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Anne Marie’s Story: Taking the power back

I was walking my dog at 7am.  This man stuck his head out the window and made kissy noises as he drove past. He got stuck at a stoplight and I walked back to take his pic.  He looked a little confused, and I yelled “you’re going on the internet creep!”  I walked my dog down a different block in case he drove back around.  Feels good to take back the power.

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Veronica’s Story: “Disgusting”

After a great night of talking about women’s issues, street harassment and how important and empowering this work is with one of our international site leaders. I was feeling so inspired and happy. Then, just as I got off the bus at my stop, a guy in a parked car flashed his lights at me.  I looked and I was so disturbed and disgusted by what I saw. The creep was masturbating on a main street! I thought about taking his picture but I was so disgusted by the look on his face the first time I saw him that I didn’t want to look again. Disgusting!

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Amanda’s Story: Not backing down

I had moved to Philadelphia just a few days before and I was out exploring. I love my neighborhood. I’d grown up in the suburbs, but my family has a 70+ year history in the Federal St row-home where I live now. I decided to go check out 9th St (only tourists call it “the Italian Market!”) and start to learn what all is around, make myself at home here. There is a produce stand at 8th & Washington that, like the others further down, straddles the sidewalk. My path between the wooden crates of fruits and vegetables was partially blocked by a white-haired man with an enormous belly. He leered at me and looked me up and down. He smirked. I felt immediately angry at his intrusion into what had been a wonderful walk so far. With that simple act, the million other things on my mind and the beautiful day itself were suddenly and forcibly replaced, against my will, by this man, his body itself coupled with his very violent gaze. The rage in me was overpowering. It felt like the seconds it took me to walk up to, by, and away from him were stretched out into minutes. I started to shake, but I looked him in the eye and spit something awkward out like, “I bet it’s been a looooong time for you, huh?” I don’t care that it was ineffective (it always is, because his power is not about sex, it’s about asserting that the street is HIS turf and NOT mine,) I just wanted to keep my head up and try to look undeterred. I wasn’t, of course. That was 2 years ago and I still get so mad just thinking about it. I’ve avoided that intersection as much as possible even when it put me out of my way, and when I couldn’t avoid it, I’ve struggled to smirk back at him (he’s ALWAYS there, but I don’t know if he’s the owner) and look strong. I AM strong. I try very hard to maintain a balance in this city between keeping an eye out for potential dangers and just going about my life, but people like him make it harder. I don’t want this to be normalized anymore. I know it’s not always safe to hollaback, but I want us to get there. Advertizing individual perpetrators is tricky because it can help feed a myth that these are isolated incidents, but if we use the great opportunity set up by the folks here and tell our stories, the bigger picture will become clear. I know confronting is not always safe (and, please, always have your safety in mind,) but any action from giving the finger to snapping photos surreptitiously that will make you feel even slightly less powerless is worth considering. I’ll have your back.
Here is the video of my confrontation with him today. You can see the camera shaking, but it did feel good: http://youtu.be/oh417ONbwPg

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Things You Can’t Unsee

Reposted from Hollaback Czech Republic

by Alicia Brooks

There are certain things in your daily life that you do without even thinking about. Things like brushing your teeth, going to work, crossing the street or waiting in the inevitable line at the Albert. They have become such a part of your life that thinking about them would be redundant. You have been putting on your shoes for years, why bother giving it a second thought?

Taking public transit in Prague has become one of those things for me. I know which trams to take, what time the bus comes and what car I should get into for optimal speed upon exit. It’s clockwork. It’s clockwork except in the case of taking the night trams.

I swore off night trams when I swore off partying downtown. I like being able to walk home – or stumble home – as the case may be. But just this past week I found myself going home at 3am on a night tram. Twice. I had conveniently forgotten about the smell of puke, the loud drunks and the way it seems to take an eternity to get home no matter where you live.

Thursday night I was waiting at Narodni Trida for the 58 with my flat-mate. We had had a fun evening full of laughter and alcohol and topped it off with an always delicious and regrettable slice of street pizza. The tram was going to take another fifteen minutes to get to us, so we took a seat on the steel benches. My friend was regaling me with a story about something when I saw him. I didn’t want her to have to see what I was seeing so I tried not to change expression in any way.

He walked by us as if he were on one of those moving platforms they have at airports – slow and sooth. He wanted me to get a good look. He had his penis in one hand shaking it rapidly in my direction and the other hand (which was somehow far more offensive than the penis) was under his mouth, fingers in a peace sign tongue lapping at the air. The international sign for “lick pussy”. He seemed to walk in slow motion.

