Documentary about Street Harassment in DC

Activist Interviews, Resources, street harassment | on July, 18, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I first met Dienna Howard in 2008 when I was doing research for my first book. She had run the blog Golden Silence about street harassment for a few years and was outspoken on the issue so I knew she’s be a perfect person to interview. We’ve remained friends and activist allies ever since then, participating in marches, rallies, safety audits, and events together. Recently, she completed a documentary about street harassment and activism to stop it in the Washington, D.C. area. She has no background in making documentaries and learned how to do it in her spare time… and then did it. It was a huge under-taking and I’m so proud of her!!

Here is her documentary and below is an excerpt from her blog post about making the film.

“I became a member of Arlington Independent Media in late 2012. I’d known about it for years (and I attended a comedy screening there once), but I never thought to take advantage of it until then. (Más vale tarde que nunca!) This is an amazing organization that teaches its members how to create their own productions. I took the six-week field production class last spring, an Adobe Premiere Pro editing class last summer, and the six-week studio production class early last fall. Volunteering on a variety of different programs allowed me to develop my skills and do a 180 from “I don’t know what the hell I’m doing!” to “I am growing each day.” AIM’s staff is incredible and its members are wonderful.

After last year’s field production class, I wanted to produce my own show. Summer was on its way, and with summer comes an increase of street harassment, gender-based violence against women in public spaces. I am all too familiar with street harassment and I won’t use the space to get too deep into it here (I’ve talked about it enough), but being harassed on a regular basis is demeaning, frustrating, and humiliating, as well as dealing with the victim blaming responses that come from people who don’t understand it and don’t get it.

Doing a documentary on street harassment was a big challenge for someone who was still new to AIM at the time. I originally wanted to start off with something light. I love comedy, love all the old sitcoms, and wanted to do something humorous. But other than its timeliness, I wanted to do a piece on street harassment because I cannot count the number of documentaries on it that I’ve either been interviewed for or someone said they’d be working on, but they’d never come to fruition. I wanted to fill in that gap. I made a promise to myself to work on it from beginning to end and to get it done. (And as an AIM member, I’m required to get programming completed for them to air regardless!)

It was such a learning process working on this documentary. My confidence behind the camera developed, my ability to lead a team burgeoned, and my editing skills became smooth. I was getting the hang of this!

I don’t have all this fancy-schmancy technology at home, so I spent a lot of my weekends at AIM editing this project. (I know the weekend staff got tired of seeing me…HAHAHA!) Thankfully it’s cheap to rent AIM’s equipment and use of an editing suite, and using volunteer hours in lieu of part of the payment helped to reduce my costs.

I found it hard to give up most of my Saturdays during this time to edit. I’m an insomniac and I rarely sleep enough during the week, so to lose a day of my weekend was a sacrifice….

I never thought this project would end, and at times it was easy to see why others would cease working on similar things. I watched the same timeline footage each session, that I had it memorized by rote. I was beyond ready to move on.

I didn’t have a deadline for it, which was partly why the project seemed to never end….

So I put my foot down. It’s going to be done by the end of May, and I will make it happen.

Last month it was down to the wire. I was in that editing suite every Saturday, fine-tuning and finishing things. I’d been in contact with those who were involved in the program, doing things such as getting updates, getting photos, and verifying spelling and credits. I set a deadline with them too, because if I didn’t, I never would’ve gotten things done…

After what felt like an eternity, the video was completed and AIM saved a copy to their hard drive. I filled out the requisite forms, and was on my way. Nine is my favorite number, and 5/24/2014 – 5+2+4+2+0+1+4=18, 1+8=9. I spent another week nervous about whether the program was suitable to air. As long as the content wasn’t severely vulgar, it should be good to go, but there are scenes of a harasser using vulgar language against me, mentions of harassers masturbating, and cursing used when quoting the harassers. Would it fit their standards?

I got that e-mail from AIM stating that the program would air, starting June 5, 2014. 6+0+5+2+0+1+4=18, 1+8=9. Someone up there was on my side, rooting for me to achieve.

I don’t have a TV at home, but watched the live stream when it aired on the 5th. Though I had a saved copy of the video and that I would put on YouTube after it aired (AIM has a policy that nothing can be shared on other sites until it’s aired on their channel), I still watched it because I was finally watching this piece as a viewer, not as an interviewer or interview subject, not as a camera person, not as an editor, and not as a producer. I was watching it through new eyes. And as a viewer, I was proud of what I accomplished while wearing all of those other hats….

