Grassroots anti-street-harassment group Hollaback organized the event, welcoming community organizers, nonprofit members, and just plain angry folks to share histories and to air out grievances about everyday sexual harassment.
It's clear that at the end of the event that street harassment is all about ownership of space.
• "Still Marginalized": The Root interviewed activist Janet Mock about the discrimination trans people still face in the wake of DOMA's undoing. [The Root]
• In more trans activist news, the Media Literacy Project created an ad to counter the images used in a Chicago teen pregnancy campaign, and it features the slogan: "Trans Men Have Babies Too." [Media Literacy Project]
• The first-ever international event on street harassment, HOLLA::Revolution, is taking place in New York at the end of the month. The conference will include discussions on tech, feminism and street harassment. The facebook page has more details, including a speaker lineup and information on how to purchase tickets. [HOLLABACK]
• The D.C. City Council is trying to pass a "living wage" bill that would force major employers to pay their employees a whopping $12.50 an hour, and Walmart is whining. [Think Progress]
Almost every woman knows why strangers hooting and hollering at people on the street is a problem. More than 80 percent of women experience gender-based street harassment: unwanted sexual comments, demands for a smile, leering, whistling, following, and groping. Many men do, too, especially in the queer community.
Having recently returned to New York from Detroit's Allied Media Conference and two stops in the Midwest on my nationwide book tour, I am feeling reinvigorated by the innovative grassroots organizing work happening all over the country, enabling participation in communities of support and healing. Being a radical activist can be alienating, from both mainstream society and those who broker power in organizations that participate in more traditional types of organizing. Coming into this series I was unsure of how readers might respond to some of my less popular criticisms of street harassment's framing, but given the overwhelmingly positive response, I end this series feeling hopeful about street harassment's future in the grand scheme of social justice.
The disdain in many comments on street harassment is palpable and the message they hold is clear: if you're a girl or woman who likes receiving overt sexual attention from men and boys in public, it's because you lack the self-respect necessary to throw off the confines of external validation regarding female sexuality and beauty.
When over 200 press outlets worldwide covered the street harassment hearing in New York City, the photo that accompanied the popularly distributed article depicted four construction workers watching a woman walk by. Despite the fine print reading that none of the construction workers in the picture were actually harassing women, their guilt is implied in the composition of the image, the fact that its accompanying an article on street harassment, and a widely held stereotype about construction workers' propensities to cat call women. Whether working-class men truly engage in harassing behaviors more than men from other socioeconomic groups is up for debate, but because they're stereotyped as such from the jump, the workers themselves and the women who pass by work sites are taught to expect the men to act that way.
I wrote in Part I about the problem of a "neutral" women representing all victims of street harassment, and in this post I want to tell a story about how I've seen this happen in my own work. I will also provide strategies that anti-street harassment activists who conform (in various ways) to the "neutral" woman standard can constructively use their own visibility to better represent the breadth of street harassment's victims beyond the traditional archetype.