Blank Noise Spectator Survey

July 31, 2008

The wonderful anti-street harassment activists in India over at the Blank Noise are holding a special survey/discussion on their site through August 15th about being a spectator of street harassment. Of their website visitors who take their poll, 13% reported being a spectator of street harassment.

This is what they ask: “Blank Noise Spectators Special asks members of the public, both men and women, to share what they witnessed. What was your first reaction? Was it to intervene? Was it to ignore? What did you do? What would you rather have done? Can you share your thoughts about being a spectator. If you have been a ‘special spectator’ , that is, intervened in the situation, please tell us how! Was it with wit and humor? Or did you physically assault the ‘perpetrator’? Did you walk away? Or call the cops? Or gather a crowd? Or see another spectator take charge of the situation and participate in any way?”

I admit I’m not much of a confrontational person and it’s something I’m working on but there was one time I almost did say something. I was on the Washington, DC metro (I live in the DC area and take it to/from work etc) on a weekend and it was crowded and there were two young women standing near me dressed to impress and on my other side were a bunch of young men pointing and whispering crude things about the women. The women had their backs to the men and seemed oblivious of what was happening and that is what kept me from intervening. I think if the women had noticed I might have intervened. However, I wish I had anyway because they were being extremely crude and just talking about the women like they only consisted of body parts etc.

Anyway, check out Blank Noise and also feel free to leave your comments on this blog if you’re so inclined 🙂

Anti-Groping Subway Campaign on Hold

July 21, 2008

The wonderful ladies of HollaBackNYC wrote a great piece in the New York Daily News about the MTA’s anti-groping campaign going on hold apparently for fear of inadvertently encouraging more groping…

Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“Someone at the MTA seems worried about exposing the dirty underbelly of the city’s transportation network. They’d rather ignore it – and hope that it’ll go away. That’s a little like hoping the rats on the tracks will vanish if we avert our eyes every time they rear their beady little eyes.

Subway ads will work. First and most importantly, they will formalize the idea that subway groping is unacceptable. That will lead New York City women, like their Boston counterparts, to feel comfortable in calling out lewd pervs on their behavior. A likely rise in the number of incidents reported will be something to celebrate – because it’ll mean a rise in the number of men caught in the act.”

Definitely read the full article, it’s a good one and if you live in NYC, have ever visited NYC and taken the subway, or are just passionate about ending street harassment, write to the MTA and ask that they run the subway ad campaign.

Men like to harass in Egypt

July 18, 2008

The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights has been involved in anti-street harassment activism work for several years, so the recent headline in Reuters “Two-thirds of Egyptian men harass women?” about the high levels of street harassment in Egypt is no surprise to me.

In a survey of more than 2,000 Egyptian men and women and 109 foreign women, “62 percent of Egyptian men reported perpetrating harassment, while 83 percent of Egyptian women reported having been sexually harassed. Nearly half of women said the abuse occurred daily.” I wonder where the people who took this survey live in Egypt – like is it worse in the cities the way it seems to be in the US? Regardless, those are high numbers but not really surprising.

I’d like to say the following facts were surprising but they’re not either. “53 percent of men blamed women for bringing on sexual harassment, saying they enjoyed it or were dressed in a way deemed indecent. Some women agreed.” Hey, they’re just like people in the US and the UK who blame women for getting harassed! Don’t believe it? Just find any story on street harassment that allows for comments and then you’ll very quickly realize how many people have that opinion. Riiight, it’s women’s fault men can’t keep their mouths closed and hands to themselves…

This part of the story is particularly interesting to me: “The vast majority of women did nothing when confronted with sexual harassment,” the survey said, adding that most Egyptian women believed the victim should “remain silent.” Is that because they are afraid of getting hurt or being assertive or what, I wonder? I wonder what people in the US would say about how the victim of street harassment should act. When one feels safe and confident enough to, I advocate saying something to them or reporting them to a person of authority or their company etc. I just don’t think that ignoring them deters them. How do you think they should act?

