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I recently went on a two week vacation with my partner traveling through Barcelona, Paris, and London. As the site leader for Hollaback! Baltimore, I am entrenched in the world of street harassment. I am always talking about it, doing presentations, tabling at events, thinking of ways to gain male allies; it’s always on my brain. So the chance to relax on the beach and see some touristy sites was exciting not only for the obvious reasons, but also because the opportunity to experience and analyze street harassment within three separate foreign countries doesn’t come up every day. Yeah, I was looking forward to being street harassed. I wanted firsthand experiences I could take back to the States with me to draw upon and further my critiques of how we experience it here.
My partner Brooks plays in a band called Office of Future Plans, who were invited to play the Sant Feliu Fest in the Catalonia region of Spain. The flights to and from Europe were taken care of, as well as a lodging. We took that opportunity to build a vacation around those three days of shows since we were already on that side of the pond.
Sant Feliu, Spain – We were often surrounded by friendly people involved in the festival and it was a small beach community that relies on tourists to keep itself going. Basically, we felt safe. People are always saying to watch out for “this kind” and “that kind” of men, including Latino men, because they “harass more” or it is “more acceptable” in their culture. I would (and do) argue that it is pretty darn acceptable here in the States, too, seeing as not many people do much to end street harassment, let alone take it seriously. Regardless, I’d heard enough stories, so my feeling of safety didn’t keep me from expecting street harassment or being on the lookout.
I noticed that the people of Sant Feliu tended to mind their own business. No one was looking around, checking anyone out. They didn’t seem to care what you were wearing or where you were going. It was nice. Also, a small but significant amount of women on the beach did not wear tops. It wasn’t everyone, but those who did seemed very comfortable, they ranged in age and size, and no one stared or seemed to care. It wasn’t shocking. My uneducated impression? These people are not repressed. So when I took a walk by myself from our hotel to a nearby warehouse show, I was surprised to hear “Guapa!” from a guy passing by on a scooter. I decided to check in with a local, originally from England, to confirm what I heard (it means beautiful and/or well dressed) and get her opinion. She said “Oh, good for you!”
My initial thoughts are that if the people of Sant Feliu aren’t sexually repressed, then perhaps their street harassment is less of a power play lashing-out. Maybe it is an innocent compliment. But does that make it OK? Would I appreciate the random yelling of compliments if there were never a threat of violence? Did I feel safer knowing he never had any intention of slowing down?
Paris, France – We rented a small flat in Montmartre, the same general area of the Sacre Coeur, where actual Parisians live and work. We mostly spent our days in the touristy spots, only coming home for a recharge around dinner time or late at night. I was constantly with my male-bodied partner. Since it was August, the month when most of Europe goes on holiday, sometimes it seemed the tourists outnumbered the locals. Again, we felt safe.
I noted that Parisians were more aware of their surroundings than the Spanish. They looked around more, watched people passing by and yeah, some men stared. It felt like home! The only obvious street harassment I witnessed was a couple young men walking past a couple young women, giving them the up and down eye and saying “Bonsoir” (“Good evening”) in the same way any American man can make “Hel-lo” seem creepy. That personal freedom I had momentarily felt in Spain had officially disappeared.
London, England – Very similar to Paris, we rented an apartment in the suburbs (near Catford Bridge), spent our days in the city surrounded by tourists. Our big worry was pickpockets. With the Olympics just ending and the Paralympics about to begin, there were a lot of people around in general. Here I saw many guys turn their heads behind them like an owl to see a woman or girls butt as she walked the opposite direction, but I heard no verbal harassment, nor did I experience anything.
Conclusion: I realize that an accurate portrayal of any city cannot be achieved in just a few days. In no way can I assume how each of these countries gender-equity issues play out for people on a day to day basis. I also know that my limited experiences overseas would look differently if I was traveling alone or if I were not an able-bodied, white, hetero- presenting cis-woman. On top of it all, I was often, purposefully, in very touristy areas where they are used to visitors. Luckily for me there were no major threats to my physical safety (as so many women face when they travel), but I am still glad to have something to compare to the bratty little country I call home.no comments
Street harassment happens everywhere. No matter what you wear, what time of day or where you are heading. This video is proof. The attendees of July’s Otakon here at the Baltimore Convention Center had plenty to say about street harassment. They were getting it from strangers back home AND from Baltimore, whether in cosplay or street clothes, and even from some other attendees (who you’d think would be happy enough to be around like-minded people that they wouldn’t ruin it for some fellow nerdy women). This video help shows that it is not the women or lgbtq folks who need to change their behavior, it is the harassers.
