Takin’ it to the Streets: How to do Gender Justice in Public
You know, I was gonna start off with a standard intro, but that was mucking up my flow, so I had to switch it up in order to get unstuck. If you’ve spent some time around these parts, you may remember my original Bitch blogging series, a two-parter called On the Map, where I provided a slight peek at feminisms that exist around the globe. It’s been a year since that gig ended, and I am thrilled for the opportunity to return for a new series – this time about an issue I’ve been struggling with for two decades that has picked up steam in the mainstream: street harassment. I use the word “struggle” intentionally because of its multiple meanings, and if you continue to read Takin’ it to the Streets (which I dearly hope you do!), then you’ll soon find out what I mean.
For me, starting a short series on street harassment this month is timely for two reasons. First, April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month, and as a method of “rape testing” that falls on the behavioral continuum of violence against women, street harassment needs some serious examination. Second, this week marks the release of a book that has shaped me as much as I’ve shaped it, Hey, Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets. Co-written with my friends and colleagues, Joanne N. Smith and Meghan Huppuch, Hey, Shorty! provides a narrative account of how young women of color at the Brooklyn-based nonprofit Girls for Gender Equity have organized in their communities since 2001 to end gender-based violence against girls, women, and LGBTQ folks. The part I’ve played in this difficult work has given me as much joy as frustration, and I consider it my good fortune to continue to be granted the privilege of being an advocate for these inspiring young women (and others just like them) through this series with Bitch Media.
Considering the stake I have in this issue, I’m both excited and concerned with the attention street harassment has been getting lately—nationally and internationally. From Cairo to Dhaka to New York City, street harassment is the new media darling representing contemporary feminist activism, and while the emergence of this complex issue is a step in the right direction, the simplistic way it is being publicly framed in the U.S. is quite problematic. My hope is to use this series to draw out and explore these problems and generate a broader understanding of how street harassment overlaps with gender expression and identity, race, class, sexuality (actual and perceived), age, colonialism, geography, state inflicted violence, mental health, (dis)ability, and a whole host of other issues. It's a lot, right?
I don’t plan to craft this series alone. Given that my perspective is necessarily shaped by my own social location, I want Takin' it to the Streets to be a dialogue with folks who are both like and unlike me. Because de-centering myself and my stake in combating street harassment is one way I believe I can keep the work as the focus. So, add your two cents… hell, add three or four. What do you see missing from the public conversation about street harassment? What is being overlooked by popular anti-street harassment activists? Where have you seen street harassment in pop culture and the media?
Here’s a platform. Use your voice. Because all our voices are important.
NYC Folks: The book launch for Hey, Shorty! is on April 13th at 7PM at Bluestockings. I hope you can attend!
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