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Austin Woman Takes on Street Harassment

News stories, street harassment | on July, 31, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Learn how runner Anna Aldridge in Austin, Texas, got a mechanic shop to start addressing street harassment! Now she wants to work to address the issue city-wide.

You can sign her petition: http://tinyurl.com/p9bt58a

Also you can learn more about the problem overall via this Christian Science Monitor article from today. Hopefully the city council and others will take notice and do something!

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USA: “All it takes is one voice in a crowd of many”

correspondents, street harassment | on July, 31, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Liz Merino, Massachusetts, USA, SSH Blog Correspondent

Boston anti-harassment transit ads, 2013

Boston transit ads, 2013

According to the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority’s 2014 Ridership and Service Statistics, more than one million riders use its urban services every week. This includes the Red and Orange Line, as well as the system’s many buses and trackless trolleys.

I am only one of those riders, and I am a woman. Taking public transit as a woman in the dog days of summer isn’t easy. Let me rephrase that, being a woman on public transit is never easy, but the summer makes it a hell of a lot worse.

“It makes me really uncomfortable how people feel so comfortable with just shouting degrading things to you or things like, ‘Hey, do you want a boyfriend?’ or ‘Where’s that smile?’ It really turns you off from riding public transportation, but with most people, that’s their only option getting to work or wherever they need to go,” said NYC resident Maddie Michalik

The bus stop that I wait at every day to take into the city is on a main stretch of road, busy with the typical morning rush hour found anywhere across the U.S.

I’m sure the harassment I face can be found there too.

Men slow down their cars and yell at me out their window as they pass by. Some I can’t understand, their words garbled by wind, others I find I’m able to tune it out, but then there are other things I hear but for now I won’t repeat.

Others just stare. I know what you’re thinking. What do I mean staring? How can someone staring be harassment, especially from across the street in a car, a bus, a truck a anything?

A stare may not seem like anything but for men that harass and see women as nothing but something to look at and f***, it is. Their eyes are lecherous, undressing me, a once over that lasts as long as a red light but feels like forever leaving me sweating but still wishing I was wearing a parka instead of a skirt and a top.

Fully dressed I seemingly feel completely exposed.

At the bus stop I have nowhere to go, and these men know it. As they continue to stare, I look away, put up my book, stare at the sun and wait for the sidewalk to swallow me whole. Or I did.

I’ve started to stare back. Sometimes I wave like I’m a woman in the circus, a one-lady show hard and fast until they look away. My personal favorite is giving the finger or looking away blatantly as if they are not even there. I told my friend this and she worried for my safety.

A man rebuffed for his advances, unwanted at that, is a scary thing. A man with a grudge and a sense of entitlement to a body that isn’t his, a woman’s worst fear. I stand in the same spot every day.

What if they come back for me?

“I want to be just like every other commuter, pedestrian and jogger in the park. Can women be anonymous, invisible sometimes? Is that too much to ask?” asked Boston resident Lisi when asked about her experience with harassment.

In some aspects, though, it is getting better. The street harassment dialogue, the stories, social media posts and personal accounts are getting louder. Now, they can’t be ignored.

The other day on the Orange Line a man sat in one of the seats reserved for those that are handicap, close to the door and easy accessible. It’s also a spot to see everyone who gets on and off the train.

Standing three seats over, I watched as he tried to talk to a woman with headphones in. She wasn’t interested and shook her head, so he reached out and tried to grab her. Before he made contact, she moved away and the jostle of her body alerted the other passengers, including myself, that something was amiss.

The doors opened and she got off, another woman taking her place. Again the man tried to talk to this new woman, and again she just wanted to ride to her destination and not be bothered, like everyone else. When she didn’t respond to him speaking, he reached out to touch her too, and before my mouth opened, the lips of another parted and what she said made the whole car turn.

“Hey, you don’t touch her, or me or anyone else. If you want something you use your mouth and if someone doesn’t want no part of it, you leave them be. But you respect their personal space, you hear?”

He sat and stared, and two stops later he was gone.

All it takes is one voice in a crowd of many to say what so few can sometimes manager to utter on their own. As a woman, it made me happy to see a fellow woman stick up for someone else, but it made me happier that the whole car was in agreement with what she had said.

It can be easy in situations like this to turn away, it’s uncomfortable and awkward, and sometimes to speak up, it can even be dangerous. But when nothing is said instead, the behavior seems to be accepted as normal. Street harassment, touching someone without consent, yelling and hollering, groping and staring, whistling and whispering isn’t normal.

