“Upskirt” photography filed under “life & style”?

February 25, 2009

In the last year or so I’ve read a few articles about men taking photos up women’s skirts or down their shirts in public places, usually without the woman’s knowledge. Last September I wrote about a victory against this crass behavior in NYC when a man there got arrested for taking a photo up a woman’s skirt at a subway station.

Upskirting is gross, a violation of privacy, but not often illegal (laws aren’t keeping pace with technology). A recent article in the Guardian says it’s also a problem in the UK (unsurprising). Go read it if you’re unfamiliar with “upskirting.”

Tonight as I read the article, I particularly was struck by its placement: in the women’s section of “Life & style.” Since when does men taking photos up women’s skirts without their permission or without their knowledge qualify as “stylish” and why should it be something that women have to put up with in their “life”? Other categories under life and style include fashion, food, fitness, crafts, family, and relationships. “Soft” news categories. Why isn’t this considered “hard”  news? Because it’s a “women’s” issue? Guess what, men are the ones doing it so it’s a men’s issue too. Put it in the News section. I bet not many men go to the “women’s” section of the “life & style” section of the news website and they need to read these stories.

Me being upset over this placement may seem silly but it reflects how important the harassment of women in public is to the people in charge of the news – not very. I’ve found articles on other forms of street harassment relegated to these sections too. “Living” and “Style” … Thanks for letting only women know they’re being violated, harassed, and assaulted in the streets (something many already know from personal experience) but also for making sure they realize their problem is only a “soft” news issues of no major concern. So yeah, even though men are perpetrating it, don’t talk to them about it; they must focus on “manly” things instead in the hard news section…

Getting an apology

February 24, 2009

Once walking at night a guy stepped in front of me then when I moved over he did as well. I was freaked out but yelled at him that he was a jerk and asked him how he would feel if I was his sister or girlfriend. He then apologized.

BACK UP! Street harassment video

February 23, 2009

“Sidewalks, street crossings, corridors, and concrete are hostile territory for women and girls who experience verbal and physical assault from men on a daily basis.

This is the official trailer for the feature length documentary that explores how women deal with this daily violence. It will especially look at how women are fighting back and defining their own personal and public spaces.The documentary adds to a bustling dialogue on gender and body politics, as it delves into women’s rights to exist freely in society.

We just edited the first 30-minute version of the documentary and are in continual production. If you have experienced, witnessed, been involved in, and/or taken a stand against street harassment and have a perspective or story to share, PLEASE contact Nijla Mumin at Nijla1@gmail.com. Please also watch out for BACK UP! at a film festival or community forum near you!”

From AOL Video. My thanks to Dienna for the tip

It happens in Nepal, too

February 18, 2009
Image from Universit of Colorado at Boulder's Website

Public transportation seems to be a great place for men to harass women. From India to Mexico to Japan to New York City to London, it is not an uncommon experience. Now I know it’s a problem in Nepal, too, thanks to a recent news article.

“Commuting in congested public transport vehicles is an ordeal in itself. Being subjected to sexual harassment at the same time makes the whole process an unbearable and unavoidable chore for the fairer sex; particularly those of such a young age.

Pushing and shoving is a common sight in buses and microbuses during morning and evening rush hours, and the intensity increases if there is a young lady around. The conversations of surrounding men begin to take on vulgar connotations.

While light-hearted flirting may add some spice to anotherwise unpleasant journey, getting physical crosses the line of decency, taking the fun out of it altogether.’We regularly face harassment while using public transport,’ says Pratima, a twelfth-grader at VS Niketan. ‘We don´t mind some friendly flirting, but they (boys) don´t stop at that and start to talk nonsense.’

‘We dread crowded buses, but we have to board them. We cannot miss our college, can we?’ her classmate Anita adds. ‘The khalasis (helpers/conductors) are always on a lookout for excuse to get their hands on us.’ ….

Lack of legal remedy doesn´t help matters. ‘There is no separate law to handle the issue. One can complain about such harassments under the Public Offense Act, but nothing much can be done as it is very difficult to provide concrete evidence of such offenses,’ says Rita Mainali, assistant professor in Human Rights and Gender Justice at the Kathmandu School of Law…”

The injustices women face just trying to get to and from work and school worldwide is depressing. Today, thinking about it also makes me feel tired and weighed down 😦

Cowardly drive-by harassers

February 17, 2009

I was at a trailer park visiting family and walking back to their site from the restroom along the side of the roadway.  A car drove past with 3 people inside, and the male in the front passenger seat yelled “Cow!” at me as they drove past. All three started laughing, and I’m left walking by myself, not really sure how to react. When I got back to the site, I was in tears because I am sensitive about being overweight, because it was three boys picking on a single girl and the cowards were too chicken shit to actually face me, and because I didn’t get to retaliate and say something back to put them in their place. It makes me angry that they would go out of their way to ruin someone else’s day like that.

V Day

February 14, 2009

Today is V-Day and people around the U.S. and world are taking action to end men’s violence against women. Access anti-violence resources, find an event in your community, and/or donate to help support the movement.

Today I volunteered with the Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network. I do so a few times each month as an Online Hotline volunteer, and today I did so as my V-Day activism. Are you participating in a V-Day event or related activism? If so, what?

