A Wish on Women’s Equality Day

August 26, 2008

Today is Women’s Equality Day. In my past life I was a history major and I worked for a women’s history organization, which instill in me a fervent appreciation for the determined women and men whose activism made it possible for women to vote. I find this day an appropriate time to reflect on all the rights we’ve gained – hey I got to run on my school’s cross country team and take AP calculus and attend college and now I don’t have to marry my partner and I can work and have control over my reproductive abilities and have my own checking account and own property and vote – and think about the rights I hope we can have in the future.

My wish today is for equality to extend to the public sphere. Women should have as much right as a man to be in public without the fear of being harassed or assaulted. Yet, ask any woman and any man how safe they each feel in different public sphere scenarios and I think it will be clear that there is not equality. This can impact other areas of a woman’s life – like prevent her from going to night classes or taking a night shift or make her take a long route to work or keep her from enjoying exercising in the fresh air or make her dread just going to the corner grocery store for milk. How can women have equality if they can’t enjoy these basic rights?!

What are your women’s equality day wishes and/or what are you grateful for?

In India, New Opportunities for Women = Abuse from Men

August 25, 2008

The Washington Post has an article by Emily Wax about how attitudes toward women in India aren’t necessarily keeping pace with the progression of rights of Indian women. Street harassment or eve teasing is an example they give – more women are in the streets as they go to work and school and men are harassing them. Tellingly, a women who is part of a theater groups that educates the public about issues like street harassment and sexual assault says she regularly gets harassed when she is going home from performances. Another example:

“Chaudhry is one of the brightest students in her working-class district. But since several local men started following her to class, she sometimes stays home now. She has friends who have been raped or are constant victims of “Eve teasing,” when men on the street spew lewd comments or aggressively paw women’s bodies.”

Pretty horrible, right?

In the US this has also happened. An example that comes to my mind is the sexual harassment women faced when they were allowed to be integrated into traditionally male (and high paying) jobs because men were not happy to have them there on equal terms.

Do you have other examples?

Street Harassment while Pregnant

August 22, 2008

My name is Shay and I live in southern Indiana. I have experienced street harassment since I was at least 12 years old. I’m 22 years old. I have many situations to share but I have one experience I found quite odd. While I was 8 months pregnant with my daughter I was shopping at the mall. My pregnancy was very obvious. My belly was huge, round, and I had my little pregnancy waddle. I had on a T-shirt and sweat pants. I guess the fact I was carrying a child inside of me didn’t bother this particular guy. While I was waiting for my boyfriend to come out of a store I noticed a guy looking me up and down from a distance and I didn’t pay any mind. I went over to a bench area to sit down for a while and this guy followed me over there. “Aye shawty cum hurreee….. cum on over here… aye, aye, AYE!.” I decided to walk over to another part of the mall to sit, but low and behold this guy followed me there too. I kept ignoring him. “Aye sexy lemme holla atcha” “You gotta man???” I really wanted to cuss him out, but I was so disgusted that I decided to just go into the store my boyfriend was at. We both came out looking to confront him, but the dude was no where to be found. I don’t know if this guy was trying to holla at me as a joke or not, but I felt pretty disturbed by the whole thing.

I let myself down

August 16, 2008

I haven’t been street harassed in a while but I got harassed a few times this past week and I let myself down in how I reacted.

Last Sunday I was on vacation in Utah with my family. My partner was flying in that evening from a conference to spend the last few days of the vacation with us. I had been wearing running clothes the whole time but thought I’d wear some nicer clothes to get him at the airport and maybe they accentuated my “lady parts.” Before going to the airport, I stopped at a gas station to fill up the gas tank and clean the car an uncle was letting me borrow. My credit card wasn’t working at the pump so I had to go inside to see the cashier. You would have thought I walked in there naked or something – all these men inside stopped what they were doing and leered at me. I felt sooo uncomfortable. Then when I was vacuuming the car, a car full of guys at a red light near by were hooting and hollaring out of their windows at me. When I looked up they got louder and I quickly looked away and walked to the other side of the car. I later cried about these instances because I felt so humiliated and also so mad at myself for not doing anything – even though I’ve read, written, talked, blogged about street harassment so many times and know plenty of ways I could have reacted. I also hated that in the back of my mind I was thinking how if I had stayed wearing my running clothes maybe I wouldn’t have gotten harassed even though in the past I’ve gotten harassed the most while running in running clothes.

Then yesterday I got harassed when I was walking from my office to the metro on my way home from work. A couple of guys were sitting together in a park I had to pass and one of them said, “Hey, smile, you’re beautiful” and then when I didn’t make eye contact or say anything, he said, “okay, frown then.” Of course this is pretty benign, but it’s still an invasion of my space and a way to mark me out as a sexual object. Again I did nothing and was just fuming when I got to the metro at the men and again at myself. And again, I thought, geez, I wear a tight shirt to work and look what happens. Even after all I’ve learned about street harassment, that still went through my brain!!

Anyway, I’ve resolved to create my own business cards to hand out to harassing men because confrontations are so hard for me but I think I could be brave enough to hand them a card that says don’t harass women and maybe in time I can get up the courage to tell them.

– holly

Location: Salt Lake City, UT and Washington, DC

Street Harassment in Oakland

August 14, 2008

My name is Teresita and I have been living in Oakland, CA since i was born, and I really loath it when i’m just mindin my own business and some random guy thinks it’s ok to put his hands on me to stop me in my tracks. I’ve been having that problem for quite some time now. I just feel that a women shouldn’t have to change the way she dresses because it will give guys the impression she “wants him”. Women shouldn’t have to be afraid of what to wear or even afraid to go outside her house! A strategy i use is that i listen to my ipod….i’m lucky at times to get away with it. Unfortunately, it does not always guarantee that the random will leave me alone. If my ipod method doesn’t work, the guy will always end up blocking my path ( I’m talking right in front of me!!!) or him grabbing my arm. Also, the guy will happen to follow me if i don’t answer. Then when i ignore him (which is what i do most of the time but doesn’t always work either) he’ll get pissed off and prefer to call me names like “lesbian”, “bitch”, or “fuck you skank”.

I want to be able to let the stranger know that i have no intentions of giving my number or trying to get to know him at all! I want to let the guy know that i want to be left alone with out conflict or it ending up in me spraying his face with mace and then shooting him with a tazzer gun consistently. I really want to be able to say something instead of being silent about it.