Athens GA, Atlanta, Baltimore, Chicago, Cleveland, Columbia MO, Columbus, Denver, Des Moines, Duke University, NC, Durham & Chapel Hill, East Lansing, Flagstaff, AZ, Houston, Iowa City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Lubbock TX, Manhattan KS, Muncie IN, New Orleans, New York City, Oneonta, Pittsburgh, Plattsburgh, Providence, Richmond VA, San Fernando Valley, San Francisco, Twin Cities, West Georgia (University)
I was walking home from grabbing coffee this morning when a man crossed the street as soon as he saw me and asked “how are you doing friend?”
I avoided eye contact, said I was doing Fine and kept walking. He caught up to me and asked if I had a lover I was going to hang out with today. I told him that was none of his business. He said he just wanted my number, and I told him No, I’m not interested. He continued to walk next to me and ask where I was going -which I also told him was none of his business. I walked directly past my house but didn’t go in because I don’t want him to see where I live. He continued to walk next to me and tell me he just wanted to get to know me and listed several reasons I should get to know him. I continued to tell him I wasn’t interested and that I just wanted to be alone. Since he continued to walk next to me, I asked what direction he was going and told him I was going the opposite way at the intersection. I walked around a few blocks and made sure he wasn’t in sight before I turned back and went home.
I was summonsed to jury duty on April 1st. Something no one really enjoys. I stood in the security line with everyone else and put my purse in the x-ray machine and then moved it to the desk of the next security guard. He stared at me for the longest time without saying anything. I asked if he needed to look into my purse and he did not say anything and then I stepped under the metal detector. He just continued to stare at me. Then he said, “I know you have a pretty smile.” Uh! Really? I didn’t say anything and sort of made a face as I grabbed my things and began to walk away from him. “There it is,” he said. Even as the co-director of an organization that focuses on ending street harassment, and have experienced and heard countless stories, I was shocked and so freaking annoyed at this experience. Here is a tip security guard, maybe focus on your job and not my mouth. Then I actually got picked to serve on what would turn out to be a four day murder case so that did not help the situation.
I was walking to the light rail at 4:30 in the afternoon. A large group of male adolescents were passing as I turned the corner. One of the boys grabbed my ass. I turned and told him he had no right to touch me. Instead of apologizing, another of the boys grabbed my chest and laughed. When I told them that I was going to call the police, proceeded to hold me as they rifled through my pockets, forced me to the ground, called me names, and stole my house keys and phone before running off . There were people around. No one tried to help me. I’ve been mugged before, I don’t care about stolen stuff, but I have to admit being touched against my will has me very upset. I’m not sorry I spoke up, I’m just sorry that these kids are a product of an environment that makes them feel so entitled to another person’s body and things.
Is “creepy” an option?? This guy was sitting in Mt Vernon Square today and hitting on LITERALLY every woman who walked by. Shortly after I sat down, he got up and (I thought) left. A few minutes later, though, he walked back over and he was looking straight at me and smiling.
It was one of those situations where I couldn’t really hear what he was saying, but I could feel someone staring at me and felt uncomfortable. I chanced a few looks in his direction and he would be staring at me and I could hear that he was talking (but again I couldn’t hear exactly what he said). My suspicions were confirmed when I saw him motioning to another girl to “come over” and she looked away quickly. Right after that, he yelled loudly so that another girl looked at him. I was the only one left when I decided to leave the park and the talking got really loud. When I took the photo of him, he looked right at me. Looked away when I actually took the pic though. When I had almost left the park, I looked over and he’d gotten up so I had to run back to work in case he was deciding to follow me.
I was with my friend who is 17 and we got off Mt Vernon metro to go to a shop on 14th st. Walking towards it, men on the corner yelled out, “Damn girl I like the way you walk.” then yelled something else when neither of us responded. It made me feel like a piece of meat… Like I wasn’t a person
After four years of running Hollaback!, Shawna and co-director Mel are passing the torch, making way for other local feminist leaders to shine. Read the interviews below to learn more about their experiences fighting street harassment, as well as their future endeavors. And then KEEP SCROLLING to meet your new site leaders, Brittany and Leah! Welcome to the team!
1) Why did you become involved with Hollaback?
Shawna – I started the Baltimore chapter of Hollaback! because street harassment was the biggest aspect of sexism that I was dealing with daily. It was the biggest reminder of my inequality as a woman. It really affected me and I felt compelled to do something about it. At first I just shared my story, but then I knew I needed to do more.
Mel - I got involved with Hollaback! through Shawna. I interviewed her for a feminist podcast that I produced and then, at her behest, I started volunteering. Street harassment had always been so frustrating and silencing for me; I really felt like there was nothing I could do about it until I worked with Hollaback! It’s been a healthy outlet for my angry reactions to being harassed on the street all the damn time. It’s helped me cope with feeling not in control of my environment when out in public, not having agency over my body or perceived sexuality. Anti-street harassment activism has been especially therapeutic for me in healing from my history of sexual assault in a healthy and productive way. In that sense, this whole experience has been really invaluable.
2) What are some of your favorite moments being involved in Hollaback?
Shawna – I love our Proclaim No Shame event. It’s the most welcoming and good vibe get-together that I have been a part of. I’m also really proud of the work I’ve done with the Transgender Response Team in helping to create a PSA series and Best Practices documents for working with Transgender clients for various direct services. Of course, working with Mel has been awesome.
