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08/10/12Blog piece on Aliceruthwhite.wordpress
I want to spread the word about Hollaback London, a movement dedicated to ending street harassment, and talk about reacting to a wolf-whistle, a ‘hey mama’ or a grope in a public space.
When I’ve discussed street harassment with female friends, every one of them has experienced it to some degree. Be it someone grabbing your hand, touching you in an inappropriate place, making an obscene gesture, it surrounds us all the time. A YouGov survey of 1,047 Londoners commissioned by End Violence Against Women Coalition (Evaw) found that 43% of women aged between 18 and 34 had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces in the last year – that’s a lot of women – I wonder how many of them confronted their harasser?
There’s been so little research into the impact of these cat calls or stares that it’s really hard to pinpoint the emotional and psychological effects over a long period of time. To be sporadically objectified in a public place doesn’t make me feel great – just angry and powerless. I mean, what exactly can you do when someone grabs you or calls you ‘sexy legs’ in the street? Can you turn around, if you’re alone, and ask them politely why they said that, or why they grabbed you?
==== Check out ‘Femme de a Rue’, a documentary made by Belgian film student Sofie Peeters, which shows how she is openly sexually harassed by men on the streets of Brussels. Peeters’ film has had wide ramifications in Belgium, with some politicians promising more legislation against street harassment of women – femme-de-la-rue-sexism-brussels-video?intcmp=239 ====
It’s been so prevalent on British streets for so long (when I was 13 I was scared to pass a building site) that it’s become normalised, and some of my female friends will talk about it feeling like a compliment.
I personally hate feeling so powerless and, as I would do with any man being openly sexist in conversation, I aim to challenge any man who harasses me by wolf-whistling, grabbing or muttering in the street, or indoors for that matter, from now on (only if i’m in a safe location). I’d quite like to ask the question ‘why?’ a little more. I think spreading the message, making sure that the aggressor knows it’s not right, is a logical thing to do and hopefully will influence their behaviour in the future.
Do you confront people, or struggle with street harassment? Check out Hollaback, and work with them to challenge street harassment in a safe place. Here are some other international groups/organisations that might help too:
Stay safe in London!
The Guardian-Kira Cochrane
Creepshots and revenge porn: how paparazzi culture affects women
The row over topless pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge continues. But Kate is not alone. Young women everywhere – famous and non-famous – are increasingly becoming victims of voyeurism in our internet age
On the popular website Reddit, where users submit and share content, a member of a forum called “creepshots” was handing out advice last week. His subject? How to photograph women surreptitiously. “Don’t be nervous,” he wrote. “If you are, you’ll stand out. Don’t hover too much, get your shot and move on if you can … You’ll look less like a creep if you have photos of things other than just hot chicks’ asses.”
He offered this advice in the comment stream attached to a gallery of photos of women snapped unawares at airports. Those images joined hundreds posted by group members of women waiting for trains, packing groceries, standing on escalators; the camera homing in on their bottom, crotch or breasts. And they joined thousands more on creep websites as a whole, a large, thriving online subculture. The point is to catch women unawares, lay claim to something off-limits, then share it around for bragging rights and comment.
Erin Gloria Ryan, a writer for popular women’s website Jezebel.com, was alerted to the forum by concerned Reddit users who are trying to get it closed, partly because some of the pictures appear to have been taken in schools. The content on the creepshot forum isn’t pornography, says Ryan, “but it is using people’s images in ways they definitely wouldn’t want authorised”. For group members, she says, it seems to be precisely women’s lack of consent – the violation of their privacy and agency – that is appealing.
The issue of women’s pictures being taken and shared without their consent has been in the spotlight for more than a week now because of the furore around topless images of the Duchess of Cambridge. I suspect the most arresting photograph of the scandal will actually prove to be the one that shows where the photographer was apparently standing. An ‘x’ marks a spot on a public road, so far from the chateau where the couple were staying that you can barely make out the building itself. The perspective makes any argument against the right to privacy seem laughable, yet they continue. The editor-in-chief of Denmark’s Se og Hør magazine, which published a 16-page supplement of the photos, has implied Kate must accept some responsibility for “willingly revealing her breasts towards a public road”.
