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I had just finished attending a concert at the arena with a friend. I was getting a ride home from my boyfriend so she left separately a few minutes early to avoid traffic. I waited on the corner of Park and Fayette, well lit, plenty of concert goers walking around to get to their cars. I noticed a guy that pulled up to the red light in front of me talking out the other side of the car, remarking about the body of the two women who were about to cross the street. It was gross. He had 2 people in the car with him, (one female!) and they said nothing. I knew at any moment he would turn his head and see me and sure enough: a woman can’t wait on a corner without getting the sign language for “Do you give head?” I’m not even sure if I was propositioned or if he just wanted to do something gross to shake me. But no, I took a picture with my phone (that I can’t find! oh well.) of his sorry self and I kept my cool, blank stare right on him until the light turned green. I didn’t let him shake me!
This story was originally published on local Bmore blog Feminist Eye View.
I think about the man on the corner of my street everyday. I think about him when I decide where to take my afternoon walk. When I think about what streets I need to cross to get there. And when I pick out my outfit for the day.
The man on the corner stares at me every time I walk by. He stares at me in such a way that it makes me sick to my stomach. It makes me want to yell, curse, scream, and cry. He stares at me in such a way that says “I own you” and “I can look at you however I want”.
The man on the corner of my street sells Snapple and chips and hot dogs to people working in the city. He has a lawn chair set-up next to his stand where he sits waiting and staring and talking on his Bluetooth phone. A while back I bought a Peach Snapple from the man on the corner for $1.25. This was when it all started. I felt his eyes focus on my breasts as I dug around in my purse for a rogue quarter; just standing next to him made me uncomfortable. When the money exchanged hands, he held the Snapple in front of me and, when I reached for it, he took it away. He held it higher than I could reach. A weird game of keep away. I finally smiled and said something in my I’m-nervous-so-I’m-breaking-out-my-midwestern-charm voice. And then he finally gave me my drink. And then he watched me walk away.
I think about the man on the corner of my street everyday. I think about him when I decide where to take my walk, what streets to cross, and what to wear. I am disgusted by the man on the corner and I wish that he would just let me be.
Today is International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. In light of the recent attack on a local trans woman by 2 female patrons of a Baltimore McDonald’s (which was filmed and posted online by employees who can be heard encouraging the attackers on) it should seem obvious that we have some work to do. A great first step in recognizing violence against the trans community as a hate crime, police officially charged Teonna Monae Brown, 18, with one count of first-degree assault and two counts of second-degree assault in the attack on Chrissy Polis. I take personal pride in Chrissy’s courage to be interviewed and help put a face to the issue of transphobia. Though it might seem logical for us accustomed to holla’ing back on the regular to come forward or go public, she never asked to be beaten or to be put in the spotlight. She just wanted some fries.
And that is it, really. The LGBTQ community just wants to live their lives, just like any of us, without fear of judgment or hate or violence. Here are some inspiring words from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that give me some hope that I will see that future in my lifetime.
Until then, to celebrate IDAHO, Hollaback Bmore!, the GLCCB and the Den have planned a fun, welcoming party for this Saturday, May 21st: The Anti-Hate Prom. Tragedies like Ms. Polis’s attack always deserve reflection, reorganization and action and we have all done our share that these past few weeks, but we thought everyone deserved a night of “free to be you and me” type fun. What better way to protest fear- and hate-mongering than to be seen in public having a really great time? Happiness is the best revenge.
This Saturday at the Windup Space we’ll have a DJ, dancing, food, themed drinks, a photo station for those awkward prom pics AND if that weren’t enough, the newly crowned QUEEN of Baltimore PRIDE Fest 2011 will be there to judge and crown the King and Queen of Anti-Hate Prom! Doors at 9pm, $5 door charge (with prom attire, $7 without). All proceeds from the night go towards Hollaback Bmore! as well as co-sponsors the GLCCB and the Den.
RSVP to our facebook event page (it has all the latest details) and be sure to share this post with your social networks and contact list.
And though Gary (GLCCB) and I will both be celebrating our birthdays, don’t bring any presents; just bring your badass self, dressed in what you wish you could have worn to prom if there were no hate, no judgment and no fear.
Hope to see you there!
BY LAURA RUOCCO, originally posted for the Hollaback! Movement.
Check out this awesome project! I think it brings up a lot about the way street harassment and the threat of violence influences the way we live our lives.
