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We jumped into 2014 with both feet, and January kept us busy! Here’s a look back at the five most popular posts from last month, in case you missed them:
Stay warm and dry this week, Boston!
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
To round out your week, watch Laverne Cox talk bullying and street harassment experienced as a trans woman of color. (Trigger warning! And, also, tear-jerker warning.)
Then, check out a student’s line of consent-themed underwear, consider Michelle Goldberg’s take on the twitter wars of feminism (and a counterpoint), take a look at an artist’s response to her own internet bullies, and marvel at amazing illustrated superheros inspired by young girls’ own imaginations.
Have a wonderful weekend, whatever you’re up to!
video credit: KepplerSpeakers
For Tuesday, a classic TEDx talk from Jackson Katz positioning violence against women as a men’s issue.
video credit: TEDxTalks
Sometimes when I’m walking home in Allston drunk guys coming out of bars will harass me. Actually, every single time, not sometimes. Occasionally one of their friends will say “okay, enough of that” but not always.
You may have seen something last week about a string of sexual assaults happening in the Union Square and Porter Square neighborhoods of Somerville. Somerville Police released a sketch and description of the suspect earlier this week.
The suspect was described as a white man, 20 to 30 years of age, about 5-foot-9-inches tall, with a thin-athletic build, and clean shaven. The suspect was wearing a red ski jacket with black under the arm pits and dark pants.
They also urge anyone with information about the assaults to contact Sgt. Richard Lavey at the Somerville Police Department Family Services Unit at 617-625-1600, Ext. 7237. Anonymous tips may also be texted to the phone number “TIP411″ ( 847411 ); then put “617spd” at the beginning of your text message.
These things are really important pieces of information. It is absolutely important for public safety for the police to spread this information far and wide. But then the bulletin continues:
The Somerville Police urge everyone, especially women, to take precautions while walking at night. Do not wear ear buds while walking, avoid poorly lit areas, be aware of your surroundings, and do not walk alone if possible, the police said.
And this is where we start to find the announcement problematic. When we use language that urges women to take precautions to avoid being assaulted, we use what’s known as “victim-blaming language.” And what victim-blaming language does is put the responsibility on the potential victim of a rape or sexual assault to avoid that assault, instead of putting the onus where it belongs– squarely on the perpetrator. The only thing that will prevent a rape is not being in the vicinity of a rapist with intent to rape. That’s it. And when we send the message to victims that there were things they could have done to avoid the assault, we create a culture of shame and self-blame.
The other problem with personal safety messaging is that it’s, frankly, ineffective. As mentioned above, once a perpetrator picks a target, there’s not much that can be done to stop at least the attempted assault. And telling women that they shouldn’t walk alone at night or avoid certain routes is unrealistic. The truth is that women often HAVE to be out and about at night. They have work, they have school, they have a life. They may have to take poorly lit side streets to get from the bus route to their apartment. Some of these things are unavoidable. And even if a woman never left her house, that still doesn’t guarantee that she won’t be assaulted, because we know two other things about rape: a) that people have broken into homes and raped women who were inside, and b) most rape is committed by someone the victim knows.*
This personal safety messaging is not unique to the Somerville Police Department. Our sister site in Ottawa recently addressed their own police department’s use of personal safety messaging in regards to a serial rapist in their city. Hollaback! Ottawa, along with other women’s organizations, wrote an open letter to the women of Ottawa assuring them that they have the right to be safe on the streets, regardless of what they’re doing or where they’re walking. Their campaign to change the way we talk about rape is working. They’ve had a meeting with their police department and the media is beginning to rethink the way they report on the story.
And so, let’s talk about what that could look like here in Boston. When we say that personal safety messaging is not only ineffective, but creates a false sense of security, many people wonder what else the message could look like. How can we assure the public that the police are on the case while also helping them to stay as safe as possible when on the streets? The solution as we see it is two-fold.
Firstly, we have a sketch and description of the suspect. This is huge! This information should be distributed as widely as possible. We know what this person looks like and our goal should be to make him feel like the eyes of the entire city are looking for him, because they are.
Secondly, the way we relay our messages is really important. Words have power. Here’s an idea of how the police bulletin could read instead:
The suspect was described as a white man, 20 to 30 years of age, about 5-foot-9-inches tall, with a thin-athletic build, and clean shaven. The suspect was wearing a red ski jacket with black under the arm pits and dark pants. The assaults have been reported in the Union Square and Porter Square neighborhoods of Somerville. Based on his past assaults, some things that the perpetrator may look for are women walking alone, appearing distracted, or wearing headphones.
If you feel unsafe while walking in this neighborhood, call a friend for support or dial the Somerville PD’s non-emergency line at 617-625-1600. If you experience a sexual assault, we encourage you to call the Somerville PD immediately. The Boston Area Rape Crisis Center is also available 24/7 as a source of support at 800-841-8371. Police are doing what they can to ensure that the city is safe for all individuals. Please know that no matter what you are doing, no matter where you are, no matter how you are dressed, you have a right to be safe.
