Hollaback! Boston, Kate, Local News, Noteworthy, Shared Stories

“I was called a nazi bitch for refusing to tell a stranger on the sidewalk what medical care I sought.” | Kate’s Testimony

Last week, I was asked to share my story at a hearing on the recently filed bill to provide narrow protections of (and repercussions for impeding access to) reproductive healthcare clinics in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling striking down Massachusetts’ former buffer zone law.

As I sat waiting to give testimony, I noticed that the audience members sitting behind me were whispering furiously, and not terribly discretely, through any pro-choice testimony. As Megan Amundson of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts explained to the committee that her written testimony also included the stories of several victims of harassment who wished to remain anonymous, I heard a clear snort of derision. “How convenient!” my neighbors sneered. “Anonymous testimony.”

In that moment, my reasons for testifying, for sharing my story publicly and for the record, were reaffirmed: talking about one’s own most vulnerable moments, those moments which left such a mark on the memory that they cannot be shaken even as we move beyond them, is uncomfortable. It is to reopen that vulnerability, to experience the fear and the fury once more, and it is – frankly – unpleasant. And yet, my clinic harassment tale was not one in which I was physically assaulted, nor which caught me at a particularly trying time in my life; at first, I laughed it off, only shared the odd experience with my partner, and moved on. But sharing our stories, just like the shared stories of street harassment submitted to Hollaback! Boston, begins to change the conversation; shared stories show the breadth and diversity of experience, and shared stories from those who feel safe enough to attach their real name lend a credibility and an individuality that strengthens the testimony.

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I am, fortunately, in a position to share. I am thankful to feel safe at home and at work, both physically and emotionally, and to have a strong support system; the repercussions and consequences I fear from speaking out, publicly and loudly, are not unfounded, but the risk is less than others may face. As a site leader for Hollaback! Boston, I regularly encourage victims and bystanders to speak up, to start the conversation, to testify; how could I, in good conscience, remain silent – especially faced with those whispered accusations of falsehood? “How convenient. Anonymous testimony.”

Here is my testimony from the hearing. It is not anonymous. It happened, to me, in 2008, and it was very real and very terrifying and very much NOT counseling, but harassment. Experiences like these are why protestors around clinics are a public safety concern. Experiences like these are why clinic patients and visitors and staff fear for their safety in public space. Experiences like these are why Hollaback! Boston has partnered with coalitions working to pass a replacement to the buffer zone law, and soon – because EVERYONE has a right to feel safe on our streets.

If you, too, would like to share your story of harassment and intimidation, at a reproductive health care clinic or anywhere else, Hollaback! Boston is here as a resource and a platformand anonymous stories are always welcome! We are honored to publish the experiences that Bostonians have entrusted to us, and we intend to continue offering a space to safely share, to learn, to testify, and to spark conversation and prompt change.

Kate

Chairman Brownsberger, Vice Chairman Markey, Members of the Committee – thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

I urge you to support the Safe Access Bill so people can access health care without feeling unsafe. Even when simply accessing birth control, protestors outside clinics are intimidating and threatening, and we need to ensure safe access to health care in the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down the buffer zone law.

I’ve been on hormonal birth control, in various forms, since I was 18. From my first period at 13, my cycles were abnormal, irregular and wholly unpredictable; to regulate them, I was prescribed Yasmin, a dual-hormone daily birth control pill, and it worked wonders.

For a time in 2006 and 2007, my birth control costs, no longer covered by insurance while I was a student in Boston, rose above $70 per month. The increased price was a burden. In late 2007, in an effort to be more responsible with my money, I decided to seek out a less expensive alternative. Without a local OB/GYN, I headed to Planned Parenthood. I was prescribed a different dual-hormone generic at a much more reasonable price point, but I had to go to PPLM every month to pick up my pills.

And so, I did.

One month, on a weekday morning, I arrived at Planned Parenthood in Boston to pick up pills on my way to work as a Northeastern co-op. There were just a handful of protestors outside the clinic, lining the yellow buffer zone painted on the sidewalk, and I locked my bike a bit away from the entrance. As I approached, someone asked why I was there – I assured him it was a private question I didn’t intend to answer, certainly not on the street.