Mel - Proclaim No Shame is definitely one of my favorite events ever. I love it because somehow we create this space where people can be comfortable however they are. I don’t feel sexualized; no one is comparing or judging or feeling super self-conscious. We can openly discuss body shaming in a real way: our struggles, triumphs, and the bullshit we’ve been fed by society. I love the Safer Spaces Campaign a lot, too– specifically, conducting the trainings I get to use my professional skills of crisis counseling to teach any and everyone how to make people who’ve experienced street harassment feel safer, supported and validated.
3) What were some of the struggles being involved with Hollaback?
Shawna – Recruiting and maintaining long term volunteers. When we’re a volunteer run chapter it’s hard to use all the time you need to take care of other volunteers. But we have had a lot of amazing people volunteer even if they only volunteered once it was really awesome to have that support. Deconstructing the myths surrounding street harassment is also incredibly difficult. It seems obvious to us, but we forget that it is not obvious to everyone else. I’m always a little surprised that some people think that it’s a compliment that you’re not taking the right way, or they’re minimizing the experience, or they think it’s just a “cultural thing.” While it might play out differently within different cultures, in reality it’s a world-wide issue that needs to be addressed.
Mel – Widening the narrative of street harassment because it still is portrayed as a young, straight, cis, white lady movement and that pisses me off. It’s not for a lack of people of color, queer, and trans folks mobilizing within the international network that is Hollaback!, it’s lack of public recognition of our stories. There are moments when this makes me feel an awful tension between how people see the organization I run versus how they see me. I also know it can make queer folks, trans folks, and women of color not feel supported by Hollaback! or the anti-street harassment movement as a whole, which is untrue and unfair. From where I stand doing this work, I see myself and other marginalized folks sharing our stories, virtually yelling out loud about our realities, but nobody can hear us. Or people choose to talk for us and about us instead of listening. I do think that 2014 was the “tipping point year,” so to speak, for street harassment and with such an increase in media coverage in general, I can see things moving in the right direction.
4) What are your plans for the next year as you transition from directors to advisory board members?
Shawna - I will be concentrating more on my business Big Crunch Amp & Guitar Repair, which will include holding Women and Trans-only workshops on guitar maintenance and other topics. I’ll also hope to be touring a lot with my band War On Women (ed. note: their new album is being released February 10th, 2015 on Bridge Nine Records). I also think I’m going to be pursuing my other business more, which is performing wedding ceremonies as an ordained clergy person.
Mel - I will be an au pair for my cousin’s children in Austria. My Dad’s side of the family is Austrian, so this will be an important ancestral pilgrimage for me. I’m also excited to be somewhere totally different, travel more and take a self-care break from the intense on-the-ground activism I’ve been doing in Baltimore. I look forward to being more of a sounding board for other rad folks while focusing on individual projects, like writing (of course about feminism, being mixed race, and intersectional issues). I hope to return to Baltimore in about a year recharged and ready to dive back into the activist world.
1. What is one facet of street harassment that you think needs more attention and why?
Brittany - The idea that street harassment only happens in urban areas needs more attention because the truth is, it happens everywhere. Also, coping with street harassment needs more attention because there are a lot of women and LGBT individuals who feel powerless on this issue.
Leah - I think we should starting having more conversations about how to respond in the moment. We talk about how street harassment exists and I think it’s awesome that the awareness is growing, but I believe we should also start conversations about how to stay safe in these situations.
2. What’s one thing about Hollaback! that you look forward to taking part in?
Brittany - I’m really looking forward to connecting and working with other grassroots organizations so they can be just as involved in ending street harassment. I would also like to work more with Tatyana Fazlalizadeh and bring Stop Telling Women To Smile back to Baltimore.
Leah – I’m looking forward to The Offline Coffee and Chats as well as connecting and networking with other organizations and social justice groups. In the future, I’d love to do a documentary series about different aspects of street harassment and gender-based violence. I’d also love to put together some self-defense courses based on the Home Alive curriculum.
3. How did Hollaback! influence your thoughts on street harassment before you considered getting involved?
Brittany - I’ve always known there was something not right about being street harassed, but Hollaback! provided me with a safe space and it encouraged me to not remain silent about my experiences. Being involved with Hollaback! made me realize how serious of an issue is and motivated me to be a voice for the voiceless.
Leah – It’s done a really great job of legitimizing the issue of street harassment, while creating safer spaces online to talk about street harassment. I think the Baltimore chapter has helped broaden the conversation regarding how it affects all members of our community. Personally, it has made me feel safer. Just to be able to meet other people and talk about our experiences, having other people understand and support each other, working towards a better daily life for everyone has been beneficial.
4. What books are you reading now?
Brittany - I’m currently reading “Black Feminist Thought: Knowledge, Consciousness, and the Politics of Empowerment,” by Patricia Hill Collins. In this book, Collins explores the words and ideas of Black feminist intellectuals and writers, both within the academy and without.
Leah - The past few books I read that I really liked are Practical Magic, Powers of Two, and Status Anxiety. What I really loved about Practical Magic is the essence of magic in daily life and the history of power in communities of women. Right now I’m reading Candlemass as I gear up for some time in Ireland.
Man attempted to block my path on the sidewalk and lunged at me, attempting to grab me by the hips.
I live next door to a bar (which is temporarily closed due to a fire), and I couldn’t walk out my own front door without one of the men from the kitchen standing outside, smoking a cigarette, and making some sort of comment about my “big ass thighs.” When confronted, he just said “that’s a compliment, baby” or “you the one wearin them short shorts” like I should feel some sense of pride, or feel sorry, instead of feeling threatened, objectified, and self-conscious.