Tag Archives: Sexual harassment

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.


Is Violence the Answer?

public artwork

I am so sick and tired of being treated like public property by men who feel entitled to my body when I leave my house. I wish my first post during Women’s History Month was more uplifting but I really have to ask, and I wish my feminist foremothers were here to give me an answer: What do you do when you are publicly harassed/groped/sexually assaulted?

street-harassment-comic

 

Obviously this post is the result of a personal issue but of course the personal is political so my story is that of countless billions of other women in the world too. Just today a black woman of roughly my age, waiting for the same bus as me, was being “talked up” by a mid-50s white guy. She clearly wasn’t interested and yet he kept talking at her. I nearly interjected, “Bro, she doesn’t want to talk to  you.” But by persistently ignoring him she eventually shut him up. I know she wasn’t interested by the look on her face, and because I know exactly how she felt because not 15 minutes earlier at the same stop another old white guy came up to me.

“Can I ask you a question?EndingStreetHarassment
“Mmhmm.” (Hoping it would be about what number bus, etc.)
“Why is your hair so much better than mine? (He was bald)
“Genes.” (And a fake, fuck off smile)
“Hahaha, exactly. You are beautiful.”

Fuck man, seriously?!? I can’t just wait for the fucking bus without you feeling like you have to tell me that I live up to your socially constructed beauty standards? And I’m sick, not wearing make up, covered from head to toe because I’m cold and wearing sunglasses and headphones. How much clearer could, “Don’t talk to me” get? It shouldn’t surprise me though because yesterday a young white guy started talking at me as he approached the bus stop where I was sitting and did the same thing. I had headphones on (my normal defense mechanism against misogyny and douchbaggery) so I didn’t hear the first part of his ode, but once he was close enough I heard “You’re absolutely gorgeous.” And then he disappeared around the corner. What the fuck was the point of that!?!?

jess_fink_comic.JPG1_

If you’re going to compliment someone, wait until you get their attention, if they don’t seem utterly annoyed that you’ve pulled them away from their music/book/laptop/phone, proceed with your compliment, then wait for an appropriate response.

You may be thinking, what’s the big deal, guys think you’re pretty, it’s a compliment, just be thankful. I refuse to be thankful that my body is not considered my own, and that simply because I am a woman I am subject to harassment when I enter public space. The very same thought process that says, be thankful, is the one that condones and promotes rape culture and victim blaming, after all, women want it, right?

Cycle of Insecure Cultures

Here’s the example that prompted today’s blog of fury. I was sitting on a crowded bus with my bag in the window seat next to me. A young black man comes up and says something while pointing at the seat. Headphones on I have no idea what he said but I grab my bag and get up so he can sit. Once he sits he spreads his legs so that he’s taking up half my seat and is holding onto the outside of his pocket so that he brushes my thigh until I scoot so far over that half of my ass is off my seat. He tries to talk to me, I pretend I can’t hear him, use my phone and silently beg the universe to let another seat open so I can get away from him. He pulls something out of his pocket and taps me with it. I take out my left headphone to hear him offer my what appears to be grape-flavored lip gloss. I say, “No. Thanks,”  and put my headphone back in. Finally the universe listens and a bunch of people get off the bus.

deal with it

I move over into the same row on the other side of the aisle, with my bag again in the window seat. He is staring at me, and with Austin traffic for the kite festival he has all the time in the world. I make it a point to look out the window on my side, trying desperately not to look at him, engage him or let him know how uncomfortable I am. Out of the corner of my eye I’m fairly sure he’s masturbating but I don’t dare look. The rage and sadness and fear that I felt meant that if I had seen him my reaction would have been violent, and I try so hard to practice peace in my personal life. Once the frantic movement across the aisle stopped I quickly glanced his direction only to see him flash open his jacket. Luckily I was just glancing or I probably would have seen more than I should have.

By this time nearly everyone else has gotten off the bus and since it was on detour I feared my stop was coming up soon. I was genuinely afraid he was going to follow me off the bus, so I went to the bus driver and asked her if the detour would indeed go where I needed to. She said it would but it would be another 45 minutes. Then I told her I thought the guy was masturbating and her face was a mix of anger, sadness and understanding. “I’m so sorry honey,” she said. “Who is it?” I clarified and when he didn’t get off at the next stop she called back to him, “Are you ok?” He responded and then got off at the next stop. She asked, “Was that the one?” and I confirmed it and she apologized again. After that it was a long but uneventful ride.

street-harassment

My question to you–and please give me answers–is this: What is the appropriate response when a stranger stares at you? Circles the block to look you up and down as you wait for the bus? Tells you you’re beautiful or you’re working your boots or there’s a party you should come to or you’re got a slammin’ ass or vulgarly suggests you do something sexual to him? What is the appropriate response when a stranger touches you? When he jacks off at you?

Because in those moments, violence is the only response I have been able to fantasize, so instead I just ignore them and let a piece of my soul die.

 

stop street harassment

hhhhsss

 


Ode to Street Harassers

Freedom of speech?
How about freedom of the streets?
You’re free to get your dick sucked
So how am I not free to breathe?

All your “Hey babys!” are leaving me weak in the knees.

But it’s not in a good way
It’s not how you want
Because cat calls in general
Just feel like taunts

When you yell from your car
Or whistle in the street
What you’re really saying is:

“This place is for me.”

Women and girls treated like property
And your attitude towards us leaves our souls in poverty.

Everyday we face you
Everyday we hate you
Everyday we wish
We wish
We wish we could erase you!

Ok maybe not you, that’s taking it too far
But your ideas and your sexism spewed from afar.

Do you get it now, how unsafe we feel?

Street harassment is hate and your hatred is real.

So what can you do, how can you help?
Speak up!
Speak out!
Tell your boys how it felt
To know that your words
About sexy and hot
Make us feel like victims

When that’s something we’re not.

Sexism kills
In more ways than one
So stop street harassment
‘Cause this shit ain’t fun.

 


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