The story prompts questions about why there is such a market, and therefore audience, for these pictures. As others have pointed out, it is not as though there is any dearth of bare breasts, consensually exposed and shared, on the internet. The answer involves a familiar combination of desire and humiliation. There is an interest in seeing not just any breasts, but all breasts, a sense that female bodies are public property, fair game – to be claimed, admired and mocked.
Paparazzi culture has been a problem for decades, but it has taken on an especially sinister, sexualised hue in recent years. In 2008, for instance, a photo agency announced that Britney Spears definitely wasn’t pregnant – by posting pictures of her in period-stained knickers. Emma Watson has said that on her 18th birthday she realised that “overnight I’d become fair game … One photographer lay down on the floor to get a shot up my skirt. The night it was legal for them to do it, they did it. I woke up the next day and felt completely violated.” At the Leveson inquiry, towards the end of 2011, Sienna Miller said that for years she was “relentlessly pursued by 10 to 15 men, almost daily … spat at, verbally abused … I would often find myself, at the age of 21, at midnight, running down a dark street on my own with 10 men chasing me”.
While we associate this experience specifically with celebrities, we arguably all live in a paparazzi culture now. Cameras are ubiquitous, as is the technology to share and publicise pictures instantly. The throb of surveillance plays out in different ways. On the more benign side are the mild nerves many people feel when an email pops up to tell them they have been tagged in a Facebook photo, an image that could be from any moment in their life – recent or historical – now public, and open for comments.
But it also plays out in more insidious ways. This includes the creepshot websites, and others where people collect images of ordinary women they have culled from around the internet. Julia Gray, co-founder of anti-street harassment group Hollaback London, says she was horrified when a picture of her ended up in one of these groups, an image of her at her best friend’s birthday party. “We were really drunk, I fell over, and my friend took a picture that happened to capture my boobs down my shirt.” When she saw it in her friend’s Flickr album online, she was completely relaxed about it; in that setting it was just an innocent, funny image. But then it was appropriated, “and in the context of all the other pictures – upskirt shots and down-top shots – it became incredibly creepy. All of a sudden it was this weird, voyeuristic thing, and I felt really preyed upon.”
Then there is the evidence that young women are being coerced into taking suggestive pictures by their male peers, badgered in a way that is distinctly paparazzi-like. Teenagers today have grown up in an environment filled with both paparazzi pictures and images of ordinary women with their tops off. We live in the land built by gossip and lads’ magazines over the past decade. Heat magazine ran its Circle of Shame feature for years, encouraging young women to look at their female peers, deride them for ugliness, and simultaneously police their own appearance. Nuts magazine went into nightclubs and asked women to flash for them. Zoo magazine asked readers, “What kind of tits do you want for YOUR girlfriend?” in a 2005 competition that offered £4,000 worth of surgery in return for pictures of readers’ girlfriend’s breasts.
This has been the formative environment for today’s teenagers, and in a small-scale but fascinating NSPCC study published this year, researchers spoke to 35 students at two London schools, and found “peer surveillance and recording was normalised to the extent that many young people felt they had few friends they really ‘trusted’”.
A girl in her second year at secondary school whom the researchers spoke to reported that the demand “Can I have a picture of your tits?” occurred daily. If boys managed to get these photos, they immediately became a form of currency for them, and potential humiliation for the girls. Male interviewees spoke about posting these pictures to “exposure sites” on Facebook, profiles set up especially for this purpose.
Allyson Pereira, an anti-bullying advocate from New Jersey, has had that experience first-hand. Now in her 20s, she was 16 when her ex-boyfriend – the first boy she had dated – said he would get back together with her if she sent him a topless picture. She did, and he immediately “sent it to everybody in his contact list,” she says, “and it just went viral”. She found out when everyone started laughing at her, and calling her a whore. Her mother initially said they would have to move, former friends called her disgusting and teachers made jokes about it. Six months later, Pereira felt so lonely that she attempted suicide. Having planned to become a teacher herself, she abandoned the ambition, because: “I would have had to explain to every single [employer] about my past, because you never know when a picture like that is going to resurface.” She didn’t go to university, because she felt too vulnerable. The photo is still out there, she’s sure, and although her anti-bullying work gives her pride, feels her life will always be tainted. “I don’t like public places,” she says, “I’m still bullied sometimes now if I go out. I have people who call me a whore.”
