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I was working a small event at a park registering people to vote, and our local football grizzly bear mascot Monte slapped my butt. Because I was working I didn’t say anything, considering the fact that my job was to appeal to those at the event. I wish I did though. A mask is not an excuse for assault!
I always wanted to be the progressive man— strong enough to open all of the pickle jars yet sensitive enough to cry during Toy’s Story 3. I joined the Men against Patriarchy group on my college campus, attended panels about the experiences of women, was one of two men in my Feminist Psychology of Women class, and wrote my senior thesis on the destructive properties of Black heterosexual masculinity in American society. By any definition, I was on track to become an ally, or at least a man that feminists love.
However, social change cannot occur without action. Even though I have attended panel and read books, I have not consistently used my power to support the equity of women. I have sat silently while witnessing sexual assault in public in the name of sustaining the code of heterosexual men. Where do I even start? Before chaining myself to abortion clinics or fighting suspected aggressors on the street, I needed to identify how I contribute to our patriarchy.
Around this time of introspection, the infamous “10 hours walking around NYC as a woman” captured the attention of millions. Women effectively carved space for productive dialogue by sharing their personal encounters with street harassment. Although the video has its flaws—it ignored the racial and socioeconomic implications of framing white women as the victim and lower class men of color as the perpetrator—it illuminated a stark contrast between my experience and those of millions of women interacting with public space in New York City [NYC]. It further proved that headphones, novels, cellphones, “bitch faces”, and even significant others are no match for the male need to express admiration for physical beauty. I am guilty of this as well, constantly thinking of clever ways to interrupt the morning commute of attractive women across NYC.
Recognizing my participation, I wanted to reverse my Pavlovian response to seeing a “beautiful” woman; how could I stop salivating long enough to notice that women are more than their beauty? Brainstorming with a close friend about this problem, I suggested doing a social experiment, in which I would document how often I referenced or thought about the physical appearance of women for seven days. She pushed back, suggesting that I make it public and attach a financial stipulation. Together, we transformed this desire to change into a tangible goal.
For one month, I would track any thoughts or references about a woman’s physical appearance, donating $1 to an organization fighting against the effects of street harassment and violence. For accountability, I created a mobile spreadsheet for consistent tracking, enlisted several friends to check on me, and announced the challenge to my Facebook friends. Instead of growing my mustache for Movember, I decided to spend my month examining a large part of my masculine identity and checking my male privilege. November felt like the longest month of my life. From post-Halloween photos, cologne advertisements, alcohol commercials, food commercials, music videos, book covers, bartenders, cashiers, mothers, daughters; I found myself throwing money away. I second-guessed every word to make sure I created genderless conversations. Although difficult, it made me realize the importance of preserving another person’s humanity. Everyone is fighting for acceptance based on his/her character rather than physical appearance. It made me work harder to connect with and learn about the values of others. It made me seek out the experiences and personal stories about harassment and the concept of beauty. At the end of the month, I had made 95 references or thoughts. I decided to round up to 100 and split the money between Safe Horizon, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and Hollaback!, given each organization’s role in supporting survivors of sexual harassment and assault.
Even though the month is over and the financial stipulations are gone, this work is not done. Although my eyes have been opened recently, I know that women have been grappling with these concepts for centuries. As a man, it is time for me to start listening and to stand behind those who have been on the front line all along.
As you finish reading this post, know that this challenge is for you. It is everyone’s duty to assess his/her participation in the system. This challenge may not be as trendy as ice water buckets, but know that the consequences are just as jarring. If we do not call for change, the rights and safety of women will continue to depend on the benevolence of a man.
New York City, NY (15th December, 2014) – Two years ago, subway passenger Jasheem Smiley watched a man enter the subway, sit down next to a sleeping woman, put his hand up her skirt, and assault her. Smiley told The Gothamist “…When he started touching her that’s when I turned my camera on. My jaw dropped. I had never seen anything like this before.” The film went viral, however, despite the virality of the story, the woman in the video remained anonymous, until now. Today Elisa Lopez is coming forward with this video (also embedded below) telling her side of the story.
