Amy, Hollaback! Boston, Introducing

Introducing: Amy!

Our third and final introduction for our summer team is our Collegiate Intern, Amy! Amy is a rising senior at Scripps College where she is studying English and Hispanic Studies. She spent last summer in New York City, where she first began to see the severity of street-harassment as a social problem. She’s ready to Hollaback!, and we’re so glad to have her on board to jump-start our Safer Spaces campaign and to help develop our Campus Ambassador program for the fall. Welcome, Amy!

introducing: amy! // hollaback! boston

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I am a bi-coastal, feminist, extrovert, English major, going into my senior year at an incredible women’s college in Southern California. I am in love with my friends and constantly need to be surrounded by chaos. I am also the middle of five children, all of whom are conveniently among my best friends and most reliable sources of chaos.

Define your style: My style was once described by a friend as “preppy hippy”, and I’d say that is fairly accurate. I love flannel shirts, lady-like dresses, and (shamelessly) socks with my Birkenstocks.

Favorite Boston fact: I always thought it was fun that Boston streets were said to have originally been formed by cow paths, which were then paved over. It’s a random fact I like to tell my friends from L.A. when boasting about the charm and character of Boston. But as a Google search has just informed me, the “cow paths” explanation is likely a myth… I’ve been living a lie.

Your favorite place in Boston? My siblings and I do an annual Christmas-gift shopping trip to Harvard Square, and I love how festive that part of the city is around the holidays. But I’ve recently loved going out with my friends around there too, its a great crowd.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood
out most in your memory? I always feel the most uncomfortable and aware on the T into the city with my friends. As a group of young women, dressed up for a night out, this is often reason enough for (usually) drunk guys to start talking at us and asking nosy questions, and then being very dramatic about my unfriendliness. The “calm down, sweetheart” variety of remarks tend to piss me off the most.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to
Hollaback? I’m not sure I have really worked out a go-to response, it depends on the situation. I think more often than not my response is either ignoring the remark or giving the most, unimpressed, disgusted look I can muster. I respond to more relentless harassers or ones in a closer proximity (like on the T) with a very stern, “I don’t know you”.

Your superpower is… Arguing. Although it is not my most positive quality, I have an incredible ability to talk my way out of being wrong. It’s a blessing and a curse.

What are you excited about in 2014? Already I am excited about being home for the summer, I haven’t been back for longer than three weeks at a time in the past year, and I can’t wait to settle in and enjoy Boston for a few months. I’m also excited about a potential cross-country road trip at the end of the summer to bring my car out to school for senior year – definitely a bucket-list activity.

What inspires you? The women in my life have always been my constant source of inspiration and wisdom, and I am endlessly socializing as a result. Lately though I’ve given more thought to what the men around me also have to say, some of the most enlightening conversations I’ve had about feminism have been with my older brother!

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Write a letter to your grandma, it will be the most well-spent 15 minutes of your day.

Amy

image credit: Amy Cannistraro

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

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Hollaback! Boston, Introducing, Pinar, Shared Stories

Introducing: Pinar!

We’re continuing to introduce our summer team – including Summer Fellow, Pinar! Pinar is currently a college student in Worcester majoring in Cultural Studies & Communication and minoring in Women’s & Gender Studies. She’ll be designing a series of posters for us this summer to help Hollaback! Boston raise awareness about street harassment, and we are thrilled to have her on board. Welcome, Pinar!

introducing: pinar! // hollaback! boston

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I’m super into social justice and its activism – hence my summer project with Hollaback! Boston. When I’m not doing activist things, I’m probably either reading about physics, dancing, reading, or watching something!

Define your style: Clothing-wise, I’d say colorful and simple! I love bright-colored clothing items, and match them with accessories. I tend to stand out, which is not always something I like! Behavior-wise, I’d like to believe I’m very open –I’m trying to be less and less prejudiced about all things, so I try to ask questions to understand more about other people’s perspectives before explaining my own. Other than that, cheerful but quiet! J

Favorite Boston fact: That I’ve always felt at home and taken care of whenever I go into Boston! I live an hour and a half away, but whenever I get to go to Boston, I enjoy myself, and Boston somehow manages to work out my problems. I’ve had a lot of efficient thinking sessions on trains to and from, had wonderful days even when I was feeling down, and got help from residents when I needed anything.

Your favorite place in Boston? Although I’ve only been to some parts just yet, I do love Faneuil Hall and the New England Aquarium. I suspect Boston Common will be replacing them as my favorite spot once I get to go on a sunny day, though!

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? On my (unfortunately rare) visits to Boston, I usually take the T and walk very little, so I haven’t had to experience or witness any street harassment… yet? I hope not to, I have had enough of them in Worcester, where I live. Just the other day me and my friend were sprayed with water after being catcalled by two men in a car, which was more disturbing than any street harassment I have had to deal with.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? A lot of the harassment I deal with is verbal, and most from people in their cars. I don’t feel safe enough to respond unless the person’s in a car, and when they are, I usually yell some sort of insult or gesture – and that’s only because I’d hate to let them get away without any reaction. If I felt safe enough I would challenge those people and ask why they do it, what they hope to gain… not that it would be a reasonable answer in any case.

Your superpower is… self-control. I can control my feelings/thoughts/actions really well, which has become very useful in a lot of situations! I can usually tone down everything and think logically, which helps me assess my security when I’m harassed, or come up with an eloquent response even when frustrated or upset.

What are you excited about in 2014? Apart from my project with Hollaback! Boston? Just being in the US, I guess! I have always been back home in Cyprus for the summers, but this year I get to live in my first apartment, cook for myself, own furniture and all those adult things! (The sad part is not getting to see my family a lot L)

What inspires you? Physics. Thinking about the universe, all that is out there, and what we are.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Stop and think. Why do you think or do the things you do? What could make things better for everyone? Do that.

Pinar

image credit: Pinar Barlas

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

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Gina, Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Gina!

This summer we’re welcoming an inspiring group of interns and fellows to our team to lend a hand. Gina is our summer Communications Intern, a student journalist and member of her campus arts community, and will be taking over social media (among other things) during her break from Amherst College. We’re excited to have her on our team – welcome, Gina!

introducing: gina! // hollaback! boston

Tell us about yourself - what are you into? I’m into online journalism, early twentieth century American literature, and going out for ice cream.

Define your style: I can’t tell if I’ve finally achieved the kind of effortless style that revolves around really great basics …or if I just wear the same clothes every day.

Favorite Boston fact: Milkshakes are called “frappes” here. That’s important to know.

Your favorite place in Boston? The Swan Boats!

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? I’ve only been in Boston for a few days for the summer, but someone honked at me while I was running the other day. I was so pissed because that type of thing always happens so fast I can’t even flip them off.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? The disdainful, withering glare, sometimes while shaking my head no. But my favorite move is being an active bystander. Once I was walking with a friend at night and I saw a girl walking alone on the other side of the street – unfortunately, so did a group of rowdy guys, who proceeded to harass her. I won’t write exactly what I yelled at them, but it was something along the lines of “leave her alone.” It wasn’t much, but I just wanted to let her (and them) know that other people were paying attention to the harassment.

Your superpower is… I can get ready really quickly. Like, shower, get dressed, all that. I don’t know how great of a superpower this is because it usually means waiting for other people to finish getting ready but it’s always good in a pinch.

What are you excited about in 2014? I’m studying abroad in France in the fall!

What inspires you? I’ve always been inspired by fiction more than anything – books, movies, and the like. For example, I swear I wouldn’t be the kind of student I am if it weren’t for Hermione Granger and Elle Woods. Fictional characters are inspiring to everyone, I think, and most of all when you can see yourself in them. That’s why representation is so important.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t be sorry, be better. I read that on the wall of a bathroom stall.

Gina

image credit: Gina Faldetta

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

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Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Lily!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: lily! // hollaback! boston

Lily is a data analyst by day, and a biology student, suicide hotline volunteer, and DJ by night. She tweets (a lot) here and blogs (occasionally) here.

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I’m into snacks, R&B, science, cuties, feminism, crime movies, saying “hi” to dogs, and my family.