In recent years a genre of websites dedicated to sharing humiliating pictures of women – and occasionally men – has cropped up, known as “revenge porn” sites. The idea is that vengeful people can post humiliating, sexual pictures of former partners, photos often clearly intended for personal use only, if they were taken with consent at all.
Charlotte Laws first encountered these sites in January this year, after her daughter Kayla, who is in her mid-20s, had her computer hacked. In Kayla’s email account was one topless photo she had taken of herself – it hadn’t been shared with anyone – which was then posted on a notorious revenge porn site, Is Anyone Up. She was distraught, and Charlotte, an author and former private investigator, spent 11 days, non-stop, working to get the picture taken down. One of the nastiest aspects of the site, which has since closed, was that humiliating photographs would be posted alongside details of the person’s social media accounts, so they were immediately identifiable.
Laws wanted to find out more about the experiences of those whose images ended up on the site, so began an informal study. She called 40 people – a few men, but mainly women, reflecting the site’s make-up – and says that 40% had had accounts hacked, while others were victims of vengeful exes. She spoke to three teachers, one of whom had lost her job due to the site, and another whose job hung in the balance. One woman was terrified the photos would be used against her in a custody battle. Another had seen her business ruined – even though the nude images the site ran alongside her social media profiles weren’t actually of her. There was a woman who had taken pictures for her doctor, of her breasts bandaged after surgery, and those had been hacked from her computer and posted. All the pictures were open to biting discussion of looks and desirability.
Laws has been researching possible legal routes for victims of such sites, which has brought her into contact with Mary Anne Franks, associate professor of law at the University of Miami. “What unites creepshots, the Middleton photographs, the revenge porn websites,” says Franks, “is that they all feature the same fetishisation of non-consensual sexual activity with women who either you don’t have any access to, or have been denied future access to. And it’s really this product of rage and entitlement.”
Franks finds it interesting that the response to these situations is so often to blame the woman involved. Ali Sargent, a 19-year-old student and activist, says in her school years there were a few incidents of girls being filmed in sexual situations, without their knowledge or consent, and the attitude of other girls was dismissive at best – displaying that dearth of sympathy that distances people from the thought that it could ever happen to them. “It was mostly just, ‘well, she was pretty stupid,’” says Sargent.
Franks echoes this. She says the argument goes: “‘You shouldn’t have given those pictures to that person’, or ‘You shouldn’t have been sunbathing in a private residence’, or ‘You should never, as a woman, take off your clothes in any context where anybody could possibly ever have a camera’. That’s been shocking to me, that people aren’t just outraged and furious about this, but they’re actually making excuses for this behaviour, and blaming women for ever being sexual any time, at all.
“Even in a completely private setting, within a marriage – it couldn’t be any more innocuous than the Middleton situation – and yet people are still saying things like: what was she expecting, she’s famous and she’s got breasts, and therefore she’s got to keep them covered up all the time. I do think it’s a rage against women being sexual on their own terms. We’re perfectly fine with women being sexual, as long as they are objects and they’re passive, and we can turn them on, turn them off, download them, delete them, whatever it is. But as soon as it’s women who want to have any kind of exclusionary rights about their intimacy, we hate that. We say, ‘No, we’re going to make a whore out of you’.”
09/03/12 The Sun Emily Ashton and Neil Millard
DAVID Cameron is being urged to outlaw WOLF WHISTLING as he confirmed that stalking will be made a criminal offence.
The PM today pledged new protection for victims of this “abhorrent” crime at the hands of obsessives.
Mr Cameron, who will meet stalking victims at a No 10 reception to mark International Women’s Day, said the Government was determined to ensure “justice is done”.
Around 120,000 victims, mostly women, are stalked each year but under current laws just 53,000 are recorded as crimes. Only one in 50 of these lead to an offender being jailed.
