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By now you’ve probably seen that video of a woman, Shoshana B. Roberts, walking silently through the streets of Manhattan while she is catcalled or harassed over and over again. This experience is familiar to many women; in fact, it happens every day. Experiences like this, no matter how “minor” they seem on their own, are cumulative and over time can make people feel vulnerable, anxious and unsafe in their communities; this is exactly why our work is important and exactly the kind of behavior that we are working to end. Everyone has the right to feel safe in public space.
That said, we want to clarify a few things about the video, the first thing being that here in Boston, we had nothing to do with the making of the video. We did not see it until the day it was released, like the rest of the world. The video has received very valid criticism for showing mostly men of color harassing Shoshana. We know that this is a common, harmful stereotype and a myth that is perpetuated about street harassment, and we are saddened to see it happen again. We know that people of all racial, ethnic, and class backgrounds can be harassers, and that knowledge is essential to the work we do here in Boston: the culture we are trying to change is one of entitlement to others’ bodies and time, and not one rooted in racial or ethnic identity.
It has also come to light that the creator of the video, Rob Bliss Creative, has admitted to editing white men out of the video due to “poor sound quality” or “sirens [in the background].” This may very well have been the case, and while the harm may not have been intentional, the fact of the matter is that the impact is harmful. If the hope is to make a (viral) statement about who experiences street harassment and who perpetrates it, there is a responsibility to do so thoughtfully and intentionally.
For Hollaback! Boston, a huge part of our work revolves around recognizing the intersections of harassment. We know that the identities we carry with us into the world affect the kind of harassment we experience. We know that not everyone has the privilege to hollaback in the moment, as some people (particularly women of color, trans women, and trans women of color) run a greater risk of having that interaction escalate into dangerous physical violence. We recognize that sometimes the best hollaback is no hollaback at all. We also recognize stop and frisk and the public violence that black and brown men face to be a form of street harassment and vulnerability in public space. We are anti-criminalization and have always supported community solutions, because we know that criminalizing street harassment would further harm communities that are already affected by over-policing and mass incarceration– namely, communities of color.
Hollaback! Boston is committed to racial justice as part of the work that we’re doing here in Boston and New England. We apologize for posting the video before it went viral without comment or critique. We also want to say that these criticisms of the video itself in no way take away from Shoshana’s experience that day and every day. We stand in solidarity with her as she receives rape threats for simply appearing in the video: no one deserves that, and her experience that day looked truly frightening and exhausting
Thank you for your support, Boston. As always, if we can do better, please tell us. When you call us in, when you challenge us, we all become better at what we do, and we’re one step closer to safer public spaces for everyone.
The Hollaback! Boston Team
If you’re interested in reading the statement from Hollaback! (NYC), who was involved in the PSA, their statement can be found here.one comment
I had just gotten onto an E-line train a stop earlier when I noticed the commotion. A large, imposing man was shouting obscenities down the train at two young girls. One of the girls immediately got up to scream back at him but eventually retreated to comfort her friend who had begun to cry. She accused him of groping her friend, and warned him to stay away from them. When you’re in a moving train, there’s nowhere to escape to – you’re trapped in that confrontation, and I didn’t want them to feel alone. I got up to go ask the girls if they were okay, which enraged the man. No longer content to sit and shout, he got up and began cursing me, getting in my face and for all the world looking as if he was ready to attack. I calmly told him that I was simply asking if she was alright, and to please leave us alone, but he was having none of it. He just kept shouting about lying bitches and how well-endowed he was. Thankfully another passenger stepped in to distract the man while the police were called, but since then I can’t stop glancing over my shoulder, wondering where the next danger will spring up.
I was walking down the street on a windy day wearing a new dress I had just gotten. The dress was not long, but it was a modest length, however because of the wind it was being swept up revealing more than I liked so I held it down with my hands as I walked. A guy then yelled at me “hey girl, you don’t need to hold that! Let it fly!” I continued to walk away, but felt so objectified and disgusted.
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My friend and I were walking down Cambridge St. at approximately 1:20 AM Thursday night behind a young couple when two middle-aged men approached them and made rude/inappropriate remarks while staring at the girl (“You’re a lucky man MMmmmmmMmm”). The couple was visibly uncomfortable and continued to walk ahead, so I yelled back “THANKS! SO ARE YOU!” to the two men behind us in an effort to distract them. The harasser called me an “asshole” and walked away in the opposite direction.
We’re closing in on Halloween, and though we’re not hosting a HOLLAween party this year, it’s clear that some reminders and costume suggestions are in order: for starters, Ray Rice Halloween Costumes Are Not Funny.
Still working on a costume? Not sure if what you’ve got in mind might be offensive? We have a few links to help you decide, and a few costume ideas that are totally doable and totally okay. (We know, some are gendered – but we think you can bend ‘em!)
silent film star | Morton Salt girl | Brawny paper towel guy | Instagram selfie | inspired by Lichtenstein | oversized (functional!) camera | taxidermy | Guess Who? game characters | queen bee | a Magritte masterpiece | rollercoaster rider | Tetris piece(s)
Studio DIY has some adorable options from toppers to full outfits, including costumes using balloons and this fantastic donut; a local favorite spotted in 2012 was a duo dressed as a double MBTA 39 bus. Still nothing? Buzzfeed has a pretty exhaustive collection of 437 concepts.
For many more ideas, take a peek back at last year’s costume post! In case it is unclear, Should I Dress In Blackface on Halloween has the answer. (Spoiler alert: NO.) For more on why you should not, maybe stop by here. Head over to our HOLLAween resource page for more background, links and the full lineup of anti-harassment Halloween graphics to share.
