Germany: Stopping Sexist Advertisements

correspondents | on January, 27, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Lea Goelnitz, Berlin, GermanyBlog Correspondent

Sexist advertisement is still the norm in many countries, but fortunately there is resistance

Many companies ignore women as potential buyers when they create their advertisement and so use women to sell their products to men. In general most ads are still dominated by very rigid gender stereotypes, therefore it was quite unusual when the jewelry company Tiffany launched an ad that features a gay couple (though it is still aimed at a male audience, featuring two white men).

Why does this matter? A dialogue comparing German and Swedish ads proves the link between ads and how a society values women and how advanced gender equality is. In the German ad the same product is advertised showing women being stupid, doing chores or being naked, while in Swedish ads men and women are more likely to be portrayed as equal partners or it shows men playing with children. In Sweden, more men go on paternity leave than in Germany and working hours are more adapted to family responsibilities of both partners.

In various countries there is now a movement for more gender equality and more diversity to be reflected in advertisement. One example is Pink Stinks in the UK, which regularly names and shames companies that use limiting and damaging stereotypes or even violence. In the U.S. the Representation Project runs a #NotBuyingIt campaign that is particularly active around Super Bowl weekend.

In Germany, we actually have a so-called advertisement council, which is supposed to intervene in case of discriminatory and offensive ads. But most of the time complaints about sexist ads are rejected because they are deemed as being “humorous” and “entertaining.” As the official council for advertising seems to be unwilling to actually influence ads for the better, new regional/ city ad council were founded across the country.

In Berlin, 15 women from various women´s rights projects founded a working group against sexist, discriminatory and misogynist advertisement in 2014. They developed a catalogue of criteria to define sexist ads, which was presented in front of the city senate and subsequently approved. In some areas of Berlin, it is now illegal to put up ads which violate the criteria. The working group also serves as a platform to which people report sexist ads. The aim is to have a dialogue with the companies, which launch the ads and to explain alternatives to their problematic ads. The role model for this initiative is Austria, where the official advertisement council established an elaborate catalogue and intervenes in discriminatory ads.

The aim of the initiative is to sensitize people to sexism in ads and to explain why certain ads are discriminatory. The views on this are diverse. Sexism is defined along a blurry line. “One obstacle is, that often women themselves do not necessarily recognize sexism in an ad, because they internalized sexism and it is accepted in society at large,” Marisa Riah, who is a member of the working group, explained to me. “Sexist advertisement is one form of violence against one group of people and it helps to reinforce stereotypes and prejudice. Consequently ads have a relevant impact on how we portray people and treat each other. Ads influence people and society and it reflects the values of society as well”, says Marisa about her motivation to be part of the project.

It is still a long way to go, but there is progress. With this initiative, Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg in Berlin, follows other cities in Germany, which managed to establish sexist-ads-free areas just in the past years.

Lea works in journalism and women´s rights and is involved in the women´s rights NGO Discover Football, which uses football as a tool for empowerment and gender equality. Follow her on Twitter, @LeaGoelnitz.

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Street Harassment Weekly – Jan. 19-25

News stories, weekly round up | on January, 26, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Catcalling is More Sinister Than You Might Think - “Our research supports previous findings that the rampant sexual objectification of women, an act of sexual terrorism, can heighten women’s fears of incurring physical and sexual harm,” says lead author Dr. Laurel Watson, a psychology professor specializing in traumatology at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

I Confronted Every Man Who Catcalled Me (And It Didn’t End Well) – “How can you explain to a stranger that a compliment makes us feel afraid? That words like “gorgeous” and “beautiful” sound like threats when we hear them whispered to us on an empty street late at night? That we feel uneasy, objectified and uncomfortable when you say this to us while we’re going about our normal routine, not asking to be judged on our appearance out loud? That this thing they do for fun is at the expense of our peace of mind?”

Victim of Eve-Teasing, Teenager Kills Self – “A family member of the victim said, “We had gone to the police and complained about the incident. They did not take appropriate action against the guilty, which led to the girl’s death.””

SHE Teams Power Fight Against Eve-Teasing- ““We have constituted 100 such teams where police personnel in plainclothes mix with the crowd outside colleges, popular hangouts, cinemas and in public transport. They go armed with a small hidden camera that records the goings-on as they happen.” Sometimes, women police personnel themselves end up as “victims” and the entire act is caught on camera. The eve-teasers are immediately taken to the police station where his family is called in and he is let off with a warning and a petty fine.”