Lopez says, “My goal is to bring attention to how dangerous it is to be a bystander. I just want to tell my side of the story because all anyone saw was a drunken-skirt-wearing-Latina who ‘shouldn’t sleep on the train.’ I was a human being that was violated and no one bothered to intervene.”
The perpetrator is still at large, but today, Lopez has broken her silence and come forward with her account. She shares her story not only of what it was like to come to terms with her assault, but to have to contend with the eruption of media coverage that resulted in Smiley releasing his recording. Lopez didn’t know she had been assaulted until she saw the media explosion over the recording.
Lopez concludes the video to thank “anyone who has ever told their story because it gave me the strength to tell mine.” Hollaback!, the anti-street harassment organization mentioned at the end of the video, has collected over 8,000 stories of street harassment since their launch in 2005. Hollaback! has been working with Lopez over the past six months.
Emily May, executive director of Hollaback!, says, “What Elisa has done today in sharing her story is so powerful. We hear her, we believe her, and we are working alongside her to stand up to the harassment and assault so many New Yorkers face on a daily basis. While Elisa’s story is shocking, it is not unique. We all need to take a stand against street harassment and assault and work to make our streets safer for everyone.”
If you recognize Lopez’s assaulter, please contact Crimestoppers at 1-800-577-tips.
Elisa, thank you for your courage in coming forward to share your story. Hollaback Vegas supports you!
You can watch Elisa’s video below. **Trigger Warning** Sexual Assault
First and foremost, thank you for your continued support of Hollaback!. As some of you now may be aware, we have been the object of some negative press and comments on social media regarding the recent street harassment video by Rob Bliss Creative. When the video was released, we doubted more than 10,000 people would watch it. We never imagined that it would be viewed more than 32 million times.
Given your passionate and dedicated support of Hollaback!, we wanted to inform you how we are directly responding to the accusations of racial and class bias.
Last Thursday, we issued a statement that makes our position clear: Hollaback! understands that harassment is a broad problem committed by a broad spectrum of individuals across lines of race, location and class. We know from the 8,000 stories we’ve collected on ihollaback.org that there is no single profile for a harasser, and harassment comes in many different forms. We are deeply invested in a movement that is multiracial, gender inclusive and incorporates place-based leadership specific to each locale. Racial, gender, and class politics is a core part of our work. While we did not create this video, we did allow our name to be used at the end of it. We agree wholeheartedly that the video should have done a better job of representing our understanding of street harassment and we take full responsibility for that. I’m deeply sorry.
What we also want to say is: We’re listening. Hollaback! is a small but determined and diverse organization, and we’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of feedback we’ve gotten. This video, created and edited pro-bono by Rob Bliss Creative, has taught us an important lesson. Although we appreciate Rob’s support, which has helped garner over $10k in donations from new donors, we are committed to continuing to show the complete, overall picture.
We are using the door opened by this conversation to expose the harassment faced by women of color and LGBTQ folks that too often is ignored by the mainstream media. That’s why we’re using the money raised to create our own video series — with the first one currently under development and scheduled to release within the next two weeks. We’re also working to create clearer messaging, respond to specific news articles, work with partners to write an Op-Ed, showcase thousands more stories through our global research study with Cornell University, and start an open and transparent dialogue with the public to voice opinions and concerns.
We are leveraging this opportunity to bring greater attention to our driving mission: giving you the power to end street harassment.
Again, thank you for believing in us, being a part of this vital dialogue, and supporting Hollaback! as we continue and extend our mission. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions as we move forward.
Executive Director, Hollaback!
The following is an excerpt from You’re Fine by Gina Tron through Papercut Press. Available online and at selected indie bookstores.
When I met Dr. Machecho, I found that he was not nearly as funny as his name.
“Have a seat,” he said sharply as I followed him into a small room. He was a tall, intimidating man with a cold demeanor. He sat in a chair in front of me and skimmed through some papers in a file.
“I didn’t have the chance to look at your chart yet. Why are you here?”
“Cocaine, mostly. They said I have PTSD and that I’m bipolar.” I said it all very matter of factually and with as little emotion as possible. I didn’t want him to see that I was annoyed with the place because I figured that would make him less likely to help me.
“I want to get out of here. I only got to attend two meetings here and they were not at all helpful for me.”
