Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
What a week! Between White Ribbon Day festivities, the Massachusetts upskirting ruling and legislative updates, a workshop at Harvard and inquiries leading up to International Anti-Street Harassment Week, we’ve been busy – and we’re not done yet. This weekend, Brenda and Britni are presenting amid an impressive lineup at the Five College Queer Gender and Sexuality Conference at Hampshire College.
With so much excitement, a few things you may have missed:
What else did we miss in all the action this week? Let us know in the comments!
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
Technology is a funny thing, and quick; advances are often made more rapidly than changes in legislation, leaving loopholes that our justice system is frequently unable to close. In Massachusetts today, the court has ruled that current state law does not in fact prohibit up-skirt, creepshot or other surreptitious photography on public transit.
“At the core of the Commonwealth’s argument to the contrary is the proposition that a woman, and in particular a woman riding on a public trolley, has a reasonable expectation of privacy in not having a stranger secretly take photographs up her skirt. The proposition is eminently reasonable, but § 105 (b) in its current form does not address it. [FN17]“
Hollaback! Boston is glad to see that we agree – in that we find it eminently reasonable to expect privacy beneath our clothes in public. Like other forms of sexual harassment and violence, there is a power dynamic at play in this type of photography, a taking of what the perpetrator deems rightfully theirs (be it a phone number, a conversation or a private photo) while the victim is left without a chance to consent.
Unlike snapping a photo of a stranger, intentionally or in the background, where that person is fully clothed and presenting themselves as they see fit in public, up-skirt photography disregards the intent of the subject – getting dressed to keep parts of their body private – to place higher value on the desire of the perpetrator. Like harassment, it’s not a compliment; up-skirt photography is not intended to benefit the subject, only the photographer, while a true compliment would do the opposite.
Like many states, Massachusetts’ laws have not been amended to address the new ways harassers can and do use technology to violate women, but we are hopeful that this ruling will shed light on the issue and motivate work toward legislative updates, and we’re thrilled that Massachusetts lawmakers are already voicing interest in bringing our state laws up to speed.
For more on the larger trend of upgrading up-skirt laws, take a look back at Time’s coverage of the topic last fall, and read up on what other local sources have to say today:
Boston Herald: Mass. court: Subway ‘upskirt’ photos not illegal
We think that up-skirt photography is a violation of a reasonable expectation of privacy, and we look forward to supporting legislative changes to provide protection for victims choosing to report the behavior. What do you think? Do you expect that what you intend to keep private beneath your clothes can be up for consumption when you leave your home?
–The Hollaback! Boston Teamone comment
February flew by, and March is jam-packed with events as we ramp up for spring and International Anti-Street Harassment week. Stay tuned for details as they’re finalized, and bookmark the Upcoming Events page for a current calendar!
As we dive into March, here’s a quick peek back at our most popular posts in February:
What are you getting excited about this month?
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
We’re thrilled to be joining in a tweetup on race and street harassment today, alongside some heavy hitters. Swing by the Hollaback! mothership for guidelines and details, and join the conversation today at 1pm EDT using #harrassmentis – what does harassment look like for you?
If you’re new to the conversation on street harassment and race, please take some time to read Hollaback!’s #harassmentis: our guide on how identity impacts the experience of street harassment. Now is also a good time to take a peek back at our reading list on the topic.
UPDATE: If you missed the tweetup, or want a review, check out the storify!
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
Now that Valentine’s Day has passed and all of the heart-shaped, pink-wrapped candy is on sale, let’s flip the lens to self-love for a bit.
We know that Valentine’s Day can be a rough time for some people. We also know that some people love it! However you feel about the holiday and whether or not you chose to celebrate it, we think that LOVE is a super important human thing. We also think that self-love and self-care are really crucial. We know that sometimes in our busy schedules, it’s hard to find the time to practice those things. And so we want to have a party in the spirit of loving each other for exactly who we are, and pampering ourselves on top of it! We want to invite you to our HOLLAday party: where you are free to be your wonderful, individual, glorious self!
Hollaback! is all about your right to be you: Someone who knows they have the right to define themselves instead of being defined by some creep’s point of view. Because none of us are as simple as a list of physical attributes. We have a right to be who we are, not who we are told to be. We have a right to define ourselves on our own terms when we walk out the door, whatever that means that day. That hour. That minute.
We’re inviting you to join us this Friday, February 21 for a night of pampering and socializing among old friends and new. Come solo, bring a friend, or bring a date (or two)! This event is open to people of all genders, orientations, races, and physical abilities. This is a space for anyone who has ever been made to feel uncomfortable in public space, and allies who are committed to helping create safe public space for ALL.
We’ll be announcing raffles and activities later this week – join the event on facebook to stay up to date, and come celebrate with us on Friday!
image credit: Hollaback! Bostonno comments
The team here at Hollaback! Boston firmly believes that everyone has a right to have their voice heard. We believe that everyone’s voice matters, and we strive to listen to the things that people tell us. And in that vein, we have chosen not to participate in V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign. We made this decision because we do not feel that we can support a campaign that many communities have told us actively causes them harm. Collective Action for Safe Spaces said exactly what we want to about this decision:
But if our voices matter, then it also matters when and how we use them. This is why, when February 14 rolls around, CASS will not be participating in V-Day’s One Billion Rising campaign. The ways in which this campaign has co-opted or erased the community-driven work of people of color — while representing this erasure as the price to pay in building a universal movement — have been well-documented since the campaign’s beginnings, and the conversation is far from over. The movement to end gender-based violence can and should involve learning, solidarity and alliances across communities and borders. But CASS recognizes that not all communities experience gender-based violence in the same way(s), and that effective and sustainable responses to violence must, by definition, be community-driven.