We want to catch this guy as much as the police do– our goals are the same. But we think that the women of Boston deserve better than messaging that blames them for their assault. We think that the message should put the onus and the blame and the attention squarely where it belongs– on the perpetrator of the assaults. We believe that everyone has a right to safety on the streets, and we think that dismantling rape culture is crucial to achieving that. And it can start with something as simple as the words we choose.
And so this is a call to action for not just the Somerville Police Department, but everyone that writes about and talks about rape and sexual assault in Boston. We believe that the women and citizens of this city deserve better, and we think you can provide that! Let’s work together to make our city as safe as possible for everyone that lives here.
If you do have any information about the assaults or have seen the man pictured in the police sketch, contact Sgt. Richard Lavey at the Somerville Police Department Family Services Unit at 617-625-1600, Ext. 7237. Anonymous tips may also be texted to the phone number “TIP411″ ( 847411 ); then put “617spd” at the beginning of your text message. Let’s get this guy.
*We also want to acknowledge that rape does not only happen to women. It happens to men and trans* folks, too. We’re focusing on female victims in this piece because those are the targets of the potential serial perpetrator.
–Britni, Brenda, Jamie and Brandie2 comments
Friday, we meet again.
As you round out your week, be sure to watch Laci Green’s terrific video explaining sexual objectification.
Then, peruse these holla-approved reads as well:
Have a terrific weekend!
video credit: Laci Green
It’s official—this month, we’re headed to Daisy Buchanan’s. Will you join us?
Remember, TBTB is about creating a safe, supportive space within a traditionally unwelcoming one; it’s not a protest, and it’s not confrontational. We’re heading out to have a good time, and we hope you will, too! Check out more answers to your burning Take Back The Bar questions in our FAQ, and head to the facebook event to invite your friends.
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
Hollaback! Boston knows that our identities shape the kind of harassment we experience and the way in which we experience it. Part of the work that we do involves bringing that to light, and working to address the ways in which oppressions can intersect.
We recently facilitated a discussion on street harassment and race, and put together a pre-discussion reading list for participants. We thought that it would be useful to share that list here, for anyone who is interested in doing some reading about the ways in which race and gender intersect when it comes to street harassment. This list was compiled by team members Brandie and Brenda, who facilitated the discussion.
For more information on intersectionality, identity, and street harassment, be sure to check out Hollaback!’s #harassmentis campaign. Are you interested in discussing this further? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule our new We HOLLABACK: Let’s Talk About Race workshop.
Did we miss any must-reads? Let us know in the comments!
Hollaback! Boston has an opening for an intern for the spring semester, with the potential for longer-term involvement, and we would love to hear from YOU! Start date would be no later than February 1, 2014. We are looking for 10-15 hours per week. Queer-identified candidates and candidates of color are strongly encouraged to apply.
Responsibilities will include:
Organizing, managing, and expanding our college campus campaign
Promoting the site and events
Contributing to the blog
Helping to generate graphics and design for social media
Searching for content to be shared on our sites that is in line with the HOLLA mission
Managing email correspondence
Brainstorming ways to increase our reach and readership
Helping to organize and promote events
Attending monthly team meetings and webinars
Being a creative, motivated, and passionate person who helps us fuel the movement and think of new ways to hollaback!
We do have specific things that we know we will need your help with, but we’re also really open to making this internship something that fits your interests and strengths.
Read up on what we do and see what you think. Please have some knowledge of the Hollaback! movement in general and what our team has been doing here in Boston before you show up to the interview. We want to know that you have some investment in what we’re trying to accomplish.
Feel strongly that our mission is one you believe in. Tell us what YOU want to bring to our movement. What are we missing? What could we be doing better? How could your skills fit our work?
Be comfortable taking initiative. We will provide some direction, but we want you to be unafraid to jump in with both feet and get the ball rolling on your own.
Be ready for anything.
Want to be part of a team of strong individuals who have lots to teach you but are super excited to learn things from you, too.
Compensation and benefits:
This is an unpaid internship.
However, there are concrete benefits to taking this internship position! You will have experience working with an organization that is unfunded and volunteer-run– creativity is always necessary! You will have the opportunity to run your own campaign and design it in whatever way you think is best. You will gain experience writing curriculum and facilitating workshops. You will have the opportunity to be nominated for awards, grants, and scholarships that we access through our network.
Interested? To apply, send a resume and cover letter to email@example.com.
A man sitting across from me on the orange line asked to take a look at the drawing I had been working on. He was wearing a lanyard and badge from my college, so I felt comfortable enough to let him. He stared at me for the rest of the trip, then followed me off the train to the empty train platform when it was clearly not his original stop.
He asked to exchange numbers, and when I tried to brush past him he positioned himself between me and the exit and put his hand on my arm. I had to give him my real number because he called me to make sure it was correct, but managed to give him a fake name. I finally got around him and left while he waited to get back on the next train. I found a woman with children to walk close to for several minutes after leaving the station.
He texted my number for months afterwards asking for dates, getting angrier and angrier when I did not respond. I was jumpy on campus for a long time because I knew he worked or attended classes there. My male friends didn’t understand why I was so upset.