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Romania: Anti-Street Harassment Week in Bucharest

anti-street harassment week, correspondents, street harassment | on April, 21, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Simona-Maria Chirciu, Bucharest, Romania, SSH Blog Correspondent
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We had a week full of events for International Anti-Street Harassment Week in Romania. Activists and feminists were very active in raising awareness about this problem by posting online testimonials about street harassment experiences, sharing international events, participating in flashmobs and distributing fliers.

FILIA NGO and volunteers posted testimonials all week on Facebook and other activists Tweeted about street harassment. These kinds of online posting and discussions with people about street harassment is important. For example, some young women commented on our testimonials, opening up about their own experiences. Is vital for us to start talking more and more about this problem, in online but also in public spaces.

IMG_4730When it comes to street harassment in Romania, people tend to ignore it, to minimize the gravity of it. They excuse the harassers and blame the victims, so for this year’s International Anti-Street Harassment Week, three feminist NGOs from Bucharest — FILIA, FRONT and AnA: Society for Feminist Analyses — organized a public action in a park in Bucharest.

We gathered in a large park on Saturday, 18 April, to raise awareness about victim-blaming and the importance of bystanders intervention. How did we do that? We begun with writing chalk messages against street harassment like: “My skirt doesn’t concerns you!”, “I was harassed HERE”, “I don’t harass women”, “The public space must be safe for all of us”, “Take action against street harassment”, “Brave against street harassment”, “STOP street harassment”, “Harassment is violence”, “Respect women”.

IMG_4766 Many people in the park took a moment to stop and read or asked us what are we doing, what is street harassment or just stopped to congratulate us on our work. After the chalking, we made a flashmob – an artistic dance to symbolize the “relation” between the aggressor and the harassed woman, a relation of dominance and submission, a power relation. A powerful woman, an actress and activist on Roma rights – Mihaela Dragan – recited testimonials about street harassment to go with the dance. It was great! Then, the other participants made a circle, surrounding the dancers with banners and placards with messages against street harassment, for the people to see them.

IMG_4667 At the end of the activity we shared fliers with this simple message:

“When was it the last time you saw a girl or a woman catcalled, whistled, groped on the street, bus or park? What was your reaction? Street harassment is a daily problem for girls and women worldwide. Whistles, honking, leers, groping, sexual commentaries about women’s body, stalking, flashing, masturbation in public, threats with rape or physical aggression and other behaviours of street harassment in public space are making girls and women to feel unsafe. Street harassment has nothing to do with sexual attraction or what a woman is wearing. Is about the need of the harassers to demonstrate their power on their targets, the women who are seen just like sexual objects, walking down the street to please the men. Is time to get over stereotypes and stop blaming the women, but their aggressors. Say STOP to street harassment! Women have the right to a safe space too! Take attitude if you see a harassed women on the street!”

I was very glad that so many women and men in Bucharest got involved in this amazing week and I hope will be that way and something more in 2016 too!

Simona is the Vice President of a feminist NGO – FILIA Center and a PhD student in Political Sciences, working on a thesis on street harassment in Bucharest. You can follow her on Facebook.

Photos by Ana-Maria Popa.

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Washington, DC area #EndSHWeek actions

anti-street harassment week, Events, nonprofit | on April, 21, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

International Anti-Street Harassment Week was huge… groups in at least 40 countries took a stand. In the Washington, DC-area, where SSH is based, we were also busy five with offline actions.

On April 14, we joined the Georgetown University Women’s Center in distributing information and encouraging people to write white board messages for social media and attended a talk on rape culture (including street harassment) by writer and political pundit Zerlina Maxwell.

 4.14.15 GU in DC2 4.14.15 GU in DC
 4.14.15 Zerlina Maxwell talk at GU wtih womens center staff and volunteers. DC 4.14.15 Zerlina talk GU in DC

April 15, several of our board members (Liz, Layla, and Maureen) and volunteers, staff and volunteers with Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS) and the DC Rape Crisis Center, and staff from the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority distributed flyers, tshirts, and bracelets at five Metro stations about harassment on the transit system and how to report it. We were able to reach hundreds of people.

4.15.15 WMATA DC

 4.15.15 CASS WMATA DCRCC flyering  4.15.15 Metro Center WMATA DC

April 16, we celebrated the achievements of our friends CASS at their six year anniversary party!

 4.16.15 CASS Party 4.16.15 Chai at CASS event in DC

April 17, we hosted Nigerian LGBT/HIV activist Bisi Alimi at the meeting of the Gay District group at the DC Center. He talked about discrimination against LGBT individuals, including in Nigeria, and how that includes harassment and assault in public spaces. SSH board member Patrick, Bisi and I put up a few Stop Telling Women to Smile posters afterward as part of the International Night of Wheat Pasting!

