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SUBMITTED BY BRITTANY, reposted from Service Women’s Action Network.
Every day, I walk 8 blocks down Fifth Avenue to work and then back again. Now that the weather is getting nicer in New York, I especially look forward to these walks when I can sip on my latte, do some window shopping, and bask in the sun before August rolls around and the hot air suffocates so much that it is unpleasant to be outside for a minute, let alone walk ten to work. However, there are often days that—weather problems aside— this walk turns from a pleasant moment of serenity to a time that ranges from annoying to scary. Sexual harassment is what I’m talking about, and there have been times when I’ve been harassed by five different men in the course of 10 minutes, or these 8 blocks to and from work. The type of harassment and specific remarks or actions vary—sometimes men whisper things like “sexy legs” or “nice ass” as we’re passing each other on the street. Other times the harassment is more threatening. I’ve had men follow me a few blocks before, and once even saw a man masturbating in his car while staring at me and saying things to get me to look over at him. While some of these incidents are obviously more dangerous than others, the collective effect makes me feel degraded, objectified, and many times, straight up scared. Even in my own neighborhood oftentimes in the middle of the day, my feelings range from annoyed at best to extremely fearful at worst. After these incidents occur, I find myself wishing I could disappear, that I could walk up and down Fifth Avenue completely unnoticed. But this thought itself is enraging—shouldn’t I have a fundamental right to walk to and from work without the constant fear of physical or verbal sexual assault?
The title of this post is something that male sexual harassers often say to women—“Hey baby, let me see a smile!” or some related version. Men say this to me, and to many of my colleagues and friends, as we’re going about our business—walking to work, waiting in line at the grocery store, on the subway. I don’t know about you, but I rarely have a smile plastered to my face at all times while I’m just living my daily life. Men seem to expect me to, however, and this expectation undoubtedly is related to their view of women and their gender roles. Women exist for men’s pleasure and use, whether it is functional, aesthetic, or sexual. Related, some men feel entitled to expect and demand women to act a certain way, and think nothing of trying to enforce these roles via sexually explicit suggestions, remarks, or gestures. This dynamic is pervasive, and can just as easily happen on Fifth Avenue as in a work environment.
Fortunately, as a civilian I am protected by equal opportunity policies and anti-sexual harassment laws that permit me to sue my employer for sexual harassment and have access to other forms of redress should this kind of thing happen in the workplace. I can also choose to leave my job, to quit at the drop of the hat. Many women are not afforded this luxury, however, if quitting a job because of sexual harassment means descending into poverty. Yet, despite how imperfect civilian workplace sexual harassment policies may be, they provide a lot more protections and forms of redress than the sexual harassment and equal opportunity policies in the U.S. military. Rape and sexual assault survivors in the military also find themselves in precarious positions, and are often left vulnerable and hopeless. Imagine being raped by your commander (boss/employer) and then being forced to work with him, in close, intimate quarters, every day! While I can easily choose to avoid Fifth Avenue or even duck into a public place for refuge, military women are forced to walk the equivalent of Fifth Avenue every day. And forget privacy protections—even though in recent years the military introduced a “restricted” reporting option that allows sexual assault survivors to receive healthcare and treatment without having to name their assailant, anonymity is unlikely to be preserved in practice. In fact, the DOD recently found that over half of sexual assault survivors who didn’t report the incident chose not to because of fear of retaliation or reprisal.
SWAN has been instrumental in persuading members of Congress to introduce legislation that would fill some of these gaps in military policy and ensure survivors of rape and sexual assault in the military are protected. Hopefully one day soon servicemen and women will have the same options I have to escape and address rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. But the underlying cause of sexual violence—an infectious combination of power, misogyny, and sexism—needs to be eradicated before women in both the civilian and military worlds can walk to work without fearing physical or verbal sexual assault.
I think Hollaback Israel works not only because it gives access to these representations, but also because it doesn’t immediately solve them with a narrative/imagery/story/myth. There are a lot of representations we give home to, but we hardly sort them into a single imagery. And that decision creates a lot of tension, which in turn, translates into action. Because we don’t tell people how to read these representations. We just offer access to them, and let people decide for themselves what to do with them. And the ripples and collaborations we made are the efforts of energy of trying to frame these representations into a new story and into a better society.
For the full story, click here.
Visit Hollaback Israel here.
