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Last year, we sent out a call for submissions to the first ever Hollaback Essay Contest. We received excellent submissions on a wide range of topics- law, social justice, media, and more. Three volunteer judges reviewed the fantastic submissions and chose Diana Emiko Tsuchida’s essay to share with you. Not only is our winning essay moving on a personal level, it is academically rigorous and a unique addition to the body of knowledge on street harassment. Thank you, Diana!
We’re so grateful to everyone who submitted an essay. Please continue to send us your stories, essays, articles and resources on street harassment!
You can read Diana’s full essay here, and here is a short section of Diana’s essay, “Be Angry: Resisting Public Sexism:”
I’m not quite sure if every woman can recall her first public catcall. For me I vividly remember this moment as an end of innocence. It happened when I was twelve while walking home from summer school. Dressed in purple pastel overalls with a pink and purple striped shirt I was on the receiving end of a “Whoooo baby!” by a group of young teenagers in a car whizzing down my street. While what I wore that day has no impact on why I was hollered at, I mention it because after that incident I rarely wore those overalls again. To me, they were tainted with the memory of being objectified only a hundred feet away from my house. When I wore them, I distinctly remember feeling dirty. I remember that was the first day I told my mom about being hollered at and she was a little shocked with how enraged I was. My mother, a strong and righteous woman, would never be nothing less than protective of her daughter. However her reaction was an amalgamation of understanding yet dismissive. I remember how she comforted me with, “It’s going to happen. I know it can be rude, but sometimes it’s kind of a compliment.” I felt alone in my anger and confused with her small reassurance that it’s “okay” to be made an object of on the street. Fourteen years later, I still want to believe that perhaps I misinterpreted or misheard. Yet likewise today at twenty-six, many of my friends tell me to brush it off when we get called at on the street and that I should tone it down and not be so angry. Why do women muzzle each other? Why do we not collectively stand our ground as a group of women who, more likely than not, outnumber the men who shamelessly harass? While I continue to struggle with comprehending this attitude I also grasp why many women respond apathetically. We have all been bamboozled, manipulated, and ultimately forced into buying a patriarchal form of oppression that retorts with “boys will be boys.” At twelve and twenty-three, I know that my mother and friends were annoyed and offended, but the sobering truth of the matter is, no other woman in my life, has ever been as angry about street harassment as I have. It would appear that the women I deeply love have grown so accustomed that they are numb. In this essay I wish to expand on the pervasive influence of contemporary media imagery and the ways it significantly affects the social dynamics between men and women. This incessant “flattery” through harassment is deeply rooted in a cycle of fetish and hypersexualization that measures female worth based on male attention. While there are several nuanced and interlocking factors that uphold and perpetuate street harassment, this essay will focus on the impact of media representation and female public visibility that will underscore the necessity of being frustrated with the status quo.
