Are you looking for ideas for anti-street harassment activism? University of Southern California graduate student Lani Shotlow Rincon has plenty. In this interview, she shares what she’s been up to on her campus.
Stop Street Harassment (SSH): What’s your three sentence bio?
Lani Shotlow-Rincon (LSR): I’m a multiracial woman, navigating my way through graduate school, working towards building my knowledge of intersectionality, gender based violence, and technology. I research as much as I can, while making time to read historical romance novels. Currently, I’m searching for a way to be impactful in the world.
SSH: Tell me a about your street harassment project.
LSR: The “Don’t Call Me Baby” project was created for my class on designing public campaigns. My project outlined how an effective campaign could be created for the USC Campus area. It included both entertainment education tactics with a web series focused on 3 college women experiencing street harassment, an art exhibit (inspired from the blank noise project) with donated clothing that has inspired street harassment, a flash mob occurring during high traffic times on campus, and PSA components created to publicize and give a name to harassment most women experience in the area. Overall, my project created an action plan to address street harassment comprehensively in the USC campus area.
SSH: Sounds amazing!. What inspired it?
LSR: I was inspired to focus on street harassment for my project based on my personal experience with it. Culminating in the summer of 2010, I was harassed repeatedly over a few days so relentlessly that I became utterly frustrated. Exasperated I started googling my experience…and this led me to the stopstreetharassment.com website. It felt so great to finally put a name to that awful experience…street harassment. Since then, I have become increasingly focused on the subject.
SSH: Related, how has street harassment impacted your life?
LSR: Since the age of 12 I have been harassed in public. It usually occurred twice a day as I walked to elementary, jr. high and high school. When I hit puberty and began to develop, the harassment and attention I received in public became excruciatingly uncomfortable for me. I internalized the harassment and became very self-conscious about my body and my appearance. In large part, my low body self-esteem led to being diagnosed with an eating disorder a few years ago. Now, I’m currently in recovery but every time I am street harassed I struggle with it. Being an advocate against street harassment has helped me channel my hurt around it, helping me cope with its effects.
SSH: Your experiences sadly show why it’s so important for society to acknowledge and address street harassment! I’m glad you’re being able to turn personal frustration into action. What was the outcome of your campus project?
LSR: Although my project created much interest in my class and with my professors, the respondents who I showed my creative PSA advertisements did not respond strongly to the messaging. I believe that the public needs a deeper understanding and awareness of street harassment. More campaigns are needed “to name the harm” for other women.
SSH: You are so right. What do you plan to do next regarding street harassment?
LSR: I want to use my upcoming thesis to understand how violence against women can be combated through new technologies. I believe this is especially relevant to the fight against street harassment, as mobile apps like those created by ihollaback, are increasingly showing the scope of public sexual harassment.
SSH: Do you have any advice for someone dealing with street harassment and/or for someone who wants to address it in their community or campus?
LSR: I believe the best advice for someone dealing with street harassment is to take the course of action they feel most comfortable with. Whether that be cursing at the harasser or walking right on by. The important thing is to cope actively with the harassment by acknowledging its impact at some point during or after the harassment.
Thank you for your insight, Lani! I can’t wait to see what you do next.