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The following post has been reblogged countless times on Tumblr. When I read it, I felt that I had to share it with you guys.
Concerning street harassment, one of the major issues people have to deal with is that frequently, the police force won’t help. Especially in countries where women do not have the same rights politically and/or culturally, women must often deal with the fear and trauma while realizing there isn’t a system backing them up. As far as street harassment goes, the news has seen a prevalence of comments by men and women claiming their city’s police force has shrugged their shoulders, or worse, laughed. And let’s not even get started on the security in Cairo…
According to The Daily Star, women in Lebanon have frequently commented on an increased issue with public masturbators. A member of the sexual harassment initiative, Adventures of Salwa, said public masturbation is often discussed in the organization’s workshops and meetings. Furthermore, the web forum Resistant Forum Lebanon has also seen a flurry of comments about the disgust and helplessness victims have felt when dealing with a public masturbator. According to the article, Lebanese law prohibits indecent public exposure, but there is no law to decree this behavior as sexual harassment. Women believe, as one woman tells The Daily Star, that the police will probably laugh at them since reporting it is so unheard of.
If I wanted to write down all the unresolved street/sexual harassment cases occurring in the past day, it would probably take me the entire day to do so. That is why Hollaback! is here. If we all spoke up about what’s actually going on in daily life to women (and more frequently than we think, men), and unified all our efforts, I think the Internet may become the watchdog and security necessary to finally abolishing this problem.no comments
Last week, a young woman named Kelsey (last name undisclosed) punched a man after he made a “rape joke” about a woman who rejected his advances. Afterwards, Kelsey took to her Tumblr and published a post about how she did not regret her actions and added a photo of herself grinning with a busted hand. The blog post created chaos; thousands reposted her words and hundreds were sending her messages. While Jezebel writer Katie J.M Baker deemed her a hero, Kelsey received so much negative feedback (including messages telling her that she deserved to be raped) that she posted a comment acknowledging violence as the wrong reaction, but admitted she still did not regret her actions. Kelsey explained, “I’m not telling people to go out and hit ‘everybody who offends you’ (though many of you are believing that was the point). However, I do believe that serious action needs to be taken towards rape culture.” The threats and harsh comments caused her to remove the blog and give her story to the police.
After reading a few blog reactions and comments about Kelsey, I was confused about how I felt. I was mainly disgusted by the negative commenters, who seemed to disturbingly loathe the twenty-year-old girl. I would never advocate violence from a victim or bystander, but commenters called her derogatory terms, said the man should have punched her back (if she wants life to be fair) and argued that she was just as bad as the man for reacting violently. I read several responses to Kelsey telling her to get the joke; he would have never actually raped the woman.
So here is my problem. Kelsey should not have done what she had done. Violence is never the answer ever. However, in no way is it acceptable for Internet users to victimize and degrade her for speaking out on her blog. I have to raise the question: if a man punched another man for making an obscene joke threat, would the Internet try to break him down? Would people threaten him until he felt the need to go to the police and rescind into anonymity? Kelsey acted irresponsibly, but a large amount of people decided to enact their own consequences upon her. Through bullying and harassment, they succeeded in quieting another voice. In my personal opinion, they behaved in a more dangerous manner than Kelsey did. She went to the police, admitted her crime and now she’s just hoping she’s safe. What consequences will these Internet users receive for their actions?no comments
Unfortunately, spring was a busy season for all and not enough posts were published on this website. Good thing summer is a time of rest (somewhat), and we are refreshed and motivated to continue the efforts to challenge street harassment in San Luis Obispo and support our friends nationally and internationally.
I have been noticing a recent spike in articles, blogs and speeches about street harassment, and several factors seem to be pushing for momentum. As noted in the Huffington Post, the voices of women protestors and victims during the Arab Spring charged women all over the world to speak up. More locally, the Senate deliberations on birth control has caused a flurry of (rightfully) furious Americans to start calling out all societal issues affecting women’s rights. Another factor, and maybe I’ve noticed it because I write for this website, is the gaining popularity in American grassroots movements against harassment.