Gender Equity Festival 2008

July 15, 2008

For those in New York this weekend, check this out —

Girls for Gender Equity presents:
The 3rd Annual NYC Gender Equality Festival
a celebration of arts and activism in central Brooklyn
July 19, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in Von King Park between Tompkins & Marcy at Lafayette

A FREE public event for education, networking, resource sharing, community interaction, arts, recreation and entertainment.

The Festival will feature arts organizations, service groups, youth organizations, educators, grassroots organizers, and nonprofits as well as:

  • Food & Refreshments!
  • Guest Speakers!
  • Live Performances!
  • Giveaways of wonderful prizes!

Artists, community organizations, and local politicians will participate, offering inspirational performances and important information to attendees about a wide variety of topics – responding to street harassment, HIV/AIDS, self defense, youth leadership, every day activism, ending police violence, reproductive justice, and more.

Girls for Gender Equity’s Sisters in Strength teen interns will also be presenting the findings from their groundbreaking research on sexual harassment in NYC schools. As the first high school lead Participatory Action Research project on the topic, their goals are to raise awareness about students’ experiences of harassment and make recommendations for change. Girls for Gender Equity is forming a coalition to address this crucial issue, and extends an invitation to organizations interested in participating in this effort.

To find out more, visit

Catcalling Apologizers

July 13, 2008

A few years ago I was riding my bike by a Wendy’s and a construction crew started “Oooo Baby”ing me. It was certainly not the first time I had been harassed, nor the most serious, but I was fed up. I turned my bike around and went back. I looked up at the men on the roof and said, “I would have more respect for you if you were ever alone when you catcalled, but no, you have to have six or seven buddies around to have the balls to open your mouth. It makes me sick!” As I was turning around I heard, “Sorry Ma’am.” and “We’re sorry.”


Coolest Trend on the Streets for Men

July 10, 2008

Hey you, yeah you, have you heard about the coolest trend on the streets for men? Well if you haven’t, you better get in the know. For all those in the dark, it’s called street harassment (SH). Yep you got it-street harassment, targeted at women. For this post I am going explore the very nature of street harassment and just how cool it can be for everyone. Why don’t I first begin by explaining my first encounter with street harassment. I came into contact with SH around the age of 15 or so. I was living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at the time and was quickly walking on my way to the 15 bus stop, when this older man maybe 45 or 50 years old stopped (more like hassled) me kindly and asked “Hey beautiful, why the frown? why don’t you smile, otherwise you’re going to get wrinkles on your face when you get older?” So I smiled back and thought what the heck, why not? I didn’t want to compromise my looks for those awesome old men. My so called beauty had been validated and my self-esteem had risen. Everyone lucked out on those street encounters. Back then street harassment didn’t seem so bad. The usual “Hey baby, what’s your name, can I get your number didn’t seem so harmful. But now as I grow older and have moved to Chicago, I go out in public more and I tend to hear more explicit remarks. For example when I ride by bike, I hear comments such as “Hey baby, can I get a ride with you?” or better yet “Damn baby, I wish I was that bike seat.” As of now, I can’t even ride my bike down my block without hearing a whistle or a smooching noise.

If you have not guessed by now, street harassment is not cool. In fact, it is against the law. It is a violation of personal space, essentially, one’s privacy. Street harassment has many defining behaviors gestures and comments but I believe that Cynthia Grant Bowman’s article “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women” defines it best by stating that it has defining characteristics:

(1) the targets of street harassment are females;
(2) the harassers are male;
(3) the harassers are unacquainted with their targets;
(4) the encounter is face to face;
(5) the forum is a public one such as sidewalk, bus, taxi;
(6) the content of the speech, if any, is not intended as public discourse.

