Weekly Round Up: October 31, 2010

October 31, 2010

Story Submissions Recap:

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

In the News, On the Blogs:


10 Tweets from the Week:

Street harassment survey for Toronto Org

October 29, 2010

HollaBack is partnering with a group called METRAC to do a survey on street harassment.  They are hoping to use the results to build an iPhone app in their hometown of Toronto, Canada.

Please take the survey! Thanks

NYC Street Harassment Hearing is a Success!

October 28, 2010

Today I had the honor of testifying with 17 other women and men at a city council hearing about the problem of street harassment in New York City. Those who testified included representatives of groups like HollaBack, Girls for Gender Equity, RightRides, NYC-NOW, and Center for Anti-Violence Education, journalist Elizabeth Mendez Berry, the amazing 14-year-old performer/singer The Astronomical Kid, and many community members (including my mother). Every single testimony was powerful, heartfelt, and important.

Each person had about 5 minutes to speak, and I was asked to talk about the global problem and offer policy suggestions. I’m working to collect the testimonies of everyone who spoke to post here so people who couldn’t attend can read them. The official testimonies won’t be available for weeks. To start, here is my testimony and here is the testimony of high school student Grace.

[Update: View or read 10 testimonies from the hearing on my Stop Street Harassment website page for the hearing]

I was able to record all or part of several testimonies and I uploaded them to the Stop Street Harassment YouTube Channel:

Watch testimonies from the hearing

This is historic because it is the first time a major U.S. city has held a hearing on this topic and NYC is one of the largest and most influential cities in the world!!

Julissa Ferreras chaired the meeting and she truly understood and heard us on this issue, as did the other council members. I am grateful to her for organizing the hearing. By the end, she said they would like to pursue the first city-wide study of street harassment and launch an awareness campaign. This is huge. This is social change.

Here’s the HollaBack recap.

Many members of the press were in attendance, including someone from the AP. AP journalist Sara Kugler Frazier wrote an article and already the following media outlets have picked up the story: Washington Post, MSNBC, Boston Globe, NY Post, Salon, Yahoo, Huffington Post, Canadian Press, AJC, USA News, and Kansas City Star. The NY Metro, AM New York, the NYC CBS News, TampaBay.comFox News, and Gothamist also wrote stories. I spoke with a blogger for Ms. so I know it will be covered there, too.

This is amazing coverage for this important issue. I hope every city takes notice and considers holding their own street harassment hearing and working on community solutions for making their city safer and more welcoming for women!

Fox News NYC City Council Street Harassment Hearing Clip

DC could learn something from Madrid

October 27, 2010

Some good new to share for a change:

I’ve lived in DC for the past 4 years, and have posted here many times about what horrifying, vulgar and threatening street harassment I’ve encountered in our nation’s capitol. At the end of August I posted about my experience being attacked and sexually violated by a man in Columbia Heights.

The experience, especially after 4 years of extreme harassment, left me feeling exhausted and terribly vulnerable. I had just been accepted into a program where I’d be teaching English in Madrid, Spain for 3 months, and I felt terrified at the idea of going to a foreign country as a female alone after everything I’d experienced in DC.

Well, I’ve been here in Madrid for exactly one month now, and I’m happy to report that I haven’t had ONE SINGLE PROBLEM since arriving in Spain. I walk all over town every single day, and I’ve yet to hear a harassing word or sound uttered at me, nor have I received a single leering look! If the men here are admiring me, they are being utterly respectful and classy about it. I feel remarkably safe, and have even had a few men that I’ve met through meetup groups offer to walk me to the metro if it’s late at the end of the night, just to ensure that I am safe.

I can’t express how relieved I feel. The idea of returning to the exhausting world of DC street harassment upon my completion of this program is off-putting indeed.

I just thought it deserved noting that in Madrid, Spain, then men are actually NOT behaving like depraved animals toward lone women on the streets. DC could learn a little something from this city, and from this culture.

– B.

Location: Madrid, Spain

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.

“I should really have a talk with my sixty-three-year-old mother about her slutty boots”

October 27, 2010

I’m in graduate school and am 30 years old. I wore the knee-high, black sweet boots with a chunky heel (my mother’s) to school last week with a sundress and black suit jacket over it. As I was walking home, the following exchange occurred:

Man working on the street: “[KISS NOISE] Hello!”

Me: “Did you just make a kiss noise at me?”

Man: “No.”

Me: “OK. Good. Just checking.”

And I walked on by, not missing a beat. For the first time.

Was it the boots? I should really have a talk with my sixty-three-year-old mother about her slutty boots that communicate a desire for sexual advances from strangers (as if that would grant permission). I should have a talking-to with that suit jacket, too.

– Rachel

Location: New Haven, CT

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.

Goodbye, miniskirt?