As Hollaback founder Emily May notes in a recent Spin article, America has always been attracted to non-governmental leadership. Just like the protests in the sixties and seventies, Americans find strength in the voices of the people — the civilians who are tired of problems the government hasn’t solved. Hollaback is one great example of a movement emerging from the people and carried on by the people. Except instead of picket signs, Hollaback has the Internet and accessible technology to be loud and say a resounding NO to street harassment. With a smart phone, a computer or really an Internet connection of any sort, you can become another voice and change things for not just San Luis Obispo, but for every victim that needs a support system to back them up.
We have a lot of new ideas for this website and we can’t wait to start including more people in the efforts. If you need a helping hand, a sympathetic ear or a place to vent, please do not hesitate to utilize Hollaback. It is more than just a website; it is the vehicle to end a long-suffered history of danger, discomfort and abuse when a homie simply wants to walk down the street.no comments
D.C.’s ABC 7 and The Washington Post report the recent attacks of seven people by taxi drivers while in the cab. Six of the seven victims were woman. Fortunately, D.C. has decided to take initiative and panic buttons will be installed in the cabs by December.
Is this street harassment? I definitely believe so. While the victims were in enclosed spaces, they were putting the same trust in taxis that they do when walking down the street. In the minds of Americans, taxis are part of the public domain, and it is entirely normal for people to feel safe in such a standard, every day environment. The situation is relevant to San Luis Obispo because men and women everywhere are susceptible to harassment in public spaces that we do not typically consider dangerous. We should not have to anticipate or even consider the likelihood of harassment in our daily lives, but unfortunately, the D.C. taxicab occurrences prove that a lot of work needs to be put forth to guarantee the safety of every individual in every public space. The D.C. government is correct in their quick response to the attacks, and hopefully the taxi commute will be safe for citizens from now on.
The Council of Europe’s recent convention on violence against women decided to further criminalize abhorrent practices such as genital mutilation and forced marriage. Within the news laws, the council also decided to include a clause against harassment. The Telegraph reports Europe (including Britain) will “impose sanctions for ‘unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.’”
Opinion writer Jenny McCartney seems to oppose the loose definition of harassment in the clause; she notes the many conflicting interpretations that have already emerged since the convention to support her argument. In one instance, the Scotland attorney general said that the law would not criminalize wolf-whistling and teasing. Yet Julia Gray of Hollaback was reported saying, “If you want to tackle it, you tackle all of it—you say no to all forms of unwanted sexual harassment, that includes wolf-whistling, comments, everything.” McCartney’s concerns raise the issue of subjectivity towards harassment amongst different types of people and cultures. In her perspective, something that can be interpreted in multiple ways has to be as objectively defined as possible in order for the law to be fair to everyone.
On the other hand, the council’s definition includes every kind of harassment (verbal, non-verbal, and physical) that should not be left unpunished. It may not be strictly worded and obvious, but it still allows victims to right the injustices they have endured. The harassment clause is an important step towards ending street harassment, but perhaps we need to determine its success based on how the courts will be able to use the clause to judge future sexual harassment cases and consequences.
The Metro Station and the citizens of DC are in a current debate over what constitutes as sexual harassment: is it mere flirtation or unwanted attention? Surprisingly, many officials have defended the right to sexually harass, implying that too much sensitivity has blurred the distinction between compliments and harassment. They have yet to explore how someone might feel when a stranger approaches them in a confined space (often at night) and makes them feel uncomfortable and scared.
The DC chapter of Hollaback, also known locally as CASS (Collective Action for Safe Spaces), has decided to take the matter to local government. With claims that transit police are not tracking reports of harassment and giving little consideration to gender-based harassment, activists are seeking out transit employee training, governmental action, and awareness. Hollaback has also pointed out that while New York, Boston, and Chicago have all instituted PSA campaigns against this issue, DC is still lacking anything to address a serious and frequent problem.
When reading Hollaback reports in cities where public transportation is an essential part of daily life, it is evident that there have been countless situations where a person feels violated, vulnerable, and unsafe. The DC chapter is commendable for taking action and going to their government. The Gender Equity Center for Cal Poly is also planning to talk to our city council on how to make this town safer for all people. If you feel that you have something to say about town safety, harassment, or you just want to show support, it is highly suggested that you attend this meeting. More information will be released in the coming weeks.
