Tag Archives: India

Global Reflections on Street Harassment

Since January I and other bloggers from around the world have been writing for the Stop Street Harassment Blog. For me participating in the conversation about street harassment has been a cathartic experience, allowing me to reflect on how I deal with being harassed and how I view the men in my community who are harassing me and others. To bring Sexual Assault Awareness Month to a close, I’d like to leave you now with an overview of the past four months of the Stop Street Harassment Blog.

CreeperMove-HollabackDesMoinesIn April I wrote about the clash of sexism and racism when someone is harassed by a member of a different race. Ultimately no matter how many people of any given race harass you, they are still acting alone, and it is crucial that their sexism does not fuel our racism. Rocio Andrés of Spain also explored the individualism of harassers, but delved more into their humanity than I. She reminds us that they too are products of the society that we create, so we must try to continue to view them as human. She urges that understanding street harassers is not excusing them, but it is crucial to learning how we can prevent harassment to begin with.

In March I explained why self-care after being harassed is so important. Joe Samalin of New York listed TWENTY-NINE THINGS men can do to stop street harassment. 29! Katie Monroe of Philadelphia gave a shout out to HollabackPHILLY’s dance party and fundraiser put on by Get Lucid! which took place on April 5th. Also in March Rocio wrote about a missed opportunity to travel to Cairo as sexual assault and bombings stood in her way of exploring street harassment in the motherland. Pallavi Kamat of India wrote about the underlying causes of street harassment in Mumbai. Kriti Khatri of Nepal explained how street harassment can escalate to other, more severe forms of sexual violence. Brittany Oliver of Baltimore interviewed a woman in her community about street harassment and how it affects her. Joe also wrote in March how men’s silence in the face of harassment makes them allies to the harasser, not women. Brittany also wrote about Hollaback! Baltimore and their efforts to utilize local businesses to fight street harassment. And early on in March Katie explored how street harassment affects women cyclists in Philly.

bike womenThough February is a short month a lot was written by the Stop Street Harassment Blog cohort. Kriti looked at how using public transportation contributes to women being harassed in Nepal. Rocio contrasted the realities of sexual violence in places like Rwanda and Bosnia-Herzegovina to the good things that are happening to combat street harassment in other places. She wrote about violence in war stating, “We love durings. As if there were neither after nor before.” Powerful stuff that! Pallavi highlighted some of the successful community engagement projects of Blank Noise in India. I dove into the link between street harassment and teen dating violence for Teen Dating Violence Awareness Month. Sandria Washington of Chicago challenged the idea that more crossing guards would reduce girls being harassed on their way to school. Jeanette R. of California talked about racial profiling of men as a form of street harassment.  Joe explored how men can start to realize just how pervasive street harassment against women really is. February started with Andrea Ayres-Deets of San Francisco tearing open the ever-important idea that street harassment limits women’s political participation and participation in strategic nonviolent action.

In January Brittany encouraged everyone from Baltimore to Cairo to Meet Us on the Streets and give voice to the harassment that overruns society. Kriti highlighted the organization Astitwa and its success in changing how Nepali police address street harassment. Katie contrasted the differences between gender-based street harassment and bicycle-based harassment. For the anniversary of Roe v. Wade I wrote about the harassment of women seeking abortions and abortion care providers as a form of street harassment. Rocio explored how things like Scotland’s “Single Woman Policy” are just band-aid solutions to the gaping wound that is sexualized gender-based violence. Finally, back at the beginning, Pallavi reminded us that the streets are not only full of harassment, but in India they are far too often where young women go to die.

I’d like to thank the Founder/Executive Director of Stop Street Harassment, Holly Kearl, for giving me this opportunity to learn and share and grow.


Women’s History Month 2012

Today kicks off Women’s History Month 2012. As Mark LeVine said in this piece about Black History Month, if a people has a past worth learning about, they also must have a future worth caring about. Over the next 30 days you can look forward to interviews with women who have made or are making history. If you fall into that category and would like to share your story here, feel free! I come from a long line of feisty women, including my paternal great-grandmother, “Mrs. J.U. Gartin” who, in 1937 as President of the Women’s Progressive Club was helping to raise money for disabled children. Her daughter, my father’s mother Dorothy Gartin, graduated from Stanford University in 1938. Unfortunately I was very young when my grandmother died but obviously I come by the feminist genes honestly, and being raised by a single mother who had five older brothers and took auto shop instead of home economics in high school in 1977 doesn’t hurt either.

The news today is full of stories about women and women’s progress (or lack thereof). Each case requires careful study and swift action so that the violence, hatred, poverty and shame that are heaped on women are eliminated. Laws can help or hurt, as we will see, but strategic nonviolent action continues to prove effective.