Ain’t No Hollaback Girl – Men And Women Speak Out Against Street Harassment Through Hollaback!NOLA- “Hollaback, which started in New York, is a non-profit movement that aims to end street harassment. Hollaback branches exist in 25 countries and 84 cities. The city of New Orleans was finally added to the list last December. According to Hollaback’s mission statement, street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. They claim that at its core, street harassment is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups of their vulnerability to assault in public places.”

Students Enact Skits About Violence Against Women – “Concerns about violence against girls and security of school students were highlighted in a unique drama competition on Sunday. Students’ groups from 15 schools performed on issues like eve teasing, addiction, sexual abuse of girls, adolescence and crime against women. The competition was part of ‘Nirbhay Vidyarthi Abhiyaan’-an initiative taken up by the Pune police to create awareness about crimes against students. A total of 116 schools in the city had registered for the drama competition. Eighty-five schools came up with performances and 15 were selected for the finals.”

Video: When Men Accidentally CatCall Their Own Mothers – “Often in trying to get men to understand how awful street harassment is, we use rhetorical techniques like “Would you talk to your mother like that?” But thanks to a project by Everlast, the men in this video really did catcall their mothers. The results are exactly as epic as you’d expect.”

Wearing Her “Whorepants” – How One Runner Turned Getting Harassed Into a Movement- “A year ago, I wrote a column for the Philadelphia Inquirer about female runner harassment. I didn’t offer safety tips. Instead, I called for us to take the blame off women who were harassed and hoisting it on to the people doing the harassing. To prove that point, I wrote about what had happened to me when I wore a pair of purple below-the-knee Nike capris, which I’d bought for $10 at the Nike outlet in Atlantic City. Reaction was swift and fierce.”

Are Women Traveling Into a Safer 2015? – “Every 51 minutes, a woman faces harassment or assault in India’s public spaces, according to a 2011 report by the National Crime Records Bureau. Staggering numbers of reported and unreported cases of violence and harassment make transportation difficult and dangerous for women and girls, especially after dark. So should safety issues simply keep women and girls indoors—or does their vulnerability in public spaces highlight a desperate need for gender considerations in designing and planning public transport?”

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The Bahamas: Small Islands and Good MANners (Part 2)

correspondents, street harassment | on January, 26, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Alicia Wallace, Nassau, The BahamasBlog Correspondent

Via Hollaback! Appalachian Ohio

In Part I, we explored street harassment and the resistance of Bahamians to respond to the evolution of society due to increased population and lived experience of women living in The Bahamas. I used the example of my first memory of street harassment which caused fear and shame. In Part II, we’ll delve into the differences between the Bahamian man’s experience and that of the Bahamian women. The Bahamian affinity for good manners will be weighed against the safety – if only by perception – of Bahamian women.

Bahamian men move through life with a tremendous amount of unrecognized privilege. They are concerned about their egos, manners and courtesies extended to them, and the subsequent feelings they inspire. They are unaware of – or simply unmoved by – the perpetual fear plaguing women simply for existing in a world where men dominate in the physical sphere. They are unfamiliar with a woman’s thought process as she approaches them, or any area where they could be lurking.

What am I wearing?

Can I run in these shoes?

Is he looking at me?

Where are my keys?

Place keys between my fingers.

Swivel safeguard on mace and place index finger on the trigger.

Dial someone’s cellphone number and keep thumb near the call button.

Do not drop any of these essential tools.

Look behind without looking like I’m looking behind.

Shoulders back, head up, eyes looking every which way.

Walk quickly – don’t run – and only on balls of feet so no one hears heels clicking.

Clutch bag tightly, but be prepared to toss it at any minute.

Get in the car quickly, lock all the doors, and start the engine. Don’t worry about the things in your lap right now.

Drive like hell.


Develop the plan for arrival.

Bahamian men are completely unable to reconcile their feelings and expectations of attention with the everyday lived experience of Bahamian women. They can’t begin to understand why any of this is necessary, and how it could even begin to excuse the outright refusal of women to give freely of their time and conversation. They’re steeped in their own experiences.

Bahamians are friendly people.

This is a small place.

My grammy taught me to speak to people when I see them. Anything different is just rude.

Bahamian women are too stuck up.

They don’t want no black man, and they don’t want no Bahamian man.

They think they’re too good for us.

They don’t appreciate how nice we are. We just want to say hello. Give them compliments.

Bahamian women look good! What’s so bad about that?