This past September, Cal Poly fired volleyball coach Jon Stevenson after players reported acts of sexual harassment. According to The San Luis Obispo Tribune, an investigation report “included accusations of Stevenson attempting to pull one player’s shorts down, commenting about the sex lives of his players and kissing a player on the cheek and whispering, ‘I love you.’”
Thankfully, the reports were not taken lightly. The allegations are infuriating for several reasons, but the violation of the players’ trust is what truly makes this unforgivable. The coach-player relationship is one that must be preserved with respect and boundaries. A coach can easily take advantage of his power and the vulnerability of the player, and no one should have to feel violated in an environment that is supposed to be safe and fun. The new volleyball coach Sam Crosson has to earn the trust of people who had to turn to higher authorities to fight their injustices. Let us hope that the Cal Poly volleyball team has a great 2012!no comments
Hastings Kamuzu Banda, a former dictator of Malawi, banned women from wearing shorts skirts and pants from the years of 1963 to 1994. While this ridiculous law ended eighteen years ago, there have been repercussions in this African nation. According to The Washington Post, men in the mainly southern parts of Malawi have been stripping women of their skirts and pants. The article states, “strains of conservatism remain in the impoverished, largely rural nation. Some of the street vendors who have attacked women in recent days claimed it was un-Malawian to dress in miniskirts and pants. Some said it was a sign of loose morals or prostitute.”
However, women are not submitting to these degrading and humiliating acts of aggression. On January 20th, about 3,000 Malawi women went to the streets to protest against the harassment. They wore shirts denouncing the street vendors, chanted as they walked down the streets together, and demanded that they are treated fairly. CNN quotes Executive Director of The [Malawi] National Women ‘s Lobby Group Faustace Chirwa who said, “like a lot of Africa, there is a culture of instilling fear in women because people know they are voiceless even though they are guaranteed equality on paper.” Fortunately, the Malawi President Bingu wa Mutharika has sided with these women and condemned the attackers as well as promised consequences for these appalling actions.
It is important to hear the stories of women in other countries, especially because we are all working for the same goals: equality and safety. The thousands of women that came out on Friday to express their desire for these goals are the reason why our movement is so important. Who thinks some of the protestors would be the perfect creators of the Malawi chapter of Hollaback?no comments
We recently wrote about the violence and aggression towards female activists in Egypt. Mona Eltahawy, a prominent Egyptian-American journalist known for her criticism of the Egyptian regime, is one such activist that felt the brutality of the Egyptian military in recent months. In November 2011, Eltahawy was arrested by military police in Tahrir Square. She was beaten and sexually assaulted before being released (which she notes only happened due to her fame). She returned to her life with a broken arm and hand, and the trauma of the assault.
Eltahawy’s strength during such a trying time was documented on her Twitter after she was released. She took her story to the world, exposing the enraging behavior of the Egyptian regime to innocent protestors. She first borrowed a phone in prison to tweet that she had been beaten and detained. Later she spoke of her sexual harassment from the police tweeting, “5 or 6 surrounded me, groped and prodded my breasts, grabbed my genital area and I lost count how many hands tried to get into my trousers.”
After she tweeted the ordeal, Eltahawy took to various forms of media to speak against the Egyptian police and misogyny. In The Guardian she recounts the event from start to finish. She begins her story by stating, “The last thing I remember before the riot police surrounded me was punching a man who had groped me. Who the hell thinks of copping a feel as you’re taking shelter from bullets?” The idea that a man could choose to sexually harass a woman as she tries to keep her life is outrageous. However, females (and activists, especially) are suffering this aggression constantly.
Eltahawy’s kick-ass actions after her arrest show that the Internet is helping victims find a voice when they most desperately need one. She used her Twitter account, news websites, and broadcasts to express herself. Women and men around the world can follow her path, and Hollaback! is one such way to tell your story as well as show support for all the people out there that have been affected by street harassment. The plight of Egyptian women only proves how important it is that we further a global community against harassment and for security.