He said: “Stalking is an abhorrent crime. It makes life a living hell for the victims – breaking up relationships, forcing the victims to move house, making them feel they are being watched 24 hours of the day.
“That is why we are explicitly criminalising stalking, to make sure that justice is done, protect the victims and show beyond doubt that stalking is a crime.”
Mr Cameron’s move to criminalise stalking was first revealed by The Sun in November and was prompted by a parliamentary inquiry which called for new laws to stop harassment turning to murder.
Last month a man who stalked his ex-girlfriend on Facebook before stabbing her to death was jailed for life.
Clifford Mills, 49, attacked Lorna Smith after inviting her to his flat in Brixton, south London in February last year. He was sentenced to a minimum term of 21 years for murder last month.
Another stalking victim, Claire Waxman, 35, was awarded £3,500 damages after the High Court ruled the state failed to protect her when charges against her stalker were dropped.
Ms Waxman, who runs a business in Willesden Green, north-west London, complained of “serious and persistent” harassment over eight years by freelance television producer Elliot Fogel, 36.
She was expected to be at the Downing Street reception along with Tricia Bernal, whose beauty consultant daughter Clare, 22, was shot and killed by her obsessive ex-boyfriend in Harvey Nichols, Knightsbridge, in 2005.
Slovakian Michael Pech, 30, was awaiting sentencing after admitting harassment when he killed her before turning the gun on himself.
New powers of entry specifically requested by the police will also be introduced alongside two separate offences – stalking, and stalking where there is a fear of violence. At present, cops only have a right of entry if fear of violence exists but this will change under the plans.
Home Secretary Theresa May said: “Stalking is an issue which affects many lives, often in devastating ways.
“That is why we are taking it seriously and introducing these new offences.
“Offenders need to know that they will be brought to justice for making others’ lives a misery.”
Anti-harassment campaigners Hollaback London are also urging Mr Cameron to go even further to stop men CATCALLING and WOLF WHISTLING at women in the street.
Co-founder Bryony Beynon said: “Stalking is one of the forms of street harassment that women are dealing with on a day-to-day basis.
“It’s good that this is being taken seriously but it’s a gateway crime. If we think that verbal abuse is ok then is sexual assault ok?
“We think wolf whistling is part of the culture of people thinking women’s bodies are public property and I don’t think that’s acceptable.”
There is currently no legal definition of stalking in British law, and cops are forced to use harassment laws to lock up offenders.
Shadow home secretary Yvette Cooper warned last night: “We need rapid progress and we need a new law which is strong enough. Half-hearted measures won’t be enough.”
The move follows a year-long campaign by the charity Protection Against Stalking and probation union Napo.
Harry Fletcher, from Napo, said: “It is essential that any new legislation ensures that victims are properly protected and perpetrators receive adequate sentences and attend programmes that combat their obsessive behaviour.”
09/03/12 The Daily MirrorRick Dewsbury
A group of militant feminists want to ban all men from wolf-whistling and calling women ‘darling’.
According to the band of bony-fingered killjoys, this is a form of sexual harassment on a par with groping and flashing.
They’d happily have all men carted off to a hell-hole prison in the Mexican desert to be tortured until they accept their hellish sins.
And now that could be one step closer after our Prime Minister pledged to sign a treaty from the Council of Europe – already endorsed by 18 other countries – to celebrate International Women’s Day.
Among the clauses is one that will outlaw ‘unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’.
It’s no surprise that the bureaucrats in Brussels and the dictators in Berlin were long-ago given sense of humour bypasses.
It’s also known that Cameron, who denies that this would outlaw wolf-whistling in the UK, would happily walk the streets in a neon green lycra body suit if he thought that it would win him votes – or in this case endorse a fluffy motion to appeal more to women voters, who are generally starting to dislike his ‘patronising’ and ‘chauvinistic’ gags.
But what kind of joyless existence do the po-faced testosterone haters at organisations like ‘Hollaback’, the feminist group that has trumpeted this bill, lead?
One can only imagine that they sit around in WI style meetings sticking pins into voodoo dolls of men as they plot their bitter quest to create a dull and overly-regulated world.