Dr. Tina Strobos, left, in 1941 with Abraham Pais and Dr. Strobos's mother, Marie Schotte. Copyright New York Times.

A living legend has left us recently, with the passing of Dr. Tina Strobos. She and her mother successfully hid more than 100 Jews from the Nazi Gestapo in Amsterdam during WWII. With the help of the extensive Dutch Resistance Movement she utilized many different methods of nonviolent action because, as she said, “It’s the right thing to do.”

Another important woman passed this week, Dr. Anna Lou Dehavenon, an urban anthropologist whose research on hunger shed light on and advocated for the rights of the homeless. A talented pianist, Dr. Dehavenon’s focus on homelessness lead to the New York State Supreme Court ruling that the homeless must be provided shelter.

Homelessness is a problem in India too, especially for that country’s widows. Today another issue emerged in the news, an average of one woman every 90 minutes is burned alive for not bringing enough dowry into her new marital home. 8391 dowry deaths were reported in 2010 in India but hundreds of burning deaths go unreported, despite stricter laws on the books meant to protect women from being treated as property. These changes only occurred because of human rights activists’ backlash against a legal system that put women at a severe disadvantage until the late 1980s. Obviously there is still much work to be done in this campaign and many others, including illiteracy, sex-selective abortion and infanticide, domestic violence, sexual harassment, etc.

Back in the US sexual harassment, even in public is still rampant but the structural violence that supports latent violence against women is gaining an even stronger foundation as the GOP is desperately trying to convince the American voters that women should not use and/or do not need contraception. From attacks on Planned Parenthood by various politicians, and the Susan B. Komen breast cancer fund, to an astounding 92 pieces of legislation aiming to restrict women’s right to choose, including the Oklahoma personhood bill that spurred the photo to the right, today’s news in the War on Women is no surprise.

When Republicans barred women from speaking at a Congressional hearing about contraception, Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke took to the airwaves and let everyone know she is an “appropriate witness” with the I Have a Say campaign. Presidential hopeful Mitt Romney said “Of course” he’s for the Blunt Amendment, up for vote today, which would allow employers to deny women the right to contraceptive coverage if it “conflicts with their beliefs,” nevermind that there are zero other services employers can opt out of covering if they feel like it… like Viagra. Talking head Rush Limbaugh called Fluke a “slut” for wanting medical coverage of contraception, just another in a long line of slut shaming that only divides women and belittles them for being human. In some cases the bullying can lead to death.

But you can fight back! Click here to add your name to show support for the Democratic Senators who have voiced strong and consistent opposition to reducing women’s rights. You can also add your name to this Women’s Media Center petition telling politicians that My Health is Not Up for Debate! And if you’re faced with street harassment be sure to Hollaback! to name and shame abusers. Check back often for more actions and more information all throughout Women’s History Month… and give ’em hell!


Am I just paranoid, or…

Just because you’re paranoid don’t mean they’re not after you. – Kurt Cobain

I think that many of my female readers share my feelings of paranoia but if not please let me know I’m just crazy. With this post it is my male readers I hope to speak to. The purpose of this post is in no way to blame all men for the immoral and illegal choices of some men, rather, the aim of this post is to put more fire in the bellies of male allies in the fight for women’s equality. I also in no way mean to diminish or minimize the experiences of men, boys and transgender individuals who have been sexually assaulted or raped. Their traumas are just as real as any woman’s and certainly are not given the weight in our society that they should be. With this post I want you to know specifically what my grievances are, how I feel as a woman on a daily basis, and, most importantly, what you can do to help. With everything in the news lately and all the statistics available surrounding the heinous rates of violence against women and sexual assault and rape around the world, it’s easy for me to feel like women, and our rights, are under attack.

For most of my life I have felt vulnerable simply because I am female, to the point that I’ve taken self defense classes. I’m sure some of this fear comes from having been repeatedly sexually assaulted by male relatives as a girl, but even now, as an adult woman, I find my mind shift to dark thoughts quite often when I am in the company of strangers. To live in constant fear of violence is absurd and ultimately will make you crazy, and I hate that I buy into the rape culture myth that violence against women, especially sexual violence, happens at night when a stranger jumps out from around a corner and tackles you.

Most rapes are committed by someone the victim knows and 50% of all rape/sexual assaults occur within 1 mile of the victim’s home! The Service Women’s Action Network also explains how prevalent rape and sexual assault against members of the US military is in this publication. See previous posts on violence against women including Violence Against Women in the US, The Clothesline Project, Take Back the Night, the V-Day MovementRAINN and NDVH, and others for more information on the situation of women in the US.

Women in other parts of the world are in even more frightening situations. Today Al-Jazeera posted this article explaining why Afghanistan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, India and Somalia are the top five most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. Reasons ranging from the feminization of poverty, rape as a weapon of war, and harmful religious and cultural practices, to female infanticide and female genital mutilation affect the safety and livelihoods of women in these places.