It’s been a few weeks since the program started airing on the station (three times a week!) and I finally got to put it on YouTube. The reception has been positive, which is a sigh of relief. I personally know most of the people that I interviewed for this documentary, and was worried they’d react with, “I don’t like how I was edited!” That would’ve been rough to hear. Years ago, when I was in college, I wrote an article about someone who was president of the student council. He got mad and said, “She misquoted me!” in front of me as if I weren’t even there. I didn’t want a repeat of that. Luckily everyone involved in the project has been very supportive…

I’ve finished this piece and am ready to move on, though I wouldn’t mind having a screening of it in the future. People have asked me what my next steps are. I’m currently helping a friend from my field production class co-produce a series of pieces and I’m looking forward to seeing how this project unfolds…

After everything’s said and done, I’m proud of myself for sticking with something, even when it seemed like no end was in sight. I’m looking forward to whatever else comes my way. Bring it on!”

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“Evidently I was a terrible woman because I was bending him to my will”

Stories, street harassment | on July, 17, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

I was walking casually downtown with a male friend of mine who came to visit the area and his family. We were walking along in a section along 4th Street and between Pike & Pine I believe and this man who looked like a drug addict walked towards us and stood within hearing distance and then started grumbling and practically hissing (I don’t remember his exact wording) that my male friend was a lesser man because he was walking with his woman who was clearly making him subservient to herself. Evidently I was a terrible woman because I was bending him to my will and he was a terrible man because I was crushing him with my feminine magical powers and he didn’t have the balls to put me in my place…. Or something.

He was ANGRY for no damn reason other than a man was walking with a woman. His stance and tone were so aggressive I was bracing for him to get physical with us.

I don’t know if he was trying to harass me or my male friend or both. I don’t walk in that area any longer. The number of streets downtown that I can usually reliably walk on without getting harassed … are becoming scarce.

- Anonymous

Location: Seattle, WA

Share your street harassment story for the blog.
See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more ideas

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Apply for 2014 Safe Public Spaces Mentoring

SSH programs | on July, 17, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Chicago team in 2013

Stop Street Harassment (SSH)’s Safe Public Spaces Mentoring program empowers people to consider what efforts might decrease street harassment in their community, and then propose and carry out a project. Across three months, selected activists receive advice, network connections, input, and up to $250 for expenses from SSH.

In 2013 we worked with three pilot sites who held high school workshops in Afghanistan, conducted focus groups and organized a youth seminar in Cameroon, and created three short films and held a community event in Chicago, USA.


The 2014 period is September 1 through December 1.

** To apply, complete & submit this online form & complete and email this excel spreadsheet for expenses to hkearl@ **


Who can apply?

Groups (or a very motivated individual) anywhere in the world!

We will accept and fund up to four mentoring sites this year.


Applicants will be notified of the decision by August 18 and their program can start as soon as September 1.

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USA: Anti-women trolls try to hijack #YouOkSis Twitter discussion

correspondents, Stories, street harassment | on July, 17, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Brittany Oliver, Baltimore, MD, USA, SSH Blog Correspondent

Fighting street harassment was never an easy job.

In case you missed it, Feminista Jones, a popular blogger, Black feminist and creator of the #YouOkSis hashtag, faced harsh backlash from Internet trolls for starting a discussion on how Black men should support Black women to combat street harassment. As motivating as this sounds, some people just couldn’t handle women speaking out and it took a turn for the worst.

With what was supposed to be a virtual space to express our frustrations to create dialogue, men immediately attacked Black women and their allies. At some point, I decided to join in on the conversation and the same thing happened to me.

How bad was it? You be the judge.

In defense of the movement, I tweeted back at trolls and was called an “angry Black feminist” who was on a mission to help organizations like Stop Street Harassment (SSH) put Black men in jail.

Really? Is that the best they could come up with? The work I do during the day consists of upholding racial equality and combating racism in all forms, especially within the criminal justice system. And believe me, the LAST thing I want is for the prison population to increase. That made absolutely no sense and is a cop out from the real problem: men not taking responsibilities for their actions.

This debate made me think about a film I saw in college called “Tough Guise: Violence, Media & the Crisis in Masculinity,” which is headlined by activist and educator Jackson Katz. Katz argues that the epidemic of male violence that plagues American society needs to be understood and addressed as part of a much larger cultural crisis in masculinity and I couldn’t agree more.

We live in a society that tells women and girls to dress a certain way to avoid unwanted attention and abuse. It blames victims first and asks questions later. It teaches men that they are entitled to women’s bodies and showing aggression is the “American” way.

Because the hashtag #YouOkSis wasn’t about the trolls, they were determined to ruin a time of solidarity. What people need to realize is that Stop Street Harassment has given me more support than any man ever has. Now, let that sink in for a minute.