Thanks again to all those who volunteered to share their stories, on screen or off. You are flipping the power!
The latest mental disorder SHF (or Street Harasser Frustration) has few remedies. The cure is less street harassment in the world. Until scientists come up with the eradication cure, women, girls, and lgbtq folks are forced to administer their own treatments. Here is one such treatment, courtesy of the girls from St. Francis Community Center:
In the twenty-first century, no brand, company, organization, or movement is complete without some visual representation. The Healthy Masculinity Action Project is no different. Now, with the “I Support Healthy Masculinity” icon, you can promote healthy masculinity and the Healthy Masculinity Action Project.
The Healthy Masculinity Action Project (HMAP) is a two-year national movement to develop new male leadership that role models strength without violence. The Healthy Masculinity Action Project begins in October with the Healthy Masculinity Summit in Washington, DC.
Despite only four words in the statement, “I Support Healthy Masculinity,” it says so much more. Supporting healthy masculinity is supporting communities that are free from street harassment and domestic violence, and lives that are better for women, children, and men. Generating conversations about healthy masculinity is a vital step in creating healthy relationships of all kinds.
As the weeks leading up to the Healthy Masculinity Summit continue, your support of HMAP will become increasingly critical in spreading the message of healthy masculinity.
So, do you support healthy masculinity?
Show it with the “I Support Healthy Masculinity” icon!
For more information, contact: email@example.com
Need an excuse to get out of the chat room and actually chat with real human beings? Well, this is it!
We want to be in the same room with our volunteers, supporters, fellow awesome ladies and lgbtq folks who experience street harassment. This is a casual gathering for us to vent, share tips, swap stories, and just laugh about the ridiculousness of it all.
So, over awesome coffee/pastries/dinner let’s sit around a table and do something truly revolutionary: share our stories.
*We would like to make this a semi-regular event, so we will see how it goes this first time. One of the purposes of this event is to recognize that not everyone who experiences street harassment has the privilege of access to the technology that Hollaback! uses to empower folks, so we want to bring that empowerment out of the virtual world into the real world.
*For a menu of available items for sale please visit http://www.bmorebohemian.com/menu.html
We know not everyone will be able to purchase something, but it is important that we support this locally owned business in Station North for allowing us to take over the place for a couple hours.
When: This Wednesday June 13th, 7pm.
Where: Bohemian Coffee House, 1821 N. Charles St., Baltimore, MD 21201
Check out these awesome designs by supporter Sarah Foye. Now you can tell the virtual world that you don’t stand for street harassment, you Hollaback! at it! Download directly from this post , our multimedia page, or see all 7 designs on our Facebook page!
We had a chance to sit down with Anna, a native Baltimorean and current site leader for Hollaback! Brussels. Awesome! We interviewed each other about all kinds of things, including the differences in street harassment styles in our respective cities, community involvement, future projects, how an empowered individual can make a difference for many, and why Hollaback! is so awesome!one comment
Yep, while on a trip to NYC we stopped by the Hollaback! headquarters and had lunch with Executive Director Emily May and International Movement Coordinator Veronica Pinto. We talked about the latest campaign, an initiative to get Hollaback! onto school campuses, that is currently in fundraising mode. With statistics like this:
According to the AAUW, 62% of women and 61% of men report being sexually harassed on college campuses. 57% of students say they would like their college to offer a confidential web-based method for submitting complaints.
it should be easy to convince people that an empowering tool like Hollaback! is necessary to keep women and LGBTQIA folks feeling safe at school. Finals are hard enough, so street harassment is the last thing these young people should be worrying about.
Of course, we’re set to launch another “class” of Hollaback! sites as well so look out for a bunch of new cities around the world to holla from!
Yeah, girls. Not women. Girls. Girls as young as 7 have submitted stories to Hollaback! Now, we could wallow in sad facts like that, but we’d rather get out there and do something about it. Lucky for us, Hollaback! Philly feels the same way. They made this honest, funny and yeah, sad video about the things people say to young girls. Sure, this meme came and went but the message that street harassment is detrimental to the well being of over half the world still needs to be heard. So, enjoy: