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Let’s talk about fat-shaming, and how that relates to street harassment. We’re going to look at this ad from Boston Sports Club and use that as our example of What Not To Do if you want to advertise your business and not contribute to unsafe public spaces.
This ad is problematic for a whole host of reasons, but I want to tie it to street harassment and safety in public space. When you run an ad like this (an ad that appears not just in print, but in the window of your establishment), you are sending a very clear message. You send the message that it’s unacceptable to gain weight during the holidays; that it’s unacceptable for you to be anything but thin. This is a damaging message, and one that we receive from every magazine, TV show, and movie that we see. How does fat-shaming contribute to street harassment? We know that people are harassed for their weight.
“I was standing on the F train today, with my dad, headed to Coney Island for the Mermaid Parade (my dad was headed elsewhere). I had my earphones in, enjoying some quality time with the Star Fucking Hipsters’ most recent album, when my dad pointed to this guy and said “I think he’d trying to tell you something.” So I took out my earphones and looked over. The guy made a little running motion, then mouthed “one hour, every morning.” It clicked that he was telling me I needed to exercise more. So, loudly, I said “Are you telling me I’m fat?” Obviously, I am, and I know that, but I thought that would catch the attention of more people around us. My dad was like, “Is that really what he said?” So I (still loudly) said “He’s telling me I need to go running every morning.”” -Liza’s story, Hollaback! NYC
“I’m a big girl–overweight, fat, call it what you will… Suddenly, out of nowhere, my speaking was interrupted by a young man screaming out of his car window: “Get off that statue! You’ll break it!!” I felt my face get hot as my companions looked shocked, staring at the passing car as it drove away. I wanted to sink into the ground, I was so mortified. I share this so that people will realize that street harassment is not just about cat-calling conventionally attractive women. It’s also about shaming women you think are unattractive.” – Bulldog Bully, Hollaback! Athens, GA
When we send the message that it’s unacceptable to be anything but thin, we create a culture where it’s acceptable to shame and harass people that don’t fit the mold we think they should. We make streets unsafe for people of size to walk down. When we put ads in the windows of our gym that tell overweight people that something is wrong with the way they look, we make buildings that are unsafe for someone who is not stick-thin to walk into. Not everyone that works out works out to lose weight. Some people just want to get into better shape. Some people do want to lose weight, and that’s okay, too. But we shouldn’t be making people ashamed of the way they currently look.
We’re creating environments that are dangerous and threatening for women to occupy. We’re giving people permission to harass them for the way they look or how much they weigh. There are plenty of reasons to want to join a gym like Boston Sports Club– but shaming people that don’t fulfill an often-impossible to reach aesthetic definitely isn’t one.
Check out Hollaback!’s #harassmentis guide for more about how different identities impact experiences of street harassment.
It’s election day! There are quite a few races being decided in Boston today, but the contest that has the city buzzing is for the next Mayor.
Hollaback! Boston is confident that either candidate will work to uphold their ELEVATE commitments to supporting community safety audits, and we look forward to collaborating with the new Mayor to make Boston’s public spaces safer for everyone. We’ll be reaching out with the new administration to work on safety audits, to offer trainings and support, and to hold public hearings on street harassment in a continuation of the work Ayanna Pressley has already begun. We look forward to the partnership.
That said, someone must be elected Mayor today—Hollaback! is not endorsing a candidate, nor is the ELEVATE Coalition, but your vote matters! Take a look at the ELEVATE responses from the candidates, read over this interview with Boston Magazine and this questionnaire regarding cycling in Boston, catch debate clips and consider the differences—then go VOTE. Today’s the day!
Who are you voting for today? What helped make your decision?
image credit: ELEVATE Boston
Jamie and I recently had the privilege of attending a screening of the documentary film Left On Pearl. I am a women’s history buff, I live in Boston, and until very recently, I had never heard about the event that the film documents.
On March 6, 1971, International Women’s Day marchers turned Left On Pearl and took over a Harvard University building at 888 Memorial Drive, Cambridge, declaring it a Women’s Center.
This action proved transformative for the participants and led to the founding of the longest continuously operating community Women’s Center in the U.S. Left On Pearl recounts this little known but highly significant event in the history of the Women’s Liberation Movement.
Wait…WHAT? Not only that, the Women’s Center that was founded as a result of that occupation is the Cambridge Women’s Center–our Take Back The Bar co-sponsor and friend! How did I not know this? Why did I not know this? The answer is simple–because women are often erased from history.
The film is triumphant. I found myself near tears for many parts of it. I laughed, I cheered, and I cried. This film is 12 years in the making and the women behind it do not want their story to be forgotten. Several of the women who were in that occupied building were at the screening to talk to us about the film and what it means to them. The filmmaker, Susie Rivo, has dedicated her time and effort into this film for almost no compensation (and she’s heard of Hollaback! Boston! Hi, Susie!). This film is a labor of love.