I think I was stunned into silence. As soon as he was out of sight I turned to my friend and said, “Holy shit! Did you see that fucking guy?” It was obvious to me that she hadn’t, and for that I was glad. One less person who has that image scarred on their retina. I recounted what I had witnessed and was met with multiple “Ewws”. I quickly remembered why I don’t like to take night trams.

One of the things that I refuse to get used to is harassment – in any form. A strange man shaking his genitals, an ass grab at a bar, yelling at me from across the street how “hot” or “fuckable” I am. It’s all harassment, and it will never be second nature as long as I continue to get pissed off about it.

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Goodbye Blockbuster Season, Hello Films With Females

BY ANNIE BOGGS

If you’re like me, you distrust the summer blockbuster season for its general obsession with superheroes, mindless violence and sequels. With the exception of “Bridesmaids” and the somewhat controversial “The Help”, this year was no different. The end of the summer brings some optimism, however, with several upcoming movies covering uncharted territory (read: women’s and LGBT issues, here and abroad). At a screening of “Another Earth”- a wonderful film I would definitely recommend- I saw the three following film previews that peeked my interest and reinstated my faith (a bit) in the movie industry:

  • “The Whistleblower”, released in the beginning of August, is about a UN peacekeeper who uncovers human trafficking involving the UN in post-war Bosnia.
  • “Pariah” tells the story of Alike, a 17-year-old girl who is embracing her lesbian identity amidst conflict from her family. No release date announced yet.
  • “Circumstance” is about two girls in Iran dealing with their emerging adolescence and the boundaries set upon them by their birthplace. The release date is August 26.

And finally, this trailer was released a few days ago and takes a look at the, ahem, accidental history of the vibrator during the Victorian era, titled “Hysteria” for the illness doctors were attempting to cure. No release date set for the U.S. yet.

Awesome, am I right? Films that actually reflect lives of those who are not white, male and wearing superhero suits are a plus in my book. Support films like these and maybe, someday, blockbuster season will be filled with diverse stories of women (a girl can dream!).

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Anonymous’s Story: Not walking in silence

I was walking home with a friend after a fun evening out, chatting about her upcoming vacation plans. About 100 yards away, three guys were walking toward us on the same sidewalk. Once I noticed them, chatting loudly amongst themselves, I was no longer even really focused on the conversation with my friend. I was tense, holding my breath, and waiting for our paths to cross, hoping it would be uneventful.  One glanced at us and kept walking, another guy’s look lingered. It was the third who slowed and stopped altogether, sort of blocking my path, lifted his hands, looked down to my ankles and back up to my face and said, “Damn girl, you’re gorgeous.” He kept talking, but I kept walking. And, the conversation I had with my friend picked up where it left off.

I didn’t Hollaback at him, I didn’t want to encourage any form of further communication, I didn’t want to reward his behavior or make him to think I somehow enjoyed any of what he had just done. But, the fact that she and I kept walking as if nothing had happened – that was a common response I thought was worth correcting. So I interrupted the conversation with, “I hate how, no matter which neighborhood we’re in, we can’t feel safe and secure on our own sidewalks.” We only talked about it for a few seconds longer before resuming our original conversation before parting ways. But at least we didn’t keep walking in complicit silence, allowing that to be an unnoticed, unquestioned end to our evening.

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Anonymous’s Story: I can take pictures, too

This creep was taking photos of employees who were on smoke breaks across the street (e 60th between 3rd ave and lexington). The women were holding their hands in front of their faces and saying “seriously??” When I yelled at this guy he said he was just taking a photo of the building (the junky delivery side??) and that he had a right to take photos of whatever he wanted.  I said “me too!!” and took this photo of him.

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My Short Skirt – by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues

cross-posted from Lipstick Feminists

It is not an invitation
a provocation
an indication
that I want it
or give it
or that I hook.

My short skirt
is not begging for it
it does not want you
to rip it off me
or pull it down.

My short skirt
is not a legal reason
for raping me
although it has been before
it will not hold up
in the new court.

My short skirt, believe it or not
has nothing to do with you.

My short skirt
is about discovering
the power of my lower calves
about cool autumn air traveling
up my inner thighs
about allowing everything I see
or pass or feel to live inside.

My short skirt is not proof
that I am stupid
or undecided
or a malleable little girl.

My short skirt is my defiance
I will not let you make me afraid
My short skirt is not showing off
this is who I am
before you made me cover it
or tone it down.
Get used to it.

