I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

“Hey you sexy fucking thing.” | Madison’s Story

I was walking through the gas station near the corner of Mass Ave and Tremont Street on my way to work. As I walked through the gas station lot, I heard a man say to me, “hey you sexy fucking thing.” His aggressive tone of voice, coupled with the fact that he was only a few feet of away from me, immediately took me off guard. I kept walking but looked at him and told him to leave me alone. As soon as I said this, he started screaming horrible, vulgar things at me- calling me a dirty bitch, commenting about what I was wearing, etc. I kept walking, and so did he. A person parked at the gas station asked if I was ok, and I paused at their vehicle as the man continued to yell at me. As soon as he was far enough away, I quickly walked into my workplace. I was shaking and close to tears. I’ve been cat called before, but never to the point where I was scared like this. Because the shirt I was wearing displayed the name of the place I worked, I spent the rest of the night on edge that he would show up or walk by. Thankfully, I didn’t see him again, but this incident really shook me to the core.

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I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

HOLLA On the Go: “He just walked right over and grabbed my butt without even saying a word.”

I was at a bar one night with a group of friends, standing up, wearing a dress. Some guy who had to have been at least ten years older than me just walked right over and grabbed my butt without even saying a word. I turned around and he was smiling. I let him know that he just ruined my night by making me feel like less of a human and more like an object.

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HOLLA On the Go posts are those submitted through Hollaback!’s mobile apps – learn more here!

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I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

“What? You’re fair game.” | Brandie’s Story

I waited months to see some of my favorite bands perform this past Spring at Boston Calling. The last thing I thought would happen was to be groped in front of a sea of people with out anyone backing me up or acknowledging it even happened.

Let’s just say his name was Mike. I decided to attend the event alone and I spent the day drinking and having a nice day taking myself on a date.

We chatted for a bit after finding out we were both alone, pleasant enough, not creepy.

My favorite singer came on, Jenny Lewis, and I started singing along and confessed I had a celebrity crush on her.

Me: “She is such a babe!”
Him: “Oh….are you gay?”
Me: “I’m queer, I’m attracted to people.”
Him: “Oh, so you wouldn’t mind if I did this…”

And he groped me. Full palm on my left breast. I hissed, “Don’t touch me!” and he replied, “What? You’re fair game.”

As someone who identifies as not straight he assumed my body is public space and I was alone, surrounded by a large crowd, which made me less likely to report him because it would be basically impossible to tell event staff what he did.

After, I pretended like it didn’t happen. No way was I going to let this ruin the rest of my day, I still had three hours left of show. I sent a bunch of texts to my partner who supported me and made sure to let me know it wasn’t my fault and Mike was a piece of shit.

For the umpteenth time a man has made me feel uncomfortable, threatened and violated in public. What gives them the right to dominate every space they’re a part of? Why are they so entitled to women’s bodies? How can they not connect seeing us (women)as objects restricts our ability to experiencing bodily autonomy and respect?


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I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

HOLLA On the Go: “He had his genitals in his hand.”

I was on the metro rail and I noticed a man staring at me. I turned away and looked at my phone. I see out of the corner of my eye that he is still looking. And when I turned to look at him he had his genitals in his hand, masturbating. I got up and moved to a different cart.

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HOLLA On the Go posts are those submitted through Hollaback!’s mobile apps – learn more here!

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I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

“Be nice to your neighbors, right?” | Rebecca’s Story

Me (pushing the stroller, wearing a pretty dress, enjoying the sunshine on my way to meet some other moms) — ::smile::

Random Street Guy– Hey, lemme ask you something, lemme ask you something!

Me — ::ignore instinct and reluctantly pause six feet away:: Yes?

RSG — You want another one? ::gestures to the baby::

Me — (relieved this is a pretty usual question) Oh, someday. She’s enough to handle right now!

RSG — Hehe, I didn’t mean from me!

Me — I … didn’t … what…

RSG — Hey listen, listen. ::sidles up to shake my hand:: I’m Philip.

Me — ::shake his hand even though I don’t want to – be nice to your neighbors, right?:: ::feel gross emotionally and physically::

Philip — I make the ladies feel good in all the ways, you know?

Me — Have a good one. ::walk away as he continues to blather and entreat me to come back::

::sincerely wish I had shut him down with any kind of self-assertion instead of meekly leaving::

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I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

HOLLA On the Go: “Three separate men stared and made comments.”

Walking the 500 feet from my car to a restaurant 3 separate men stared and made comments about me and my outfit. All were at least double my age.

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HOLLA On the Go posts are those submitted through Hollaback!’s mobile apps – learn more here!

