Tag Archives: street harassment

who doesn’t like adele? the point of tumblr, and other thoughts.

18 Apr

So basically, Alyssa is the goddess of all things social and networked, except not that movie because she’s too cool for that, and so now she has me on tumblr. It isn’t her fault, she’s just never set a trend I didn’t want to follow. If you are interested, which you don’t have to be, you can check it out. feminismisprettycool.tumblr.com 

As for the big, “but what IS tumblr” question, I still don’t really have an answer, except its kind of like posting links to things on facebook, maybe? Or like a blog without the necessity of putting words there. I feel like it’s especially useful for those who have many internet interests and like to share them. I tried to give mine  theme, so I’d spend more time focusing my internet browsing on feminist things, and I’d say that has worked about 50% of the time, all the time.

Adele. I feel like there should be some little twittering birds flying out of something vintage an iridescent whenever I say her name or think of her music. She is just so fabulous. Her voice is amazing, her songs cut right to the core of the experience of life and love, and I just want to listen to 21 on loop all day, every day. Yes, she has replaced Ke$ha. (In my earbuds, but not in my heart.) I’ll just throw the one AMAZING, FANTASTIC, MINDBLOWING live performance up here and if that doesn’t convinced you (as if you needed convincing) I am pretty sure we can’t be friends anymore.

Now on to a topic de rigueur. Microaggressions. Everyone is talking about them. The folks at the Rutgers Vagina Monologues were talking about them, bitch is blogging about them, so is feministing, and there’s even a (you guessed it!) tumblr devoted to them. Really, the tumblr started it all (as you’ll see if you check on the blogs on bitch and feministing). What is a microaggression, you might ask?

“Racial microaggressions are brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.” (From “Microaggressions in Everyday Life” by Derald Wing Sue, Ph.D., and David Rivera, M.S.)

I also think the microaggressions tumblr puts it pretty succinctly:

“Power, privilege, and everyday life.”

Originally, microaggressions were used to describe a specifically racialized experience. Through the tumblr, the creators seek to expand this understanding to include all experiences of microaggressions, whether they deal with race, gender, class, ability, or any other identity or status. Our everyday lived experiences are rife with examples, and when we bring them up, we are all too often met with admonishments about taking things “too seriously.” What is great about the work of all of these people are doing to bring microaggressions to the forefront is that it frees us from our self-doubt: we are not taking something “too seriously,” it is serious. We get so entangled in the requisite laughter that is supposed to meet these incidents, it becomes impossible to call anyone out, much less to address the real feelings we may have in response to them and the serious societal consequences of letting them slide.

I am going to give an example of an interaction from my life. It happened before I learned about the term, and my indignance took a few days of simmering in the back of my brain to find a voice, but after hearing about microaggressions I realize this is tied up in all of it. The example may at first seem kind of roundabout, but bear with me. Okie doke?

A friend of mine was commenting on my inability to take racist and sexist jokes, which was keeping me from socializing with a specific group of people who, I am sure, are completely fine in general, but I am no longer at the point in my life where I can laugh racism and sexism off and continue to have a good time. I’m sure some of you understand where I’m coming from. Our conversation continued, and eventually came to this point:

“You just have to laugh it off. Like, when I am walking down the street at night and a white lady clutches her purse and looks all scared, it just makes me laugh. You know?”

For purely contextual purposes, I think its important to mention that my friend is a young black man. Other than the fact that my feminism makes it difficult for me to not take any prejudice seriously, I couldn’t find the words to explain to my friend in that moment why his words were so unsettling. The next day, the thoughts popped into my head, like some little hidden social justice debater part of my brain had been mulling it over without my knowledge all night: It frustrated me, because it just wasn’t funny. Young black men have statistically higher chances of going to prison, and when trying to find employment, young black men with no criminal record are less likely to get a job than their white counterparts who do have criminal records. An expectation of violence breeds higher rates of conviction and incarceration, and lower levels of employment, and higher levels of poverty. That woman who walked by him at night and clutched her purse is endemic of a larger societal prejudice that has real impacts on the lived experiences of people. This  is why microaggressions matter.

I’m really happy they’re getting some attention, and I hope this becomes a word as well-worn as “intersectionality” in our feminist and general circles in life.

