“I’m pretty positive he did it on purpose.”

May 10, 2011

This morning I stopped by the post office to mail a number of post cards to California state legislators for a nonprofit I volunteer with. As I was putting the stamps on the post cards (there were a lot of them, so I was standing at the counter for a while), a man brushed up against me and his hand rubbed against my ass.

At first I shrugged it off because I figured he was just trying to squeeze by me, but when I turned around I realized there was a good 4 feet of space between the counter where I was standing and the wall behind it that he could have easily walked through… so now I’m pretty positive he did it on purpose.

I was angry, but also frustrated that the way he did it was sneaky enough to make me doubt myself and hesitate, so he was gone before I was able to confront him.

– Sara

Location: Santa Cruz, CA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


What’s being done about street harassment in Belfast?

May 9, 2011

I was walking homeward along a busy road (end of the day, commuters were returning home) just round the corner from my house when my shopping trolley malfunctioned. As I stopped and turned to examine it, I heard a loud roar from a car next to me – it actually sounded exactly like a dog, so when I looked up and saw that it was a man hanging out of the car window doing the roaring, I was really shocked.

It happened very fast, and the traffic column was both moving his car away from me and obscuring his number plate, so I just walked on, not realising how upset I was until I turned into my street and my way was briefly obstructed (not that they did it purposely) by election canvassers. They were for the party I support and when I saw one who was female and about my age I stopped her and asked about the party’s policy on fighting street harassment.

I got very upset at that point; it all just hit me. She was really great, and I ended up talking to her and her older female colleague for ages – I explained how my partner and I had been violently assaulted in our street a year ago and that incidents like the one with the guy in the car brought it back. We talked quite a bit about crime victims’ experiences with the policing and justice system (ours had been bad), about local crime etc., and while I was very shaken by what happened, I felt glad that I’d raised the issue with them and it’s made me think about ways there might be of bringing people together locally to highlight the issue of street harassment and the fact that it shouldn’t be tolerated.

– Anonymous

Location: Belfast, Northern Ireland

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


Street harassment snapshot: May 7, 2011

May 8, 2011

Read stories, news articles, blog posts, and tweets about street harassment from the past week and find relevant announcements and upcoming street harassment events.

Street Harassment Stories:

I accept street harassment submissions from anywhere in the world. Share your story!

You can read new street harassment stories on the Web from the past week at:

Street Harassment in the News, on the Blogs:

Announcements:

New:

  • Congratulations to Hollaback for successfully getting a journalist fired who threatened to rape one of the Hollaback site leaders in an article he wrote
  • The Stop Street Harassment website + blog will relaunch this week with a new design and new logo! (slight delay from last week)

On-going:

10 Tweets from the Week:


Stop harassing our moms!

May 8, 2011

Last weekend, my mom took the Greyhound bus from NYC to DC to attend a writer’s workshop. I was out of town for a speaking engagement, but my partner picked her up and she stayed at our house. Her bus was a few minutes early. In the space of the few minutes from when she arrived to when my partner picked her up, three different men harassed her! One of them even harassed her while she was on the phone with my dad (“Hey honey, do you have a husband? Do you want to come home with me tonight?”)

My mom said she would have felt really unsafe had she not been on the phone with my dad and about to be picked up by my 6’3″ partner in a car. My mom is in her 50s. It is an outrage that she can’t wait at a bus station safely, without experiencing harassment. It is an outrage that as a grown woman, she has to be somewhat dependent on the good men in her life for her sense of safety!

My mom has been dealing with street harassment for four decades. It was only last December that she stood up to street harassers for the first time (for many of us, that is not an easy thing to do at any age). I was so proud of her and inspired by her.

But she shouldn’t have to get up the courage to respond to a harasser. The harassment shouldn’t be happening in the first place to her, to any woman, to any mother!

This week, during dinner with some of my coworkers, one of them, who is the mother of a four-year-old, mentioned how often street harassment happens when she’s with her son and how upsetting that is. It’s bad enough it happens when it happens and you’re alone, but it’s not exactly something mothers want their children to have to witness or learn about!