 4.17.15 Bisi at DC Center  4.17.15 Bisi, Patrick, me STWTS in DC

Finally, on April 18, we joined Batala, CASS, and Defend Yourself for street action. From drumming to flyering and chalking (watch a 90 second video clip), we were able to raise a lot of awareness about street harassment. Batala was particularly amazing and drew crowds to hear their beats, giving us an opportunity to talk to people about street harassment, etc.

 4.18.15 SSH Batala  DSC_1284
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UK: This Doesn’t Mean a Yes Campaign

anti-street harassment week, Resources | on April, 21, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

4.11.15 London - ThisDoesntMeanAYes“A short skirt is not a yes.
A red lip is not a yes.
A wink is not a yes.
A slow dance is not a yes.
A walk home is not a yes.
A drink back at mine is not a yes.
A kiss on the sofa is not a yes.
The only ‘yes’ is a ‘yes’.”

On the eve of International Anti-Street Harassment Week, our friends Rape Crisis UK teamed up with fashion photographer PEROU on new campaign #ThisDoesntMeanYes to dispel the myths around what constitutes consent. They photographed nearly 200 women and officially launched the campaign at www.thisdoesntmeanyes.com on April 15.

In their press release they wrote: “PEROU photographed women who were chosen at random in a pop-up street studio, capturing and empowering each individual in a composition that each felt natural to them. Our aim: to show through our collection of images, that no matter what a woman is wearing, she is never ‘asking for it’ and the mentality ‘she wants it’ is fundamentally wrong.”

Rape Crisis UK explained: ‘No one should be able to blame rape on a short skirt. A short skirt can’t talk – a short skirt can’t say yes’.

Join the campaign by posting your image on social media using #thisdoesntmeanayes.

4.11.15 London - ThisDoesntMeanAYes from PRThe four women behind the campaign are: Nathalie Gordon is an Advertising Creative, Lydia Pang is a Creative Art Commissioner, Abigail Bergstrom is a Commissioning Book Editor and Karlie McCulloch is an Illustration Agent.

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Germany: Women-Only Transit Options

correspondents, News stories, public harassment | on April, 21, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Lea Goelnitz, Berlin, GermanyBlog Correspondent

women_only_public_transportIn more than one dozen countries, women-only public transportation is chosen as a short-term (or mid-term!) solution to street harassment. These countries are as diverse as Japan, India, Brazil, the Philippines and UAE, and offer sex segregated compartments in their trains or subways. In India public buses have benches reserved for women, entire trains for women and a women-only carriage in the Delhi metro. On the platform of the metro stop, the pink sign marks the “safe” area.

As the latest example of women-only transit, in the beginning of April the Guardian reported that there would be a new women-only rickshaw- service in Pakistan. The founder was fed up with facing daily harassment and now offers safe rides in pink rickshaws. I disagree with celebrating this business idea too much if the reason for the need of such women-only services is not sufficiently seen as a problem. We have to address the root causes.

Although I used to ride in the women-only carriage in Delhi and I guess it created a certain feeling of safety, I always felt like I was being put on display. Having all the women gathered in one space surrounded by men felt awkward. It is frustrating to know that these women-only spaces are a big move away from a gender equal society and from achieving real safety. Through sex-segregation, men do not need to adjust to a society in which women are equal and have the right to be in public spaces. The onus is on women to change.

In addition to women-only trains there are taxi services for women, which are even more widespread. There is SheRides in New York, Cab for Women by Women in Delhi and the Women´s Night Taxi in Hannover, Germany. In Germany there are also women-only parking lots, which are the ones closest to the building.

These interventions and businesses run by women create a safe option for women who otherwise might not go out or who will feel uncomfortable when they are out. As long as politics and culture fail women, this might be the only way to go. On the upside, in most cases it even provides women with economic empowerment. But of course even that is not perfect; the few female drivers may face safety issues as long as they are in the male-dominated space of taxi waiting lanes and rest areas.

Since January one of the major taxi companies in Delhi incorporated women drivers, catering to female passengers as well. This might be a small step forward. At least the men driving for this company will have to get used to having female colleagues.

In order for women to be safe, more women need to be out in public, as passengers and drivers.

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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USA: Researching Street Harassment in Texas

correspondents | on April, 21, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Madison Ford, Texas, USA, Blog Correspondent

My neighborhood in Texas is relatively safe. I know since I’ve jogged through its streets three times a week since I moved here in June. I know where I can run freely, eyes closed, blood pumping, without being startled by a car horn and a smug smile. I walk my dog every day before dark. And every morning, I check my email for a little summary of all the crimes that took place within a two-mile radius of my address. I know that my neighborhood is safe. But despite the fact that the only crimes anyone is committing around here are almost always nonviolent, I can’t leave my house at night without one of my male roommates coming with me.

I’ve been fortunate enough to be conducting research on street harassment through the honors program in the Sociology department at the University of Texas at Austin; I had a unique experience in designing my survey in that I was basically asking people if they had been harassed in the same places I was getting harassed. Their anecdotes in the free-response portions rang true with some of my own experiences and while it was nice to know I wasn’t alone, it made me angry that so many people are experiencing the same frustrations. It was interesting to see other places in Austin where I may not visit frequently be listed as street harassment hotspots. Mostly Central Austin, where there’s lots of foot traffic and everyone is out in the open.