Contemporary media images and discussion make a mockery of the problem, reinforcing and naturalizing this daily psychological violence. Allstate Insurance has managed to make a television and YouTube sensation out of the subject using their “Mayhem” gimmick in which Dean Winters personifies driving-related disasters [Allstate Insurance “Jogger Mayhem.” 9 July 2010. Access date: 29 July 2011.]. One of the first commercials to air was “Jogger Mayhem” where Winters played a “hot babe out jogging.” Donning a pink headband and lifting matching pink weights, he talks to the camera and says, “I’m a hot babe out jogging. I’m making sure that this [pointing to his front] stays a ten…when you drive by.” As a car pulls into view, Winters starts to jog at the same slow and steady speed as the car that is following closely beside him. He winks to the mesmerized driver. Winter then says, “You’re checking out my awesome headband when…oops” and suddenly the car crashes into a light pole. This humorous approach to the well-known social “exchange” between jogging women and ogling men reveals much more about how pervasive it is, trivializing the matter so much as to claim that women positively respond and wink back to the men behind the wheel who stare. The fight over public freedom even extends far into the reaches of cyberspace. Take one of Beyonce’s recent (and apparently, controversial) videos to her song, “Run the World (Girls).” [Beyonce. “Run the World (Girls).” Youtube.com. 18 May 2011. beyoncevevo. Access date: 28 July 2011.] The subsequent YouTube battle-of-the-sexes that commenced since the video first released continues to be a source of horrific fascination as even mentioning women running the world results in incredibly sexist backlash. In the song Beyonce sings about “reppin’ for the girls all over the world” while “raising a glass to the college grads” and how women are “strong enough to bear the children, then get back to business.” While the chorus repeats “Who run the world? Girls!” more of the song refers to how women can persuade their way into building a nation. While there is much more controversy over whether or not Beyonce’s artistic vision and execution of the song actually accomplishes a feminist goal, it is undeniable that the mere suggestion of switching gender roles or upsetting power dynamics unleashes a firestorm. Several YouTube users play on the lyrics and write that girls run the kitchen, that they need to get back in the kitchen, and that the only thing that girls run is their mouth. It would appear that even in a pop song the mere threat of encroachment into taking control of what has been traditionally masculine space is enough to create a watershed of sexism, hidden behind the cloak of anonymity through the Internet. In the streets, it is essentially the same. The safety and distance of being a stranger, albeit a perverted one, holds no accountability.
According to last Saturday’s Boston Herald, a 24-year-old woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, managed to single handedly capture a man that masturbated in front of her on a packed B-Line trolley.
The subway heroine told the Boston Herald:
“This guy was just being a real creeper.”
She said that he followed her through the trolley and stood over her while she was sitting down.
“I looked up and felt awkward, so I looked down.”
Then she realized that his penis was exposed and he was touching himself. The 24-year-old was so infuriated by his behavior that she describes her self as switching into “She-Hulk” mode. She loudly drew attention to what the man was doing and received no support from her fellow passengers, one trolley rider even shrugged.
So, in an impulsive moment she lunged at the man as he tried to exit the train at Packard’s Corner. She held onto the man with one hand and reprimanded him until law enforcement arrived. She said:
“I’ve had enough of being harassed on the street. I’m tired of it and I want it to end. It was the last straw.”
After his arrest, Michael Galvin, 37, tried to defend himself by saying the “packed and jostling” train made his pants fall down. He was charged with open and gross lewdness.
What a courageous lady! Here’s a big Hollaback! well done for standing up for what’s right and not being afraid to speak out. You are awesome.
Hollaback in the HOUSE! The White House, that is. Vice President Joe Biden, Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal, spoke about the importance of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) and the Administration’s efforts to reduce domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking victimization. What an honor! Biden’s speech is above — you gotta watch it — it’s amazing.
Our Green Dot partnership grows! Veronica went to a week-long Green Dot training. Afterwards, Dorothy Edwards and Jenn Sayre from Green Dot came into the city and we schemed about how to take our partnership to the next level.
Victoria went to SAY-SO! Victoria joined several other organizations to celebrate survival over rape and sexual assault at Safe Horizon‘s Brooklyn Community Program at the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office.
In the Press! I was interviewed for an article in the Mother Nature Network. Hollaback! London was on BBC Radio 4 and the BBC Women’s Hour.
We Are Losing Catherine! Our wonderful blogging intern Catherine Favorite is leaving us. So here’s a huge thank you to Catherine for all the great work she has done. Thank you, good luck and guest blog for us soon!
HOLLA and out —
I was driving to my home in Lafayette, LA, when this guy pulls up next to me and yells “woohoo” at me, really loudly, startling me. My windows were down. He was driving next to me for a few seconds i guess, staring at me, trying to get me to look at him. When I didn’t he passed to get in front of me, and then started swerving purposefully, I guess for attention. It was really obnoxious, and as I don’t have an air conditioner in my car and am frequently driving with my windows down, this unfortunately happens kind of frequently. Never when my husband is in the car, of course. I am so sick of this. I took a picture of the guy in his truck; I will send it as well.
Thanks for the opportunity to submit my story, and thanks for the work you do!
We had a big week, with lots of exciting news. Let’s jump right in:
We are in PEOPLE magazine this week! With a circulation of 25 million, we’re bringing the street harassment movement to a grocery isle near you. We couldn’t be more proud. And we couldn’t have done it without you.
We’ve got new Partners (legislative and otherwise)! We met with Councilmember Lander, Councilmember Levin, and Councilmember Arroyo this week (whew!) and partnered with Men Can Stop Rape as an ally in their new Healthy Masculinity Project!
I went to North Carolina! I had the opportunity to speak with students from Western Carolina University, who were quite simply some of the most amazing students I have ever met. And I’m not just saying that because they have committed to start a Hollaback! site on their campus. Promise.
New York Women’s Foundation’s Got Our Back! We are grateful to New York Women’s Foundation for their support of our work here in New York City — and we’re honored to be listed among their grantees. To learn more about the foundation, click here.
Next week, I’m going to the WHITE HOUSE to join Vice President Joe Biden (!!!), Senior Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and White House Advisor on Violence Against Women Lynn Rosenthal, for a program about the importance of the Violence Against Women Act and the Administration’s efforts to reduce domestic and dating violence, sexual assault, and stalking victimization. I’ll be representing as Hollaback!’s executive director and board member of ISIS! I can’t wait!
HOLLA and out —
From one of our readers: “I’m riding the Brooklyn Coney Island bound R train Saturday 3-24-12 at about 5:40am, I was on my phone and happened to look up and see a man fondling himself. At first I thought he had an itch until he revealed himself. I took his picture so I could put him on blast. Ladies, please be aware of this dirt bag!!”
A garbage truck stopped on the corner on this busy neighborhood street. While the guys in the back were doing their job, the drive was yelling “Hey Shorty!” out of his window to a young woman walking on the sidewalk on the opposite side of the street. Her arms were crossed, trying to ignore it, and the guys in the truck were smiling and laughing, having a good ol’ time. Get back to work and stop making the taxpayers that pay your salary uncomfortable!
Such a gorgeous day and a nice lunch in the park, ruined by a group of low-lifes cat calling passers by at Waverly pl and Broadway.
BY HOLLABACK! BUENOS AIRES
This may sound strange but to celebrate International Women’s Day in Buenos Aires Hollaback! decided to talk about men. Inspired by a Hollaback Webinar on “Engaging Men”, we asked our followers to submit their street harassment essays to “Desist & resist: Ending street harassment, cues for men” with a promise to publish the top three entries nationally and internationally. Here is a step-by-step breakdown of the entries we received.
Romina Zamborain sent us a thoughtful essay exploring the nature of the “piropo” (catcall) and its expected response in the macho culture of the Buenos Aires streets. She proposes to a male audience that they rethink their assumptions by asking themselves a number of questions, starting with the fundamentals:
“¿Pero qué pasa cuando una mujer transita en el espacio público? ¿Percibe estas palabras como un halago, necesita escucharlas? ¿Con qué frecuencia le ocurre y qué tipo de cosas escucha en cada situación?”
(trans: “What happens when a woman walks through public space? Does she hear these words as compliments; does she need to hear them? How often does it happen, and what kinds of things does she hear in each situation? “)
She continues her thought experiment probing ever deeper, finally proposing a world where we make a concerted effort to see the other person’s perspective. Read the essay here.
We also received a video entry, crafted by Amelia Rébori, who made this poignant stills-video with a resonant message; Women are not objects & objectification is not OK! See the video here:
Janet wrote us in an informal style to tell us her story as a tourist in Buenos Aires aires, recalling all the positive experiences she has had meeting people on the street in Buenos Aires – and how that has differed substantially in her experience of street harassment. Read her entry here.