“So I have blue eyes. So I’m young. So I’m alone. So What. Stop harassing me, please!”

October 30, 2009

I am a young teacher who lives in a western EU country. I dress in attractive but fairly conservative clothes daily, usually with a nice pair of plain high-heeled shoes or boots. I have a “good figure” but a plain face; I’m really not very pretty or beautiful, just young. I’m single by choice for now, and I’ve personally decided to wait to have sex until/if I get married. I am NOT deliberately trying to attract male attention by my dress or manner, nor do I appreciate the following “advances” (also, no woman or man should experience such comments, no matter what s/he is wearing or what their level of sexuality is perceived to be!):

While on my way to work in the middle of the day in any area of my city, I get catcalled by a variety of men on the street. If I walk home from work at dusk, the comments only intensify. Old men, young men. Creepy men, adolescent boys. Whoever. They might say something fairly “benign,” such as, “You have very beautiful eyes” or they might say something very frightening, such as (approximately), “I want to bang you, b*tch.” Or just make some utterly degrading animal sound, laughing and giving their buddies a round of high-fives. Or, worst of all, pull over (nice car, beat up car–any class of men has its bottom-feeders), making such sounds from their car, then driving away, laughing maniacally.

I do not appreciate these comments AT ALL. If you think I have beautiful eyes, then appreciate them from afar instead of whispering a comment in my ear while I’m walking past you. I don’t care what your “complimentary” intentions are. I’m trying to get to my job or to walk home or to run some errands, or maybe I’m just enjoying the day. There’s nothing that will wipe the smile off of my face faster than these comments. My policy is to ignore any comments, although somehow I can’t help looking painfully shocked by a remark/drive-by yell. Additionally, sometimes these comments rattle me and I can’t do my job as well as I’d like.

I can’t drive or walk with a friend if I don’t like it. I don’t have a car right now–can’t afford it!–and the bus doesn’t run that often. My friends all live in a different area of the city.

I am so sick of these comments! I am not an angry or impatient person–I’m a very patient elementary school teacher! I just want to be treated with the same dignity that should be extended to all women, men, boys, and girls. These comments don’t even make me angry; rather, I feel sorry for men who feel that they have to stoop to this level. Please, just give me the dignity of silence. Old and young alike, female and male, no one should be treated like this.

– Tired Teacher

Location: Western EU Country

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.


Leave us alone

October 28, 2009

davinic

He loooves running! (when we run together, he's on a leash)

Last Friday my partner and I adopted a shelter dog. He loves running and so do I, so I’ve taken him running with me for a few miles several times.

I live in an area where thankfully I am rarely harassed while running. Two of the times I’ve taken my dog running with me, however,  I’ve been honked and hooted at by men in three different vehicles, including a delivery truck yesterday. He and I are still getting adjusted to each other and to running together.  Having men honk and hoot at us is NOT HELPING. It’s startling and distracting for both of us. It’s rude. It’s upsetting.

– Holly

Location: Reston, VA

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.


The cost of living in a patriarchal society

October 27, 2009

On Saturday, a group of teenage boys gang raped a 15 year old girl for two-and-a-half hours outside a high school homecoming dance in Northern California. Police say as many as four teenage boys raped her and probably as many as 15 boys stood around watching, doing nothing to stop it or help her.

CNN is reporting that “The victim was found unconscious and ‘brutally assaulted’ under a bench shortly before midnight Saturday, after police received a call from someone in the area who had overheard people at the assault scene ‘reminiscing about the incident.'”

These boys brutalized her so badly that she was in critical condition and had to be flown to hospital. As of Monday, she is in stable condition. Everything about this incident and its outcome are upsetting and outrageous!! (Including CNN using the passive voice to describe the incident and engaging in subtle victim blaming by printing a quote from someone who said she ended up with the guys of her own free will.)

While one of the police officers investigating the case says he can’t believe not one of the bystanders did anything, I am not. Maddeningly, her damaged body, and likely damaged life, is the outcome of living in a patriarchal society where boys and men are encouraged and encourage each other to be aggressive and prove their masculinity through sexual “conquests.”

In my street harassment book research, I’ve learned a lot about this, including male homosociality, which is the idea that many men are socialized to be more eager to please other men than women and may use women as pawns to prove their masculinity and impress each other. Telling sexist jokes and harassing and assaulting women (particularly gang rape) are examples of this behavior. In the Macho Paradox, Jackson Katz discussed in great length how men may feel pressured to participate in or stand quietly by while their friends participate in sexist and even violent behaviors in order to be accepted and “manly.”

The definition of masculinity in our society is so narrowly defined that actions like showing compassion, standing up to “manly” men, and not engaging in sexist or violent behavior – and telling other men to stop – threatens it and what it means “to be a man.” Some men even harass and beat up other men who threaten the definition (most notably, male members of the LGBQT community). So it’s easier for most men to stay quiet and/or participate.

This all directly relates to street harassment, too. For example, the more than 800 women who took my informal, anonymous online survey last fall said they are more fearful when they are harassed by a man who is part of a group or by multiple men in a group than when a lone man harasses them.

If you ask girls and women how they would feel about encountering a group of guys while they’re alone in a deserted area, I bet the fear of gang rape and assault would be quite tangible, even if the men did not harass them. Why? Because even if we don’t know terms like “homosociality” or “hegemonic masculinity” and haven’t read the theories behind such terms, we know that most men are less like to stop or to listen to women when they are in groups. We know they want to impress their friends and many of them will do that at all costs. We know it’s best to book it out of there as fast as we can before they decide to do anything. And guess what, even if this isn’t true of all men, we don’t know which ones it will be true for. Our safety is not worth the risk of trusting a group of male strangers. (and if you say that’s unfair to boys and men who don’t hurt women, I agree, let’s do something about it!)