The most difficult thing about conducting my survey was attempting to gather responses. What I had anticipated as being one of the simpler parts of my project quickly became the most challenging aspect of it, but I think there’s a good reason I had trouble getting participants. Female students in our university have been receiving many survey research opportunities regarding their experiences with sexual violence, sexual harassment, and their experiences on the college campus and mine was just one of them. Although much work remains to be done in the fight against sexual violence and sexual harassment, the national conversation is taking a turn in the right direction. It was almost a year ago that the list of colleges under Title IX investigations for mishandling sexual assault and sexual harassment was released, and the dialogue has only grown since then. Research is not only being conducted by concerned undergraduates like me, but by universities themselves in order to make sure they make a serious effort to create safe and welcoming environments for everyone. Although female students may be undergoing survey fatigue, it’s nice to know that so many people are taking the concerns of college students about their campus climate seriously.

Conducting my own research has been an academically challenging but ultimately fulfilling experience and I feel much more comfortable talking to people I know and people I don’t know about the issue of street harassment and its wider implications for addressing sexual violence across the world. I’ll have to spend the next few weeks hunched over my computer during the data analysis process, but maybe one day the research I’ve done will inspire a young researcher as I was inspired by so many studies before me.

Madison is a soon-to-be graduate of the University of Texas at Austin studying literature and sociology. Follow her on Twitter, @madiford222.

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Afghanistan: 22 Years of Being a Woman

anti-street harassment week, street harassment | on April, 19, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Eventually, I persuaded myself that what I experienced did not happen but was only in my head.

Guest Blog Post for International Anti-Street Harassment Week 2015

The first time I experienced harassment was when I was eight. I was standing by the bakery with my brother, who was also little. I was lost in my childish world when I felt a hand on my butthole. I looked back in shock and all I saw was a number of men, each pretending to be busy with their own work. I was too young to understand what had happened. The whole day, I was anxious and worried. Eventually, I persuaded myself that what I experienced did not happen but was only in my head.

The next day, I had gone back into my world of childhood, but until today, 22 years later, I feel a dark shadow on my heart every time I think about that day. In the past 22 years, I have experienced similar things many many more times. Every time, I have felt humiliated and weak. Every time, I have felt guilty and blamed myself. Every time, I have felt hatred for the men around me, for my life. I began to cover myself more. I stopped wearing makeup. I walked around with a frown on my face as to not give anyone the impression that I was interested in it. But none of these things have protected me from the harassment and violation of my body that me and thousands of women around me face every day.

Constant experiences of street harassment made me feel angry towards men. I began to equate masculinity with rape and violence and I felt that I must always protect myself from men. This is a side effect of street harassment on men. It prevents them from gaining our trust and our love.

In addition, like most women, I also experienced that street harassment had negative impacts on my self-respect and confidence. We cannot dismiss street harassment. It is a serious issue in our communities and we need to do things to stop it before another generation of girls grows up with the hatred, fear, and lack of self-confidence that my generation grew up with. We need to teach our boys to respect women and girls and we need to give our daughters the skills to defend themselves if it comes to that.

Hiding women inside the homes, covering them up in layers and layers of clothing, and preventing them from going out will not end street harassment. In contrast, preventing girls from being active in society contributes to a system that dominates women by keeping them weak in the society and giving them the smallest venues of influence power, if any at all. We must allow our daughters to go outside. Play. Learn. Work. And when they face issues, we must protect them and support them so that harassers and other predators don’t think that their actions will go by unnoticed and unpunished.

By Tamana Azaad, cross-posted from Dukhtarane Rabia (Daughters of Rabia): A blog on social justice in Afghanistan

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Preliminary #EndSHWeek 2015 Update

anti-street harassment week | on April, 19, 2015 | by | 0 Comments

Hello!

Wow, it’s been a tremendous week of activism for International Anti-Street Harassment Week 2015!

More soon, but here are a few numbers to recap what has happened!

* 1 member of parliament talked about street harassment (Australia)
* 4 transit campaigns or studies launched or were released (London, Los Angeles, Paris, Vancouver)
* 6 main hashtags were used on Twitter: #Endsh #Endshweek #plutotsympa #everydaysexism #AcosoEsViolencia#NoAcosoCallejero* Anti-street harassment efforts took place on 6 continents
* Co-sponsoring groups in 40 countries took action
* 50 street signs against “catcalling” went up in NYC and Philadephia
* 75 media hits* 485 photos of actions

THANK YOU everyone who was involved!

Please let us know how your event went via this reporting form and send photos to hkearl @ stopstreetharassment.org.

-Holly

PS, check out this man who is PRO harassment?!?!
“Another day ruined”

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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.