Back in the US, Republicans are taking their misogyny global by trying to defund Planned Parenthood at home and abroad, using “states’ rights” rhetoric to make abortion unattainable for the most vulnerable women in their districts, and trying to reinstate the Global Gag Rule, which really does just make me want to gag. But women and men are standing up for equality and human rights, including the 373 people who sent in pictures of themselves to NARAL Pro-Choice’s Stop the War on Women video to the US Senate, the fierce founders and participants of the Hollaback! movement to stop street harassment, and the thousands (millions?) of people who have participated in SlutWalks around the world to protest a culture of victim-blaming surrounding sexual assault. SlutWalk deserves its very own post, despite the massive amount of press it’s already received, so look out for that.

I think our biggest issue in victim-blaming comes from our rape culture myth that what women wear or do or say affects their chances of being raped: it doesn’t. Women should not have to protect themselves or change the way they want to appear for fear of rape: People should not rape. Period. Women have been objectified by American society for quite some time and while reinforcing that women are objects to be seen is not ideal, women should be allowed to be seen however they want, and should be able to have sex with whomever they want, without any individual thinking that anything other than clear and sober consent means yes to sex. And in the spirit of Hollaback! what I choose to wear does not give you permission to yell at me either.

So, with all this in mind, am I just paranoid or

-do you wonder whenever you’re in the shower or using a public restroom or having sex with someone for the first time if a webcam is broadcasting your nakedness all over the internet?
-do you also check your backseat whenever you get in your car to make sure a stranger or stalker isn’t waiting to rape and/or kill you?
-do you get nervous when you step into a full elevator, worried that someone might touch you in an unwanted and sexual way?
-do you think twice before going somewhere you are unfamiliar with, in case there are dark corners for bad people to hide in?
-do you feel like you’re being watched in a disgusting, lustful way by men of all ages all the time?
-do you remind yourself that yelling “fire” is more likely to garner help than yelling “rape” when you feel like someone is following you?
-do you carry your keys in your hands, extended between your fingers as you make a fist when you walk home after dark?
-do you avoid making eye contact with strangers for fear that they will misread your friendliness for a sexual advance and then rape you?
-do you wonder, whenever you’re in a group, how many of the people with you have raped someone, or have been raped?
-do you have any idea what it’s like to feel like you’re the constant target of society’s violent sexual urges and need to control?

Ladies? Gentlemen?

But cheer up, there are lots of ways you can help!

-Don’t rape anyone: passed out, drunk, wearing next-to-nothing, came onto you before, had sex with you before, started a sexual encounter and then changed her/his mind, is underage… just don’t.
-If that isn’t clear, read this.
-If you still don’t get it, watch this.
-Don’t tell rape jokes.
-Don’t use the word rape to complain about the way your school, bank, job, or government is treating you.
-Don’t let your friends get away with telling rape jokes. Explain to them why it is hurtful, wrong and dangerous.
-Don’t let your friends get away with using rape to complain about institutions.
-If you hear someone bragging about a sexual assault or rape, call the police.
-If you’re in public and you hear/see someone harassing/assaulting someone else, call the police.
-If you hear/see domestic violence taking place, call the police.
-March in rallies for human rights, healthcare, immigration rights, economic freedom and marriage equality.
-Call or email your lawmakers and tell them to end the backlog of untested rape kits in your local police departments.
-Call or email your lawmakers and tell them to support the International Violence Against Women Act.
-Sign this petition to demand that the FBI change the definition of rape from “The carnal knowledge of a female forcibly and against her will” to something that includes date rape, oral, anal and statutory rape, rape with an object, finger or fist and rape of men.
-And share this post, and the many others out there like it written by feminist who are tired of being afraid, with anyone who can and will read it. Thanks for your support!




				

Day 10- Women’s Activism in Asia

The Asian continent is the largest on the planet, home to 60% of the world’s population, it also comprises 60% of the world’s landmass. Consequently generalizations about Asian women could never be true for all of the women included in Asia’s population of 4,157,000,000. Turkey is the western border of the Asian continent and most Arab countries, including Saudi Arabia, Iraq, Iran, and Afghanistan are in Asia. Today we will look at women of countries more typically associated with “Far Eastern” culture, but also explore how women in Central Asian countries, especially countries of the former USSR, combat injustice as well.

American’s stereotypes about Asian American women are also shared with women who still live in Asia, consequently they are seen as silent, subservient and eager-to-please. The sampling of Asian women we will see today, and the organizations they run, are anything but.

