Tricks and Treats?

A friend recently told me a story about an absurdly comical incident at a summer street festival. A man had constructed an elaborate costume: he stood ten feet tall, on cloven goat-leg stilts, which seamlessly blended into his own thighs that he had covered with thick black hair; an extra set of exposed ribs extenuated and hollowed his abdomen; a long black cape hunched over his back and arms; and his head was concealed entirely by a thoroughly grotesque mask, dripping with god knows what. This creative festival attendee then proceeded to weave in and out of the borders of the street, spontaneously pouncing on unsuspecting groups of young people. At one point, he picked the wrong girl. After pouncing, she screamed, immediately turned and started running full-speed in the opposite direction. The man felt terrible, and started running after her to apologize.

There may come a point when women no longer feel that “spider sense” or innate flight syndrome or unconscious “check-list” of their surroundings when they are walking down the streets alone at night. I’ve often tried to imagine what that would be like, how we might imagine some kind of social contract that deals with this scenario and all of its psychological baggage effectively…

Feminist scholar Katie Roiphe is famous for hacking away at “victim feminism,” arguing controversially that feminists only perpetuate the fear of “rape culture” by blindly delineating oversimplified roles for men as demons and women as victims. She targets Catherine MacKinnon’s work of constructing women as new innocents, advocating that women should “Take Back the Mind” instead of “Take Back the Night” – since victim feminism is merely acting as "a trope- convenient, appealing, politically effective." Check out Vanderbilt Professor, Jean Bethke Elshtain’s summary of Roiphe’s debate:

The Morning After: Sex, Fear, and Feminism on Campus

Roiphe is an extremist argumentatively, for sure; her reliance on the “facts” and statistics of rape to make her claims are obviously questionable. For example, how did she manage to miss out on all the complex reasons why rapes are not reported accurately? No one knows. At any rate, she is a useful troublemaker. I can appreciate her demand for co-responsibility by both men and women in the construction of a safe world, and her demand for renewed feminist definitions of demons/victims in the context of diffusing “rape culture.” I, for one, certainly do not want to live in a “rape culture.”

On Halloween I fully expect to be scared, grabbed, yelled at, and generally haunted on the street. My expectancy is really no different from any other night, but for the striking contrast imbued in the sense of “holiday,” a contrast that temporarily suspends the normative definition of fear. Halloween night has been staked out for anyone and everyone to romanticize and sublimate their involvement with ghoulish things, to hollaback at terror, and to turn death into the carnivalesque. Meanwhile, we all appear to covertly understand that the real demons are shamed into hiding on this night, and are supposed to take the night off so that even children can play in the dark without fear of being victimized. Given, real demons don’t always do this – but those who disobey the rules of play are immediately socially ostracized, ripped of their status and any claim to power; no questions asked. How perfectly delightful is this inverted reversal of the social power scheme? To risk waxing idealistic, why can’t we do this every other night of the year?!! Is this not the very definition of collectively responsible freedom and safety? A type of freedom that beautifully deconstructs the binary of predator and prey?

Written by: Michelle Riblett. Protected by Creative Commons License 2.5. Any copying, redistribution, or replication in any form of this work is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the author.

Labels: , , ,


Holla back...anytime, anywhere

You may have noticed that we've been posting hollas from CraigsList lately. Thing is, women were holla-ing back long before this movement and its branches sprang up. But I can't help but think it's amusing (well, as funny as street harassment can be, I suppose) that I keep running across these hollas-waiting-to-happen whenever I'm browsing the ol' CL. I suspect a lot (all?) of these annoyed females don't know we exist.

And I applaud them all the same.

While we strive to build a coalition around a serious issue, I want women to feel empowered and use whatever tools best suit their needs. A community blog isn't for everyone, and while we continue to work on bridge-building in our own city, women are standing up for themselves all over the country - and all around the world - with or without an organized structure.

Bravo, ladies.

I also like it when people holla with a sense of humor.

Have a safe week.

By Brittany Shoot, protected by Creative Commons 2.5.

Labels: , , ,


Why Aren't We Shocked?

Sometimes we come across an article that so accurately articulates our point of view, we feel compelled to keep it circulating.