Speaking up can be hard, but saying something makes a difference even if it’s small or seems insignificant. Saying something means it’s happening, and it’s wrong, but you see it and won’t let it continue. Using your voice, no matter how loud or soft, speaks volumes for those who at the moment cannot find their own.

Liz is a recent graduate of Hofstra University with a Bachelor of Arts Journalism degree. She is currently a staff writer for a marketing agency in Boston. Follow her on Twitter @slizmerino and Instagram @elizabethmerino93.

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Queer Review Launch Party

Events, LGBTQ, street harassment | on July, 30, 2015 | by | 0 Comments
Kesha Garner and Kevin Hawkins at the Queer Review launch party

Kesha Garner and Kevin Hawkins at the Queer Review launch party

“When Kevin Hawkins was 16 and living in an area of Maryland still struggling to accept queer people, his mother disowned him. Down in South Carolina, Kesha Garner, who now lives in Washington, D.C., remembers growing up without adequate resources for LGBTQ+ people.

“Every time I drive the nine hours home, I worry about stopping to use the restroom.”

And even though D.C. is comparatively very progressive, Kesha knows the city, like every city across the country, is still home to an uncomfortable level of discrimination in public spaces. So they’re trying to do something about it.

Their new website, Queer Review, launched on Monday to give LGBTQ+ people around the world the opportunity to share their experiences in a variety of places, like restaurants, bars, hair salons, and movie theaters.”

Queer Review Launch Party

Queer Review Launch Party

Read the full Huffington Post article written by SSH Board Member Patrick McNeil.

Kevin and Kesha put the website together in three months and threw an awesome party last night at DC9 Nightclub in Washington, DC to celebrate its launch. I was honored to speak about the harassment LGBQT+ people face and why a tool like this is so important. The founder of Casa Ruby LGBT Community Center spoke about discrimination against LGBT people and the shelters they run for youth and adults. All of the shelters have 30+ people on waiting lists. (Donate to support their important work!)

The event had a really welcoming vibe and had stations where people could write what a safe space means to them, make note of gender-neutral bathrooms in the DC-area, and write business reviews at a laptop station.

Queer Review launch party stations

Queer Review launch party stations

Take a moment to write a review and also, use the reviews to choose where to go. Take your business to places that ARE welcoming and safe. Maybe if they lose customers, other businesses that are not will want to change.

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“I started saying over and over that I needed to go”

Stories, street harassment | on July, 30, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

I was returning to the parking lot where I parked my car and I saw a man standing right near my car. When I got closer, he told me he was homeless and asked if I could give him some money for food, and I gave him some money. He thanked me, but then it gradually turned into sexual harassment.

After he thanked me, he hugged me, which at first made me feel slightly uncomfortable but he prolonged the hug so long I started to get more and more uncomfortable. He said I was beautiful in a way that made me a little uncomfortable and I started saying over and over that I needed to go. I managed to get in my car, but as I was getting in he made a kissing face and said something about how he wanted to kiss me, and at that point I started to feel scared. He stayed so close to the car that I was worried I wouldn’t be able to drive away without hitting him. I managed to leave in my car but felt icky and uncomfortable my whole drive home.

Optional: What’s one way you think we can make public places safer for everyone?

Teach men in particular about what sexual harassment is, why it’s wrong, and what it does to women. Teach them how to intervene in these situations and create situations where men start talking with each other about sexual harassment. Make it more socially unacceptable to harass women than to talk about being harassed.

– CD

Location: Parking lot near H Mart, corner of Essex Street and Bishop Allen Drive, Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA

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See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more idea

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Spain: Col·lectiu Punt 6: Shaping public spaces with a gender approach

Activist Interviews, correspondents, street harassment | on July, 29, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Rebecca Smyth, Spain, SSH Blog Correspondent

Espacio vital y equipado delante del Mercado de Santa Caterina_barrio de la Ribera_Barcelona

Espacio vital y equipado delante del Mercado de Santa Caterina_barrio de la Ribera_Barcelona

Tucked away down one of the many labyrinthine streets of Barcelona’s El Born district, Col·lectiu Punt 6 is an organisation formed by and intent on forming the space which it occupies. They very kindly invited me along for a chat on Tuesday to tell me about their origins, development and objectives.

