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Friday night some friends and I set a picnic in the park for an outdoor movie screening. No more than ten minutes after we got comfortable to enjoy the evening, this guy and his buddy come over and asked if they could sit with us and eat our food. We turned our backs and deliberately ignored them for several minutes, but they continued to hover and smirk with a goofy grin. Even after we took the first photo, they still didn’t catch on, and actually started to pose together for a second shot. Idiots! Finally, we turned and said in the “I mean business” tone that they were bothering us, and NO we would NOT appreciate their company!
Reposted from Hollaback! Philly
On March 20, 2011, Nuala Cabral organized the Philadelphia celebration of International Anti-Street Harassment Day, and HollabackPhilly was lucky enough to have participated with her. Cabral recently released footage of the day with commentary by the activists involved in the awareness raising event. The video (below) involves a discussion of street harassment, followed by footage of the Anti-Street Harassment Day events and commentary on the day’s successes and lessons. The event occurred in Rittenhouse Square and El Stops in West Philadelphia, and engaged men, young girls, parents, and various other women.
Creating Walking Home connected me with a community of folks who are addressing street harassment through writing, art, film, education and community action. When I heard about Holly Kearl’s book and the Anti Street Harassment Day she was spearheading, I knew I had to be involved. Screening Walking Home or viewing it online has been a great way to reach a wide audience and spark dialogue. However, a film, a book, an online magazine does not reach all audiences. Therefore it is necessary to go beyond media and engage with people face to face about this issue.
She also describes many lessons the group learned throughout the day, about the community’s response and ourselves.
We learned that many women and men have a story to share about street harassment. Engaging in conversation was a way to validate those stories and voices. Experiencing push back from some people reminded us that we still have work to do, in terms of shifting norms and expectations around street harassment and simply taking a stand.It felt good that we had numbers–solidarity. It was inspiring. Street harassment can make you feel alone and dis-empowered. When we were out there together, I felt empowered and supported.
Chalking on the streets drew people in and led to conversations about why were were there.
The drum also created an environment that was upbeat and energizing. For those of us who are shy, that pulsing beat helped us get out of our comfort zone.
I agree with her that the drums energized the event, not only for the activists but also for the surrounding community. It also made us more approachable and less intimidating. The chalk had a similar effect while also making the discussion interactive and engaging.
I was part of the Rittenhouse portion of the event and many women shared stories with us about prior street harassment incidents, a few men pushed back and told us the line is too blurry between harassment and a compliment, and a few parents went on to explain street harassment to their daughters as their daughters drew pictures with the chalk.
All in all, it was an effective day of awareness raising in a city that needs the anti-street harassment discussion. We look forward to working with Cabral in the future to continue bringing the discussion to the streets!
We are so close! With only one day to go (39 hours to be exact), we still need to raise a little over $5,000. The flood of supporters that have come through has been truly incredible, and we are so grateful. Just yesterday we raised over $6,000 from over 50 people. If we do it again today we’ll meet our goal. Do it on Thursday and we’ll exceed our goal.
To our supporters: thank so much for getting us this far, and let’s keep this campaign going through the final stretch. Be sure to let your friends and family know about the campaign if you haven’t already, and most importantly, thanks for having our backs. You know we’ve got yours too.
Rare are summer days in Houston when the weather cools from the oppressively swampy to merely sultry. Whenever such an opportunity presents itself, few would blame me for wanting to slip out of my desk and into the sunshine. I didn’t take a lunch break, anyways. Nobody would mind if I ran to the bookstore for a metaphorical minute.
As I walk along Main Street, between its intersections with Lamar and Dallas, a stranger saunters up to me. His body now merely millimeters from mine, he demands, “Let me pick you up and carry you home. I have to carry you and take you home with me right now.” Loud enough for a 5-person band of onlookers to start quietly paying attention.
I panic. “GO FUCK YOURSELF!” Not the most mature of reactions, but fear and a desire to intimidate preclude creativity. Our audience continues staring.
He shrinks back, raising his volume and desperately whining, “But I have to do SOMETHING to you! I need to take you back to my home and do something. Let me carry you home and we’ll talk about this.”
“GO! FUCK! YOURSELF!” Finally, the man jerks his head away and turns to walk off in the other direction. My voice transcends my meager frame. Gives me power. Authority. A strength beyond whatever it is I’m bench pressing these days. “I AM NOT A PIECE OF MEAT, SIR!” rockets towards his back. Cliché to be certain, and not my proudest moment. But it gets the point across succinctly. A glare shot at the throng transfixed by our encounter. Lips pressed tightly into themselves. Eyes narrowed to nothing more than paper cuts, albeit obscured by prescription sunglasses.