BY KIMBERLYNN ACEVEDO
This is one fine piece of work right here. Why? Because the creator was able to create a montage of ordinary folks sharing their opinions and experiences with street harassment without having to sell you the idea that street harassment blows. You can see it for yourself….this stuff sucks. From the ever so creepy dude in the beginning who very proudly admits to yelling obnoxiously to get women’s attention to the young woman who believes street harassment is a confusing form of flattery…a backhanded compliment, if you will. This documentary shows how women are objectified through everyday interactions on the streets. It provides insight into various experiences– from perpetrator to “victim”– we see the consequences of how viewing women as objects and not human beings is manifested, interpreted, and experienced. I say it’s worth the watch and definitely worth sharing.
Click here to watch!
I was visiting St. Louis for an interview and caught the metro from the airport to where I was staying that night. Across the car from me was this man, who ignored my headphones being in and my lack of attention to him and started touching my foot and pulling at my shoe and leg. I pulled one earphone out to ask what he wanted, still having trouble hearing from the flight, but got the gist that he was hitting on me and then I very clearly heard him say I should take him home with me. I kept saying no and, when he asked where I was going, I said I didn’t know. Another man on the train sitting behind holla-er (and was slightly bigger than him but also a little older) told him to leave me alone and put up with a tirade for the rest of his metro ride so the guy would leave me alone (I’m pretty sure the holla-er was intoxicated in someway). The good guy kept saying okay to everything the holla-er said and avoided antagonizing him further while keeping the attention away from me. I felt terrified of the holla-er but I so, so happy that the good guy was there and that people exist who will counter harassment and protect others, even when it could be dangerous for them and easier to stay quiet.
I was driving slowly down a narrow street near Puffer’s Pond (a local summer time hang out) in Amherst, MA where I was heading to meet my boyfriend and a couple friends after I got out of work at 5pm.
As I drove slowly past all the parked cars on the road I slowed down at a curve in the road where there was a group of 3 young men standing by a car. As I approached one of them put his arm up in the air and began humping the air suggestively and
Looking right at me. I tried to ignore him and as I passed with my windows open presumably the same young man, or a friend, said very loudly “Eh she’s a tramp!”
Completely uncalled for. I do not deserve to be called a tramp simply for being a woman driving alone in a car past a group of men.
I’m 23, I’d estimate the young men were between 20 and 25.
Thanks for all that you do!
I was walking to my bus stop, after work but in broad daylight, when a car with three young men drove past. They laid on the car horn and one leaned out the window, mouth open, tongue hanging out, making growling noises. They got to the bottom of the street and turned around for another go. I gave them the finger. They drove past again anyway, honking and shouting out the windows. As I sat waiting for my bus, they went past again, waving and grinning. I was glad when the bus came and I could just disappear.
Have you ever felt like you were being window-shopped? Like you were being full out inspected by eyes that wanted to try you on?
Have you ever changed your outfit five times for fear that someone was going to say something inappropriate to you the moment you walked outside?
“You should smile with that pretty face.” Excuse you? Who are you to tell me what I should do with my face?
It’s happened to me far too many times (ummm, every day…) and while most just accept it as par for the course of being a woman, particularly one living in an urban area, I’m not one to just accept it and move along. Absolutely not. I’m the one who HAS to say something.
I needed to say something, and by say, I also mean create something, dance something. I needed a way to not only figure out how to manage and combat street harassment in my every day life, but also to hear from other women. I want to know their stories so we can support one another in the daily fight to get from point A to point B with out being spoken to, looked at, and at its worse, touched inappropriately. That’s how The Window Sex Project was born. No woman is a display that exists simply for men to harass.
Through community workshops and choreographed performance, The Window Sex Project gives voice to these concerns and restores agency to women by equipping them to manage street harassment, celebrating their bodies and creating a public artwork, specifically a dance performance which takes place in an art gallery. I mean what better tool to respond to this issue than our bodies? – the very object of the harassment.
I am calling EVERY ONE in New York City, but particularly those in my neighborhood of Harlem, to be a part of this work. Here’s how you can get involved:
I look forward to what the months ahead will bring as this project comes to fruition, and many women come together to say something.
Here’s the description on YouTube:
“A short film about street harassment that was researched, designed, scripted, filmed, directed and edited by volunteers from Initi8 at Nottingham Trent University with guidance and support from Gill Court at Platform 51 Nottingham. The film was inspired by Nottingham’s International Women’s Day events with the aim of raising awareness of street harassment of women and how it makes them feel.”
It appears that the revolution will be televised! (On YouTube anyway).
