BY LAURA RUOCCO
As if there weren’t enough formulaic reality shows to choose from, London producers Marlon Okeowo & Ziakayah David present Tru Players, a street harassment reality game show! The premise is two dudes going to a busy UK shopping district an competing to see who can get the most phone numbers, and thus be awarded the title of “tru player”. Finally! A caricature of my daily struggle written by the men who perpetuate it!
As you may imagine, most of the women they approach are reluctant to give up their phone number to some rando on the street. The contestant’s tactics are described on the Tru Player You Tube page as “subtle”, though a more appropriate word might be “relentless”. It is painful to watch some of the women laugh nervously, clearly uncomfortable, as the men press them for their relationship status and phone number. The situation feels all too familiar, as I have found myself many times smiling at or telling my name to some strange guy that I wish would just go away. A few of the women do give out numbers, but one of them reveals in a separate interview at the end of the show that it was a fake. The cameras being clearly visible to the women likely factors in to any level of “success” the men achieve. It’s interesting to see the incongruity between the women’s reaction to the men and what they have to say in the private interviews, where many of the women are less forgiving.
The show, which is geared toward teenagers, is a perfect example of the way we are steeped in rape culture before we are even old enough to date. Case in point: the celebrity contestant episode featuring UK comedian Lil Mckell, who is TWELVE YEARS OLD!
In a perfect world, maybe it would be fine for people of all genders to compliment each other on the street and make dates with attractive strangers on the way to work. But alas, the world we live in is a patriarchal one in which the kind of daily street harassment documented on Hollaback sites worldwide is only the tip of the “shit women have to deal with” iceberg. I have often felt deeply bummed by my reaction of distrust to any sexual attention, as learned from years of dealing with street harassers and public masturbators. Potentially pleasant stranger conversations are avoided for fear of the seemingly inevitable “are you married?” or some other version of boundary-crossing. The Tru Player You Tube page suggests that male viewers might even learn some “clues and tricks on how to approach women”, but the reality is that these shmucks are just ruining it for all of the true “tru players”.
As a teenager I used to hate walking past building sites or anywhere that groups of men were hanging out. I never found it flattering to be whistled at or having guys calling out to me. My defense used to be to appear as stony-faced as possible, in the hope that they’d think I was a moody cow and not worth approaching. This invariably backfired because what I used to get was “Cheer up love, it might never happen!”
I heard this cliched cheeky chappie expression so many times! After the umpteenth time I suddenly came up with a brilliant reposte. “Actually, it just did.”
Most of them took a few seconds to get what I had said, some of them never did.
What is a bit bizarre is that I still brace myself when I walk past a building site, even though I’m 55 years old and have been “invisible” for years!
I got on the 4 train at Brooklyn Bridge at about 11:30 last Friday. A man was sitting with his legs spread wide, taking up two spaces. I approached him and asked him to make room for me to sit, as I have asked a million people before him. For the first time, my question was met with a mean, empty stare. I waited, then said, “You won’t make room for another person?” And he said nothing, and a man sitting across the aisle from him made room for me and I sat down and took out a book. That’s when the first man started to threaten me. “That bitch thinks she can look at me? I’m going to smack the shit out of that bitch. I’m going to smack the shit out of her.” He seemed to be speaking to himself, but the man next to him chimed in, “That bitch is stupid.” I got off the train five stops later and they never stopped repeating those sentences. And I was scared, because he was bigger than I was, and because if he had followed me off the train, I wouldn’t have been able to fend off an attack. It didn’t occur to me to contact the authorities until about twenty minutes after I’d gotten off the train, and by then it was too late to catch him.
When I did contact the police, they were nothing but helpful. I was worried that they’d say I shouldn’t have been on the subway alone at night, or give me some stupid violence prevention tip, but the only thing they said along those lines was that late at night, it’s best to sit in the conductor’s car. I wish I had contacted them as soon as I’d gotten off the train, from the station. I wish I had looked for a transit worker to complain to. If I had reported it sooner, they could have caught him. I want to encourage people to report subway threats as soon as they are received.
The other thing is that although I was on a crowded train (so crowded that I asked a man to move over for me), nobody stood up for me. I know everyone keeps to themselves on the subway, and I’m not offended. But if just one man had spoken up to that man, it might have made a difference. Possibly. I don’t know.
Submitted by Ellie
According to Her Blue Print:
The sound for Maluca’s best known track, El Tigeraso, was inspired by “mambo violento”, a sped-up style of merengue music.The video for El Tigeraso takes the viewer to Audobon and West 182nd Street, an intersection in Washington Heights, the heart of New York City’s Dominican community. Maluca struts down the street wearing curlers in her hair and red high heels. But it’s when she hits a nightclub later in the evening that she really gets comfortable: she dons house slippers and socks. In her hair, a crown of beer cans serving as rollers are spray painted gold.