Related, recently a woman shared a story on my blog about how a man harassed her while she was with her 8-year-old daughter:

“A man slowed his car to follow me & my daughter (8 yrs old) on foot. He followed us for about a block yelling out his window that I’m sexy, I need to give him my number, at least my name, just hop in & talk to him for a little bit. My daughter was obviously confused & uncomfortable, but I ignored him hoping she might think he wasn’t talking to me. I have a history of sexual assault & was merely focusing on controlling my senses so that I wouldn’t dissociate. Then he pulled up into the driveway in front of us, cutting us off & yelled at my daughter: “Your mom is a fucking bitch-cunt-whore” before leaving in a fury. My amazing daughter yelled back that he was a stupid jerk & pulled me off the sidewalk, toward the park nearby where there was more people on foot…”

What an outrage.

There’s all kinds of lip service in the US about how respected mothers are and blah blah blah, and that is true for many individuals, but on a societal level? No way.

Mothers deal with so much crap. On average, these are some of the realities they face:

  • unfair pay and fewer job options (in fact, did you know that a man’s salary goes up, on average, when he becomes a father but it goes down for women when they become mothers?!?!);
  • unequal child care responsibilities;
  • unequal division of labor of household cleaning, cooking, and grocery shopping;
  • insane scrutiny over their looks and weight and overall aging;
  • judgment and scrutiny and sometimes a lack of choice over their own reproduction;
  • domestic violence;
  • and – at the extreme end of the spectrum – higher rates of intimate partner murder than men.

And on top of that, they’ve got to deal with street harassment?

What the hell.

So for Mother’s Day, I’ve got to agree with the amazing Astronomical Kid and demand: men who harass, “stop looking at my mom”!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

If our society really wants mothers to feel and be respected, then one thing we can do is work to make it socially unacceptable to harass women!


Parellels of street harassment & police harassment

May 5, 2011

Stopping street harassment is going to take women and men. The problem is that it’s often viewed as a woman’s issue alone, which clearly neglects that the majority of those who harass are men. As a Black man, I seldom worry about going somewhere having a person make unwanted advances, touching my person, or live in the constant fear that any moment I could be accosted.

Or do I?

In hearing the testimonies of women enduring street harassment, I couldn’t help but hear the testimonies of young men of color regarding police harassment. While street harassment and police harassment have key difference, in many important ways they’re similar.* Here are three important parallels:

It’s everywhere– I live in New York City, the mecca of diversity. However, when you look at the stop-and-frisk numbers for the city you find that Black and Latino (predominantly male) residents are singled out. In 2009, of 576,394 stops and frisks were performed and 84 percent of them were on Blacks and Latinos. This is astronomically high, given that Black and Latino compose roughly 26 and 27 percent of the population respectively. The harassment that men of color often undergo via the police is a constant pressure. When walking through Harlem, I routinely see Black boys approached by undercover officers and forced to submit to “random searches.”

These searches are anything but random and serve to make young boys and men feel unsafe in their own communities. In the same way that young men of color are subject to an “invisible force” that disrupts their life without consent, young women of color feel the same. Somehow we live in communities where both men and women of color feel unsafe, displaced and harmed by harassment. Neither forms of harassment lead to safer communities or healthy relationships.

It’s illegal- When we look at the stop-and-frisk data from NYC we see the number on reason someone is stopped and frisked is “furtive movement.” Do you know what that is? Me neither. In fact, you’re not supposed to! The goal is to find any reason possible to stop and deter you from going where you’re going or living your life peacefully. Sound familiar?

Of course disproportionately stopping and frisking people is illegal, just as street harassment should be, but too many of us turn a blind eye to both. It’s going to take those that are the most and the least affected by street harassment and police harassment to come together to fight them. One sided action is not enough.

Knowledge is Powerful!

The Center for Constitutional Rights and Hollaback! have begun to carefully documenting the incidents of harassment. But we all must realize documentation is not enough! As organizers and members of communities, we need to create models that reduce levels of harassment, increase feelings of safety, and heal wounds within communities where gender violence, police violence, and all forms of violence have cracked the foundation.