October 26, 2010

In a push to “restore urban decorum and facilitate better civil co-existence,” Luigi Bobbio, the mayor of the Italian seaside town Castellammare di Stabia, wants to ban “anti-social behavior.” Okay, so probably sexual harassment, racial harassment, bullying, and so forth, right?


The mayor claims he wants to target people who are “rowdy, unruly or simply badly behaved,” and to him, this entails people who are sunbathing, playing football in public places, engaging in “blasphemy,” and…. wearing miniskirts and low cut jeans.


There’s a lot one could say about this, but I’m going to focus on what is street harassment-related.

First, I want to say that I’m pretty tired of people (including other women) blaming women’s clothes for causing the harassment and violence men perpetrated against them. I heard that a lot in the past two weeks when I was traveling through California, Alaska, and Iowa, talking about street harassment. (“…Well, the way girls dress these days…”) This is flawed logic because women experience harassment and assault no matter what they wear (men have harassed me the most and the most explicitly when I’m wearing bagging running clothes, sweaty and red faced) and the idea that some clothes are provocative and others are not are cultural constructs that vary by culture! The problem is not women or their clothes.

I am certain that banning types of clothing alone will not cut down on “unruly” behavior. Most women in Yemen and Egypt, most of whom are veiled and otherwise modestly dressed, experience harassment in public spaces. That makes it crystal clear the problem isn’t women’s clothes but societies which encourage and allow men to harass women without consequence. Until that changes in Italy, they can ban miniskirts all they want and the harassment will continue.

The people who harass the sunbathers or women wearing miniskirts and low cut jeans are the ones whose behavior needs to change. Perhaps the mayor and the town should spend their time launching awareness campaigns about treating people with respect, no matter what they are wearing, and making sure that is taught in schools.

I’m glad that the NYC Council is holding a hearing on Thursday to discuss street harassment and what we can do about it in a logical, thoughtful way, instead of trying to ban certain clothes. Or segregate women from men like some countries have resorted to doing on public transportation because the harassment is so bad there. If you’re in the NYC area, come out at 1 p.m. on Thursday to share your street harassment experiences and ideas for making the city safer for women and girls!

“I am so sick of entitled assholes thinking they can speak to me any way they want”

October 26, 2010

Trigger Warning

This isn’t a street harassment story, but rather a story of harassment in a bar. Still, I think it is relevant to the message of this blog, so I’m writing it.

The other night, I was out for drinks with a girlfriend. We were in a nice little jazz bar having a glass of wine. We were talking, laughing and enjoying ourselves when a man approached and started some fun, flirtatious banter with us. He invited us to sit with him and his friend, and we agreed.

My friend started talking to his friend, and they seemed to hit it off. I struck up a conversation with the guy, Shawn. He seemed nice for about five minutes, although he was a little more touchy than I was comfortable with.

He asked me how old I thought he was.

“30.” I replied. He looked surprised. “35?” I asked.

“That wasn’t very nice,” he said.

“Well,” I said, smiling. “I suppose I’m not a nice girl.”

“Watch it,” he said. “I could choke you without even trying.”

I was shocked. My history involves an abusive relationship in which choking was a regular part of our fights. In that relationship, I feared for my life. I still feel grateful for having survived. I felt myself shake with rage and sadness, feeling violated at being threatened and at the same time angry that this jerk could remind me of my painful past when I was out with a friend trying to socialize, relax and enjoy myself like a normal person.

I got up and walked away from the table, stopping briefly to tell my friend that I didn’t want to sit with him anymore. She moved over and let me sit next to her.

Shawn leaned over and asked my friend, as if I wasn’t there, why on earth I would be offended by his ‘joke.’ I told him off, saying that it is in no way funny to threaten someone. My friend backed me up, giving him a lecture on how to have respect for women. I told him, firmly, that I am a person and deserve to be treated like a person, with respect and dignity.

He got up and proceeded to lean in and maul me with his face and hands. My fighting instincts kicked in and I stood up, pushing him away. “Get the fuck away from me!” I screamed. “Don’t fucking touch me!”

“What the fuck,” he slurred. “I was trying to apologize.”

“Oh, that’s how you apologize? By invading someone’s space? That’s acceptable behavior to you?” I was shouting at this point, and I really didn’t care.

“She never says fuck,” my friend said. “See? You obviously don’t have a clue.”

“Well, whatever, it was a joke,” he said, coming in again to touch me.

This time, I pushed him against the bar. I’m tougher than I look, you see.

“Keep your fucking hands off of me!” I screamed. He shook his head and went back to his table. My friend and I found another table where we finished our wine and paid our tab.

I was furious for the rest of the evening. I am so sick of misogyny. I am so sick of entitled assholes thinking they can speak to me any way they want and that I should endure their threats and the humiliation of being manhandled for their entertainment. Is it too much to expect common courtesy in bars and pubs?

– Margaret

Location: Vancouver, BC

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.