If street harassment didn’t exist, why are organizations like SSH and Hollaback! Baltimore doing work on these issues? Why is visual artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh traveling around the country to wheat paste portraits quoting things women want to say to their harassers? Street harassment is not an illusion and these are real issues and challenges we face every day.

In 2014, SSH commissioned a 2,000-person national survey in the USA and found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment, while 25% of men were harassed. With all of the research it took to get these results, why would anybody make this stuff up?

Instead of Black men supporting Black women on this issue, sadly some of them let us down once again. When was the last time you heard a woman deny a man’s experience of being stop and frisked by the police? Most likely never.

And although anti-women trolls hijacked the #YouOkSis hashtag, they proved exactly why the fight to ending street harassment continues.

So, what’s next? Continue to stress the importance of ending street harassment among your family, friends and allies in your community because as you can clearly see, the work is far from over.

Brittany Oliver is a recent graduate of Towson University and works in the non-profit communications sector and supports local anti-street harassment advocacy through Hollaback! Baltimore. She blogs at http://btiarao.wordpress.comand publicly rants on Twitter, @btiarao.

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“They are the reason women’s rights continue to be an unresolved issue”

Stories, street harassment | on July, 15, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

As the daughter of a single working mother and father consumed with the highs and lows of owning a business, I was highly dependent upon public transportation while growing up. Needless to say, I have become all too familiar with the unwanted staring, suggestive comments, gestures, honking and whistling that come with traveling alone as a girl in the Maryland suburban outskirts of DC. My mother would constantly advise me to “ugly up” before going out in public; skip the makeup, trade the jeans for sweatpants, cover up as much skin as humanly possible, all to avoid attention from men of all ages and counteract what far too many people classify as a their “innate urges.”

The more I grow up, however, the more I realize that I am not unique in my experiences with people my mother classifies as “creepers,” and nor is she in her good intentioned advice. Cases as benign as staring and gesturing and as severe as rape have become increasingly frowned upon by society and censured by the media. The question of how to put an end to society’s age old rape culture has become more pressing as such news and statistics become more readily available to the public.

Many, like my mother, argue that women should dress more modestly to avoid unwanted attention and potential aggression in public. Rape culture and street harassment have become an everyday reality for women across the nation. As a result, many advise girls from a young age to take steps to avoid the unwanted attention and potential abuse.

This perspective, however, fails to solve the true cause of the problem. By telling our daughters and younger sisters to dress decently to avoid unwanted attention and potential abuse, we accept rape and the degradation of women as a norm, and thereby, perpetuate rape culture rather than move toward ending it. Telling girls to take active measures to avoid rape is inadequate and counterintuitive solution to a problem that women have faced for centuries and by doing so, we are moving away from progress and clinging to the patriarchal values that activists have worked so hard overcome.

It is the duty of the free and modern world to promote not only proactive counter measures against abuse in our girls, but also instill self-control in boys and nurture the idea of respecting for women from the beginning. We must continue to deny the idea that men cannot control themselves in the presence of a woman; we must castigate all those who continue to hold these parochial beliefs in the twenty first century, because they are the reason women’s rights continue to be an unresolved issue; and we must no longer make excuses for their behavior by saying ‘well, boys will be boys’ because by doing so, society is accomplishing nothing but allowing their behavior to continue.

If I ever have a son, I will instill in him respect for women from a young age and stop the cycle of excuse-making and victim-blaming. If I ever have a daughter, I will most likely take a different approach than the one my mother did; I will clearly explain the realities of society and the fact that dressing provocatively can bring about unwanted attention, but I will never force her to conform by suggesting that she dress in a certain way for men. Hopefully, by the time I have a son or daughter, though, sexual violence will be less of an issue than it was while I was growing up.

- Shiran Zecharya

Share your street harassment story for the blog.
See the book 50 Stories about Stopping Street Harassers for more ideas

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To clarify what SSH is about

street harassment | on July, 14, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Ever since the #YouOkSis tweet chat on Thursday focused on Black women’s experiences with #streetharassment, a bunch of people on twitter have been attacking me, saying I started the hashtag (@FeministaJones did) and the whole movement against street harassment (yeah right, women have been organizing against this issue for 100+ years) in order to push my “agenda” to jail Black men. They have also targeted the Black woman who led the campaign and many other women who participated during the chat.

Of course I have dealt with criticism (constructive and vicious) but this is a new level of willful misinformation and hate. People have been calling me Jim Crow, saying I dupe Black women, saying I have an agenda to jail all Black men, and a few men have said sexually explicit things about me. Some men have also photoshopped my head onto images like one of me crushing a Black woman in a chair with her underneath me. Yes, this is all upsetting.