She also notes of this working definition, offered by anthropologist Micaela di Leonardo:

“Street harassment occurs when one or more strange men accost one or more women… in a public place which is not the woman’s/women’s worksite. Through looks, words, or gesture the man asserts his right to intrude on the woman’s attention, defining her as a sexual object, and forcing her to interact with him”

As stated above, it is against the law as defined by Pennsylvania’s statute and comparable in ten other states, a person commits a summary offense when, with intent to harass, annoy or alarm another person:

(1) he strikes, shoves, kicks, or otherwise subjects him to physical contact, or attempts or threatens to do the same; or
(2) he follows a person in or about a public place or places; or
(3) he engages in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which alarm or seriously annoy such other person and which serve no legitimate purpose

However, Bowman notes that many judiciaries (male) do not prosecute accused defendants on these charges simply because such incidents are too frequent for a justice system to handle them efficiently.

This is the result of society’s general acceptance of street harassment. Many people view or rather argue that when a man approaches a woman and and says sexually suggestive things or talks to her about her attractiveness she should take it as a compliment. But in actuality, it is not about complimenting one on their beauty. It is about power and control. Street Harassment detracts from women’s freedom. According to Bowman, when women are constantly harassed in public they hear the implicit (and sometimes explicit) message that women do not belong in public, where they draw more attention by their mere appearance, but rather in the private sphere, at home. She goes on to further argue that analysts have concluded that the intent of street harassers is to remind women of their gender identity in order to keep them in their private spaces and reinforce gender hierarchy. She concludes that street harassment has serious consequences for women and society. It psychologically disempowers women, which creates distrust between men and women, while reinforcing rigid gender roles, hierarchy, and the confinement of women to the private sphere.

I have become so fed up with my harassers and their intentions to keep me in my ‘place’ that I have begun to spit in their direction if I see one oogling or catcalling at me from a distance. To a certain extent this indirect action empowers me when men turn their heads away. I have also decided to take more direct action by writing up business cards that explain in great detail why it is harmful for them to stare and make sexually suggestive comments towards women and then hand them out when I catch one in the act. Hopefully this will encourage constructive dialogue between me and my harassers and between them and the harasser’s friends.

Until society’s general view of women as sexual objects for men’s pleasure is changed women, will always be seen as the lesser sex, always getting the short end of the stick in society. In order for that view to change though, a serious shift in the legal system will have to take place and that will only happen if more people are aware of street harassment and it’s psychological consequences and when more women become apart of the judicial system. Start talking and campaigning people.

– j

“Catcalls nearing extinction” ?

July 8, 2008

There are fewer catcalls from construction workers because more women complain about them and there are more women working in construction, according to the Miami Herald.

I don’t know about you but I haven’t been harassed by construction workers in years. I always get upset when I see them continued to be stereotyped in commercials, tv shows, and movies as the only street harassers because in my experience, it’s the random guys passing me in cars or standing on the street that harass! Men on public transportation are also a big pain, especially when they grope you or start masturbating in front of you. So reducing the ugliness of street harassment to a few whistles from construction workers trivializes something that is a big problem for a lot of women and does nothing to help educate people about its pervasiveness or the negative impact it can have on women’s lives.

What have been your experiences with construction workers? Have you reported them if you’ve been harassed? Do you think they still deserve to be stereotyped as harassers?

And, as always with articles condemning street harassment that allow people to leave comments, there are some real “gems” following this one. For example, these two:

“People that complain about catcalls are spoiling one of the few opportunities for a bad looking gal to raise their self steem [sic] and feel good about her looks. Gernerally, [sic] the complainers are people that want to express their disatisfaction [sic] with life, in other words they are sour and disgruntled.”

[like women really want to be judged “poor looking” and then get shouted at out of pity. thank you for your charity mr. god’s gift to women.]

“As American President of NACHOS, National Associaton of Catcalling Hardhatted Ogres, I demand our right of free speech. When women dress they way they do then get mad at the result its time to look at the real problem here.”

[poor man, the real problem appears to be that he has no control over his mouth and loves victim blaming]

Oiye oiye oiye … so much education is needed!!