One of the subtle ways street harassment affects people is the way it becomes a part of our most personal decisions, like the way we present ourselves to the world in general. I think about this often as a person who’s sense of self is very connected to having a really personalized style. I wear patches and pins and bedazzles on my clothes, and I alter shirts and skirts to fit me just right. I like knowing that what I’m wearing is uniquely mine, and that no one could go out and buy exactly what I’m wearing. For me, the way I present myself is a tiny way of challenging capitalism, patriarchy, fatphobia, and heteronormativity. So there’s a lot going on there! Though I have a lot of intense feelings about self expression through physical appearance, I have still at times felt restricted in what I wear for fear of the potential to increase harassment. And not even just on more obvious questions like “Is this skirt too short?”, I’m also talking about things like “Should I bleach my hair/wear this bright color/these fishnets?”.
Clothing comes up a lot in the street harassment stories people post on Hollaback:
“I’m embarrassed to say that instead of instantly recognizing his statement for what it was ~ a dangerous manipulation ~ I immediately took stock of what I was wearing…”
“Some people read me as ‘guy wearing women’s clothing,’ and other people read me as ‘woman,’ or ‘girl,’ it is hard to tell.”
“I promise I’m not jogging so that you can creepily watch me, and these Target gym shorts I’m wearing are not for your benefit.”
“And if I’m wearing high heels and a skirt that goes up to Tahiti, it’s still creepy and misogynistic when you honk at me—I promise.”
“I mean, we should be allowed to wear summer clothes without feeling we’re asking for it!”
“This is the kind of thing that makes me feel unsafe if I’m not wearing a pair of baggy jeans and a man’s t-shirt.”
“I was wearing black tights and a dress with a baggy jumper over the top and I actually caught myself thinking ‘i’ll never wear this dress again without a long coat’.”
It made me think “I’m wearing vinyl pants, clearly anyone would think I’m asking for whatever happens next. “Never mind the corset they can’t see under my coat”. It made me think “Priority one is protecting my friend”, who is a few years younger and who had thigh-high fishnets and garters showing under a short skirt – probably an easier target than the pants.”
“I wasn’t wearing anything particularly revealing (jeans, t shirt and cardigan)…”
“It was a hot day and so to be practical I was wearing a pair of mid-length denim shorts.”
“I didn’t feel ‘sexy’ or ‘flattered’…I felt awkward, embarrassed, and mad at myself for what I was wearing.”
“I’ve known people who have been physically assaulted just because they were wearing a head scarf.”
“I hate that I have to think about what I’m going to wear every time I have to ride the bus. I’ll get honked at anyway but it’s worse/more often when I’m wearing a dress or shorts.”
“The funny part is that I was wearing my hair back, glasses, no makeup, and a big puffy winter coat”
“in a world without street harassment i wouldn’t be groped &expected to explain my tattoos, triggering panic attacks.”
Those are just a few of the many stories on Hollaback where street harassment affects not only what people decide to wear, but how they feel about what they’re wearing after hearing someone else’s unwanted opinion on it. A lot of the posts specifically mention wearing clothing that they deem non provocative, only to be harassed anyway. One of the most ridiculous harassment memories I have is walking home from the subway one day after a New York blizzard, waddling down the unshoveled sidewalk after a long day of work. I hate winter clothes and never feel particularly attractive when I’m all suited up for a blizzard. But apparently somebody thought differently, as I heard a man shout out “YOU LOOK REAL SEXY WALKIN THROUGH THAT SNOW!” Uhh….really? Taking baby steps to avoid slipping on the ice, covered head to toe in winter wear? Really?
To an extent, it doesn’t matter what you wear. Harassment seems to persist no matter what. But on the flip side of that, there is added risk of harassment that goes along with dressing in a way that deviates from the norm. When I have lived in places where there is usually less street harassment, I have felt noticeably more comfortable dressing as weird as I wanna. Because harassers will use anything as a conversation piece. Tattoos, piercings, writing on a tshirt, dyed hair, patterned tights, all of these things have become jumping off points for harassment in my experience. However, I can say the same for walking a dog, carrying a heavy item, riding a bike, or seemingly anything you do publicly that can be commented on. Though a lot of what I’m talking about here is clothing, the idea of being open to comment just by going outside relates heavily to physical attributes that aren’t so easily changed. People who are of color, physically or mentally disabled, fat, or gender non-conforming, bear the brunt of street harassment for sure. Because, as we’ve said before, street harassment is not about compliments or flirtation, its about people exerting power over one another, and often its about enforcing cultural norms. Which in my opinion begs the question, who does that shit serve anyway? Encouraging other people’s self expression lets us all be a little more free to be our true weirdo selves!no comments
In this op-ed for English newspaper The Guardian, Sunny Hundal writes of a website that just didn’t sit right with him. The premise? Women (mostly) taking photos of (mostly) men and uploading them online. No, no, he’s not talking about Hollaback!, where us women & LGBTQ dare to flip the power by putting the judgmental microscopic lens back where it belongs: our harassers. He was irked that the women on TubeCrush were submitting pictures of men on the subway to rate their cuteness.