He was glancing down at a piece of paper that I guessed was my chart.
“So, I see you got raped.”
“Next time, make sure not to put yourself in that situation again.”
“Don’t put yourself in that situation again,” he stated with the deadest of eyes.
“How do you even know I put myself into that situation?”
“Then how did it happen?” he inquired with a smirk.
“You don’t even know anything about it! I don’t have to take this bullshit! I’ve been hard enough on myself.”
I stormed out of his office, ignoring his cries to stop as I walked to my room. In the corridor, I kicked over the same garbage can that I had knocked over before.
“Déjà vu,” I mumbled, giggling.
Tyler was lurking around the medication window and witnessed my tantrum.
“What happened? Are you okay?”
I told him what had occurred with Dr. Machecho and he sighed.
“What an asshole. But look, you gotta be cool with him. He’s responsible for getting you out of here. Just have him sign the papers for you.” The ex-crackhead, Tyler, had more
of a voice of reason than I did.
Dr. Machecho walked up to us. I was glaring at him and he seemed as though he was aware that he had said something wrong. I guess he thought that he could abuse me until I fought back. He was no different from all these other motherfuckers who think they can abuse whoever they want until the “victim” shows their fucking teeth. I feel like a lot of people, sometimes even people in authority, treat people they consider to be beneath them as animals. Guess if I’m an animal, I’m a koala: docile, yet vicious when provoked.
“Let’s talk,” said Dr. Machecho.
“I don’t want to talk to you! If you want to fucking talk, then talk to me in the hallway, where people can hear what you’re saying. I don’t trust you.”
He was visibly shaking. Perhaps he did not expect me to react in such a way, but I didn’t feel like I was acting that angry. My behavior was nothing compared to Natasha’s.
She’d probably punch this guy out for coughing.
“If you want to leave, then you have to sign some paperwork with me. I’ll give you whatever prescription drugs you want. And you have to promise to set up outpatient with your social worker. I’ll get the ball rolling on that. What are they giving you?”
“Paxil. Seroquel. Vistaril.”
“Okay, so I will give you a month’s worth of all those prescriptions. That should hold you over until you get a new doctor at your outpatient.”
He was very polite at this point. He spoke to me with respect, like he was talking to another human rather than a dog.
“Lovely,” I sneered. I resented him for only talking to me with respect because I had demanded it. I hated him for being a person who would, I perceive, prey on the weak. “How generous of you to give me all the drugs I want. If I get raped while on drugs that are prescribed to me, do I still deserve it?”
“You shouldn’t talk that way,” he said, “It’s unbecoming of a young lady.”
I was walking my dog and a man yelled out the window of his house “Hey baby, what’s your name?” I kept walking and he yelled “Well fuck you too then, slut.”. What? How am I a slut for walking my dog?
A new report released today offers the first ever global legal resource on street harassment. Led by NGO Hollaback! and the Thomson Reuters Foundation and coordinated by global law firm DLA Piper, the “Know Your Rights” guide compiles the latest legal definitions and information on all forms of street harassment across 22 countries and in 12 languages. A monumental undertaking, the guide involved the efforts of 11 legal teams working in collaboration around the world.
Check out the guide below – and check out our FAQ for more information. You can download a PDF of the guide here: Street Harassment – Know Your Rights. Photo credit: A woman walks past a building decorated with a pair of eyes in the Crimean city of Sevastopol, February 29, 2012. REUTERS/Stringer
At the mothership, we hosted a workshop to find creative ideas to improve the NYPD’s approach to subway harassment.
Here’s what HOLLAs all around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio hosted a super rad Screening and Screen Printing Party. Not only did they screen the new Wonder Woman documentary, they also created some cool anti-street harassment memorabilia. They also did two screenings of the film Tough Guise for the women currently incarcerated at Southeast Ohio Regional Jail! Super cool, guys!
Hollaback! Twin Cities led their first sexual harassment with staff at the local DV/SA, and it went super well!
Hollaback! Ottawa co-hosted an amazing, creative workshop called Collective Spaces, where participants learned more about street harassment while working together to create a moveable mural that will be featured at various college campus around the area.
Keep up the amazing work! Til next time-
HOLLA and out!
-The Hollaback Team