It’s easy for men to touch fists with other men, known or unknown to them. It’s not at all difficult to give a head nod or an “Erryting cool” to a man they’ve never seen before. They don’t have to know each other to be cordial. There’s a reason for this, but they don’t see it.

What’s the difference?

Power. It all boils down to the power differential. Between men, the playing field is fairly level. They generally have the same strength and abilities, neither holding any more power to cause harm to the other. A man can be relatively certain that another man saying “Sup?” is doing nothing more than acknowledging his existence and the exchange will end at will.

In the case of a man and a woman, there is an imbalance of power due to biological differences. Generally speaking, women can be overpowered by men. Women can be violently assaulted by men. A woman has no idea where an exchange can lead, and has little power to stop it. For this reason, many women choose not to engage at all.

Bahamian men fail to understand that this is not an affront to good manners or common courtesy. It’s survival.

The issue cannot be framed by the person in the position of power based on his own intent. That intent, however noble, is not apparent to the person with the least amount of power. All a Bahamian woman can tell you for certain is how it makes her feel when she is catcalled, followed, or otherwise greeted, and this is, in fact, what truly matters. The impact is of greater consequence than the intent.

It’s not the job of a woman to consider the feelings of a strange man she fears could wrestle her to the ground, drag her by her hair, and sexually assault her. Rather, it is the responsibility of a man to consider the way he is perceived, control his reaction to being ignored, and modify his behavior. If he is truly concerned about good manners and common courtesy, the Bahamian man will understand the position of the Bahamian woman, and he will act accordingly.

Good manners may make you feel good, but behaving in ways that minimize fear and increase access to public space for women should make you feel better. At the end of the day, it’s not about you, Bahamian man. It’s about the impact you have on the Bahamian women you claim you love, honor, and respect.

Alicia is a freelance writer and public educator in Nassau, Bahamas. You can connect with her on Twitter (@_AliciaAudrey and on her blog.

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The Bahamas: Small Islands and Good MANners (Part 1)

correspondents, Stories, street harassment | on January, 26, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Alicia Wallace, Nassau, The BahamasBlog Correspondent

Hollaback! Bahamas, International Anti-Street Harassment Week 2014

The first time I was street harassed, I was with my mother, wearing a plaid jumper, and 8 years old. It was terrifying, embarrassing, and guilt-inducing. My mother was furious, but I couldn’t tell whether the object of her rage was the creepy 30-something man or me.

“That’s a pretty girl, eh?”

My chest overheated and I froze. Something about it wasn’t right.

“Whatchu sayin’ mother-in-law. I wan’ marry your daughter.”

I looked at her, but quickly realized that was a bad call.

“Get in the car!” she roared.

I did, my head down, legs shaking, wishing my father was there because, surely, this would not have happened in his presence. Men may have looked when his back was turned, but no one had ever dared to say anything. To be honest, my memory and telling of this story is probably colored by my innocence, shock, and youth at the time, but that is, without prejudice, what happened.

Not much has changed since then. My mother doesn’t have to drive me everywhere, I don’t wear a school uniform, and there’s a 2 in front of that 8, but things are basically still the same. The feminist in me hates the truth in it, much less to admit it, but I always wish for the presence of my father or my brother when I’m harassed. They are still my protectors. They are still my best prevention tactic. In the eyes of the world at large, I am still only made safe, only honored, only protected, only of value and worth because of my relationship to men. Black men. Tall men. Thick men. Men with beards. Men with deep voices. Men with an authoritative walk. A powerful voice. A monopoly on strength. Testosterone. Oozing heterosexuality. Prone to violence. Vote most likely to bust a cap in someone for their woman – be she a mother, wife, daughter, or girlfriend – at the drop of a hat.

I’m not the only person who ever had that experience. I’ve had conversations with people of different ages and races about street harassment and how it made them feel. I spoke, as Director of Hollaback! Bahamas to a group of 8-12 year old girls about street harassment, and watched with horror as they each raised their hands in answer to the question, “How many of you have experienced street harassment?”

In The Bahamas, there’s an idea that girls only experience street harassment and other acts of sexual violence because their behavior or presentation is inappropriate. Her skirt is too short. She’s wearing too much lip gloss. Her mother was “like that”. Ain’ no daddy in that house. She likes grown people’s conversations too much. She walks “too slack”. She, she, she, she, she.