We also want to take a cue from CASS in terms of how we choose to mark today, February 14:
Instead of supporting One Billion Rising this Friday, we will use the small platform we have to show our solidarity with the good work of activists and organizations that are responding to the needs of their communities in innovative ways.
So today, we’re choosing to highlight local organizations that are doing amazing and badass work in communities of color. If you’re not already familiar with these orgs, we suggest you check them out!
Boston GLASS is a drop-in center for GLBTQ youth ages 13-29. They create a space where youth can explore their gender-identity and sexual orientation and feel supported and encouraged. HIV and STI prevention, support, awareness and testing is a huge part of their mission, and they also provide groups and social support.
Hispanic Black Gay Coalition (HBGC) is dedicated to the unique and complex needs of the Black, Hispanic and Latin@ LGBTQ community. Founded in 2009, they work to inspire and empower Latin@, Hispanic and Black LGBTQ individuals to improve their livelihood through activism, education, community outreach, and counseling. They hold amazing community building events, and an awesome Youth Empowerment Conference each year, which we were honored to participate in in 2013.
HUES Boston is a collective of LGBQ/T identified Brown Womyn in Boston. HUES is a program of HBGC that works to provide a space where LGBTQ Black and Hispanic/Latin@ womyn can be safe, visible and celebrated.
The Network/La Red is a survivor-led, social justice organization that works to end partner abuse in lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, BDSM, polyamorous, and queer communities. Rooted in anti-oppression principles, their work aims to create a world where all people are free from oppression. We strengthen our communities through organizing, education, and the provision of support services. Their TOD@S project seeks to gain more insight on domestic violence/partner abuse within Black and/or Latin@ LGBQ/T communities and to create greater access to resources and services for survivors from these communities.
MAP for Health is a community-based, nonprofit organization that works to improve healthcare access, disease prevention and service delivery for the Asian Pacific Islander community in Massachusetts.
Mass Area South Asian Lambda Association (MASALA) is a Boston-based organization for GLBTQ people of South Asian ethnicity. Their aim is to increase the awareness of our presence in the social spaces that they inhabit and welcome alliances with like-minded individuals and groups regardless of their ethnic/cultural/sexual identities.
Professional Queer Women Of Color is a group for professional queer women of color living in New England who are interested in meeting with other sisters to share laughs, tell stories and support one another.
Queer Asian Pacific Islander Alliance (QAPA) is committed to providing a supportive social, political, and educational environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, and questioning people of Asian and Pacific Islander heritage in the Boston and New England area.
The Theater Offensive seeks to present the diversity of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender lives in art so bold it breaks through personal isolation, challenges the status quo, and builds thriving communities.
MataHari: Eye of the Day is a Greater Boston organization of women of color, immigrant women and families who organize as sisters, workers, and survivors for personal and societal transformation, justice and human rights. MataHari’s Mission is to end gender based violence and exploitation.
Asian Task Force Against Domestic Violence (ATASK) primarily serves Asian families and individuals in Massachusetts and New England who suffer from or are at risk of suffering from domestic violence.
Queer Muslims of Boston seeks to be an safe, inclusive, confidential and welcoming space for those Muslims who identify as LGBT, Queer, or Questioning. They aim to remove isolation and alienation, to build community, and to increase visibility for Queer Muslims in the Greater Boston area.
Inquilinos Boricuas en Acción (IBA) strives to build community power through a comprehensive approach to community development. They work to develop and preserve safe and culturally diverse affordable housing communities whose residents will have opportunities to increase their social, educational, economic and political power, in order to reach their full potential. They use the arts as a community-building tool to increase cultural pride and foster cross-cultural connections.
We were very excited to create a safer space in Boston nightlife after our holiday hiatus. The location, Daisy Buchanan’s, was chosen based off of the Yelp reviews, so we knew it was a good fit for our mission: reclaiming space that has traditionally been unwelcoming. We continue to bring together local allies and individuals who have experienced or witnessed harassment based on gender, size, abilities, race, and orientations while at bars and night clubs to support one another and have a good time.
When we arrived at 8pm the bar was fairly empty and we made our way to the back to stake out some tables. After a few familiar faces started to arrive,we welcomed them and caught up over drinks. Over the course of the night we had about 25 people join us; for some it was their first TBTB, and others joined us who had made it to previous events. Throughout the night we felt comfortable meeting new people, discussed instances of harassment that we had all previously experienced as a result of going out to bars and clubs, and enjoyed unwinding after a long week. Although the night was without incident, we were grateful for the support network that we had in place in the form of our awesome posse.
In lieu of co-hosting TBTB in February, we will be celebrating at Make Shift Boston for our second HOLLA party: Come As You Are: A Self-Care HOLLAday!
We’re inviting you to join us for a night of pampering and socializing among old friends and new. Come solo, bring a friend, or bring a date (or two)! This event is open to people of all genders, orientations, races, and physical abilities. This is a space for anyone who has ever been made to feel uncomfortable in public space, and allies who are committed to helping create safe public space for ALL.
We’ll have raffles and activities, which we’ll update as we get closer to the date! This will be an alcohol-free event. Join us at Make Shift Boston from 8:00 PM-11:00 PM for drinks, laughter, fun, self-care, and a whole lotta LOVE!
Dress code: whatever makes you feel your most fabulous, darling.
We are proud to create safer spaces in Boston’s nightlife, and we are dedicated to ending harassment and gender based violence in public space. Thanks to all who attended our first Take Back The Bar of 2014, we hope to see new faces and we’ll continue to reach out to all communities and individuals who are made to feel unsafe in bars and clubs.
image credits: 1,4-Hollaback! Boston; 2,3-Brandie Skorkerone comment
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
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