My short skirt is happiness
I can feel myself on the ground.
I am here. I am hot.

My short skirt is a liberation
flag in the women’s army
I declare these streets, any streets
my vagina’s country.

My short skirt
is turquoise water
with swimming colored fish
a summer festival
in the starry dark
a bird calling
a train arriving in a foreign town
my short skirt is a wild spin
a full breath
a tango dip
my short skirt is
initiation
appreciation
excitation.

But mainly my short skirt
and everything under it
is Mine.
Mine.
Mine.

 

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Lost In the Circus

BY Alex Alston

Earlier this month the Obama administration took a marked step forward on the issue of women’s healthcare with the Affordable Care Act by requiring new health insurance plans to cover birth control, annual exams, breastfeeding tools, and a host of other preventative care-related services, all without co-pays, co-insurance, or deductibles.  A clear victory for women across party lines, this decision drew ire from many on the right, perhaps most notably, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly.  Obviously, no one expected O’Reilly to be on board with anything the President thought was a good idea, (he probably found it outrageous that Mr. Obama would turn 50 with this economy the way it is) but there is something deeper than just run-of-the-mill partisan politics going on in O’Reilly’s efforts to malign the decision.

Aside from O’Reilly’s position that making healthcare affordable and accessible to all women is the equivalent of “a welfare state” and an overwhelming reason for businesses not to expand and hire, he reasons that, “Many women who get pregnant are blasted out of their minds when they have sex, they’re not gonna use birth control anyway.”  Now if you can find a way to overlook the crass and sexist generalization made here (if you can’t that’s fine too) you’ll see that Mr. O’Reilly has a bit of a flawed understanding of how the birth control pill actually works.  Most of us are aware that this is something a woman takes daily and not just after sex.  Place his comments in the backdrop of a national war on women’s reproductive health and the big picture is frightening.  A faction of Americans, led by mostly men, is waging an assault on women’s healthcare and reproductive rights without a basic understanding of something so simple as a birth control regimen.  The discourse then, around the subject, is not a debate, but a political circus wherein no effort is being made to genuinely understand what gender equality would look like, let alone value that.  Inevitably, the implications for all Americans are tangibly detrimental.

Hi, my name is Alex and I’m a college student who interned at Hollaback! this past summer.  I am, of course, elated to be a part of the blogging team and hope some of you can hear echoes of your own voices in my writing.  I’m new at this so any comments or suggestions would be more than welcome!

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What’s feminism got to do with it?

BY ANNIE BOGGS

As a college student and pop culture junkie, I see firsthand everyday that feminism, or women’s issues in general, simply isn’t very “cool” anymore. Open any mainstream women’s magazine and see basically any major motion picture and it’s apparent.  It exists very much so on corners of the Internet, and no doubt in some communities across the country, but generally it is believed as passé.

Yet, as a self-described feminist, here I find myself interested in the movement.

Last week I was fortunate enough to attend a screening of HBO’s Gloria Steinem documentary, “Gloria: In Her Own Words,” which debuted Monday night (see more screening times here). After the screening Steinem herself was there for a Q & A with the audience. It was awesome just for her presence alone, but she also had some inspiring and surprising things to say about young people and the future of the movement. “Young women get such a bum rap,” she said. “Young women are much more supportive of all the issues than older women.”

So maybe it’s not so bad that some young women don’t know who Gloria Steinem is. Maybe it’s enough that they be knowledgeable and supportive of the issues out there that directly affect them. There’s a tendency of mine to think of the movement in terms of the one in the 1960s and ’70s- marches and hearings and sisterhood! But as Steinem said at the Q & A, there is no single face of feminism anymore because feminists are everywhere. It’s not a centralized movement, but accepts the diversity of women everywhere.

At the end of the documentary when asked about advice she would give to young women, she says, “Don’t listen to my advice, listen to your own advice.” In a way, that’s the greatest advice she could have given. We live in a completely different world than the second-wavers did. Hollaback! personifies this. As a Hollaback! volunteer for the last month, I saw firsthand the breadth of the movement  and how they connect via Skype, social networking, blogging and email with sites all around the world. This is how movements happen now. And I’m excited to be a part of it. (Awesome side note: Steinem herself gave a shout out to Hollaback! founder Emily May yesterday.)

I’m Annie, a college student and aspiring journalist, and I’m happy to be joining the Hollaback! blogger team! Stay tuned for more blogs on college issues, pop culture and news briefings. Until then, if you have any thoughts, please leave them in the comments section.

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