Katz and groups like Men Can Stop Rape work on bystander intervention with men, including brainstorming and role playing ways they can intervene when they hear sexist talk and witness gender-based violence. They discuss issues of masculinity and the importance of speaking out even if its scary and emphasize that chances, are there are other guys who feel the same way but are too scared to speak out. It’s very important work and I hope more and more groups will use incorporate bystander work in their efforts to make the world a safer place.

Also, working to ease gender socialization and the values given to each gender and their stereotyped traits is important work and it is something we can all do in our daily lives. We can help make sure men – and women – are not penalized for speaking out when they see something wrong. For example we can  eliminate language like “pussy” “wuss” and “girl” when talking about male behavior that is not “macho” and not make fun of boys or men who show their sensitive side. We can encourage people we know to always stand up for what is right even if they think it will make them unpopular. And we can do the same (This is something I struggle with. When I look back at my life, the times I feel most ashamed of myself are when I was too scared to speak up to someone bullying someone else).

Thoughts?


Followed home from class

October 26, 2009

Once, I was walking home from class, and a man in a car starting making cat calls at me. Then, he followed me in his car, pulled over, got out and started calling after me some more. This was in the middle of the day on a busy street.

I took my cell phone out and dialed 911, but never called the police. I walked home as quickly as possible and called my mother to tell her what happened. I was terrified that he saw where I lived and would come back to hurt me. I thankfully never saw him again.

– anonymous

Location: Minneapolis, MN

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Include your location and it will be added to the Street Harassment Map.


Help Bring RightRides to Washington DC!

October 23, 2009

(Cross-posted from HollaBack DC)

How much would you love to see safe, free rides for women and LGBTQ  individuals on weekends through a partnership with Holla Back DC! and Zipcar?  Wouldn’t that be cool?  Well, we want to bring a  RightRides chapter to the DC metro area.

To make this a reality, Holla Back DC! is asking you to vote for this idea through Ideablob.  If we win, half of that $10K would be used to bring RightRides to DC.  But we need YOU to make it happen! We urge you to take one minute to register through Ideablob and vote for HBDC!  A vote for us is a vote for a safer DC for all.  And hey, good ideas spread, so get your friends and family in other places to vote to make our nation’s capital a safe place!

Read about our plans, register, vote, and spread the word.

As always, a heartfelt thank you for your votes and continued support.  Holla Back DC! is a community initiative that would not be possible without the loving support from people like you and the DC metro community.

Alright, off our PBS soap box. :)

– Holla Back DC


Shake your breasts

October 21, 2009

In Mogadishu, Somalia, there are Muslim extremists patrolling the streets and whipping people acting “inappropriately.” For men, this means not having a beard. For women, this means wearing a bra.

Someone can look at a man and determine if he has a beard or not. To find out if women “have natural firmness or if there is assistance from a bra,” the extremists are making them shake their breasts and otherwise publicly scrutinize their breasts. The Australian Herald reports this is sometimes being done at gunpoint. The Daily Mail quotes a woman saying,  “

“‘Al Shabaab forced us to wear their type of full veil and now they order us to shake our breasts,’ a resident, Halima, told Reuters, adding that her daughters had been whipped on Thursday. They  are now saying that breasts should be firm naturally, or just flat.'”

While both reasons for whipping people are ridiculous, at least a man who wants to “play by the rules” can grow a beard and everyone will see that he has grown one.  But women who “play by the rules” and don’t wear a bra still risk being publicly humiliated by this invasive scrutiny to determine whether or not they are wearing a bra.

I’ve never heard of someone being made to shake their breasts because the oppressor viewed a bra as bad — have you? Has this happened or does it happen any where else?


The real question is why do men street harass?

October 21, 2009

Why Do Men Catcall?” is an article currently on Alternet.org’s homepage.  The topic of why men harass and abuse women makes me mad – just ask my male partner how I behaved toward him during the week when I was writing my chapter on why men street harass women. I’ll save you the trouble and answer: I was a ball of rage generally and toward him if he did anything that hinted of male privilege – so I’m not going to get too into this.

I do quickly want to point out something I wrote in my comment on the story that I think the author misses: regardless of whether men mean catcalls as compliments or not, the act of intruding on a woman’s space to offer an evaluative comment or noise (positive or negative) demonstrates a sense of entitlement and that they think it’s their RIGHT as men to do so.

It’s the kind of entitlement that some abled bodied people may show toward persons with disabilities (ie believing they can push them out of the way if they’re in a wheelchair) or some white people may show toward persons of color (how many African American women have had white people think it’s okay to touch their hair?). Again, a lack of respect by the person intruding comes into play.

If men really wanted to compliment a woman or meet a woman, they would say hello in a respectful, non threatening way etc and as they got to know her, they’d offer her a real compliment, not just something vulgar like “nice ass.” See Shapely Prose’s excellent guest post on this topic.

My last point –  from my research, I’ve found that most women have experienced a scary form of street harassment, such as men stalking, touching, or assaulting them. Why do people who write these types of articles never focus on that reality and why men engage in those behaviors? Instead they always focus on the “hey baby”‘s. They’re related and, really, the conversation should be about all forms of gender-based public harassment and assault, but my problem is that the only conversations I see outside of feminist sites about street harassment only focus on catcalls and whether or not they’re compliments.  It detracts from the larger and more complex experiences women have in public because they’re female.