If you care about the feminist movement, or if you care about the gay rights movement, or you care about the rights of working class communities, this film is for you. They have several more screenings in the coming weeks and I highly recommend that you go see the movie. But first, they need your help.
The 888 History Project needs money in order to finish the film. They have an Indiegogo campaign set up so that you can donate. Please, please give whatever you can. This is our city, this is our history, and we need to make sure that it is documented for future generations.
video credit: Left On Pearl
At noon today, ELEVATE Boston hosted a press conference at Boston City Hall to announce the coalition’s vision and questionaire for mayoral candidates.
It rained (where was that in the forecast?), but the turnout was heartening nonetheless. Speakers included Candidate for City Councilor at Large Ayanna Pressley, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Advocacy Fund of Massachusetts Martha Walz, Executive Director of MassEquality Kara Coredini, Liz Miranda of Bunker Hill Community College, Lee Doyle from the Boston Area Rape Crisis Center, and Executive Director of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts Megan Amundson.
Read on for the full vision statement and questions asked of all candidates as of today! ELEVATE Boston will publish candidates’ responses ahead of the primary election (September 24), and will host a forum on these issues with the final candidates on October 16.
Boston is a great city, made up of 22 distinct neighborhoods with residents of many cultures, ages, races, sexual orientations, gender identities, and religious beliefs. We envision a Boston where every person has the opportunity and resources to live healthy lives and thrive economically. We envision a Boston where all residents feel safe at home, in school, in our parks, and on the streets. We deserve a Mayor who will foster understanding across communities and who embraces the thinking that Boston will be at its best when every resident in every neighborhood is successful. We want to collaborate with the next Mayor to raise these issues as policy priorities and to ELEVATE Boston.
We are a major coalition of advocates, organizations, residents and community activists and we are calling on the candidates to describe how they will ELEVATE Boston.
We have three areas of policy focus: healthy equity, economic equity, and safe communities for all. In order to ELEVATE Boston, these issues must be a policy priority for the next Mayor. These issues are germane to city government and areas that the Mayor of Boston has wide latitude to make a difference in.
Please describe for us your Vision to ELEVATE Boston.
We believe that all residents of Bostondeserve access to culturally competent, medically accurate, and affordable health care and coverage regardless of their age, race, sexuality, and gender identity. We believe that our young residents deserve a strong education on healthy relationships, sexual identity, and sexual health. We believe it is part of the Mayor’s responsibility to work to eliminate areas of health disparities and equip community organizations and residents with resources so that they can identify medically accurate and community based health care in their own communities.
In your first 100 days, what will you do to ensure that all residents have every opportunity and resource to live a healthy life?
We believe that all residents of Boston deserve safe, healthy, and affordable housing, and a living wage with benefits including earned sick leave so that they can afford to take care of their loved ones. We believe that the Mayor should play a leadership role in ensuring equal pay for equal work. We believe that women entrepreneurs deserve every opportunity to start thriving careers and businesses, with access to job training programs, small business loans, and child care.
In your first 100 days, what steps will you take to make sure there are opportunities for every resident to thrive economically and to foster bustling cultural and business districts that provide access to Bostonians of all backgrounds and ages.
Safe Communities for All
We believe that all residents of Boston should feel safe in their own homes and on our streets, free from sexual and domestic violence, exploitation, abuse and street harassment. We believe it is the Mayor’s responsibility to appropriately educate our police force, public school staff, and service agencies so that they can respond to acts of violence, exploitation, and abuse and employ best practices to prevent further acts of violence. We believe that all residents who experience violence deserve a safe place to go and that the city is responsible for helping victims of violence connect with health care, safe shelter and affordable housing options.
In your first 100 days, what will you do to address sexual and domestic violence, exploitation, abuse and street harassment and build safe communities for all?
If you are one of the top two candidates on September 24th, will you commit to participating fully in our mayoral candidates general election debate to be held on the evening of October 16th?
We’re working for change for this little one—what do you think would help to elevate Boston?
Last week, Britni spotted an ad on the orange line that raised some concerns, and began tweeting about it in an attempt to get answers.
Yesterday, as the conversation on twitter picked up steam, we wrote to Tapbooty and to the MBTA, and Boston Magazine covered our concerns and efforts to have the ad removed.