Here in New York, I work with the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement which has developed as Know Your Rights campaign for communities of African descent. The People’s Self-Defense campaign is ultimately designed to give community members the tools to develop healthy communities that are safe spaces for all people, not a select few. Simply pointing at the problem will not cause it to change; instead strategic coalition building and intersectional approaches will be the proving ground for our collective to stop street harassment. The moment is ripe for collaboration and growth, but only if we can see the common harms and develop diverse responses to them.  

*One of the first things I ever learned in organizing and doing work was “don’t do analogs.” While this is good advice, in some cases analogs are essential to creating buy-in from those who may not always see the “relevance” of a social problem. Admittedly there are differences between the two, but as an organizer I’m more interested in getting people to see the common ground so we can develop diverse solutions to these problems.

Dr. L’Heureux Dumi Lewis, Assistant Professor of Sociology and Black Studies at the City College of New York

This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.


“If I was a woman, would the harassment have been worse?”

May 5, 2011

It’s usually nothing serious, but I ride my bicycle a lot, and sometimes drivers pass me and yell things at me. I can never understand what they’re saying. I’m guessing they’re drivers who think they own the road and cyclists don’t belong there.

It normally happens on campus during the day, so it doesn’t bother me then. But last week, this happened when I was coming back to my dorm at 1:00 AM from a bar that was 3 miles away. I immediately thought, “If I was a woman, would the harassment have been worse? Would they have followed me while repeatedly shouting sexually explicit comments, then gotten angry when I asked them to stop?” Since the cold weather was gone (it was the end of April) and I was riding a bike, it was too warm to cover up. That in combination with the fact that I was coming from a bar means that I probably would have been dressed in a way that harassers would refer to as “asking for it”.

Although I’m a man, male superiority (or any superiority) still bothers me. A woman has just as much of a right to ride her bike at 1:00 in the morning as a man does, and she has the right to feel safe when doing so.

– Concealed Weapon

Location: University of Connecticut

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.


Street harassment resistance in Afghanistan

May 5, 2011

Via ProQuest K-12

In chapter 4 of my book, I look at how street harassment can vary by country and region depending on factors like, laws, culture, and peace vs wartime.

I briefly mention Afghanistan and how street harassment is exacerbated by the fact that across most of the country, women are not supposed to be in public unaccompanied by men and or unveiled. I also cite a few instances of men throwing acid at girls going to school; a horrific and unique form of street harassment that occurs in a few countries.

There is a lot more going on in Afghanistan when it comes to street harassment, though, and an article at Global Room for Women elaborates on the topic.

I’m on a quest to find information about how women resist and respond to street harassment, so I was particularly interested in this excerpt from the article:

“While studying this social issue, one has to gather information on how women struggle against street-harassment because women are not merely victims. Despite the fact that no formal, strategized and orderly action is taken by the government, namely the Ministry of Women’s Affairs, the media or women’s organizations to recognize the phenomena as a social issue that needs to be addressed seriously, individual women have developed their own methods to fight street-harassment.

To deny the satisfaction of accomplishment to the violators, many women have a silent attitude towards the harassment they face. The silent treatment is a common way chosen by women to protect themselves and discourage the person who verbally abuses them.

Another way of dealing with this problem has been initiation of the harassment by the women when they say something condescending to men just to prevent their harassment and to prove that they are not afraid of their presence. Some women have word fights, or mini-fist fights that usually end at the interference of an outsider.

The different methods that women find to deal with the issue must be addressed and the advantages and disadvantages of each must be weighed to reach a conclusion on which is most successful in ensuring the safety and continuous participation of women in their societies.”

[If you want to read an inspiring book about Afghan women’s resistance generally, I recommend Veiled Courage by Cheryl Benard]

The opening words echo true for most of us — our governments, media, and NGOs don’t do enough (and sometimes don’t do anything) to make public places safe and welcoming for us, so we are left to our own devices for figuring out how to be safe and empowered.

Many women have discovered assertive responses that work, and a growing number of people are taking collective grassroots action to end street harassment.

There are plenty of tactics we can test to figure out what makes us feel empowered, safe, and full of resistance!

My primary resistance tactic is writing about street harassment.

What is yours?