The first seeds were planted in 2004, when the Catalan government of the time passed the so-called ‘Llei de barris’ (Llei 2/2004 de millora de barris, àrees urbanes i viles que requereixen una atenció especial to give it its full title; it roughly translates to ‘law for the improvement of neighbourhoods, urban areas and towns which require special attention’). An ambitious project, the law aimed to improve civic participation and social inclusion through a multi-pronged approach to urban planning and development.

In order to receive funding, any proposed project must include action on eight ‘points’, the sixth of which is the promotion of gender equality in the use of public space and facilities – hence the collective’s name. It began life as a project sponsored by l’Institut Catala de la Dona (Catalan Institute of Women) in collaboration with l’Universitat Politecnic de Catalunya (Polytechnic University of Catalonia) and hasn’t shown any sign of slowing down since.

From 2006 to 2011, the group gained momentum, members and influence. It facilitated workshops with diverse groups and provided formal and informal training. 2011 saw the formalisation of the collective, which operates on a cooperative-type basis.

And goodness are they a formidable bunch: architects, sociologists and activists, often all in one, Punt 6 is a group on a mission. They have an extensive list of publications to their names (available here and here) as well as a strong presence in the vibrant world of Barcelona activism. They organised a Jane’s Walk in May of this year and have collaborated with other feminist organisations in Barcelona in the innumerable marches, festivals and street parties that punctuate daily life in the city.

As if that wasn’t enough for a group of people trying to write their doctoral theses, they also have projects in Málaga, Argentina and Colombia. The link between Punt 6 and Latin America is a strong one, given that one of their founding members, feminist architect and activist Zaida Muxí Martínez, is originally from Argentina.

I had the privilege to meet Blanca Gutiérrez Valdivia, Sara Ortiz Escalante and Roser Casanovas on Tuesday morning, and bombarded them with questions about their experiences thus far.

If there’s one thing that struck me as I sat and chatted away with them, it was just how much can be achieved by a small group of people with a clear idea of what they want to do. I felt and still feel immensely buoyed up by having witnessed first-hand their impressive work.

Having talked about where they’d come from, the conversation moved to where they hope to go and how they want to get there. Ultimately, their goal is to reshape urban space so that it takes into account women’s needs and experiences. This in turn requires an intersectional approach to six key themes: public spaces, facilities, mobility, housing, public participation and safety. This boils down to whether or not women and other minorities not only feel safe passing through public spaces, but also feel welcome to participate in them. They want to make women’s experience of urban space more visible, and also facilitate women’s awareness of urbanism and how to influence it. Along with this grassroots approach, they’ve worked in conjunction with local government initiatives. Like I said, a formidable bunch.

When asked about the wider political and social context here in Barcelona, Catalonia and Spain, all three women were unanimous in their agreement that it has shaped their work. There’s a longstanding tradition of political engagement and activism in this corner of the world, and the impact of the recession has also increased the already-existing desire for a social and political system that protects everyone’s interests and wellbeing. When asked about the interminable independence debate, theirs was a collective shrug. “Whatever happens,” Sara said, “We’ll continue our work.”

** For more information on Col·lectiu Punt 6, visit http://punt6.org/. Sincere thanks to Blanca, Sara and Roser for their time and willingness to share their experiences. **

Rebecca is currently living, working and stumbling through ballet classes in Barcelona. Originally from Kilkenny, she has a degree in European Studies and a Master’s in Gender and Women’s Studies from Trinity College Dublin, and will be doing an LLM in Human Rights Law in Edinburgh this fall.

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“I refused to cry until I got home”

Stories, street harassment | on July, 29, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

I got off of the bus on the way home. As soon as the bus left my stop I was waiting to cross the street, but a black car went flying by. The guy on the passenger side had his window rolled down and he yelled, ʺF***ng Whore!ʺ I was shocked it took me an entire 2 minutes to unfreeze my body. I refused to cry until I got home.

– Anonymous

Location: State College/PA/Centre

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See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more idea

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“This evil harassment makes my life intolerable”

Stories, street harassment | on July, 28, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Whenever I go shopping in a supermarket, or a mall, I find myself being followed by crude, loud people. In fact it seems that everybody – especially hard-faced women – are giving me evil stares, coughing at me etc. This evil harassment makes my life intolerable. It is bullying and happens even if I am with my young children.

– Anonymous

Location: England

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See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more idea

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SSH will not publish any comment that is offensive or hateful and does not add to a thoughtful discussion of street harassment. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, disabalism, classism, and sexism will not be tolerated. Disclaimer: SSH may use any stories submitted to the blog in future scholarly publications on street harassment.