They look away. Huffy. Bored. One man mutters, “Such language…”
Humiliation. An overarching sensation of dehumanization prickles my internals and externals alike. Saline stings the backs of my eyelids. A quaking, shaking blancmange of a thoroughly ashamed, embarrassed and just plain angry young woman. Deliberate encroachment onto my personal space, overtures of sexual violence and a complete lack of disrespect for my autonomy, agency and consent…and they take offense at the language I use to convey my flashpoint rage! He and I provided them with the day’s sensational entertainment, not a pathetic tableau of harassment. I question whether or not their apathy would have finally dissolved had this horrid man attempted to genuinely hurt me.
And I am incredibly fortunate he intended to intimidate more than actually injure, but all the same there exists no compelling justification for his actions (sorry, victim-blamers, but I was wearing a loose-fitting Muppets t-shirt and even more comfortable jeans that day). Nor those who saw fit to treat us as free, live theatre. Their silence gave this man permission to treat another woman with such a callous dismissal of her independence. Their chiding my self-defense enabled yet another incident of public harassment and verbal assault to end up an exercise in shaming the recipient. Of neglecting to change the rhetoric of gender-based violence.
But hey! It only takes something as easy and minor as the complete overhaul of societal perceptions towards street harassment, sexual assault and rape to reverse this attitude! Neither I nor anyone else deserves to inhabit a world where something simple like running to pick up a copy The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks ends up a disheartening lesson in how Americans react when confronted with very public verbal and physical harassment. Public places belong to the public, not just those intending to badger, bully or brutalize the innocent. And that is why those of us with stories to tell – all narratives, be they victim, bystander or a loved one hearing about everything later in the day – must ensure the populace learns of them. Education, not dressing differently or agoraphobia or constantly looking over your shoulder, remains just about the only truly effective, sustainable weapon in our stash.
What? Hollaback NYC is inviting community members and organizations to take a stand against street sexual harassment. For too long, women and girls have been victims of sexual harassment, assault, rape, socio-economic and political violence…. and silence has been the response in many of our communities. During these hot summer days, many look to affirm their “power” through constant street sexual harassment and inappropriate remarks made to women and young girls… If street harassment is “okay,” then other forms of violence are okay. Hollaback says “Enough is enough! It is not okay!”
It is our right to never let anyone make us feel any less than our confident and badass self, so on Friday, July 8th we will be sharing strength, looking to unite forces with community members and organizations to encourage women and girls to…. Hollaback!
Join us! There will be music and speakers….
When? Friday, July 8th, 2011 at 5:30 p.m.
It is time for community members and organizations to build unity and strength to create safer streets, where our women and men of all ages can walk safely and feel free of any type of harassment.
We’ve raised $11,355 and we’ve got over $13,000 to go in only 5 days. Do you have our back? Of course you do! So keep supporting us by asking friends and family to donate. And if you haven’t donated yet – do it now! Your donation will be matched by our generous board of directors.
Here’s a sample letter to send to your loved ones:
Dear Friends and Family,
I’m contacting you today because of an effort I truly believe deserves your support. Hollaback! is an international movement to end street harassment (sexual harassment in public spaces). Over the past year, this tiny non-profit has organized volunteer activists in 24 cities in 10 countries – to work to end street harassment within their own communities. Though street harassment is the most common form of violence experienced in women’s lives, Hollaback! is one of the only efforts to prevent street harassment.
Due to my working late, and smoking habit that I can’t seem to drop, I am kind of the de facto neighborhood watch. It is a relatively safe neighborhood, but I’ve heard some weird stuff here and there. I’ve called 911 before when I heard a woman screaming. It turned out to be a drunken domestic dispute (but happening in the middle of the street). I do have a bit of hyper-vigilance, so I tend to mistake the sounds of drunken carousing with something much worse at times, but I figure embarrassment is better than serious danger.
I called the police again 2 nights ago. I saw a woman, who was screaming, be picked up by two men. I ran inside, grabbed my phone, and by the time I got a hold of someone, they were gone. I went close to the area that they were at, but there weren’t any signs of where they had gone, and I was reluctant to investigate it too much, because I didn’t want to get surprised if they were in a spot where they could see me. I also didn’t know if they were armed.
The police came in about 10 minutes, and checked the area. I have no idea if they found anything. I also have no idea of what I saw. It was dark, far away, maybe this was drunken carousing, maybe I gave her time and space to get away if it was as bad as it looked.
In short, between running to where they were to directly see what was happening and help, and grabbing my phone to call the police, I chose the second option. This has left me with very little information, and a sickening feeling that I am a coward and should have done more. I hope that everything worked out, or it wasn’t what it looked like, but I’ll never know.
To find out more about the “I’ve got your back” campaign or to donate, click here.
Hollaback! Baltimore shares why the “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign is so important. We’ve only got 7 days to go and over $15,000 to reach our goal! And the absolute truth is that we can’t do this without you. Please donate so that none of us ever has to Hollaback alone.
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.