We hope your celebrations are spooky and safe, and that you find a way to partake that is perfect for you and not harmful to others! Remember: costumes, no matter how much or little they reveal, are never consent, and costumed revelers are never asking for it.
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
Did you know that navigating public space as a sexualized body can cause reactions similar to those experienced by soldiers who have seen combat? Symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder may include flashbacks, nightmares and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the event. Maybe you find yourself taking different routes, avoiding certain areas, not wanting to leave the house, or replaying incidents over and over again in your head. This is all normal, but definitely unpleasant and maybe traumatic and upsetting.
Try to relax. Work on taking deep breaths with measured, controlled breathing. Try counting to 5 for an inhale and 5 for an exhale. This can be done immediately following an incident, if need be! Or try downloading a guided meditation from YouTube or on your phone and listen to it when you get home, or maybe on your train ride. Drink some water.
Use grounding techniques. If you felt particularly shaken up by an incident, grounding techniques can help you feel safer. Carry something with you that makes you feel emotionally safe and hold it in your hand following an incident of harassment. Or recite a mantra to yourself, like, “My name is [NAME]. I am in my house/with my friend/in [a business] and I am safe.” Pay attention to your surroundings by naming one thing you can feel, one thing you can taste, one thing you can see, one thing you can hear, and one thing you can smell at a given moment. Focus on your heartbeat.
Seek support. Call a friend or loved one to vent about the incident. Talk to your roommate or partner about how you feel. Submit your story to Hollaback! Boston’s site. If it feels safe and supportive, use your social media networks to share your story and get assurance that you are not alone. Hang out with people you feel safe around and/or who make you laugh.
Connect with your body. Attend a yoga class. Give yourself an orgasm, either alone or with a partner. Go to the gym or for a run. Wear a fancy outfit that makes you feel good, whatever that may look like. Maybe it’s a tutu or a bow tie or a cool hat, or even just jeans and a tee! Get dressed up and do it for YOU.
Give yourself space. Take a bath, maybe with bubbles or a bath bomb or candles. Take a nap. Put on relaxing or invigorating music. Read a book that you can get lost in. Write yourself a love letter. Wear undergarments or PJs that make you feel good, whether that’s sexy or comfy. Write in a journal. Veg out with reality TV, Netflix, or a much-loved movie. Eat your favorite food.
What have we missed? What techniques and activities do you find most empowering and helpful to deal with the stress of harassment in the moment or after the fact? Let us know in the comments!
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I have lived safely and comfortably in my small town for almost fourteen years. I am a woman with multiple medical issues and am overweight. I am disabled and do not drive. For the last thirteen years I have always walked to town (about three miles) sometimes alone to retrieve my mail or buy small grocery items. Once a month I go to dunkin donuts to get a donut and coffee or pick up food from our local restaurant. I have always enjoyed greeting passersby with a friendly “Hi!” and getting fresh air and some exercise. My roommate is also disabled so I do errands for her too. Last March I was harassed by two men. They were sitting behind me as I placed my order at dunkin donuts. Other than us three the place was empty. As I walked with my order to get some napkins one said to the other within my earshot “Yeah…….She looks embarrassed.” As if I should be embarrassed to be out in public buying food because I am overweight. I did as I always do with internet trolls. I ignored them. Because I feel to reward them with attention or recognition encourages them. I sat down and waited for them to leave. I hoped they would go away. No such luck. A little while later as I rounded the corner to the street I live on they reappeared from the opposite direction. One of them said to the other within my earshot “Look at her. She looks like she is having trouble breathing. Must be hard to walk to with all that food she’s carrying.” Then they stopped right in front of me. One of them stopped in his tracks and pointed right at me laughing hysterically. “It must be hard being an asshole. I understand,” I said. And I turned and kept walking towards my home. When I was a good distance away one of them one of them shouted “What did you say to me?” I kept walking with my back to them and said ” I said, it must be tough being an asshole.” He shouted back “I wasn’t talking to you!” I ignored him and walked into my home.
I decided that I did the right thing that day. I still walk. The only change I would make is that now I always carry a cell phone with me. If he had followed me home or continued to bother me I would have called the police.
Any suggestions for dealing with this harassment is welcome. Thanks for listening.
In the span of one three-mile run, I was disparaged over my size four times. I eat a ton (not that that’s anyone’s business) but I’m very thin. Twice on my run, people leaned out their car windows and yelled at me. One yelled “Eat something!” and the other yelled “Stop running – you’re too skinny!” Both times, I was so stunned I froze. I felt like I was going to pee. My heart was racing more from the verbal attack than from running. Then, a group of girls at a bus stop dressed me down while I was waiting to cross the street. They said that my thighs are “scary skinny” and that I must have anorexia. I have never had an eating disorder! My thighs touch in the middle, not that anybody should be checking or judging health by this. They asked me what size clothes I wear. Not your business! Finally, as I was nearing home, two women, mid-40s, approached me and executed an intervention. They surrounded me, put their arms around me (did I say you could touch me?) and insisted I get medical help. These were total strangers! I’m perfectly healthy. I’ve always eaten tons. I never skip meals, not even breakfast when in a hurry. I eat protein bars between meals, and snack frequently too. Not that any of this is anyone’s business. My body is mine. It’s healthy. I am so tired of hearing “Real women have curves” and “No one wants to see a skinny girl naked.” Those are horrible things to say. I’m a real, 30 yr old woman, who is not curvy. I have a flat chest, but want the same confidence when nude that everyone wants. I deserve respect. Stop telling thin people they need to get ‘fixed’ to count as real women. Stop telling thin people not to exercise; the benefits of cardio are for the brain, heart and lungs, regardless of weight. Stop saying thin people ‘have it easy.’ Getting harassed and yelled at is not easy.