Russia: The denial of pay during maternity leave is one issue currently affecting women in Russia. Women’s rights activists in St. Petersburg have rallied to protest women being dismissed from their jobs if they become pregnant. Project Kesher is another group of women striving to bring religious and ethnic tolerance to Russian, Belarus and the Ukraine. In an unorthodox manner a group of Russian women who call themselves X-Z are bringing attention to social issues plaguing Russia, such as piles of snow the government refuses to remove.

Mongolia: Women in Ulaanbaatar are working to show that women’s rights are human rights and to create a national mechanism for protecting fundamental human rights. There is still much work to be done in Mongolia, especially to ensure LGBTQAI rights. The National Network of Mongolian Women’s NGOs, Monfemnet, tackles everything from youth participation in human rights, democracy and gender justice to exploring masculinities.

China: Grassroots women’s activists in China are combating judicial injustices and gender inequalities by fighting for human rights. One of the biggest issues facing Chinese women is Reproductive Justice. The punishment for violating the “one child” policy is a blatant denial of human rights. This page honors some of the women human rights defenders in China.

Japan: Women in Japan are under a different reproductive pressure from their government: the pressure to have more children. For those women who cannot have children or do not want to reproduce, the government and society’s pressure to do so is not only unfair, but painful. Because of the government’s position only three percent of women in Japan ages 16-49 use the birth control pill. The Feminist International Network of Resistance to Reproductive and Genetic Engineering, FINNRAGE, is one group that is fighting for women to be fully educated about their rights and their choices so that they can make informed decisions.

Indonesia: Women in Indonesia are also fighting their government for protection of their rights. The few laws that grant women’s rights, such as a 30 percent quota of women in elected offices, are not uniformly enforced. Women’s rights groups in Indonesia also state that those women who are elected are not doing their part to advance gender equality. Some women’s groups use the power of street theatre to demonstrate the dangers of childbirth and pollution, among other social issues. The rights of LGBTQAI people in Indonesia are also not guaranteed, but many women are searching for tolerance and equality within their personal studies of Islam.

Thailand: Women in Thailand are active in the country’s ever-changing political scene. Despite being warned by police to evacuate a space filled with protesters lest violence should occur, women supporting the Red Shirt party stayed to face their government. In a country where symbolism and the spiritual world are highly esteemed, women from the opposing group, the Yellow Shirt party, took on politics and social norms and used their bloody sanitary napkins to pull power from a protective statue. Thai women are also finding innovative ways to combat religious intolerance in various regions of the country. The women who are left as heads-of-household when their husbands and sons are arrested (for political or religious reasons) have become leaders in their communities. After a long day’s work feminist activists in Thailand can relax at a retreat built especially for them.

Bangladesh: The situation for women in Bangladesh is dire. Women are punished with beatings when they are raped. Women are punished with acid attacks when they say no to sexual advances. Women are punished when they go to the police, or seek medical help, or dare to complain. The deaths of women as a result of public flogging have been all over the news recently. Women are slowly making progress and some girls are being educated, but activists in Bangladesh also understand the importance of having male allies in the fight for equality. Bangladeshi women are also sharing their knowledge and lessons learned with the women of Haiti, by way of an all-female UN police force.

India: For centuries women in India have been participating in social activism. Currently, the group Pandies uses humor and theatre to showcase women’s issues. Recognizing the advances that have been made over time, women’s groups in India still push for further gender equality. Even though gains have been made, there are still many issues facing Indian women today, including child marriage, police brutality, and domestic violence.

Kyrgyzstan: Despite being the first Central Asian country to have a female president, (Roza Otunbayeva–one of this year’s recipients of the US’s Women of Courage Award), gender roles in Kyrgyzstan are still very rigid. In traditional Kyrgyz culture women must remain virgins until their wedding night and their sheets are displayed the next day as proof. Some women are combating this stigma by speaking out against it. Other problems arise when the marriages are not legally registered, and domestic violence rates in Kyrgyzstan are overwhelming. Bride kidnapping is another tradition the women of Kyrgyzstan are not proud of, and are trying to eradicate.

Uzbekistan: Uzbek human rights activist Mutabar Tajibaeva has returned her 2009 Women of Courage Award, in protest to Kyrgyzstan’s president receiving the same award this year. The activist says she has nothing against Otunbayeva personally but cannot, in good conscience, have her name listed with Kyrgyzstan’s president who failed to stop the massacres against ethnic Uzbeks in Kyrgyzstan last summer. Tajibaeva believes Otunbayeva is receiving the award only because she is the first female president of a Central Asian country, but stated that there are other Kyrgyz women more deserving of the honor. Some of the issues Uzbek human rights defenders focus on include unlawful detention of protesters by the government, and forced sterilization. Hundreds of women have been sterilized without their consent or knowledge in Uzbekistan, leaving many women fearful of doctors and hospitals.


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