‘The way we see it is 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,’ Julia Gray, founder of the London branch of ‘anti street harassment’ group Hollaback said.
Well, that’s a very cute idea. But talk about throwing the baby out with the bath water. Just because a few sensitive little sweeties have taken offence they want to ban everybody from enjoying themselves.
Is this really harassment? If the killjoys had their way, men such as these who wolf-whistle at women could be arrested
Being called darling, sweetheart, love or duck is seen to most sensible people as an act of friendliness and warmth. Most take it as compliment and there are arguments that it that creates a friendlier, more expressive society.
In any case, it’s often women who call men flattering names such as ‘my love’ and ‘honey’.
Does this mean that portly lorry drivers and builders will also be able to make police complaints when an old lady says ‘thank you, dear’ as she’s being helped to cross the road, or being helped to retrieve a box of cereal from the top shelf at the supermarket?
‘Cameron must tell the militant bra-burners to ‘calm down, dears’
There will certainly be a few mini-Hitlers who want to exercise some power. That’s why such propositions are utterly unworkable. How could the CPS prove in a court of law that a man was intentionally harassing a woman just because he wolf-whistled as she walked by in figure hugging skirt?
Will they be put on the sex offenders register just for saying ‘morning, love’ to a woman?
It would be nice to say that the feminists who have pushed this law are well-meaning. Anything that can help bring sexual predators to justice is welcome.
But unfortunately such plans are also dangerous. Not only will such measures reinforce divides between men and women, there is a serious risk that real crimes – which are already comprehensively dealt with – will be ignored.
Joke: David Cameron, left, tells Labour MP Angela Eagle (circled) to ‘calm down dear’ during a debate in the House of Commons last year
While the cheeky builder is being wheeled away to be interrogated by the local bobbies for winking at woman who strutted passed the site, the rapists, flashers and gropers will still be prowling the streets.
With police numbers already stretched to the limit, we don’t need them bogged down even more with pathetic complaints from pushy women.
We’re in grave danger or creating a police state full of Clockwork Orange style robots.
The best thing that Cameron can do would be to tell Brussels where to stick such an equality motion that would ban wolf-whistling.
Then he must pat the militant bra-burners on their heads and them to ‘calm down dears’.
08/03/12 Comment is Free piece by Bryony
The Council of Europe’s convention on violence against women, which the UK has signed, pledges to criminalise ‘verbal, non-verbal or physical’ sexual harassment. Photograph: Robin Beckham @ Beepstock/Alamy
Violence is not always physical. The most serious sexual assault I have ever experienced began with a wolf whistle. My perpetrator thought that both his whistle, and what he did to me after that (which definitely was physical), were equally permissible. Whether it’s leering, catcalls, shouts or whispers from strangers, defending this behaviour is a gateway to the cultural acceptance of much more serious crimes across the spectrum of gender-based violence. Dismiss the smaller issues, and the bigger issues go unchallenged too.
It’s hard for some people to get their heads around, especially those who have never experienced it, but these seemingly harmless interactions with strangers on the street can build up a well of resentment, internalised shame and guilt in the people who live with them.
The same goes for the collective consciousness of millions of sexual assault survivors. Hollaback activists from Mumbai to Mexico believe that any behaviour that stops you from feeling safe in public, even for a moment, is street harassment – that a “compliment”, even if well-intended, is only a compliment if it feels good.
This is not about being anti-flirting, but there is a huge gulf between paying someone a compliment with courtesy and respect, and invading their personal space or shouting uninvited remarks.
Today’s formal, albeit theoretical, recognition by David Cameron that all women have the right to live free from violence is obviously a great step forward.
However, the UK has had since last May to commit to signing the pledge to criminalise “verbal, non-verbal or physical” sexual harassment, one of the commitments in the Council of Europe’s convention of violence against women. It only did so after proposing changes that make for chilling reading, including deletion of the term “right to live free from violence” and the outright removal of the reference to “violence against women as a human rights violation”.