Today's post comes to us from our friend and ally Denise's Myspace bulletin (Thanks!). We're including the full text to make sure all are able to access the article.

Why Aren’t We Shocked?
October 16th, 2006
NY Times Select
Bob Herbert, Op-Ed Columnist

"Who needs a brain when you have these?"
--message on an Abercrombie & Fitch T-shirt for young women

In the recent shootings at an Amish schoolhouse in rural Pennsylvania and a large public high school in Colorado, the killers went out of their way to separate the girls from the boys, and then deliberately attacked only the girls.

Ten girls were shot and five killed at the Amish school. One girl was killed and a number of others were molested in the Colorado attack.

In the widespread coverage that followed these crimes, very little was made of the fact that only girls were targeted. Imagine if a gunman had gone into a school, separated the kids up on the basis of race or religion, and then shot only the black kids. Or only the white kids. Or only the Jews.

There would have been thunderous outrage. The country would have first recoiled in horror, and then mobilized in an effort to eradicate that kind of murderous bigotry. There would have been calls for action and reflection. And the attack would have been seen for what it really was: a hate crime.

None of that occurred because these were just girls, and we have become so accustomed to living in a society saturated with misogyny that violence against females is more or less to be expected. Stories about the rape, murder and mutilation of women and girls are staples of the news, as familiar to us as weather forecasts. The startling aspect of the Pennsylvania attack was that this terrible thing happened at a school in Amish country, not that it happened to girls.

The disrespectful, degrading, contemptuous treatment of women is so pervasive and so mainstream that it has just about lost its ability to shock. Guys at sporting events and other public venues have shown no qualms about raising an insistent chant to nearby women to show their breasts. An ad for a major long-distance telephone carrier shows three apparently naked women holding a billing statement from a competitor. The text asks, "When was the last time you got screwed?"

An ad for Clinique moisturizing lotion shows a woman's face with the lotion spattered across it to simulate the climactic shot of a porn video.

We have a problem. Staggering amounts of violence are unleashed on women every day, and there is no escaping the fact that in the most sensational stories, large segments of the population are titillated by that violence. We've been watching the sexualized image of the murdered 6-year-old JonBenet Ramsey for 10 years. JonBenet is dead. Her mother is dead. And we’re still watching the video of this poor child prancing in lipstick and high heels.

What have we learned since then? That there’s big money to be made from thongs, spandex tops and sexy makeovers for little girls. In a misogynistic culture, it's never too early to drill into the minds of girls that what really matters is their appearance and their ability to please men sexually.

A girl or woman is sexually assaulted every couple of minutes or so in the U.S. The number of seriously battered wives and girlfriends is far beyond the ability of any agency to count. We’re all implicated in this carnage because the relentless violence against women and girls is linked at its core to the wider society’s casual willingness to dehumanize women and girls, to see them first and foremost as sexual vessels - objects - and never, ever as the equals of men.

"Once you dehumanize somebody, everything is possible," said Taina Bien-Aimé, executive director of the women’s advocacy group Equality Now.

That was never clearer than in some of the extreme forms of pornography that have spread like nuclear waste across mainstream America. Forget the embarrassed, inhibited raincoat crowd of the old days. Now Mr. Solid Citizen can come home, log on to this $7 billion mega-industry and get his kicks watching real women being beaten and sexually assaulted on Web sites with names like “Ravished Bride” and “Rough Sex — Where Whores Get Owned.”

Then, of course, there’s gangsta rap, and the video games where the players themselves get to maul and molest women, the rise of pimp culture (the Academy Award-winning song this year was “It’s Hard Out Here for a Pimp”), and on and on.

You’re deluded if you think this is all about fun and games. It’s all part of a devastating continuum of misogyny that at its farthest extreme touches down in places like the one-room Amish schoolhouse in normally quiet Nickel Mines, PA.

Labels: , , ,


Through the Mirrored Shades

Turns out there are more responses to the "Hey Baby" article in the Boston Globe a couple months ago which featured the work of HollaBackBoston.