Before I could duck inside the clinic, this counselor escalated his rhetoric: “You nazi bitch, you should be ashamed!”

I turned, shocked, and asked him to repeat himself. He did, and added other vitriol. I asked, from the perceived safety of the doorway far within the yellow line, what he had against a woman seeking medical care, before ducking inside, shaking as I passed through the requisite metal detectors.

That protestor was still there when I left. I was terrified that he would follow me to where I had locked my bike, and furious that I felt ashamed and frightened leaving the clinic with the birth control pills that my doctors prescribed. All of this, on a weekday morning.

Let me reiterate:

I was called a nazi bitch for refusing to tell a stranger on the sidewalk what medical care I sought.

I was told to be ashamed for consulting with doctors about my own health care.

Though it would have been simpler, I never had the courage to stop by the Boston clinic on a Saturday to pick up my pills; the fear of a protestor singling me out, engaging me beyond the clinic vicinity, following me as I left, seemed too great, the possibility of confrontation too real, and I was only seeking medication. I was terrified to face harassment on my way out, or to spend time unlocking my bike or waiting for the T to finish my commute. Ultimately, I was driven to find a different provider to avoid the stress of the clinic; I am fortunate now to afford to make that decision.

What is at stake here is the ability of people, women and trans men and queer folks who might rely on clinic services for any number of reasons, having their options limited because someone else made them feel unsafe in public, and unsafe accessing their doctors. Please lend your support to the Safe Access Bill so that others can feel safer accessing health care than I have.

image credit: NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts

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Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

Happy Pride Friday (Priday?), Boston!

boston pride 2014 // hollaback! boston

It’s almost time! We’ve received our lineup location for the parade tomorrow, we’ve made our posters and printed our handouts, and we’re waiting for YOU to join us to march in celebration of safe public spaces for everyone to be themselves. Meet us at 704 Boylston Street (in front of the Lindt store) tomorrow by 10:00am to join the marching group – we’ll see you there!

Until then, while the rain (hopefully) moves right along, here’s a few of our favorite links this week:

See you tomorrow,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

There is so much internet this week.

holla worthy link round-up // hollaback! boston

If you read one link in this round-up, make it this – words matter, stories matter, and so does the full spectrum of gender-based violence.

“We tend to treat violence and the abuse of power as though they fit into airtight categories: harassment, intimidation, threat, battery, rape, murder…we need to address that slope, rather than compartmentalizing the varieties of misogyny and dealing with each separately. Doing so has meant fragmenting the picture, seeing the parts, not the whole.”

–The Feminist Battle After The Isla Vista Massacre

Plus, Stop Street Harassment released the findings of their national survey of street harassment in the US earlier this week. Please don’t stop there, though – there’s so much worth your time! Here are some of our favorites:

What’s resonating with you? Let us know in the comments!

Have a great weekend,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Events, Hollaback! Boston, Local News, Noteworthy

HOLLA With Us: Boston Pride!

For the second year, Hollaback! Boston is supporting a marching group in the Boston Pride parade – and we are SO excited. The 2014 Pride theme – “Be Yourself, Change the World” – is a perfect match for our work! Hollaback! is, worldwide, all about making our streets safe for everyone to be themselves.

march with us! boston pride 2014 // hollaback! boston

We know that it’s not just women who experience harassment and gender-based violence in public spaces: LGBQ, trans* and non-conforming folks are at risk, too. Stop Street Harassment’s national report (released yesterday!) demonstrates this, as did our 2013 survey in Boston; the risks of existing as oneself in public are reflected in lived experience. When identities overlap, people can find themselves at an even greater risk of harassment from strangers in public, both sexualized and non-sexual in nature. All of this combines to make our public spaces seem unwelcoming at best, and worse, potentially dangerous – but we believe it doesn’t have to be this way.