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I've Got Your Back, Shared Stories

“Being harassed when I’m just trying to do my job shook me up.” | Linda’s Story

On June 23 around 9 p.m., I was at my job supervising an outdoor volleyball game on campus. When I was on my way back to the game after taking a bathroom break, I had to go through an alley to get to the other side of the street. A man said hi to me as I was exiting that alley. I was nervous because he seemed sketchy, but I quickly replied hi to avoid a nasty response, and kept walking. He then asked me where I was from, and when I ignored him and crossed the street he kept shouting at me trying to guess. Then he mumbled something I couldn’t make out. I normally feel very safe on my campus, even at night. However being harassed near a dark alley when I’m just trying to do my job and mind my own business shook me up. Even though I know harassment isn’t acceptable not matter what a woman’s appearance, I certainly didn’t expect to be harassed while I was wearing my uniform.

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Britni, Noteworthy

Things That Are Fun: Riding A Bike, Going To The Beach, Dancing. Things That Are Never Fun: Responding To Street Harassment.

Director’s Note: This post was originally published on Britni’s personal blog, but it’s a perspective we want to include here as well. The conversation about our individual blind spots as we work to make public space safer for everyone is an important one, and the response – including that of the Cards Against Harassment creator – has been open-minded, constructive and positive. Share your thoughts in the comments! And, see Lindsay’s response to Britni’s original piece at the end of this cross-post – we want to recognize her for being open to learning and criticisms, and for her thoughtful response. –Kate

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably seen something about Cards Against Harassment. The cards, and their creator, Lindsay, have gone viral on the internet in the last few weeks. The premise behind them is a simple one– when a man harasses you on the street, you hand them one of the downloadable cards with snappy comebacks on them. In general, I’m not against this kind of response to street harassment. In fact, Hollaback! Boston makes our own creeper cards that can be handed out to people should the victim of harassment feel safe enough to do so.

This last point is an important one. Responding to street harassment is a tricky thing and it is different for every person. We all carry different identities with us, and some of those identities make speaking up more difficult. Which is why I was horrified when @feministajones tweeted about the drop page last night, pointing out that this is what you see when you visit the homepage of Cards Against Harassment:

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*deep breath*, you guys. Because WHOA, do I have a lot to say about why this is incredibly misguided. I think that it is ignorant and dangerous to paint responding to street harassment as something “fun.” Even if you feel safe enough to respond in some way, this isn’t something fun. Responding to street harassment always carries a risk of escalation. It can be a very dangerous thing to do, and it is not for everyone. You never know how the harasser is going to respond and if they are going to get angry and lash out. Don’t believe me? I can cite example after example of women who were attacked or killed for standing up to harassers. Do you think responding to street harassment was “fun” for CeCe McDonald? Was it “fun” for Islan Nettles? What about for the 14-year-old girl who was run over by a car for refusing her harasser? I’m willing to bet that none of those women would tell you that responding to street harassment is fun.

Feeling safe enough to respond to street harassment requires some kind of privilege. The more marginalized identities you carry with you, the less safe you are to speak up when someone harasses you because the harassers know that people are less likely to care about you if something happens. All women are not created equal in the eyes of society. It’s important to acknowledge that a white woman carries more privilege with her than a woman of color. Cisgender women carry more privilege than transwomen. Women of color and transwomen run higher risk of their confrontations escalating than white cisgender women do. This is not to say that white cisgender women will never face escalation, because we all know that is untrue. I’ve experienced it myself. But what I am saying is that statistics show that women of color and transwomen experience violence at disproportionately higher rates.

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My problem is not with the cards themselves. It’s with the fact that there is no disclaimer or seeming recognition that they may not be a safe solution for everyone to use. There seems to be no recognition of Lindsay’s own privilege or understanding that others may lack it. Yes, she links to Stop Street Harassment and Hollaback! as resources, but not everyone is going to click through to them. And this is not the first time that a woman of color has found issue with Cards Against Harassment’s intersectionality. Over at Autostraddle, Hannah Hodson writes:

…it is hard to ignore the plainly evident: the majority of the people Lindsey embarrasses are men of color. Despite protestations that she has approached both white men and women about street harassment, Lindsey’s videos clearly illustrate the disproportionate prevalence of street harassment in communities of color (read: poor and working class urban communities).

You can call it “pulling the race card.” You can call it “white-splaining.” However, it is clear there is a racial and cultural element that Lindsey is anxious to avoid by literally cutting Jared off. When a Black person says to a white person, something racist is happening, it is said white person’s responsibility to respond by saying, you might be right, please explain. Lindsey has been quoted saying, “Though I’m filming as I’m encountering experiences, I’m in no way attempting to target a specific demographic…Sexism is sexism.” Sure, Lindsey isn’t seeking to approach men of color (though, her daily commute involves public transportation, mostly used by people of color), but in the end these are the men who end up lambasted on her website. “Sexism is sexism” is exactly the kind of language used to deny any kind of intersectionality within the feminist movement. It is the kind of language that sparked #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. It is the kind of language that denies Black women the agency to approach problems that are prevalent in their own communities.

