1.16.2007

Experience Interrupted

This week, we proudly cross-posted a video holla from Ryanne. Then, she forwarded us this link. Tricia states "While I believe Ryanne attempted to document the men's behavior to demand respect, I believe that she mistakenly took the men's unwanted attention for egregious misogyny." Mind you, this statement follows a paragraph of description of Tricia's personal experience with similarly egregious misogyny. What Tricia misses is that those two behaviors - men's unwanted attention and egregious misogyny - are more often than not, inextricably linked.

HollaBackBoston publishes experiences like Ryanne's because women and marginalized people often feel they have no recourse for the generalized feelings of danger and assault they regularly feel in public spaces. We are interested in solving this aspect of the spectrum of sexual violence, but we also believe that taking the issue seriously and creating a safe space to share experiences is the first step towards any helpful resolution. When women start questioning other women's experiences like Tricia felt so compelled to do, we do nothing but work backwards and against one another.

Tricia also claims that Ryanne "ignores the racial and class issues of the men's action." But then confusingly, she goes on to state:
"Working class construction workers and Black culture has their own forms of cultural practices in appreciating women's beauty. Cat calling on construction sites is practically a tradition inherent to the job. I am not claiming that cultural norms are not sexist or even excusing the men's sexist behavior."
Sounds to us as if she is, in fact, excusing the behavior, not to mention justifying it using stereotypes - false or accurate - that individuals are able to leverage to oppress others! Harassment occurs in all cultures, and just because Tricia offers its stereotypical history within certain racial, ethnic, or socioeconomic groups does not mean women want or deserve unsolicited comments and verbal assaults on the street that may endanger their freedom. We challenged myths like this when we started the site (and apparently will be continuing to do so).

Tricia also claims to be concerned for the rights of the unrepresented men on sites like HollaBackBoston, when she says, "The cat caller is never truly confronted for his behavior, therefore it's not really effective in preventing harassment as there is no true confrontation."
That's interesting since a), we don't claim that posting on a blog confronts the specific harasser's behavior head on, and b), we didn't realize that "true" confrontation is always going to be the "really effective" way to handle something.

Additionally, we find it repugnant that Ryanne's actions would referenced as a "modern parallel to the lynching of Emmett Til in 1955 Jim Crow Mississippi." To be clear, we don't claim that race and class never play into occurrences of street harassment. But what happened to Ryanne is a real, frightening experience that does not deserve to be equated to an atrocious murder - for an alleged act - during a period of state-sponsored racism.

In reading Tricia's closing question "How do we find empowerment in documentation and effective confrontation while being sensitive to socio-economic dynamics?" we're left with our own: are you asking that we hold people of color and those from lower and working class backgrounds and professions (all perceptions and assumptions) to an alternative set of standards? That when we are harassed by a man of color or a service worker we retreat back into our old ways of ignoring it or keeping it to ourselves?

If you are, then we must posit that what is missed by such an approach is an idea one would hope those like Tricia picked up in recent days. It is Dr. King's message that, "injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." If we consent to our oppression by others who are oppressed, then we all still end up oppressed, don't we?

Finally, we hope Ryanne is as proud as we are of the labels "vigilante," "citizen journalist," and HollaBacker! Her fearlessness certainly earned her them in our book.

Written by Hilary Allen & Brittany Shoot. Protected by Creative Commons 2.5

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2 Comments:

At 11:46, Anonymous Erin said...

I am a web surfer who has been periodically obsessed with the cross posting between Tricia and Ryan and various blogs detailing the cross posting.

What's bumming me out about all of this is right now those 4 dudes that initially did the cat calling are probably chilling on a Sunday afternoon and have NO idea that this class/race/feminism discussion has been going on for about a week or so between two women and at least 3 different blogs and probably 50+ other men and women.

I'm serious, can't we just call a cigar a cigar and say, "Gee it's a sad thing that men have this bizarre entitlement to just blurt out whatever they want to say to women?" Doesn't that point a huge arrow to the way men are raised and how they are taught to view women? In fact, isn't it amazing that all these people are bashing their brains out trying to figure out how to address the problem when the guys' original process was just as simple as, "woman walks by. I'll think I'll yell some shit."

It really makes me sad that the women who have been cat called are doing all of this brain work in justifying their anger, fear, feelings...

Why are we overanalyzing something that is just very simple: cat calling makes most women feel threatened. men need to know this. And if men need to know this, let's tell them. Let's invite them directly. I think it would be more affective then watching women having to keep proving back and forth through posts that they are truly feminists and not racists/classists.

Seriously, please hold a neighborhood panel discussion inviting men and friends of men that cat call. Have food. Give women a safe space to say how they feel which is threatened and scared and humiliated. Make it a community issue because it is a community issue. Have men sympathetic to the cause help out with the inviting. Let's make it clear that it's something we want to work out together. Let's tape it, archive it and let's post THAT!

Erin

 
At 11:51, Anonymous HollaBackBoston said...

Read Tricia's response here:

"My response to HollaBack's Critical Post About My Response About Ryanne's Response to the Callers">

 

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