Define your style: Minidress and combat boots is my go-to look.

Favorite Boston fact: So this one’s a little gruesome, but: there’s a book bound with human skin at the Athenaeum.

Your favorite place in Boston? The Isabella Stewart Gardner museum and Georges Island are my two favorites, but really anywhere on the water makes me happy.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? So much! It’s so frustratingly pervasive and everyday that it’s hard for me to even remember individual incidents, except when it’s particularly funny or outlandish. The one that makes me laugh most to think about is once when I was wearing some low-cut jeans, a guy yelled “I can see your undies! (long pause as I continue walking by silently) … They’re blue!” (Reader, they were.)  That said, of course, usually it’s not very funny, just exhausting.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? Mostly I ignore it to save energy and avoid confrontations, though occasionally I give the middle finger or a withering glare.  But my favorite is when I am able to think of something to say that gives the harrasser pause or connects with them in some way.  Once a guy called me mean for ignoring his “hey beautiful, come over and talk to me for a second”, and I responded “If I stopped and talked with all the guys who hollered at me, I’d never get anything done!”  He seemed amused and taken aback and said he had never thought of that before.  I think that a lot of harrassers have never given too much thought to what they’re doing (not that that lets them off the hook, of course!!), so if I have the energy, sometimes I try and catch them off guard and encourage them to think about it a little more.

Your superpower is… Being irresistibly attractive to bugs of all kinds.

What are you excited about in 2013? I have a break from school coming up and I can’t wait to just read a book and drink a beer on my porch.

What inspires you? I’m unbelievably blessed to have a lot of impressive, brilliant and compassionate people in my life, with my family foremost among them. Their love makes me better.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Do you! Nobody’s keeping score. Also, this is two, but it’s important: put some grapes in the freezer, they make a really good snack.

Lily, thank you!

image credit: Lily Benson

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Introducing, Jamie, Shared Stories

Introducing: Jamie!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: jamie! // hollaback! boston

Jamie is a freelance writer, doctoral student, activist, volunteer and fanastic addition to the Hollaback! Boston team; she’ll be helping to facilitate workshops, table events and spread the anti-street harassment word throughout the Hub, and can be found on twitter and all around the internet.

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I‘m very into how welcoming the activists and writers – queers, vegans, feminists – have been in this city. (And if we haven’t met please find me on twitter @jamiejhagen and let’s get coffee!) I also just turned 30, moved to a new city (from Brooklyn to Boston) and I’m about to be a full-time student for the first time in my life so I’m into all of that.

Define your style: I think it’s fair to say I’m a bit intense! This approach led me to a jaded activist phase I’m proud to say I’m on the other side of now. I think it took me awhile to discover how to make myself useful. Now that I have a better sense of my role, I work to stay involved in a number of different movements and don’t get swallowed by my work in one. And I definitely value finding awesome people to work with like the Hollaback! Boston group, as well as having fun!

Favorite Boston fact: I appreciate that the story “Make Way for Ducklings” actually received both praise and criticism for the feminist, independent nature of Mrs. Mallard who assures her stubborn husband she can raise their ducklings alone if need be. Also, those duckling statues in the park are the cutest!

Your favorite place in Boston? I’ve only been in Boston for about a month and a half so I’m still completely charmed by the experience of crossing over the Charles River on the T and seeing all those little sailboats out the windows.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? I got a “Hey beautiful!” the other day while I was very lost walking from the Sullivan Station to Union Square. Being lost while being harassed is a special sort of uncomfortable isn’t it? I’ve only been in Boston for about a month and a half so it’s not unusual for me to be lost while I’m walking around Boston. Being lost already makes me feel more vulnerable, let alone having a stranger size me up and holler at me from a stoop. I think the anti-street harassment movement is well served in reminding those who may take for granted feeling safe on the streets to be more aware of how others may feel un-safe or vulnerable. This type awareness should educate how we interact with those in our community. Though often this issue is framed as a need to educate men about how to interact with women, it’s certainly also an issue in the queer community and takes on many different power dynamics regardless of sex or gender.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? If I engage at all it’s usually something like, “Are you serious?” or, “No thank you!”

Your superpower is… bulldog whisperer. Before moving to Boston I ran my own freelance dog walking business and for whatever reason about six of my clients were bulldogs. Bulldogs are a very special, stubborn breed and over the years I have learned their ways. If you need help with a bulldog, I’m your gal.

What are you excited about in 2013? Starting my doctoral program! And obviously all the exciting things in store for Hollaback! Boston. Also, moving to JP. That place is a magical wonderland.

What inspires you? I’m totally inspired by those who are politically engaged and also committed to their own self-care and happiness. I’m also truly inspired by women who mentor other women, in my case Mandy Van Devin, former associate director of NYC’s Girls for Gender Equality, and journalist Jina Moore.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Ask for help from those who have what you want. Life is too short to worry about asking stupid questions. Humble and curious are two wonderful things!

Jamie, thank you so much, and welcome to the team!

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Brenda, Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Brenda!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: brenda! // hollaback! boston

Brenda is a local activist and blogger, and one of two new additions to the Hollaback! Boston team. As our Outreach Coordinator, Brenda will be handling Take Back The Bar, Safer Spaces and other programs, and can be found on twitter and at Boricua Feminist. Welcome, Brenda – we’re so glad to have you on board!

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I am a Latina feminist activist and blogger. By day, I am a law school diversity professional which means I get to utilize my passion for equality and racial justice daily. I have spent the last seven months becoming obsessed with yoga and don’t know how I could live without it. Music is a huge part of my life and if I’m not singing or dancing at home, I’m probably at a concert. I unabashedly love pop culture and deconstructing media is one of my favorite pastimes. I believe Buffy is the greatest show that has ever existed and directly influenced my feminism. At the end of my busy days I enjoy snuggling up with a book (or the tv) while my partner plays his guitar.

Define your style: I consider myself cool and casual, on trend but not trendy. Tie dye or anything with hippy flair is up my alley. Moto jackets are a must. Long hair, don’t care! My tattoos are my accessory.

Favorite Boston fact: The Boston Public Library was the first large free municipal library in the United States. I love books and it’s great to know I live in the city that introduced free knowledge to the community before the internet.

Your favorite place in Boston? SOWA Open Market. My partner and I love to walk there on Sunday mornings to buy food at the farmers market and browse the crafts and antiques. Nothing like supporting your local farmers and artists.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? Daily. I think what always stands out is the persistence. The willingness to keep at it even when the person is clearly not interested or has explicitly said no or stop. Recently a guy kept harassing this woman on the bus. He finally said, “I just want to be your friend.” And she said, “I have enough friends.” That shut him up. I wanted to give her a hug.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? I don’t have a signature response because I always like to be aware of my surroundings and my safety when responding. However, I do give a mean stank face and evil eye-sometimes that can go a long way.

Your superpower is… maintaining friendships across racial, ethnic, gender and sexual identities. Sadly in our society this is a power that everyone one has but so few choose to utilize. These relationships give me strength, hence my super power.

What are you excited about in 2013? I am excited to be an official member of the Hollaback! team. I am also excited to maintain my work with other women’s organizations in Boston in order to empower as many women and girls as I can. I am also excited to continue to make my voice heard on my blog and with my own music (for the first time, ahh).

What inspires you? Human love and kindness inspires me. Every day people look around and decide to make a change. Standing up for what you believe in can be difficult but I am constantly inspired by those who came before me in this fight and those who continue to speak truth to power.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? “Act the way you dream you could.” It’s from a song and I have it tattooed on my arm. I think we should always strive to be better to each other and to the planet. Change is possible, if you believe it’s possible.

Thank you so much, Brenda!

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

Have you taken our three-minute survey on the state of Boston’s streets? Please do, and share it with your networks – the more we know, the better we can serve our city!

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Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Kristen!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: kristen! // hollaback! boston

Kristen is a Boston blogger, research administrator and champion of local fashion entrepreneurs. You can find her on twitter, instagram and pinterest.

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I am the blogger behind The Boston Fashionista, a Trustee of the Brookline Public Library and the Administrative Lead for the Department of Developmental Biology at a local university. In my free time, I love to read (Science Fiction), play with my cats (Truman, Clinton and Winston) and hang out with my husband.