I really need to get off this damn computer and sleep, I have no idea why I thought it would be a good idea to start blogging at one in the morning and I completely and totally blame my friend Kendra, but I have one more little teeny tiny thing to add. Remember when I wrote that really, really angry (and rightfully so) post about cat calling and street harassment? You might recall it from last semester. Anywho, I almost jumped for joy when I found out that Mandy Van Deven, one of the authors of Hey Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and on the Streets (on sale from the awesome feminist press) and all around badass, is doing a short blog series on street harassment for bitch! I am so. freaking. excited.

Until next time…








“What’s up, girl?” [insert leering college boy here]

10 Oct

Let me take you to this moment that seems to have put me over the edge. I’m walking across the street on this gorgeous fall day, after being pretty productive at Starbucks, and I have this awesome song by Elton John stuck in my head:

My Father’s Gun by Elton John

And then, as I’m almost to the corner, someone from a car waiting to turn right leans out of their window and yells, “what’s up, girl?” before the car turns and speeds away. I am left feeling publicly humiliated as people walk by, knowing they heard what I heard, that they just saw my privacy violated. And I got so, intensely angry.

You want to know what’s up? I’ll tell you what’s up, motherfucker.

I have been a self-identified, conscious feminist for over two years now, and I’ve been steeping in gender and feminist theory since September 1st. Over the last seven weeks or so, I’ve been hollered, catcalled, and honked at more times than I was my entire life in Texas. You are really pissing me off with your entitlement to comment on my body. No, it isn’t a compliment. It doesn’t make me feel pretty, and if you actually were honest about your motivations I am damn sure they aren’t that pure. You take away my privacy, and you turn me into something that exists for your gaze. You make me feel like my body is not my own. Does that sound like a compliment to you? Besides, do you think my self esteem is so non-existent that it necessitates you vocalizing your attraction to make me feel good about myself? News flash, it doesn’t. It makes me feel violated, humiliated, and really fucking pissed. I would sincerely like it if you would go fuck yourself and then read some Audre Lorde, Judith Butler, or Gloria Anzaldua and then we can talk.

I don’t understand how men can still feel that they have this inherent right to comment on women’s appearance, and to consistently claim that women should take it as a “compliment,”when so many women’s organizations are now vocally expressing that it does just the opposite. The Hollaback Project, a US-based organization, started because women wanted to be able to do something to combat this feeling of humiliation by turning it back onto their harassers. Women take pictures of their harassers on their phones, and then send them in with a description of the incident and the location. This serves two purposes: to create space for empowerment and agency, and to create a supportive network of information to help women avoid spaces where they are more likely to encounter street harassment. It is also a space to share stories, information, and general experiences through the forms of comments and even youtube videos.

These organizations aren’t just popping up in the United States. They exist all over the world. In India, the Blank Noise project was developed to work against ‘eve teasing,’ the colloquial term for all kinds of street harassment, including physical contact. They want the public to know that “I Never Ask For It.” In Egypt, the HarassMap attempts to address the multiple facets of this problem by encouraging individuals to send in information about harassment, which is then put on a map. HarassMap then sends information to the individual to let them know about counseling and other services in their area, and also how to make a police report. The reports from women are compiled into statistics of street harassment, which are then given to police and local governmental officials to aid their combating this problem from a governmental standpoint. The areas with the most street harassment then are targeted by increased community organizing around the issue.

So, sir, now that you know what the fuck is up, I would hope that you would be wondering why so many women all over the world are responding in this way if what you’re doing is really to make us feel good. Then the next logical conclusion is that, good lord, who knew, but it doesn’t. It is harassment. And it needs to stop. You may call me dramatic for my next statement, but that’s OK, because I’ll call you an oppressor and part of the problem. Not only is street harassment a part of the reiteration of gendered inequality and hierarchies, it contributes to the constant reconstitution of our rape culture reality. If men are encouraged to see women’s bodies as there for their enjoyment, and then feel no chagrin in voicing their approval, how much of a leap is this to rape and sexual assault? Some people ask, “how can men feel it is OK to violate women in such a way?” when talking about sexual assault and rape, but those same people will tell you that you should just take street harassment in the form of inappropriately sexual language, catcalls, honks, and other comments as “compliments.” It isn’t complimentary for someone to force their sexual desire of your body onto you, in any way, shape or form.

So, in conclusion, you rude ass motherfucker, not only are you lewd and ignorant of the impact of your actions, but you are also contributing to the constant approval of gender inequality and violence by continuing to make comments like the one you made today. And that’s what’s up.