I’ll save any judgment about the site and let you share your thoughts in the comments, but I will give kudos to Hundal for not letting himself get worked up into a frenzy about it, as he seemed to realize that the power dynamics between women and men prevent this site from becoming a dangerous or illegal one, creepy or not.
But all this raises a few issues. First, women have to put up with far worse. As Hanna pointed out, “there are loads of sites out there about women. Upskirt shots, no less. No one gets arrested”. Soph said the comparison was ridiculous: “Men get photos taken of them and are whinging about it. No offence but I get stared at/talked to/touched all the time by men.”
Maybe those offended by the site will find a connection between their response and a proper London holla back!
BY EMILY MAY, EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR in NYC
On Saturday morning, March 6th, 2011, an email went out over our listserve from Inti Maria, our site leader in Buenos Aires. It read, “”I’d like to see her to tell her I would break her asshole with my cock” This is what a JOURNALIST wrote about me today — on the printed page they changed it but he made a POINT of including his original version on his blog.” The changed version wasn’t much better. It read, “break her argument with my cock.”
Tears immediately welled into my eyes. Hollaback/Atrevete Buenos Aires launched only a month ago. I knew our work was controversial, but I never thought it would lead to a public rape threat from a prominent journalist and professor. This wasn’t just an asshole. This was an asshole with a mouthpiece.
I quickly g-chatted Inti Maria. She was shaken, but OK. She decided to leave the country for a few days to be safe.
Both Inti Maria and I knew we had to take action, but what do we do? Our model was premised on the power individual activists who were committed to bringing the movement to end street harassment home. None of our site leaders have funding or on-the-ground infrastructure. It is the beauty of our model, but now I could see it was also a tremendous risk.
I spent a day reaching asking a lot of super-smart people for advice. The advice was across the board, and it struck me that this decision was going to have to be made based on gut instinct. As we weighed our options, I just kept coming back to one of our core organizational values: “we’ve got your back.” We needed a response that showed Inti Maria that we had her back, and showed all our site leaders that if this happened to them, we would have their backs too. We also needed a response that would set a precedent: Hollaback takes violent threats and actions seriously. And if that wasn’t a tall enough order, we needed it to be based in Buenos Aires. Engaging our networks in the United States would quickly lead to a US v. Argentina dynamic that would be ineffective, and just quite simply wasn’t our style or our message.
We decided to launch a petition on change.org in Spanish, with the English translation under it. Our lead blogger Violet wrote it, Gaby who runs Hollaback/Atrevete Mexico City translated it, and all our site leaders united to blog it, facebook it, and tweet it. Ultimately, over 3,500 people signed it from 75 countries.no comments
About 10 of us were working out outside in the square as part of a group exercise class at a Women’s Fitness Center. We had brought exercise mats with us and laid them down in a circle to begin our group exercise. A man puffing a cigarette walked through our circle (not around the circle), muttered something under his breath and said, “I’d like to take you ladies to the mat.” He then laughed, blew some smoke, and kept walking.
Men – we want to hear from you (don’t look so surprised!) Are you a blogger, author or writer? Do you have an opinion on street harassment? We’d like to hear it straight from your point of view. Write a piece on how street harassment affects the women in your life, how you think it reflects today’s societal pressures, or how silly you think it makes your gender look. Whatever you share with us could be published on an international platform! Submitting a blog is a great opportunity to build your resume and get your name out there, not to mention a big help in ending street harassment. We look forward to hearing from you, just send it to Bmore@iHollaback.org.
Don’t hesitate to submit a blog post, or I might have to tell my favorite feminist Mick Foley to grab his barbed wire bat!