The song’s lyrics were inspired by an issue many women deal with every day: cat calls and harassment on the street. “Dominicans call the bad boys on the corner who are up to no good – but who have mad swag – Tigeres. ‘El Tigeraso’ is the game or swag. Growing up, I would go visit my cousins or grandma uptown. Back then, you couldn’t get from one corner to the next without those ‘Tigeres’ trying to holler at you. It was kinda outta control. Especially if you walked down Broadway. So the song ‘El Tigeraso’ is poking fun at that whole situation.”
Um, awesome. Now we just need to track Maluca down so we can get her to do a celebrity endorsement of Hollaback!.
Please spread the word!
The founders of HollabackNYC have decided it is time to pass the torch and give 10 youth (ages 18-22) the opportunity to become the leaders of HollabackNYC so they can focus on Hollaback’s international expansion.
We seek a diverse group of youth from the different neighborhoods of NYC, who are committed to making social change. Youth who are eager to learn and are able to invest at least 10 hours a week to this process. The new leadership of HollabackNYC will receive training in social media, community organizing, policy/advocacy, and marketing. They will also become part of an international movement that will broaden their networks and aid their development as agents of social change.
We are excited to be in this recruitment process and to move forward in solidifying youth leadership to continue to build the movement against street harassment. Help us create this pool of youth leaders and spread the news. Our recruitment flyer and our short application are available here for download: info flyer and HollabackNYC Application. If you need more information contact Claudia De la Cruz at [email protected].
Spread the word… HollabackNYC is on the move! The deadline to apply is 2/16.
“Hey sexy lady! Check THIS out…”
[Michael Jackson-esque groin thrust in my direction]
‘Ohh please’ I think ‘please wait while I hurry over and give you my phone number, you prehistoric, knuckle-dragging moron’
You may assume that the slimy guy leering at you in the street or beeping his car horn is simply a victim of tragic social ineptitude, but this situation is more sinister. Street harassment ranges from whistles, shouting, and dodgy trouser pocket movements to full blown groping and physical attacks. Where does ‘harmless fun’ end and ‘serious assault’ begin? And exactly how much fun is it for the women who enjoy this uninvited attention?
A victim-blaming culture tends to emerge when we talk about harassment. How many times have you heard someone ask what the woman was wearing when considering a case of sexual violence? I don’t care if she was strutting around naked wearing a pair of stiletto heels, nothing gives one human being the right to attack and violate the personal space (physical or psychological) of another. OK, naked strutting on a Friday night might explain why you get harassed in the UK, but it doesn’t condone it. And what about in Egypt? By this logic we support those who argue that not wearing a veil legitimises physical attacks on women. And – FYI anyone gearing up to have this debate in a pub – the kind of people who dish out the ‘oh but she was in a mini skirt so it’s her own fault she got raped’ argument are often the kind who audibly balk at the idea of Islamic dress codes. The social standards may change, but the argument stays the same – if women don’t wear whatever I think is ‘respectable’, then I have the right to humiliate, intimidate and even hurt them.
This is a story we are all familiar with, and it sucks. Running up against the same outdated responses that demean their significance and often blame the victim, women rarely report these incidents…Until now.
The increasing use of mobile technology and access to the internet has given rise to an interesting phenomenon – people are using cell phones to report harassment and serious sexual attacks in order to alert others, shame perpetrators and, just to be heard, and to have a voice. I don’t yell back if some meat-head shouts obscenities at the bus stop, and it makes me feel small. But reporting it on sites like ihollaback.org gives me a voice again.
In Egypt, blog.harassmap.org uses open source data to create a map of sexual harassment incidents that are experienced by 83% of Egyptian and 98% of foreign women. Users send a text message to central computers and receive resources on how to file a police report, referrals to counselling and more via SMS. Their report is added to data that puts pressure on local authorities to deal with trouble hot spots, and to address a problem that all too often is denied or ignored.
Mobile technology is also being used in Haiti to report gender-based violence, people trafficking and attacks in a country where legal infrastructure is often non-existent. Again, women receive support in the form of referrals, advice, and information, but importantly, their voice is heard and their experience recorded.
Gender-based violence, which is on the rise in the UK (UK Home Office 2011) relies on all of us ignoring and accepting these incidents. Shrugging off the remarks of an obnoxious drunk in a bar might seem OK at the time, but it normalises behaviour that leads to a climate of fear, silence and oppression. Using mobile technology, women can report in safety and confidence, finding help but also finding their voice.