Hi Jonah,We’d like bring to your attention the Tapbooty ads that are running on MBTA trains (we’ve attached a photo of the ad to this email). The ad in question was spotted on the Orange Line. It depicts a cartoon image of a female sticking her butt out, with the words “tapbooty” written across it, as well as the words “Guaranteed Booty” at the top. We believe that these ads promote non-consensual touching and find them highly insensitive, especially considering the fact that they are running on the MBTA, where large numbers of women experience non-consensual groping (aka sexual assault) every day.We know that women are experiencing unwanted touching, groping, and frottage on the MBTA because we get many submissions to our website, which collects stories of street harassment in the greater-Boston area. We also recently conducted a survey about street harassment in Boston, and while our report has yet to be released, we can tell you that 63% of respondants who said they’ve experienced street harassment in Boston named the MBTA as the site of that harassment.We’re asking your company to stop running the ads on the MBTA, out of respect for the women that ride it on a daily basis, and in acknowledgement of the very real problem of sexual assault and harassment on public tranist. We would be happy to discuss the issues with this ad and others like it further, and look forward to your response before we begin a more public conversation. Thank you for your time and attention!
To their credit, both Tapbooty and the MBTA responded to our inquiries yesterday, and the company made moves to have the ads pulled from the T within the next couple of days. (Thank you!)
Britni and Kate,We are sorry that our ad on the MBTA is offensive to you, and we have asked our advertising agency to take the ad down.We have a lot of users at Tapbooty having fun, playing free games and earning cash & gift cards. Our intention with these ads was simply to attract new users, not to impact anyone adversely.Jonah Lopin & John Osborne,Founders, M80 Labs
What do you think? Opinions were, of course, mixed – but with three new stories submitted last week regarding assault and harassment on the T, it’s clear that the MBTA’s recent efforts have not yet established safe public transit spaces. There is more work to be done.
You can read more about the ad, our concerns and the response at Boston Magazine.
image credit: Hollaback! Boston
This morning, one of the emails awaiting me was from Kenzo An, founder of the Loft Sessions, with a note about the 50th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington, as well as a related anecdote from Boston history.
From the email:
Some brief context: After Dr. King was tragically assassinated on April 4, 1968, a nationwide wave of riots broke out in more than 100 cities. Boston was bracing itself for a similar eruption of violence. Looting and fires had already broken out in the African-American sections of Roxbury, Dorchester, and the South End on the evening of the assassination.
The then-38-year-old mayor Kevin White was giving serious consideration to canceling the April 5 concert of soul music superstar James Brown at the Boston Garden, for fear of bringing chaos directly into the city center. Tom Atkins, Boston’s first African-American city councilor, convinced White to let Brown go on with the show—he conjured up the terrifying image of dealing with 14,000 angry people at the Garden who weren’t notified in time that the show was canceled—and to strike a deal with the TV networks to broadcast it live throughout the city.
Brown, at first, wasn’t pleased with the proposal: he had contractual agreements with a show just filmed in New York, and knew his ticket sales would suffer if the concert were made available to all free of charge on TV. White was committed, though, and did what he had to do by way of restitution. His efforts worked: Brown finally agreed to perform.
The Boston Phoenix called Brown’s show “The Greatest Concert in Boston History.” Brown dedicated the concert to Dr. King. He also invited White to speak to the audience, introducing him as “a swinging cat” to great applause (and surprise). White was said to have told the live and broadcast spectators, “To make Reverend Dr. King’s dream a reality in Boston…no matter what any other community might do—we in Boston will honor Dr. King in peace.”
“I remember going through the South End and every window seemed to be watching James Brown,” said Peter Wolf, the lead singer of the J. Geils Band.
Only 2,000 of the Garden’s 14,000 seats were filled that night—but the end effect was that Boston’s soul was soothed enough to pass through this painful and tumultuous fissure in the nation’s psyche without the destructive upheaval that occurred in so many other cities across the country.
As we reflect on Dr. King’s legacy today, allow us to also suggest the Washington Post’s call to honor the women of the civil rights movement, Buzzfeed’s collection of MLK’s lesser-known quotes, and a tribute concert at the Hatch Shell tonight, 7pm. What other reading would you recommend today?
video credit: The Night James Brown Saved Boston
Please take our quick survey! We’re collecting data on street harassment in the Hub, and we need your help – your responses will help guide our priorities in the coming year. If you can spare a few minutes, or even just pass the link along to your networks, we would be most appreciative!
We’ve taken a break from our regularly scheduled programming as our team (safe and sound) monitors the situation in our city. Shelter in place recommendations are in effect – stay safe!
In the meantime, check out these eerie photos of Boston in lockdown, refresh your knowledge of Chechnya and Chechen terrorism, consider the magnitude of events this week with a review from the Washington Post, and if you are so inclined, donate to The One Fund to support those affected by Monday’s events.