Precisely what the impact a convention of this kind would mean when stripped of that clause, I’m not sure. On the one day of the year when these issues are given the priority they so desperately need, how will these changes realistically protect women every other day? It speaks volumes that the focus across the media has been in defence of wolf-whistling (“You women love it really” is rape culture 101) when this is the least serious of the many offences covered by the convention.
The fact that this convention recognises the everyday damage done to women and girls in this way is something Europe should be proud of, but the coalition taking credit for this progressive sweep is difficult to take against a backdrop of massive cuts to both police budgets and women’s services in this country.
Harassers needn’t worry too much that they’re going to hear sirens the next time they shout obscenities at a woman, and fears that building sites across the land will now be raided at the first sign of a puckered set of lips are probably unfounded.
What this has done is raise the stakes for everyone to examine their own behaviour, like the harasser we heard about last night in a workshop at Queen Mary University, who shouted abuse while carrying his baby girl in his arms. Intervening in a safe and productive way when you see a woman being harassed might just make someone think twice about doing it again.
So many of the crucial care, shelter, advocacy and counselling services for survivors of all forms of sexual violence across the country are now teetering on the brink. The next step in Cameron’s worthy crusade should undoubtedly be a full investigation into how we safeguard women’s services, lest the state itself become guilty of precisely what this convention seeks to prevent. There is no reason that sexual harassment in the street should be any more permissible than racist language. We can change attitudes, with or without the government, and we will.
• Julia Gray, co-director of Hollaback London, helped writing this article
06/03/11 Observer Magazine
Whether it’s cat calls, wolf whistles or, in extreme cases, lewd acts, all women encounter street harassment at one time or another. Now a new website, Hollaback!, is encouraging women to share their experiences and expose the culprits. Here, the two women who set up the London branch explain why it’s time to reclaim the streets.
Pssst. Oi, beautiful… Where you going?” “Have you got a boyfriend?” “Why won’t you talk to me?” Do these questions sound familiar? Almost every woman you know will have been the recipient of her own variation on a theme: unwanted attention when she’s walking down the street, dished out without warning, often followed by abuse when the stranger’s demands for her time aren’t met.
Most women try to ignore the catcalls and groping; occasionally we flip. Such as the time I was walking down Oxford Street in central Londonand passed a man who thought it perfectly OK to pat my bum as he went by. Enraged, I turned to him and, in a fit of strange inspiration, threw his hat under a bus. Cool and collected I was not, but perhaps Mr Baseball Cap will now think twice before touching a woman he doesn’t know.
But now there’s a new way to deal with street harassment that isn’t limited to suffering in silence or dispensing of headwear. An anti-harassment movement called Hollaback! is encouraging women to make a noise about unwelcome whistles, jokes, jeers and obscenities. The campaign has swiftly captured the imaginations of women from London to Mumbai, Montreal to Paris, Texas to Buenos Aires, but it started, like so many wonderful things, in New York.
“A friend of mine was riding the train into work when she saw a man masturbating in the train across from her,” explains Emily May, executive director of Hollaback! “She took a picture and brought it to the police, but they didn’t do anything. So she posted the picture on Flickr, and it quickly went viral and landed on the front cover of the Daily News. All of a sudden the whole city was talking about public harassment, and women everywhere were telling stories.”
May realised the importance of sharing these experiences and Hollaback! was established as an online forum where women could exchange tales of the harassment they’d suffered, often by uploading pictures of the offender. That was in 2005, and since the birth of Hollaback! New York, the site has spread internationally. Last year was its most successful, with 10 sites launching in cities including El Paso and Atlanta, Georgia, as well as the launch of a Hollaback! app developed to combat street harassment on the go.
The London branch, run by students Julia Gray, 23, and Bryony Beynon, 25, launched last April in conjunction with nail salon WAH (which stands for We Ain’t Hoes) in Dalston. Gray’s motivation for setting up the UK branch is wearingly familiar: “I was 14 the first time a man made comments about me on the street. One even tried to follow me home.” Men who harass, says Gray, are defensive and confused when confronted. May also points to numerous examples of men being surprised when challenged: “They say, ‘But I love women – I have a daughter!’ They often have no idea that what they’re doing hurts women.” Hollaback! isn’t just about fighting back but about rebuilding the foundations of what people consider appropriate public behaviour. “People need to understand that street harassment has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power,” says Beynon. “When was the last time you asked a friend how they met their boyfriend and they responded: ‘He was driving past me and shouted “Nice tits!” out of his window, and it just went from there’?”