Hollaback welcomes the New Year with strength. We continue to grow and we are rapidly covering the globe. We are experiencing exciting times.
As a result of its international expansion, Hollaback has decided it is time to pass the torch at the local level (NYC) and give 10 youth (ages 18-22) the opportunity to become the leaders of HollabackNYC. We seek a diverse group of youth from the different neighborhoods of NYC, who are committed to making social change. Youth who are eager to learn and are able to invest at least 10 hours a week to this process. The new leadership of HollabackNYC will receive training in social media, community organizing, policy/advocacy, and marketing. They will also become part of an international movement that will broaden their networks and aid their development as agents of social change.
We are excited to be in this recruitment process and to move forward in solidifying youth leadership to continue to build the movement against street harassment. Help us create this pool of youth leaders and spread the news. Our recruitment flyer and our short application are available here for download: Info flyer and iHollabackApplication. If you need more information contact Claudia De la Cruz at [email protected].
Spread the word… HollabackNYC is on the move!
I am at 14th street with my daughter last week. I was talking to my daughter who is 10 and I notice this guy is flicking his tongue at me and “adjusting his jeans” directly across from me. As soon as I noticed this I took out my phone and tried to get his picture. He looked freaked out and got off at grand central! I didn’t even get a chance to take a picture but it worked and got the perv off the train. My daughter didn’t notice anything because she had her nose in her book. What balls this guy has.
Submitted by Samantha
I was on the LIRR train on my way home from school when a man sat down next to me and began trying to strike up a conversation. I was cordial, but then began ignoring him as he clearly started trying to hit on me. After about 15 minutes, he took his phone out, tried to casually hold it with his right arm (the side next to me), and slanted it up so that it was angled between my legs and up my dress. This all happened in seconds. Then, I heard the distinctive click of a camera sound.
I was stunned, but after a second or two I stood up and immediately started screaming at the man in front of the other passengers. In my shock that something like this had actually happened to me, it was cathartic to stand in front of him and all the other passengers and recount what he had done. I called him a “disgusting pig” and said “how dare you take an upskirt picture of me.” I wanted all the other passengers to know what he did, in hopes that if nothing else, he would be embarrassed by his perverted act.
Being a law student, I knew that immediately I wanted to create a record of what had happened. After I told the person who had taken tickets for my car, and he alerted the conductor (who, in turn, alerted the police), I turned around and walked back towards the man. He had plugged in his phone to charge it and while he was talking on it I held up my phone and took two pictures of him, while saying “how do you like having your picture taken.”
Although he got off the train at the next stop, I gave the police his pictures and all the information the man had volunteered when he was trying to hit on me on the train. He gave me his nickname (Alejandro) and his Myspace name. I also had gotten contact information from a man sitting in front of me who had witnessed the incident.
Two days later, I took the morning train out of Jamaica on the Ronkonkoma line. A few stops before I got off, Alejandro, the SAME man who had taken a picture up my dress, came up to me and sat down right across from me. Instantly, I was fearful and started looking around to see my options if I had to get away from him or if I needed to alert someone. Remarkably, he didn’t seem to recognize me at all.
I took advantage of this, and when he hit on me, using all the same lines as he had before, I played into it. I kept my head to the side so he could only see my profile and kept my sunglasses on, in case he suddenly had a flash of recognition. I found out his full name, his job, where he lived, and his phone number. I told him fake details about my life when he asked and stared at his phone every time he took it out so that I could give the police its exact details.
When I got off the train, I immediately contacted the detective the police department had put me in touch with and gave him all the information.
I ended up setting up a fake “date” with the man and the detectives I worked with were able to catch him. He had 17 prior convictions on his record, ranging from more benign crimes to violent ones. He also had a warrant out because he had skipped out on his probation meeting. I cooperated with the Assistant District Attorney and told my story to aid in his conviction of “Unlawful Surveillance.”
Women should feel that they have the right and ability to embarrass their harassers; but, it’s also important to follow through and report the incident with the police. Use your words, use your cameras, and use your ability to share your stories.
Submitted by Emily
This guy sure thinks he’s a hotshot when he’s on the end of this big fancy phallic crane. So he decides to catcall a few ladies on their way to the train station this morning. As soon as I told him I was taking his photo for Hollaback fame, he didn’t feel so good anymore. And then all his buddies started laughing at him.
This happens a lot at this construction site. You stay classy, Carroll Gardens!
Submitted by Katharine