I have followed the guidance of the woman who started the hashtag and not engaged with them. I wasn’t going to mention it on this blog, even.

However, I just received an email from a presumably white man saying he whole-heartedly agrees with my campaign to jail Black men and called them racial slurs and says he wants to contribute money to my campaign. That is disgusting and unacceptable and I emailed him back to tell him so. I don’t know if it’s a joke or not, but it’s unacceptable regardless.

But it makes me realize I can’t not say something publicly about this. Misinformation spreads fast.  So ENOUGH.

Let me be clear: I do not have an agenda to jail anyone.

What do I want? I want everyone to be safe and unharassed in public spaces. I want interactions in public spaces to be respectful and full of consent.

Street harasser does not mean Black men. Far from it.

Men across all backgrounds are harassers (and some are harassed, primarily in the LGBT community).

On the flip side, women across all backgrounds experience street harassment (and a small number are harassers).

I have collected thousands of stories, done two online surveys, commissioned a nationally representative survey, and conducted 10 focus groups. I’ve given 125 talks where I’ve heard stories. I’ve written two books, a master’s thesis and 50 articles. I don’t know everything about street harassment, but I know a hell of a lot.

And here’s the thing. Street harassment is a societal and global problem. Street harassment does not happen in a vacuum. Sexual harassment is a problem in our schools and workplaces. Rape is a problem on our campuses and in our military. Domestic violence and teen dating violence are problems as is incest. Street harassment is one component of the sexual harassment/sexual violence/domestic violence spectrum and grouping — and it happens in every country.

I’ve been speaking out for years specifically on street harassment because so few others have been.

And so this is my agenda: bring attention to this problem, provide a place for people to share stories, and help create a culture where everyone has the right to be safe and unharassed in public spaces. Read about SSH’s work here.

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USA: #YouOkSis Street Harassment Tweet Chat

correspondents, Stories, street harassment | on July, 14, 2014 | by | 0 Comments

Kirstin Kelly, Monterey, California, USA, SSH Blog Correspondent

As an editor for The Women’s International Perspective, I often find myself involved in Twitter chats and campaigns that deal with social issues, especially issues pertaining to the treatment of women around the world.  On July 11, I participated in one such chat using #YouOKSis (here is the recap). It quickly became clear that this was not your ordinary Twitter chat.

The sheer numbers of trolls and naysayers making themselves heard was truly astounding.  The #YouOKSis chat was intended to be a discussion about street harassment faced by Black women.  In particular, it called for men of color to engage in bystander intervention when they witness women of color being harassed.  These kinds of conversations are important.  Stop Street Harassment’s recent National Street Harassment Report demonstrated that persons of color face harassment at higher rates than their white counterparts and that overwhelmingly it is men who do the harassing, regardless of the victims’ gender.

The #YouOKSis chat aimed to address this problem on two fronts.  It first and foremost provided a space for women of color to share their experiences.  #YesAllWomen, a campaign in which I also took part, similarly invited women to share their experiences.  However, it did not address how race plays a role in a person’s experience with street harassment the way #YouOKSis did.  The second critical component of the #YouOKSis chat which is largely absent from other similar conversations is that it attempted to educate men on how they can actively become part of the solution by intervening on behalf of people facing harassment.

Participating in both of these conversations provided me with a tiny window into the complexities of issues that are both racial and gendered.  #YouOKSis drew a level of harassment I could not have expected.  Not only were people complaining in the usual manner that women sharing their experiences were creating problems where previously there hadn’t been any, being whiny, or failing to recognize that not everyone is guilty of harassment, but many of them were critiquing participants for turning on their own race.

The viciousness of these attacks is exactly why campaigns like #YouOKSis are important.  We need to do more to create safe spaces for people to share their stories about how race, sexism, and classism affect their lives because without fostering a better dialogue, any attempt made to solve these problems will be limited by the experiences of the organizers.

Furthermore, a lot of the criticism was coming from men who felt attacked, pointing out that not all men are guilty.  To me, it seemed the larger point of the conversation was not to hate on men for harassing women, but rather to help educate men that are not allies yet and to further empower those that already are by giving them more to go on than simply “don’t harass people.”  For social issues that are gendered, engaging the entire population, those with group identities most common to aggressors is critical.  Male allies are just as important to changing the norms of acceptable behavior as women; they do make up half the population after all!

My guess is that allies both from within and outside of racial groups are similarly critical in creating the changes that are so desperately needed.

Kirstin is a Master’s Student in Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies at the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a news editor at the Women’s International Perspective (The WIP). You can follower her on Twitter at @KirstinKelley1, where she regularly posts about human rights issues around the world.

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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.