Define your style: I think of my look as “Next Generation Brahmin.” I like classic tailoring and shapes in modern fabrics and colors.

Favorite Boston fact: Boston is home to America’s first public park, and the oldest public school – this city has always done its best to be in tune with the needs of its citizens!

Your favorite place in Boston? I love the Old State House, where the Declaration of Independence was first read aloud to the people in Boston. It’s amazing to stand in a place of such history, overlooking the site of The Boston Massacre, and see all the modern buildings and architecture that surround it. Also, this may sound silly, but I adore the view of from the Red Line as it heads over the Salt & Pepper bridge.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? To me, the most upsetting thing is the frequency we experience street harassment, and the fact that everyone is vulnerable. Age, gender, race, clothing, location, whether you are alone or with someone…none of these factors is a detriment for street harassers (nor should they be reasons to be harassed). Recently, I was walking through the Longwood hospital area (a “safe” neighborhood), at 2:00pm (a “safe” time) holding hands with my husband (a “safe” person) and wearing a fairly conservative dress (a “safe” outfit). It didn’t stop someone from commenting on “my nice titties”.

I think the harassment that bothers me the most, however, is when someone calls out: “It’s a beautiful day, why don’t you smile!” or, “You look so lovely, can you give me a smile?” It is not my responsibility to walk around looking pleasant or friendly for others’ viewing pleasure. I don’t owe it to random passerby to fit their vision of perky, polite femininity.

Here’s the thing that some people just don’t understand: Street harassment is not complimentary. It’s accosting a stranger to assert some misconceived notion of masculinity. It’s about power, not being polite.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? God, I wish I could find a response that worked. I’ve tried everything, from snarky, sarcastic responses, to snarling “Back OFF!” I find any response besides patently ignoring the harassment results in my being called a “bitch” or “not having a sense of humor.” I’d love to hear people’s best retorts/responses! Leave them in the comments, or tweet me!

Your superpower is… I am excellent at the the That Guy Game. You know, when you’re watching a movie, and you see an actor/actress, and you sort of know them, because they played that one guy, in that one show, that was on that one channel? I can tell you how you know them (and I am not really a movie or TV buff)!

What are you excited about in 2013? My friend is getting married in Paris! My husband and I are attending, and then headed to Marrakesh for a little extended vacation.

What inspires you? Being around intelligent people, who aren’t afraid to try new things.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Don’t spend your time trying to force people to say yes. Spend your time trying to understand why they say no.

Thank you so much, Kristen!

image credit: The Boston Fashionista

Have you taken our three-minute survey on the state of Boston’s streets? Please do, and share it with your networks – the more we know, the better we can serve our city!

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Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Lei Ann!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: lei ann! // hollaback! boston

Lei Ann is a Boston-based acupuncturist, kung fu sifu, occasional cosplayer, and fashion blogger at Lei Ann Off Duty. You can find her on twitter and instagram, and wandering the halls of Boston Comic Con today. Go say hello!

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I’m definitely equal parts girly-girl who loves high heels, full/frilly dresses & plenty of makeup & then the geeky nerd boy side of me who loves kung fu, action movies, superheroes & other forms of bad-assery.

Define your style: Girly, but definitely with an edge…print mixing, bubble skirts, leather harnesses, poufy shoulders, thigh high boots…but not crazy lolita or Harajuku style…a *bit* more subtle than that :)

Favorite Boston fact: That you are allowed to duel to the death on the Boston Common, but only on Sundays & only when the Governor is present ^_^

Your favorite place in Boston? Chinatown! I train kung fu down there. I love eating at all the restaurants down there. With the new Chinatown Park/Greenway area where even food trucks park, it’s a much nicer place to hang out.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? My weirdest experience with street harassment was back when I used to work at a hospital & was waiting for the bus wearing my scrubs…the most unattractive, least revealing uniform ever! When I would get whistled at while wearing the scrubs, it made me realize that it doesn’t matter what a woman wears; it’s the other person’s mentality that is the heart of that behavior. No one ever deserves that kind of treatment no matter what he or she is wearing.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? I just ignore it. I don’t let it bother me & walk away. I’ve never had any situation escalate from that point if I just walk away.