Thanks to HollaBackNYC for passing along this email from their inbox of hate mail. We wonder if the writer even bothered submitting to the Globe for print. Well, we’re the suckers for publishing it here.

In the same vein as our previous post, "Where Have I Heard That Before", we’re gonna continue to characterize responses to the article (and our work) into categories. Let’s throw this one into the “Wear a Robe” Response camp:
This world is becoming more and more pathetic. Woman spend billions of dollars annually to look sexy. Who are they trying to look sexy for? When a good natured happy go lucky guy happens to pay them (female) a compliment on the street they are often accused of being a creep. This just sucks! Yes, there are a few creeps out there, SO deal with it, suck it up. If its too much to handle try wearing a robe or possibly crawl into a shell. Its always the ugly looking bitches that do most of the complaining anyhow, and that's a fact. Glamour, playboy, hustler, even the sports mags there are woman that are selling themselves daily for a few pieces of silver. If leering or looking ever becomes ILLEGAL I will be the first to bring back mirror shades. Fuck off!!
PS And that goes for all you looking for a cause homosexual male sympathizers as well.
- cybersniper
We realize this is the most simplistic retort we could have, but again, why should we have to curb our behavior, dress, LIVES – "wear a robe and crawl into a shell" – because we are confronted with violence EVERY DAY? Why shouldn’t the perpetrators have to adjust their behavior for once? Thank God the HollaBack movement exists to demand that they do just that.

Where we agree with this critic is in his attention to capitalism's exploitation of women's oppression. Yes, women do spend billions of dollars annually to look "sexy". Yes, there exist a multitude of magazines which provide women with the opportunity to display their bodies in exchange for monetary reward.

We recognize this reality makes it difficult for men, and women alike, to remember how to properly interact with others in public space. We must do more to demand media that more fully represents our experiences and identities but until then, "cybersniper" and others, try talking with women about what kinds of comments they welcome and ask them if they appreciate “compliments” from strangers. And when in doubt, imagine saying what’s coming out of your mouth to your sister or looking that way at your mother. You might be surprised by what you learn. You may also be surprised to learn that our male allies are a diverse group of organized activists who are doing their own work, or to use your term, have their own "cause" (see post about this as well).

Lastly, be sure to check out NBC’s Today show coverage of the HollaBack movement on yesterday’s morning show. Watch the segment here.

Written by Hilary Allen and protected by a Creative Commons 2.5 License.

Labels: , , ,


Wikipedia: Defining Our Experience

We've got a number of issues with Wikipedia, the free, user-written and edited online "encyclopedia."

We recently discovered that (perhaps unsurprisingly), it has been suggested that the definition of "street harassment" be merged with "objectification". Because the majority of Wikipedia contributors/editors (80%) are men, this is hardly shocking that two distinct concepts would be confused and possibly welded - for their convenience, assumedly. Wouldn't want to make too much of these issues. Wouldn't want to make it too complicated. Certainly wouldn't want to clog up a wiki with battling definitions. It's not like the guys do that.

According to the same rationale, should "rape" be merged with "violence"? Or, would it make more sense and be more convenient if "rape" were merged with "sex"? Should we merge the terms "race" with "bigotry" ?!! And then not expect that language and its associations have any particular play or animating effect on our continual perception of others?

The site contains at least as many errors as regular encyclopedias. As a source of reference, Wikipedia is run like a collective blog. Maybe it is, at the very least, pointing out to all of us just how biased print encyclopedias have been, and continue to be in the parallel online universe. A woman named Maia wrote a helpful response in her blog, Free? to a similar Wikipedia scandal about the sexist handling of the term, "Woman," that also got tagged by sites such as Feministe and scribblepad. Maia suggests that the free space of the blogosphere will replicate sexist patterns, as well as all other power structures, that exist in mainstream society unless we, as contributors, consciously do something to change that. Right on. So, in other words, holla back!

You can add to the discussion of this post and define the kind of world you want to live in by clicking here.

Source: Know It All, The New Yorker

Written by: Brittany Shoot and Michelle Riblett. Protected by Creative Commons License 2.5. Any copying, redistribution, or replication in any form of this work is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the author.

Labels: , , ,