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Answering Street Harassment

Look! You can see my face now! My voice sounds weird.

Slutwalk SF 2012

L’Shana Tova to any of my Jewish readers!  I spent the last two days attending Rosh Hashanah services with Fiance and his family, which was quite an experience.  I attended with them last year, and, to be honest, I find the amount of Hebrew kind of overwhelming to someone who doesn’t understand a bit of it.  It is traditional for those attending services to take the two days of Rosh Hashanah off of work to celebrate the Jewish New Year, so I did this as well.  Learning about Fiance’s culture and religion is fascinating.

As I said previously, I attended the SF Slutwalk, and took a lot of fabulous pictures.  I had a great time, and it really re-energized my dedication to Nice Girls.  For the complete set of pictures, you can visit the album on my new imgur account (some images may be NSFW).  There were some fantastic speakers at the pre-walk rally in Dolores Park, including Carol Queen, the founder of the Center for Sexuality and Culture, who wore a fabulous shirt that said I <3 Female Orgasm; Tommi Avicolli Mecca, who spoke about his experiences being a drag queen in Philadelphia in the 1970s; and, my personal favorite, Assemblywoman Carol Lieber, who told us that she is a slut, and hopes to be one all of her life.

Then, the Slutwalk began.  We walked about half a mile, some of the ladies managed to do it in their stilettos!  We cheered as a woman came out, asked what the march was about, and joined as soon as she understood.  There were chants, but I spent most of my time running around taking pictures of everyone (but not before asking for their consent, of course)!  We ended up at a small plaza in the Castro.

At that time, anyone at the walk could take the bullhorn and share a story.  A few chose to just thank the crowd of people who attended.  I got up and spoke about how the walk had inspired me to continue writing on Nice Girls and some of my experiences with rape culture.  There were a couple of men sitting at a table who were definitely angry at their pleasant afternoon being invaded by a group of women, some of them dressed in lingerie.  Unfortunately, a couple of the attendees had already responded to the gentlemens’ consternation with some anger, but I took the opportunity to sit down and explain the purpose and the message of the Slutwalk.    They seemed a lot less upset afterwards, and I even saw one of them cheering after an attendee’s speech.

Overall, as I said, the Slutwalk was an overwhelmingly positive experience.  I had a great time meeting new people, test driving the new-to-me camera, and listening to the poignant and interesting stories each speaker had to share.  I can’t wait for next year!

Street Harassment: Ladies Just Can’t Win

If you’re a fan of Nice Girls on Facebook (and if you’re not, then you should definitely go click “like” right now!), then you’ve probably already seen this post I shared yesterday.  Trigger warning: there’s an account of a pretty verbally violent situation.

A friend of mine had shared it, and I got pretty angry at the conversation in the comments on her page.  I had never been witness to such oblivious “mansplaining” in my life.   I’d like my readers’ thoughts on this conversation (names have been intentionally omitted): Read the rest of this entry

A Call to Men

I recently came across this video on the TED talks website.  It features Tony Porter, the founder of A Call to Men: The National Association of Men and Women Committed to Ending Violence Against Women.

His eloquent 11 minute speech is a work of art.  It was definitely worth the standing ovation he received at the end.

To my male readers: what is your experience with stepping outside the “Man Box”?  Do you believe it is real? If so, what can we do to raise the next generation outside of this “Man Box”?

To my female readers: what are your reactions after watching this?

Do You Understand Street Harassment Now?

I’m sorry for the short post, dear readers, but I am working hard on my Kickstarter project!  I found this quote recently and I feel that it really helps to illustrate to men how it feels to be harassed on the street.

You struck a nerve with this one, as I was just discussing this very thing a few weeks ago with a group of high-school freshmen in my English class. We were discussing homosexuality because of an allusion to it in the book we were reading, and several boys made comments such as, “That’s disgusting.” We got into the debate and eventually a boy admitted that he was terrified/disgusted when he was once sharing a taxi and the other male passenger made a pass at him.

The lightbulb went off. “Oh,” I said. “I get it. See, you are afraid, because for the first time in your life you have found yourself a victim of unwanted sexual advances by someone who has the physical ability to use force against you.” The boy nodded and shuddered visibly.

“But,” I continued. “As a woman, you learn to live with that from the time you are fourteen, and it never stops. We live with that fear every day of our lives. Every man walking through the parking garage the same time you are is either just a harmless stranger or a potential rapist. Every time.”

The girls in the room nodded, agreeing. The boys seemed genuinely shocked.

“So think about that the next time you hit on a girl. Maybe, like you in the taxi, she doesn’t actually want you to.”

Give me your thoughts, readers.  Does this sound correct to you?

Forget “I Hollaback”. I Call the Police.

As I was walking home yesterday afternoon from the Carnivale street fair, I witnessed street harassment. Four men were standing on the sidewalk, and one of these men approached a girl who had been in the parade earlier that day. She was still wearing her feathered, spangled, and slightly revealing costume.

I qualify that as “slightly revealing” because, quite frankly, a bathing suit in the same style would have been appropriate for a family get together at a pool. I also mention this, because “look what she was wearing” is often the defense for harassment and even for sexual assault and rape. Her costume was appropriate to the occasion, but even she had been walking down the street naked, attire is no excuse for harassment.

The man that approached her practically stood in front of her as he was asking her if she had a Facebook account. She ignored him, stepped around him, and kept walking. He grew angry, and started yelling at her that she was racist for not talking to him.

I also grew angry. Why on Earth should she be obligated to talk to him? She didn’t know him, and he was acting aggressively towards her. He clearly felt that by walking down the street, she somehow owed him some attention. Her outfit was not an invitation to talk to her.

While this is not the most aggressive example of street harassment that I’ve seen, and I’ve certainly been the focus of more aggressive street harassment, it still infuriates me. Women do not walk down the street in order to entertain whomever is watching. We do it to go to work, to get groceries, go to the bank, go to the gym, hang out with friends, go out to eat, watch a newly released movie, etc.

Street harassment has been a hot topic of late, and with movements like “I Hollaback”, women are trying to combat this problem with social pressures, and public advertising of the faces and locations of men who have harassed a woman on the street. But this isn’t enough.

So, what can we do? We can start causing even more of a ruckus, and force the local legislature and keepers of the peace to sit up and take notice of the fact that women are made to feel unsafe every day, while going about our normal lives. This won’t be an easy campaign. As discussed in Cynthia Grant Bowman’s article “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women”, published in Volume 106:517 of the Harvard Law Review, there should be a twofold campaign against street harassment, both in civil litigation and in municipal law.

For those of us who live in an urban environment, more often than not, there are cameras that can see us on the street. There are police officers that patrol the streets. If you are harassed on the street, look around for a camera, and call the police if you can find one. The camera footage is an impartial third party observer to the harassment. Then, accuse your harasser of an intentional infliction of emotional distress to the police officer and say that you want to press charges. Make sure the officer knows that the camera could see the harassment take place, and ask that they procure the footage. Show up to the court proceedings and tell the court how the harassment made you feel. Explain the fear of assault and rape that is inflicted when you are approached. Explain how you live with this fear every day of your life, and that it is the duty of the police and the government to protect you from this fear.

I will no longer “Hollaback”. I will start calling the police and pressing charges against unwanted sexual attention. It is time that we take a stand.

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