And Boston, don’t worry – Dunkin is open.
image credit: Tauntr
A friend of mine led me to this article recently on Jezebel, about a new free iPhone anti-harassment app that helps individuals come up with quick responses to harassment in various situations such as at school, at work, on public transit and on the street. “Not Your Baby,” developed by Andrea Gunraj and the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) in Toronto was released last week. This is a big step in the wave of iPhone apps that are being used for public safety and violence prevention, such as Circle of Six.
My initial thoughts are that this is a step in the right direction and is helpful for those who want to prepare themselves for the onslaught of street harassment or workplace harassment. But I am a firm believer in the notion that there is no wrong way to respond to harassment because women shouldn’t have to be conditioned to have a “snappy response” to street harassment. Additionally, while this app may not be easy to access in the moment, for those who experience street harassment more often it could be a good tool to have for future incidents. Building confidence to say something more assertive can be empowering, if someone has traditionally not spoken up.
After spending time using the app myself, I have found a few problematic response suggestions. “Excuse me?” is a suggestion that comes up if you want a response for a stranger harassing you on the street, as well as “No, thanks” and “Maybe next time.” These suggestions imply that the harassment was an interaction that should not be treated with severity and the individual who is harassed needs to treat the harasser with respect. “No, thanks” does not name the behavior that was wrong or tell the harasser that their actions were harassment that will not be tolerated. “Maybe next time” implies that the behavior may work again another time with the harassed. If we’re talking about harassment as unacceptable and threatening behavior, we should divorce it from the idea that uncomfortable comments on the street are compliments that should be handled politely.
That being said, there are assertive responses that come up such as “Don’t be that guy” or “Don’t harass women.” What are your thoughts on the app? Share your comments and questions below!
Last week, we were invited to set up a table in the lobby of Rosie’s Place, a community center and sanctuary for poor and homeless women. We were very excited to have the opportunity to bring the message of our organization to a population of women who experience street harassment in different ways than the majority of people that have access to our website and mission.
The staff member at Rosie’s that asked us to come in was hoping to empower the women to, if not share their stories with us directly, begin to think about the harassing and threatening behavior that they experience on the streets of Boston as being something that is not okay. I think that oftentimes behavior can become normalized when we exerience it day in and day out, and women who live on the streets are exposed to much more omnipresent harassment and violence than those of us that do not. I think that’s it’s easy to expect and accept that behavior because you see it as something that comes with the territory of living outside or working as a prostitute or having a substance abuse problem or just plain being a woman because that’s how it’s always been.
Here at Hollaback! we want to change the conversation about harassment and violence on the streets and make the streets safer for all women, not just those in privileged positions that can access our website via their smartphone or hear about our mission in a classroom on their college campus. I feel so privileged that Jane and I had the opportunity to speak to women that were coming into Rosie’s to get lunch that day. Many women stopped by and shared snippets of their experiences, and all of them acknowledged that harassment on the streets was something that they struggled with on a daily basis.
One women disclosed a story of harassment that she said that she’d never told anyone before. She said that she’d been afraid to reveal it even to her husband for fear that somehow it was her fault. Another woman told us that she had been stalked for years, and that she was very hypervigilent about her safety now because of it.
One women spoke to us about the constant harassment that she experiences when she’s on the streets. She spoke of men constantly yelling, “Are you straight? Hey, are you straight?” at her. She said, “What is it any of their business if I’m straight? They think they’re gonna get some if I am? No way!” She also said that she doesn’t like being outside after dark because that’s when the harassment is worst. She said that she hoped that the streets will be safer for her grandchildren than they have been for her.
A woman who got visibly agitated when we described street harassment to her said, “What happens to me out there on those streets makes me want to get a weapon. People think I’m kidding but I’m serious! That’s what it does for you. I need a weapon, for real.”
One woman shook her head sadly and said to us, “It happens every day, all the time.”
Saundra, who shared her story with us, talked to us about men who “judged a book by its cover.” She explained that men see her as one thing, and that is a sex object. She spoke about the fact that she had worked as a prostitute in the past in order to survive and men that don’t even know her still see her as that. She said that when she walks down the street, she feels like men think she will have sex with them just because that’s what she used to do, or just because she’s someone who lives on the streets. She said, “They don’t even know me.”
I think that it is so important to hear experiences of marginalized populations of all kinds. So often women who are fighting for basic resources and just trying to survive from day-to-day are overlooked. Their voices have been taken from them in so many ways, and we hope that we can begin to give them a voice in even the smallest way and give them even a little bit of hope that someone wants to hear what they have to say and their experience is valid. So many of the women that we spoke with were women of color, members of the LGBTQ community, and women with substance abuse problems. These are all women that our society is quick to overlook and when someone falls into more than one of those boxes, they can really and truly feel invisible. We want every one of them to know that we see them and we value everything that they shared with us that day. I feel so privileged to have spoken with each of the women who took the time to approach our table and hope that I will have the chance to do so again.