Twenty-nine-year-old Argentinian Inti Maria Tidball-Binz has kickstarted Hollaback! in her home city of Buenos Aires. “Spanish-speaking countries call street harassment piropo, which unhelpfully also means a short poem that compliments the recipient,” says Binz. “For this reason, the question I am asked most frequently is why am I so against the ‘harmlessly flirtatious’ piropo. Street harassment is not a poetic artform but rather on the scale of a kind of systematic violence against women.”
Hollaback! also has a branch in Mumbai, where street harassment has the cute-sounding name of “Eve teasing”. “It’s a term which harks back to a biblical interpretation of Eve as a seductive temptress who is responsible for the behaviour of the men around her,” explains 23-year-old Aisha Zakira, a columnist and the founder of Hollaback! Mumbai.
“Trivialised” is a word Zakira uses frequently to describe the way in which street harassment is dealt with in India; it is seen as the “price you pay” for being a woman. “The word ‘teasing’ trivialises an act that, as women who have experienced it know, is isolating, painful and deeply frustrating. Not to mention frightening.” The long-term effects, says Zakira, result in women becoming less visible on the streets of Mumbai or only feeling safe when travelling in groups.
One of Hollaback!’s defining features is that it offers an environment in which women can share their experiences, taking the grinding negativity of street harassment and turning it into something positive. Zakira’s goals for the site are twofold: “First and foremost, to provide a safe space for women to tell their stories, so that they feel less alone. And in the longer term, we hope to use the site to push legislators for larger policy change – even things as simple as better lighting and safe public toilets.”
Anna Gautheron only learned what the term “street harassment” meant when she read about it online. “It spoke to me because I experienced it very often,” explains the 25-year-old graduate, currently running Hollaback! France from Lyon. “But when I looked for information in France, I found virtually nothing. Yet all my female friends and I had at least one street-harassment story to tell. I found the lack of resources for such a widespread phenomenon striking. I decided it was time for me to get involved.
“French women are expected to follow some rules once they’re outdoors,” she explains. “They are told not to be too loud, too pretty, too much out of the ordinary. We have learned to walk fast, not to make eye contact, and be invisible. People often think that women are harassed when they don’t follow these rules and that it is somehow their fault. The truth is that there is only one reason why someone is harassed on the street: they encounter a harasser.
02/03/11 Stylist Magazine
Hollaback LDN is the latest site to allow women to post these encounters and in the short space it has been up and running, has already amassed quite the collection of perverts who think its their duty to make women feel uncomfortable in public spaces as they go about their daily business. Like the rest of theHollaback family, Hollaback LDN helps women to share their experiences and stand up to these men who use sexual comments as intimidation. It decrees “London is not a playground for pervy dudes to call out at us when we’re going about our daily business. So stop walkin’ on and ignoring it and Holla Back: Submit your stories and share your experiences”.
Similar to Hollaback LDN, LASH (London Anti-Street Harassment), previously blogged about here, has, due to the success of its campaign now gone national with the slightly less catchy acronym of UK ASH. Which will act as an umbrella organisation to support local level anti-street harassment initiatives. Further, London Mayoral candidates Oona King and Ken Livingstone have pledged their support to LASH. King has written street harassment into her policy, promising to commission a police report into the matter, a poster education campaign and training for local councils on the issue.
Thanks to LASH and HollabackLDN street harassment has moved from being talked about in the pub on Friday night to the being talked about in the mainstream media. Both The Independent and The Guardian have published pieces on the issue, with the vast majority of the comments being supportive, helping to raise the profile of the growing anti street harassment movement.
More talking is taking place on Monday the 18th, as HollabackLDN and LASH team up for a discussion night at WAH nails, which promises to be interesting evening (details above). It definitely seems the long held onto belief that street harassment is just one of those things women have to put up with is on the way out. Whodathunkit; turns out slapping a strangers bum is not appropriate!