This was a big year for anti-street harassment activism! I spent a few hours this morning reflecting on it all and I am amazed. Thank you to the thousands of people who are tackling this issue around the world, including by sharing your stories. You are making a difference.
In this (lengthy) post, I’m highlighting some of the heroes who stood up to harassers, a few of the substantial societal shift successes, several new anti-harassment campaigns, various creative initiatives to raise awareness about street harassment, and more.
And I want to note that it was a big year for me personally: I passed the two-year mark for my blog in May, my book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women came out in August, numerous articles I wrote were published (including on the Huffington Post, Forbes.com, and Guardian), and over the last few months I’ve been able to give talks across the country. I look forward to finding out what 2011 will bring.
Women Who Fought Back!
There were so many amazing stories this year about women who would not stay silence and spoke out against their harassers! Here are just a few of them.
- Lisa Robinson stopped a train in Wales by stepping into the tracks when the conductor wouldn’t deal with harassers on board
- Nicola Briggs shouted down her subway harasser in New York City and got him arrested and now is giving tips to other women on how to deal with their harassers
- Annie Jiang took a cell phone photo of a man who masturbated against her on the subway on her way to school. The next day, because of her photo, police were able to arrest him.
- Jen Corey, Miss DC 2009, stood up to harassers at a bar in Georgetown and, when the story made the local news, she used the media attention to speak out against street harassment.
And these are a sampling of the stories women submitted to my blog about standing up to their harassers:
- Jen M. in San Francisco, CA, wouldn’t let a harasser bully her into “giving him a smile” and he left the bus stop.
- Beckie Weinheimer in South Beach, FL, built up the courage to stand up to men who harassed her several days in a row and she also reported them. The next day they were gone from their usual spot!
- JT in Turin, Italy, announced to the whole bus what her harasser had just asked her (for a pair of her panties) and he got off the bus at the next stop in embarrassment.
- Elizabeth Owens in Washington, DC, fought back against men who were harassing her and her friends by yelling, “EWWWW” and making hand gestures. The men were surprised and silenced.
- Anonymous in New York City reported a delivery truck harasser and was told by the company that the harasser was sent home from work that day and will have to attend anti-harassment meetings with the Human Resources representative and the Director of Operations.
- Anonymous in Jakarta, Indonesia, told the harassers in her new neighborhood that she did not like that kind of treatment and that she would report them to their bosses if they continued. They apologized and have never harassed her again.
- Tired of Being Harassed in Arlington, VA, shared many stories in which she stood up to street harassers, including standing up to a group of men who called her inappropriate names as she walked to work.
- Bossy HBIC in Atlantic City, NJ, yelled and chased a man who purposely touched her rear.
- Cate Burlington in Seattle, WA, told a man on the street who called her sweetie to not call her that and he apologized.
- TS in Toronto reported a subway harasser after he harassed her and then another woman. She felt the transit police dealt with her complaint well.
- Anonymous in Brooklyn, NY, confronted her harasser, asking for his name and why he felt it was acceptable to degrade women. He covered his work badge and left, yelling an apology.
- After a man grabbed her rear at a pub, Jen in London said to the group of men near her, “I’m a feminist activist, so whoever just touched my arse just made a really stupid mistake.” The men were horrified and later one of them apologized.
Men Who Did Something:
I received a few stories this year from male bystanders who took action to interrupt or stop a harassment incident. Good for them!
- PP Bloxham in London, UK, walked toward a car full of harassers, causing them to leave, and then made sure the woman they had harassed was okay.
- TBG in Delhi, India, moved and blocked the view of men ogling a 13-year-old girl at a takeaway restaurant.
- CJ in Walsall, UK, confronted construction workers and reported them because they routinely harass his female colleague on her way to and from work.
- Mr. MRS in New York City, NY, made flirtatious gestures at harassers, pretending like he thought they were harassing him. That silenced the harassers.
This was a really big year for concrete outcomes in the quest to make street harassment socially unacceptable, with action occuring in the UK, Egypt, Mauritius, USA, and internationally via the United Nations.
- In February, UNIFEM released a 200+ page booklet on how to create safe cities for women, which in part addressed the problem of street harassment. In November, they launched the Safe Cities Programme in five cities around the world!
- Also in February, an anti-sexual harassment law (that would include public spaces) was presented to the legislative affairs committee of the Egyptian Parliament.
- In September, Oona King & Ken Livingstone, two candidates for mayor in London, put street harassment on their platform! This was thanks to the work of the UK Anti-Street Harassment Campaign!
- In September, Independence, Missouri, passed a new ordinance making it illegal for people to harass pedestrians and cyclists from their vehicles!
- Also in September, the Mauritian Gender Equality, Child Development and Family Welfare Minister, Ms. Sheilabai Bappoo, released a booklet titled “Breaking the Silence on Sexual Harassment in Public Transport,” to encourage women to speak out and for people to help women who are most vulnerable to this violence (such as young or poor women who must take public transportation).
- An op-ed that journalist Elizabeth Mendez Berry wrote in the fall of 2010 led to the first ever city council hearing on street harassment in New York City in late October! Now the city is pursuing the first ever city-wide street harassment study. More than 200 media outlets covered the story.
- In November, phone tools came out that allow people to report street harassers. The two tools are the HollaBack phone app and HarassMap in Egypt. Hundreds of media outlets covered these stories.
- In Egypt, right now you can go to a movie theater and watch a film that addresses street harassment!
Illustrating the global scope of this problem, several new anti-street harassment campaigns started in countries like the UK, Jordan, Yemen, and Bangladesh.
- Vicky Simister founded the London Anti-Street Harassment Campaign, which quickly became the UK-Anti Street Harassment Campaign because of interest across the country
- In Jordan, activists launched the objecDEFY harassment campaign
- In Yemen, there was the Fighting Street Harassment of Women campaign
- After several suicides by girls who faced routine street harassment (eve teasing) and found no help for dealing with it, Bangladesh is addressing this problem in several ways. UNICEF started anti-eve teasing programs , earlier this year the first jail sentences were given to harassers, and the government declared an Eve Teasing Protection Day.
- HollaBackNYC became the nonprofit HollaBack!, with co-founder Emily May as Executive Director. Several new geographic HollaBacks have started and others are preparing to launch in early 2011.
- In Wales, the Welsh government launched two relevant campaigns, the “One Step Too Far” Campaign that illustrates the slippery slope between harmless interactions and harassment in public places, and Stop Blame, a campaign against victim blaming survivors of rape and harassment.
- In Scotland, the Scottish Government and Rape Crisis Scotland launched a television advertisement and online campaign called Not Ever, which focuses on how women are not to blame for rape and harassment because of what they wear.
I loved all the creativity this year in address street harassment and raising awareness on and offline about its pervasiveness and unacceptability.
Presentations and Talks:
While a lot of the work that I and HollaBack folks do is online, we were able to get offline quite a bit this year to talk to people about street harassment and give presentations at major conferences.
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- I was able to give 16 street harassment-related talks across the US, including, Alaska, California, Iowa, New York and Utah! (I’ll be speaking in California, Illinois, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin across the next few weeks)
- HollaBack NYC and DC gave many presentations in their regions as did the London Anti-Street Harassment Campaign
- Between HollaBack founders and myself, we presented about street harassment at several major conferences in the US and abroad, including: