and cross-generational tool of empowerment. And they said the Internet wouldn’t last.
The conversation in question happened between a 19-year-old college student and me, her 30-something cousin. I listened as she described street harassment she receives almost daily — at her campus, near her home, in all sorts of public spaces that should be rightfully hers.
She’s already learning that they’re not.
She was asking me how to avoid such situations. How to stave off the “catcalls” and creepers. What to wear. What NOT to wear. Where to go. How to get there. How to come back.
My young, idealistic cousin is already learning that her public world will be a maze of constant avoidance, broken by gauntlets of abuse.
Simply because she’s a woman.
And she wants to walk outside.
And it fucking breaks my heart.
I couldn’t tell my cousin not to worry, that such harassment won’t happen too much — because I know it probably will. I know by the time she’s my age — or much sooner — she might have learned to see every man on the street as a threat, lost count of the times she’s been verbally harassed or worse, and feel an extra stress every time she’s simply walking alone.
I couldn’t tell her these things wouldn’t happen. But I could tell her how to confront them. I could tell her how to HOLLABACK!
So, instead of telling my cousin to ignore street harassment — which is the advice I got at her age — I talked with her about WHY some men harass women on the street, why our culture tolerates it and ways to safely confront the behavior.
Hollaback! gave me the tools to have this conversation. I was able to reference the Web site — which my cousin now reads — as well as email her several street harassment articles I’ve found online, through Hollaback! or on my own.
I think the conversation helped her.
I hope so anyway.
I know it helped me. I know it made me feel better that I had something other to say than “Well honey you just gotta deal with that cause it’s just the lot of women, us givers of life and the heart of societies. Random strangers get to harass us on the street! ”
I think too many women were told such things in the past. They were taught to be passive, how to play defense in a never-ending game. But a new generation of women are taking the offensive, speaking up, and unafraid to fight this war.
Women like my cousin.
She called me the other night with a proud tale of how she’d silenced a harasser on the street.
Yep, that’s my girl.
Not a victim. Not an object. Not a passive, pretty little thing.
But a newly minted foot-soldier with the weapons to HOLLABACK!
To help build a world where every girl learns at a young age that they don’t just have to “take it,” donate to our “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign. Only 8 days to go!
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 firstname.lastname@example.org 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!