There’s also the overriding idea that people must be courteous, and this means speaking to everyone you see or pass. It’s not unusual for people to say a general “Good morning” when entering an occupied space which includes doctors’ offices, classrooms, banks, stores, and buses. This extends to the street, people greeting one another in passing on sidewalks.

The capital of this archipelago of islands, Nassau, is 21×7 miles. It is, indeed, a little rock. There was a time when all of its inhabitants – like other islands – were connected. People reprimanded children walking by after the school had rung because they knew it was so-and-so’s son or daughter. Those days, however, are a relic of the past, no matter how tightly anyone tries to hold onto it. The population of this country is reaching for 400,000, and I’d venture to guess that one-third of it lives in Nassau. This little rock is densely populated, and the degrees of separation have increased and decreased the likelihood that we can identify one another as Miss Madeline’s grandson or the tuck shop lady’s son-in-law. As a result, common courtesy is a bit less common, and there are many who continue to fight this change, seeing it as a plague brought by a rebellious generation. This, of course, is false.

Let’s take a moment to reflect on the memory of an 8 year old girl in her elementary school uniform, crossing the street with her mother. Think of the fear she felt when a man her father’s age spoke of marrying her. Feel her shame when her mother shouted at her to get in the car. Cary the weight of the blame she carried for years, and the burden of trying to make sure it never happened again. How could she find the balance between exercising her good manners and “keeping herself to herself”? No little girl should ever have to navigate this terrain, but for many Bahamian girls, this is a part of growing. There is little choice, and decisions have to be made. That 8 year old girl shouldn’t have to act based on expectations of good manners rather than her own safety, confidence, and comfort, the problem is not that little girl. Let’s face it. Those things are mutually exclusive.

We’ll explore the real reason for the evolution of societal interaction in Part II.

Alicia is a freelance writer and public educator in Nassau, Bahamas. You can connect with her on Twitter (@_AliciaAudrey and on her blog.

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“It’s made me concerned about leaving my office alone”

Stories, street harassment | on January, 25, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

I was leaving work this evening and walking down the street where my office is located when a man said, “Excuse me” while looking me up and down. I ignored him. He proceeded to run after me and say, “Excuse me, you are very beautiful. Can I ask you a question?”

I said, “What?” And he said, “What’s your name?” I replied, “I’m in a rush.” To which he replied “that’s rude.” I said, “Well I’m not walking down the street waiting to be approached.” He then said, “F*** you, you f***ing bitch!’ And continued to yell out “F*** you!” as I walked away.

This happened on a busy street which I have to walk down every day, right in front of a police station. It’s made me concerned about leaving my office alone from now on, only to walk a single block to get on my bus.

Optional: Do you have any suggestions for dealing with harassers and/or ending street harassment in general?

I don’t have any suggestions. I tried to explain to this guy why I wasn’t going to give him my name (that I’m just walking down the street minding my own business) and then he still proceeded to swear at me aggressively. He wasn’t entitled to know my name or the reason why I wouldn’t give it to him. He also had the nerve to do this in front of a police station.

- Anonymous

Location: Kentish Town, London

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

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ʺI wanna ride you like a wild beast!ʺ

Stories, street harassment | on January, 24, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

I was 16, walking down the street in broad daylight. A super buff guy in a fancy, red car slowed down beside me and rolled down the window and said, ʺI wanna ride you like a wild beast!ʺ I started walking faster and eventually he left.

- Sandy

Location: Berkeley, California, USA

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“I prayed that he didn’t try to follow me”

Stories, street harassment | on January, 23, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

I was walking to my mom’s job after getting off the school bus when halfway there this guy in this tacky reflector tape red jogging suit comes up beside me with a whole bunch of $1′s in his hands as if he was counting them one by one. He asked me to get ice cream with him. I was a sophomore in high school and he looked like he was over 30 years old or slightly 40. I’ve always had a rather petite appearance and a face that made me look a few years younger than i really am but regardless this was a man clearly older than me and the fact that i was in a school uniform should have been a red flag alone that i was off limits. Obviously that meant nothing to him.

It creeped me out having some older man trying to, might as well, bribe me with sweets to be with him. I kept telling him no and just walked faster to get across the street. I prayed that he didn’t try to follow me, luckily he didn’t. I didn’t think anyone would ever try something like that because there were in fact police in the area and it was in broad daylight surrounded by other people shopping, no less.

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

I think there should be officers with Stop Street Harassment badges on every street looking out for other young ladies who are being harassed or objectified.

Nia H.

Location: Newark, NJ

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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.