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Before you go about your weekend business, peruse Rebecca Pacheco’s five favorite commencement speeches in honor of recent grads, review three ways to speak your truth without blowing your lid, read up on how bikes empower girls in rural Cambodia, and take a peek at Stop Street Harassment’s report on International Anti-Street Harassment Week 2013.
image credit: Kate Ziegler
Hollaback! Boston is so excited to welcome our summer intern to the team – we’re expecting great things from her, and asked her to introduce herself before she gets started. Welcome, Kayla!
Hi, I’m Kayla.
I’m currently an undergrad at Tufts University, studying American Studies and Sociology. My academic focus thus far has been comparative race and ethnicity and institutional power in the U.S. When I’m not in class, I like to explore Somerville and Boston, tell jokes, and really get to know people. I’m originally from Kansas City (Missouri, of course) and I’ve truly come to love Boston these past three years, but I joined the Hollaback! movement because I want Boston to be better than it is. Street harassment runs rampant in this city and in all cities, but I believe it’s a mere symptom of larger issues of inequality. It presents itself as a specific issue that we can tackle, so why not try? Any wins against this oppression have the power to affect the bigger picture, causing a rupture in the current power dynamics that consistently advantage some over others. I think that by telling our stories and contributing solutions, those of us affected by street harassment can make the streets a safer place for us all.
Join us this afternoon for our next HOLLA Offline event at Ula Cafe in Jamaica Plain!
We’re plotting our Pride Parade float and making plans for the summer, and we would love your ideas and feedback. Come hang out offline, meet new HOLLA friends in person, and help us determine next steps.
We can’t wait to see you!
image credit: Ula Cafe
A few days ago, a friend working on a PhD in another state sent a text:
My immediate response was one of shock – if this had happened to me, I would have lost it, infuriated at the invasion of privacy. So I was perplexed as the conversation continued:
My friend and I had a chance to talk through this a bit more yesterday, and she expressed surprise that I would equate this encounter with street harassment. I acknowledged that, because of the work I do for Hollaback! and the time I spend reading, writing and speaking about street harassment as more than catcalls, but as part of a larger culture that values her sneaky suitor’s wishes and time over hers, I’m predisposed to think of harassment. I understand that I’ve focused my attention that way.
Discussing street harassment, especially with those not already primed to consider it a problem, or even a thing that happens, can be challenging for all involved. While activists like Hollaback! site leaders, interns and volunteers are working to frame street harassment as part of a larger, global phenomenon, millions of women around the world are having minor interactions like my friend’s – and sometimes, they might welcome them. While I was busy being furious for her, my friend felt that in the context in which she had this experience, it was more clever than creepy.
It’s important, I think, in the midst of our discussions of how to respond and how to intervene, to also acknowledge the right of an individual to assess their situation and decide that in that moment, in that context, they feel flattered. Accepting this doesn’t lessen the importance of working to change the culture that allows for the exchange to take place as it did, with (in my opinion) a huge presumption on the part of the stranger, but it does remind us that in the end, individual experiences are all valid, and that’s what this is all about.
Street harassment doesn’t have to make you feel unsafe in all cases to still exist, and to still be identified as such; our experiences can illustrate the culture behind street harassment without necessarily having ruined our day. These stories are valid, too – and Hollaback! is for sharing them!
What do you think? Would you have been furious as I would have in my friend’s situation, or do you think it was clever and mostly harmless?
The bicycle has a history as a vehicle of empowerment, and perhaps that explains some of our partiality – it’s less expensive than a car or the T, available 24/7, and in many cases helps individuals who experience street harassment to feel safer and more in control of their transit. That’s not to say harassment can’t happen on two wheels, of course – it does – but the tone often changes, and the power dynamic shifts.
There are all sorts of bike-related events in Boston this week, and though none of them are harassment specific, we hope you’ll celebrate if you’ve ever enjoyed the autonomy of two wheels. Check out the schedules for Boston Bike Week and Bay State Bike Week for more, and if you’re a beginner wondering how to get started read through nine tips for better biking. For more bike-related posts, visit our archives.
Happy riding! How will you celebrate?
image credit: Kate Ziegler
To all of the mothers in our lives and in our hearts, a very happy Mothers’ Day!
