Thursday, May 15, 2008
As I sit here thinking about what would be the best incident to write as a first post, I am slightly shocked to realize that I have more to choose from than I initially thought. Which just kind of goes to show that we may just live in a society that normalizes harassment in such a way that offensive moments on the street are easily forgotten.
Anyway, here we go:
Last summer, I was out with a friend of mine in Uptown. It was a really nice summer day, and we were both wearing cute sundresses. We were walking down Hennipen (near St. Sabrina's), when we had to stop in order to wait for us to be able to cross at the stoplight. And, of course, who pulls up along side us but a couple of drunken pervs. We stood there, blatantly trying to ignore them, and their calls offering us 'a good, quick fuck.' When the light stop turned green, and the walk signal lit up, we started walking quickly, trying to get away from them. They followed us for a good two blocks before they realized they weren't getting anywhere and sped off to harass some other girls.
Tuesday, May 15, 2007
Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper holla back.
Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, HollaBackNYC asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary.
If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post.
Initiatives combating various forms of sexual harassment and assault have continually struggled against the perpetuation of racist stereotypes, in particular the construction of men of color as sexual predators. There exist widespread fictions regarding who perpetrators are: the myth of racial minorities, particularly latino and black men, as prototypical rapists as well as more prone to violence is quite common. This stems in part from a tragic and violent history, where black men in the U.S. were commonly and unjustly accused of assaulting white women as well as lynched by mobs and “tried” in biased courts.
Because of the complexity of institutional and socially ingrained prejudices, Holla Back prioritizes resisting both direct as well as unconscious and unintentional reinforcement of social hierarchies. Simultaneously, Holla Back aims to highlight the interrelations between sexism, racism and other forms of bias and violence.
Question: Are you a bunch of crazed feminazis who hate men?
Answer: Actually, HollaBackMinn is moderated by people who believe in building communities where everyone feels comfortable, safe, and respected. Many people, particularly men, are unaware of the frequency and severity of disrespect and intimidation that numerous folks, especially women, experience in public spaces on a daily basis. HollaBackMinn aims to expose and combat street harassment as well as provide an empowering forum in this struggle.
Question: OK, but what exactly is street harassment?
Answer: Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.
At HollaBackMinn, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. While there is always the classic, “Hey baby, nice tits” there are so many other forms that go unnoted. If you feel like you have been harassed, HOLLA BACK!
Question: But aren’t you worried that your site will fuel the latent vindictiveness within women and LGBTQ-identified folks across the country, leading to a massive witch-hunt and rampant Soviet-style denunciations of countless innocents?
Question: I heard something about your position on antiracism. What’s that about, and what does it have to do with street harassment?
Answer: Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper holla back. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, HollaBackMinn asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary. If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post. Don’t understand? Click here.
Question: But isn’t your idea of “street harassment” just belittling another person’s culture?
Answer: Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and ethnicity. Sexual harassment, and street harassment specifically, is resisted around the world. To condense another’s culture into vague assumptions about who and what they are is to generalize dangerously about a wide range of experiences and perspectives.
Question: Confronting street harassers can be dangerous. What about safety issues?
Answer: While everyone is vulnerable to stranger rape and sexual assault, studies show that those who are aware of their surroundings, walk with confidence and, if harassed, respond assertively, are less vulnerable. Nevertheless, direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely dangerous, particularly alone or in unpopulated spaces. While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to Holla Back, do keep issues of safety in mind. Upon deciding to photograph a harasser, you may consider doing so substantially after the initial encounter and from a distance, ensuring the harasser is unaware of your actions.
Question: I am a man who was recently sexually objectified by a woman on the street. I think this is reverse harassment. Why won’t you post my story?
Answer: While a woman making unsolicited sexual remarks to a man is certainly conceivable, the power dynamics of such an encounter are very different in a society where women comprise a historically subordinated group. HollaBackMinn is a project dedicated to combating a particular form of violence that designates subordinated groups (such as women and LGBTQ folks, for example) as targets in public spaces or otherwise vulnerable to unsolicited, nonconsensual encounters with strangers. It is thus not a forum for reporting other unpleasantries.
Question: Isn’t street harassment the price you pay for living in a city?
Answer: No, local taxes are the price you pay for living in a city. We would love to see some portion of our local taxes go towards preventing street harassment, but alas, they don’t.
In fact, street harassment is not confined to urban areas. It occurs in shopping malls, cars, parking lots, public parks, airplanes, fast-food restaurants, gas stations, churches, and numerous other public spaces.
Question: So let’s say a man sees a woman he thinks is attractive and tells her so. Are you saying that makes him a harasser?
Answer: Some do not find comments such as “Hello, beautiful” or “Hey, gorgeous” offensive. Many do. Others may find them intimidating, intrusive, or just an annoying pain in the ass. Keep in mind that many women experience unsolicited comments, as well as violent verbal assault, from men in public spaces on a regular basis. Rather than deliberating the “gray areas” of street harassment, treat everyone you encounter with respect.
Question: If you show off your boobage, shouldn’t you expect some compliments?
Answer: Sure, expect them, but don’t accept them! Just because it happens doesn’t mean it’s okay. A compliment is not a compliment if it makes the recipient feel bad.
Question: Sure, but if “the harasser” were hot, wouldn’t you like it?
Answer: This has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power.
Question: You’re just a bunch of prudes, then?
Answer: Like we said, this has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power.
Question: Street harassment sucks, but it’s only a small part of the patriarchy. Doesn’t focusing on this specific issue detract from everything else we're up against?
Answer: The violence and disrespect experienced daily by countless people in public spaces is a serious problem with real, material consequences. While HollaBackMinn is a project dedicated to this particular issue, it is committed to a coalitional approach and situates street harassment within a larger framework of social and economic questions. Thus, the collective collaborates with a diverse range of feminist, queer and antiracist initiatives. To see what we’re up to, subscribe to our mailing list!
Disclaimer: HollaBackMinn is not responsible for the accuracy of individual postings. All views and positions expressed in posted submissions are those of individual contributors only.