Video reposted with thanks from Stop Street Harassment
REPOSTED FROM FEMINIST LETTERS
I am regularly inspired by the women involved in the Hollaback campaign. The work they do and the sites they run are amazing. I would recommend that every woman go onto their website, read a bit about what they do, submit your own stories of harassment (lets face it, we’ve ALL got them) and if you can, donate to help keep them going. They also have some great advice for dealing with harassers; here.
The Hollaback movement (combined with the recent warm weather – why are pervs more active in Summer?) has really brought to my attention just how regularly I experience this sort of thing. Many people say its ‘harmless’ or some sort of ‘compliment’ but I do believe that it has a real impact on women and the way they live their lives. So I wanted to start a little Hollaback diary of my own to try and keep track just how often these incidents occur.
I’m not sure if I experience this sort of harassment more or less than other women, but for me it feels like it happens bloody often.
1. Date: 8th May 2011. Time: approx 2 am. Place: City Centre, outside my girlfriends apartment building. Sleaze: As I kissed my girlfriend goodnight two men walking along the street stop and start yelling at us. Comments include I want to f*ck you two, can I join in, you’re so f*cking sexy etc etc. I hollaback (can’t help myself) and it turns really nasty. One of them starts calls us bitches etc and tells us all sorts of really disgusting things he is ‘going’ to do to us, including things I don’t want to think about, let alone write down.
2. Date: 12th May 2011. Time: 8:30 am. Place: City Centre, on the way to work. Sleaze: A small but regular occurrence when walking down the street. I walk past workmen of some sort and they stop what they are doing, collectively look at me for a moment as I approach and then say “Hi, Good Morning”. I know it sounds innocent, but in my head I am thinking; leave me the hell alone. I am walking here. Do you stop and greet everyone that goes past? How many men have you paused to greet this morning. I feel suddenly like I am no longer a person walking down the street, but a sexual object walking along.
3. Date: 20th May 2011. Time: approx 1:30 am. Place: City Centre, walking the 2 blocks from a friends party to my apartment. Sleaze: I walk out of the apartment building and onto the street. Unfortunately at the same time a group of about 5 men are also walking past. They stop, start making noises and cat calls then effectively surround me in a half circle blocking my movement. One of them moves towards me and shouts something I didnt quite catch, but that include the word ‘madame’. I stiffen, hold my head up high and push through, ignoring them as best I can. Despite having been at a great party for most of the night, by the time I get home I am so full of rage I cant sleep. (so I do some ranty writing and furious tweets.)
4. Date: 25th May 2011. Time: approx 10 am. Place: City Centre, walking along my street on the way to work. Sleaze: Another workman incident. Pretty similar to #2.
I will try and keep updating this as these events occur, which no doubt they will…
BY LARA DALE
I live out in New Mexico, but as an ex-New Yorker, I am amazed there hasn’t been a public thank you to the Sofitel Hotel for their prompt, empathic handling of the Strauss-Kahn rape case. I would be on your doorstep right now to discuss this if I didn’t live so far away.
So often in cases like these, the story is dismissed or swept under the rug to such a degree the victim has no chance of a fair trial. Evidence is botched, or pressure is put on in such a way that the victim fears for her life, and the perpetrator walks with zero consequences and cart blanche to assault again.
As near as I can tell from media reports, Sofitel Hotel acted promptly, professionally, and appropriately in this case, paving the way for the victim to be given a fair trial, and the respect and support she needs and deserves. For that, they get zero acknowledgement in the media, and zero thanks from the public.
What kind of message do we as women and victims send when people do the right thing and we don’t acknowledge it? What is the incentive to continue, if nobody cares? If the Sofitel Hotel had handled this improperly, the media would have been all over them, but for doing the right thing they get nothing. I’d like to end this hypocrisy.
Anyone who has been a victim of sexual assault should take comfort that at least one large, prominent organization has morals, and acts on them immediately. I’m just worried that no-one really cares, and so I am asking that anyone and everyone in NYC who cares about this issue, and is in a position of power or influence, to publicly honor and thank the Sofitel Hotel for its actions. Please join me in striving for this, and please do whatever you can to offer suggestions as to how to accomplish this.
Just as we need to point the finger at people who harm us, we need to draw attention to the people who make our lives better. Thank you Sofitel Hotel – you truly made my day with your compassionate response to a traumatized victim! I hope many others agree and offer their thanks and appreciation as well. And may many, many professional businesswomen frequent your hotel, knowing it is a safe and caring environment for all.