Your superpower is… green light karma! Seriously, my husband thinks it’s uncanny I can cruise through traffic lights that stay green while when he accelerates, it turns red on him…hahaha!

What are you excited about in 2013? I’ve had a lot of really great things happen to me this year. My adorable niece was born back in February. I went to Mexico for the first time. I’m already pretty happy with what this year has brought :)

What inspires you? People who worked hard all their lives, sometimes even 2 jobs, have never complained & are now able to enjoy the fruits of their labor, travel & live life easy in their “golden” years…in other words, my parents.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? Truly…don’t sweat the small stuff & it really is all small stuff.

Lei Ann, thank you so much!

image credit: Lei Ann Off Duty

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Brandie, Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Brandie!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: brandie! // hollaback! boston

Brandie is the latest addition to the Hollaback! Boston team – as Communications Coordinator, she’ll be taking the reins as our primary social media maven, and taking a HUGE weight off Britni’s shoulders. We can’t wait to see what we can accompish with her help. Thank you, and welcome, Brandie! –Kate

Hi! I’d like to introduce myself. My name is Brandie and I’m the new Communications Coordinator for Hollaback! Boston.

Tell us about yourself – what are you into? I’m an outgoing queer woman of color who has lived in Boston for the past year. Bostonian through and through, but I have moved around a lot since I was younger. Veganism, feminism, and being part of the LGBTQ community are all very important to me. I love animals, pole dancing, cooking and spending time with my friends. In the past few months I have become very passionate about being involved in empowering women, the LGBTQ community and people of color through various projects and community outreach.

Define your style: Very eclectic! There are times I enjoy the retro look; high waisted pencil skirts, bandanas and pompadours. Other times I enjoy wearing combat boots with fishnets and jean shorts. Other times I wear funky patterns, bright colors and leopard print. Gotta have the leopard print. It’s really a day to day way to express how I’m feeling and who I am.

Favorite Boston fact: Dorchester is the most diverse area in the city. Dorchester represent!

Your favorite place in Boston? Boston Common. There are some great rallies held there! I remember going to the anti war rally when I was a sophomore in High School. That experience was life altering.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? Yes, since a young age I have been witness and experienced street harassment in Boston. It’s a very unnerving feeling. I use to be harassed and thought it was a compliment because that is what I was being told to think by my family and friends. “Typical guy behavior.” Even when I brought up the fact that they followed me, got out of their cars to “talk to me” or became angry and aggressive when I either ignored them or told them to leave me alone, some would blame it only clothes. “Why were you walking around late at the night?” What I would later learn was victim blaming. Something that always sticks with me was walking to a corner store when I was 9 years old, excited that my mother gave me a dollar to buy some candy. A man who was in his car beeped at me, slowed down and started to yell sexual things out of his window. Ignoring him I quickened my pace and thought I lost him when I got to the corner store. On my way back home, he appeared again and slowly crept along side me as I walked. While he continued to harass me out of his window, complimenting my thighs and body, I finally yelled, “I’m 9!” He looked embarrassed and (luckily for me) drove off.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? I don’t have a signature response, especially when I am caught off guard, but I have asked them to repeat themselves. By the time they do, I have come up with an empowering statement to share with them: “My name is not hey sexy,” “Women are not objects, I do not appreciate the way you are talking to me,” “Do not say those things to me, that is street harassment and that is not OK.”

Your superpower is… smashing patriarchy and challenging gender roles.

What are you excited about in 2013? All of the amazing campaigns that Hollaback! Boston is introducing to the Boston community. Take Back the Bar and Safe Spaces. I believe these are great opportunities for ideas to transcend the norm and challenge individual ideas of what is acceptable behavior in public spaces.

What inspires you? The women, people of color, and LGBTQ leaders that have come before me! Those who make a difference in the world every day! Seeing all the amazing news of people rising up against patriarchy, transphobia, racism and sexism.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? To be kind to one another, not to assume the worst. Stand up for yourself, empower women of color and the LGBTQ community by hearing what they have to say, and be allies to all oppressed people.