It’s important to understand that my experience of sexism does not erase a man of color’s experience of racism. These are both completely valid understandings of our own lived experiences. Does a black man’s experience of racism excuse his harassing behavior? Of course not. But to ignore the reality of his lived experience is racist. Oppressions overlap. Shit gets complicated. But it’s not okay for me to tell a man of color that he’s not experiencing racism because of course he is. Society is racist. He experiences racism every day, in the same way that I experience sexism every day.

And this language of erasure that is used in the videos and website of Cards Against Harassment, this language that “denies black women the agency to approach problems that are prevalent in their own communities” is why Feminista Jones started #YouOKSis. She says:

…the movement still continues to be focused on white women, often opposite men of color or black men. Sometimes it gets into, These savage black men are preying on precious white women. That narrative in the United States has gotten many black men jailed and killed. I wanted to focus on black women’s experiences with [harassment] from anyone. It could be white men, Asian men, women—I’ve talked about being harassed by two lesbian women. But I wanted to center our voices, because I feel like black women’s voices are not always amplified.

As a white, cisgender woman, here’s what I want to say: we deserve to have a voice and we get to own our own experiences of street harassment. But we do not get to own a universal experience of street harassment. Because even though I experience harassment on a near-daily basis and even though I fear for my safety when that happens, I also have to recognize that my lived experience is not the same as a woman of color’s experience or a transwoman’s experience of a TWoC’s experience or a visibly queer person’s experience. And it is therefore not on me to pretend to know what that’s like. And when I create a movement that ignores the differences that we all have, one that does not acknowledge that those differences exist, I’m pretending to speak for everyone by omitting the fact that I don’t.

When I make cards that look like this, I’m missing an intersectional lens on my work:

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It’s not just “poorly behaved children” who blurt out everything that pops into their head. That’s an ableist assumption. People with Tourette’s, dementia, or autism may behave this way. And children that *do* blurt out everything that pops into their head are not necessarily “poorly behaved.” They’re children. They’re learning. They’re using their voice. And that’s perfectly okay.

When I make cards that look like this, I’m missing an intersectional lens on my work:

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Because as Feminista Jones points out:

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I seriously hope that Lindsday has never handed that card about how someone’s mother failed to raise him properly to a man of color, when we know that black women have the highest rates of single motherhood. Not only that, not everyone has a mother and even if they do, I don’t like the idea of somehow blaming another woman for her son’s misogynist behavior.

So yes, maybe Cards Against Harassment are empowering to some people. And that’s AWESOME. But they are not empowering to all people, and they may not even be an option for some people. And that’s okay, but we need to acknowledge that. Responding to street harassment gets people killed. That is a very real reality for some people. They live with that fear every day. And making this sound like a game, one where you get to hand out cheeky cards to harassers to see how they respond, is dangerous. Because street harassment is not a game. It’s very much a matter of life and death for some people.

Britni

From Cards Against Harassment creator, Lindsay:

Thank you for the valuable feedback. Although there were in fact already several disclaimers on the site (see, e.g., the About page, which has not been edited) the unanticipated viral sharing of the project absolutely carries with it a heightened responsibility for more appropriate messaging than what I initially designed for myself. The originally playful tone of the site was adopted because my male colleagues, relatives, and friends have been very quick to label objections to street harassment as “humorless angry feminist” rantings; my hope was that by maintaining a playful tone in my site (which was designed for myself, the men I handed cards to, and my immediate peer group who didn’t quite get why this was an issue), men visiting the site would be able to focus on the underlying messaging rather than immediately write it off as unpalatable feminist ire. However, I too share a great deal of concern that this personal project has gotten the attention that it has when other established campaigns which are healthier and more universally appropriate have not gone as viral, transforming the original message (here’s something I did when I had had enough) into a more dangerous message (i.e. here is something other women should do.) (You may ask, why not pull the site altogether if I share that concern, and the answer is I’ve received thousands of emails from other women who do think the cards might be right for them, so I am trying to strike a balance.) I have updated the site with several more prominent disclaimers and to remove some of the language you noted as more problematic when viewed in a larger context. I am also going to be pulling the ableist card.

I certainly don’t expect you to update your post because all of the criticism you note remains valid and an appropriate part of the conversation, but wanted to reach out and thank you for the feedback.

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