“I ain’t no damsel in distress and I don’t need to be rescued so put me down, punk.” -Ani Difranco
Have you seen this new video from Coca-Cola? They call it an “icebreaker.” The premise behind the video, for those that haven’t seen it, is that by making caps on bottles of Coca-Cola extremely tight, women will have to ask the men passing by for help opening the bottle. The hope is that this will set off sparks of some sort. Basically, Coca-Cola is using too-tight bottle caps as a matchmaking tool.
And Coca Cola, I’m here to tell you that this little “trick” of yours is not cute. It’s not cute at all. It perpetuates archaic and damaging stereotypes about gender dynamics and relationships. It promotes the idea that women are helpless and that all we need is a strong man to swoop in and save the day. And it forces women to engage with men that they don’t know.
This video sends the message that women want, need, and welcome help from strange men. That this difficult-to-open soda bottle is all that stands between two strangers potentially falling in love. It tells men that they should approach women to help them because they may get a date out of it. To be honest, the last thing I want to do when I’m out by myself is engage with some dude that I don’t know. In fact, I spend most of my time out and about bracing myself to fend off the inevitable guy that thinks he’s entitled to a conversation with me. So Coca Cola placing a trap that would make me have to ask a man for help is infuriating and insulting.
You are making women dependent on a man to get something that they want/need. This is not romantic. You are creating a situation in which women are forced to ask a man for something, and then leaving them to deal with a now-awkward situation. Because this man has now helped her, she probably feels obligated to be nice to him or to talk to him because it would make her a bitch to ask him for something and then walk away, right? You are creating possibly non-consensual interactions that women may feel trapped in.
We need to rethink what we consider to be romantic. The behaviors that we often promote as “sweet” or “romantic” are, in reality, often quite creepy and sexist. This little prank is no different, Coca Cola.
I love summer! I love the warmth, I love the sunshine, I love summertime activities, and I love the fashion. What I don’t love is street harassment, but as I’m sure many of you know, incidents tend to increase in the summer. As more people are outside for longer periods of time in the summer, it seems that every time I leave my house to enjoy the warm temperature or simply to walk to work, I have to prepare myself for street harassment. Having to think about street harassment every day before I leave my house is not fair, and it is not something I want to do when I have a million other things on my mind.
Yesterday I experienced my first warm weather street harassment of the year. I want to take back the summer. I want to wear weather appropriate clothing (or any clothing, really) without having to deal with harassers leering and making comments about my body. I don’t need harassers forcing themselves into my daily life; I have enough on my mind, and I can tell you that whatever I’m thinking about is more important than trying to figure out if the outfit I want to wear is going to result in street harassment, or if I should take a different route home because I’m afraid of crossing paths with potential harassers. Street harassment sucks, and I’m not going to let it ruin summer for me. This summer I’m going to write about it, I’m going to spread awareness, and I’m going to hollaback!
Before you go about your weekend, stop by Jamie Peck’s spring street harassment reminder at The Gloss, watch the moving This Is My Body, read a teen’s take on street harassment, brush up on why criminalization is not the answer, and consider stopping by the City Heart art show to benefit homeless and low-income artists in Boston this weekend.
And, for a reminder of why sharing your stories of street harassment – no matter how mundane – is important, read Cary Carr’s take on why silence won’t help, and check out this graphic based on the research of Hollaback!’s own Jill Dimond (click through to view full size):
Have a lovely weekend!
image credit: Hollaback!
So far, 2013 has been a very good year for Hollaback! Boston in terms of speaking engagements and opportunities to connect offline – and we couldn’t be more grateful!
Up next, we’ll be joining Fenway Health and IMPACT Boston next Thursday, May 9 for a workshop to empower, engage and enlighten. Britni and I will be offering advice for bystander intervention and responding to harassment, and IMPACT will serve up some self-defense tips.
Check out the Facebook event for details and to RSVP. We can’t wait – please join us!
image credit: Fenway Health
Would you like Hollaback! Boston to speak to your class, group, or at an upcoming event? We can offer an introduction to street harassment, a breakdown of why street harassment is problematic, and tips for responding and bystander intervention, geared to a variety of audiences. Get in touch!