Brandie

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Introducing, Shared Stories

Introducing: Grace!

“Introducing” is an ongoing series in which we ask bloggers, activists, allies, entrepreneurs and assorted Bostonians about their inspirations, motivations, super powers and experiences with street harassment. If you know someone you think we should feature here, please drop us a line!

introducing: grace! // hollaback! boston

T.F. Charlton is a former evangelical Christian, recovering academic, spouse to a pink-haired musician, and mama to a wise-cracking 4-year old. She’s the founder of the religion and gender blog Are Women Human?, where she blogs as “Grace,” and a writer and commentator on media and culture from a black, Nigerian American, queer feminist perspective. Her work has been featured in The Guardian, Salon, EBONY.com, and other outlets. Say hi to her on Twitter at @graceishuman.

You write an awesome blog and tweet up a storm on The Twitter – what else are you into? Reading – mostly nonfiction and genre fiction. Fantasy is my favorite fiction genre (almost all of the fiction I’ve read in the past couple years, actually). I also read some sci-fi and, when the mood strikes, mystery/detective novels. The nonfiction I read is mostly sociology, history, that sort of thing.

I love karaoke – like really, really love it. I’m often a homebody, but you don’t need to convince me to come out for karaoke – I’m there. I even took voice lessons for a little while (and did a couple recitals and open mics with my husband, who writes and plays music in his spare time). That was nervewracking, but fun.

Once upon a time (read: before I had a kid) I was really into knitting and yoga. I’d like to get back to that.

Define your style: I like styles that are relatively simple and comfortable, but have a little edge or quirkiness to them. I think my personal style is, for lack of better language, on the “masculine” side of femme. I love the styles featured at tomboyfemme.com. But like other things about my post-evangelical life, expressing that style is something I’m still figuring out. I’ve been thinking about experimenting with more consciously butching up my wardrobe – ties, suspenders, hats, that sort of thing. The main obstacles are my laziness and aversion to shopping, lol. Clothes shopping takes a lot of time and money.

Favorite Boston fact: This is kind of a weird one, but a fact I knew long before I moved to Boston was that the song “Wake Up Little Susie” (The Everly Brothers) was banned in Boston when it came out in 1957, for being too suggestive. I like that fact because it subverts a lot of common narratives – about the “progress” of liberal social mores, and also about Boston as a bastion of liberalism (in fact the song was just one of many creative works banned in Boston over decades – and as recently as 1965). It’s both funny and sobering that a song that we’d think of now as quaint and old-fashioned in its roundabount references to (not having!) sex was considered indecent enough that it was banned by radio stations.

Your favorite place in Boston? I like the usual places – the Museum of Science, Boston Common. I also have to put in a plug for the Collection of Scientific Instruments and the Museum of Natural History at Harvard. I’ve spent a good amount of time in both as a former student in the History of Science prograam. But probably my sentimental favorite is Bamboo, the Thai restaurant just downstairs from our first apartment in Brighton,  which is also the apartment where our daughter was born. We were there for four years and the restaurant and the folks who owned it kind of became a fixture for us – they were super excited when our daughter was born and were just really welcoming. And the food was great, too! We should go back sometime.

Have you experienced/witnessed street harassment in Boston? What stood out most in your memory? One that stands out for me happened not long after we moved to Brighton. I wasn’t familiar with the area yet. I was getting off the T at Harvard and Comm Ave. I assumed – wrongly – that the train tracks divided the two directions of traffic, so I looked in the wrong direction before trying to cross. I very nearly got hit by a car going pretty fast – and then the driver, a white guy, yelled at me as he was going by. I don’t remember the exact words, but they definitely included “stupid cunt.” I get that the dude was probably really scared himself.  But it really shook me up and made the fact that I’d almost gotten myself seriously injured even more upsetting. Why would those be the words that come to mind when you almost hit someone with your car? And he said it with a vitriol that was really frightening.