To end, here’s a turning-the-tables on street harassment story from my informal survey:

“A SUV full of high school boys were yelling at me and whistling while I was walking my dog. They continued down the street and got stuck at a stop sign behind a bus. I had time to walk down to where they were, get right up to their window and made them wish they weren’t there. When the tables were turned, they had no power.”

Hopefully they’ll think twice before harassing someone in the future!

Horrors of Street Harassment: A Letter (Part 2)

February 12, 2009

Even going out with my boyfriend is uncomfortable. We don’t go out much, but sometimes we have obligatory things to do, like friends parties, art shows, film openings and the like. I hate them all. If we go to a party or have to go to a lounge, leers come from all sorts of men-The most bewildering are men who have their own girlfriends in their arms while they leer at others! Any bar/lounge/restaurant is uncomfortable.

On my birthday last year we went to a fancy restaurant/lounge in Malibu, and a scary, older man was leering at me for some time. I felt like a piece of braised brisket. As soon as my boyfriend left our corner to refill our drinks, the man came over and rubbed up against me even though he had plenty of room. I asked him to step away from me, and he didn’t heed my request until my boyfriend returned and told him to buzz off.

Another quasi recent time was when we went to Medieval Times-The place with the horses where you eat w/ your hands. We were waiting in the court area and a man with girlfriend in tow kept leering in my eyes, very aggressively like he was going to beat me up! These leers are not sexy. They are frightening, and are intended to be demeaning.
Later when we went in to wait for seat, the same man found me again, and continued the terror. Understand, this isn’t an innocent glance. I kept walking around my boyfriend trying to find places where my BF would block the harasser’s view, but the harasser kept moving about to keep me in his eye site.

That’s what it is. Its harassment, intended to dehumanize.

It happened at Disneyland. Once, my boyfriend and I were just being seated into the CA Screaming roller coaster, and apparently there was a group of college aged emo kids behind us in line. One of them noticed me, and bent his whole body over the railing to leer in my eyes. I turned the other way so not to make eye contact, but when I looked back the kid was still aggressively leering at me.

Flipping the bird, staring back or being verbally crass yourself doesn’t fend off the terrorists. It only provokes them.

Waiting in the ride lines at Disney is no pick nick. Last time we went, a family was behind us while we waited for space mountain; a couple teens, parents and a grampa. Throughout the whole hour wait, the grampa stood so close to me his chest and belly rubbed against my back. Every time I would change spots, or step forward he would follow, and rub against me again. He even tried to maneuver around my boyfriend to stand near me. It makes me even not want to go to Disney anymore. The leerers are so numerous, its impossible to account for each one-Each stare that makes me sink lower and lower into my shell.

Even trips, vacations-anywhere-It’s never ending. We went to visit some distant relatives in Louisiana for Christmas, and eating at places there, walking down streets of the boonies was hardly different, however less populated. Beeps at red lights, ‘hollers’, and the ever dreaded ‘leer’ remained a constant. We went to eat tiny lobsters at some Cajun seafood joint, and one man at a table beside ours kept staring at me in the eye. To what purpose, I wonder? It made me feel mortally uncomfortable the whole dinner, and he sat with 6 kids and a woman. I wanted to crawl under a rock, and never come out.

A few years ago I was at Logan Airport flying back to LA, and a scary man was glaring intensely at me for about 20 minutes, with that crude ‘I’m undressing you in my mind’ look; The type of leer you can feel like a heat ray, even if you don’t look back. ( It was the same situation as the Medieval Times episode, where I kept trying to move around and use my boyfriend’s body to block the man’s view-He kept maneuvering to keep me in his sight.)  I flipped him the bird, said ‘what are you staring at?’  It made a small scene and United nearly barred my entry onto the plane- They made me stand to the side while I cried and while the flight attended yelled at me, so every passenger who boarded could give me a dirty look.  They then had me come on the plane last after the pilot ‘OK’d’ me, but only because my boyfriend would not board-They were trying to insist he board the plane without me because I wasn’t allowed.  It was absolutely humiliating, and all because I didn’t want to be stared at like a piece of meat- Note that I didn’t start crying until I was told I wasn’t allowed on the plane for flipping the bird at another passenger. (Yes, it was wholly inappropriate for me to raise voice in a busy airport, but I stressed, hadn’t slept in 3 days and was tired of the BS and being stared at, while attempting to avoid the harasser).  This is a major reason I’ve given up-I used to ‘fight back’, but after the airport incident, I stopped.

These are only instances about street harassment, and only the ones I remember in detail without much contemplation. This doesn’t account for all the times my mother’s husband undresses me with his eyes, the number of times he’s pinched my butt or reached down my pants for a ‘thong wedgie’, or the time he grabbed my genitals.

Nor does this account for the several times I received unsolicited ‘back rubs’ and ‘butt slaps’ from managers and bosses at different jobs, then was fired for complaining. This doesn’t account for harassment and discomfort by customers and clients at different jobs, either.
This is only the fear and dehumanization I’ve experienced from complete strangers in public places.

Please stop this, so I can come out of my house, and be able to walk to the bank or the video store or the art store without fear. So maybe I can go to the garden store again, or enjoy a ride a Disney or a meal at a restaurant without wishing I had worn a burka instead of a pants suit, or shants and a t-shirt.
Thank You.