Hollaback! Boston is not just for straight, white, cis-gendered women: our goal is to provide a platform to amplify ALL stories of street harassment in Boston, and to give you a space to make your side of the experience heard. We want to know how your identities are intersecting to impact the way you navigate Boston’s streets, and sharing your stories ensures that our team, our communities and our leaders can listen, learn and do more.

But most importantly today, head to Facebook and join our marching group for the parade on June 14!

There will be beads. There will be ribbons. There will be signs and banners and plenty of Gwen Stefani shouted our way. Our marching group, just like our work, is not just for women – allies and friends and victims and bystanders are all welcome! We’ll be hosting a sign-making and parade planning meeting in Jamaica Plain on June 12; be sure to join the Facebook event for details.

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA Faves: May’s Top Five

Where did last month go?

holla faves: may's top five // hollaback! boston

We’re moving full-steam ahead into June (and Boston Pride!), but before you join us have a look back at the five most popular posts from last month:

1. What It’s Like To Be Pregnant In Public

2. If Saying “I Have A Boyfriend” Keeps You Safe, I Support Your Right To Yell It From The Rooftops

3. #bikeSH: Round Two

4. What Makes A City “Safe” For Pedestrians?

5. HOLLA On the Go: Bless That Ass

What’s on your radar for June? Let us know in the comments!

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

holla worthy link round-up // hollaback! boston

We’re winding down at HOLLA::Rev and shipping up to Boston – but we haven’t had a chance to catch up on the internet this week! For a link round-up, check out some coverage of the UCSB shootings posted earlier this week; then, share your must-reads with us in the comments!

TGIF,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Noteworthy

Yes, All Women

Since Elliot Rodger went on a misogyny-fueled shooting spree and #YesAllWomen was started in response to the popular “Not All Men” defense, friends and colleagues from around the world have been sharing links and sending articles my way. I’m grateful, both that my networks associate me with this work, and that they are tuned in and willing to share (weekly link roundups don’t write themselves, after all) – but especially in this case because, honestly, I missed it.

My parents were visiting Boston this weekend and our hours were spent outside, at Home Depot, tearing apart the kitchen, and on the roof; by the time I tuned back in after hopping on a bus to New York for HOLLA::Rev, I was way behind. If you might also be feeling a little overwhelmed, here’s a handful of articles I’ve read since this weekend:

If you want to talk or to share your own story, please don’t hesitate to reach out at boston@ihollaback.org, or on facebook or twitter; as always, we’re here as a resource, and we’ve got your back.

Wishing you safety and peace,

Kate

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Events, Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA::Revolution

holla::revolution // hollaback! boston

HOLLA::Revolution is back! Kate will be attending live today in New York, but the event will stream live starting at 2pm EDT and available wherever you are. Join us!

Join Hollaback! at Hollarev

image credit: Hollaback!

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Hollaback! Boston, Local News, Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

holla::revolution // hollaback! boston

We’re very eagerly counting down to HOLLA::Revolution on Tuesday, but this week held plenty of excitement, too. In case you missed them, a few of our favorite links:

Also this week, we hosted our second, worldwide tweet chat on bike harassment—check out the storify!—and conversations over public safety for pedestrians and taxi and livery customers in Boston are starting up, too. Do you feel safe on Boston streets? What constitutes “safe”? Have you ever felt harassed or unsafe in a cab or an Uber car? What about late night options? Share your thoughts with us!

We’ll be tweeting from HOLLA::Rev live in New York on Tuesday – if you’ll be in the area, don’t forget to grab your tickets! Otherwise, be sure to catch the livestream of the event; the lineup is terrific, and you won’t want to miss it.

Have a wonderful weekend!

Kate

image credit: Hollaback!

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Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

holla worthy link round-up // hollaback! boston

We celebrated Bay State Bike Week earlier this week with a tweet chat on bike harassment in Boston, and the conversation was terrific. Be sure to catch the Storify of the chat, and don’t hesitate to chime in on twitter! Questions can be found in Tuesday’s post. Many, many thanks to our excellent local panelists!

This week also yielded quite a few other reads worth your time:

Have we missed anything excellent? Let us know in the comments!

Have a terrific weekend,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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