Another time I was walking home and a car full of white men pulled up next to me while I was waiting to cross the street. As soon as the light changed the one in the passenger side seat yelled “Smile!” and took my picture. Really, really creepy and unsettling.

I’ve definitely witnessed situations where other women are being harassed – in one case I saw a Black woman down the street from me walking at top speed to get away from a Black man who had followed her across the street to harrass her.

What’s your signature response to street harassment – your go-to Hollaback? The most memorable incidents that have happened to me were both over so quickly that I had no time to respond. In other situations I generally ignore the person harrassing me – avoid eye contact, keep walking. Between having anxiety and being an introvert, I’m not a terribly confrontational person.

Your superpower is… Writing many, many words. There’s nothing that can be said with five words that I can’t say with ten.

The way I think is very big picture, holistic, networked – it’s one of the reasons why I tend to have so many words to say when I write, because my brain is always looking for points of connection between different issues and ideas. It makes being super concise sometimes difficult, but I think it’s also an asset – sometimes I see an unexpected angle or link on an issue that someone else might not see.

Editing – there’s something really satisfying about honing and polishing a piece of writing into its clearest and most effective form. I’m pretty good at it. I also do it on a freelance basis, so if you’re looking for an editor…hit me up!

What are you excited about in 2013? I’m excited about new possibilities. When I started Are Women Human in 2010 it was in part to have a place to write about things that really mattered to me, but I felt like I didn’t have room to talk about in my day-to-day life. I was also frustrated by not seeing much analysis that addressed my particular experiences and perspectives as a Black woman and a feminist who had come out of white evangelical Christianity. I thought maybe if AWH did well, I could someday write for a broader audience on these issues and connect with other people doing similar work.

That’s started to happen for me over the past year. I’ve had some writing opportunities, and it looks like I’ll be doing some part time research on religion and social justice issues this year. I also have a couple book ideas in me, and I’m thinking about working on a book proposal this year.

I’ve also met some amazing people and made wonderful friends through blogging who I’m excited about meeting in person this year (like the amazing and brilliant scatx/Jessica Luther).

What inspires you? Creativity. Cogent, clear writing that distills the essence of something into a few words – writers like Audre Lorde and Dorothy Sayers had this skill. They could write a sentences that had so much truth and power and clarity to it that I could almost feel the impact tangibly. I just read Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God for the first time and got the same feeling from a lot of it – just breathtaking sentences packed with so much insight into human experience and nature.

I’m inspired by the power of words to create connection. There’s something really powerful about seeing yourself in someone else’s words, and someone seeing themselves in yours.That’s the magic of words – they can speak truths (and lies) into being. They can help us do the work of self-exploration, of validation, or healing. They can make us feel less alone.

My partner has been a huge inspiration and encouragement. I’m prone to second-guessing myself, and he’s always affirmed my interests and intuitions. He encouraged me to start blogging, and he’s been super supportive of my writing endeavors and trying new things in really concrete ways.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? It’s the same advice I would give myself – be present. Our daughter has this book “What Does It Mean to be Present?” that a friend of ours got her as a birthday gift – it’s all about practicing being mindful of what’s going on around us, seeing the people and world around us clearly and being engaged. It ends with the statement that if everyone learned to be present, the world would be a much better place. I think there can be a lot of privilege involved in this kind of advice, but I also think that a lot of us who have time to pause, to be reflective, to listen, to really be engaged in what we’re doing and what impact it has often don’t take the time to do that. It’s something I’m trying to improve in myself.

And for folks who grew up like I did in highly controlling religious communities and families – I think one thing I really wish I’d realized when I was younger is that these communities work by making young people especially internalize “the rules” to the point where even in situations where we have some options available to us, we feel like we have no choices. It took me until I was 25 (and not coincidentally – a new mother with someone else to advocate for besides myself) to realize that I could tell my parents no, and really I was in a position to set boundaries with them many years before then. I just didn’t know it. It’s definitely come with a cost- but it’s also been worth it. So I guess my advice is really think about whether you, as an adult, have to do what your church/parents/whomever say – sometimes the answer is yes, you do, because the costs are too high. But maybe not always.

Thank you so much, Grace!

image credit: Are Women Human?

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