How bad is street harassment in America? Pretty bad, according to a report published this week by Stop Street Harassment, a Virginia-based nonprofit.
SSH commissioned market research firm GfK to run a nationwide survey of 2,040 American adults — the largest such survey ever — to learn about their experiences with street harassment. The resulting report defines street harassment as “unwanted interactions in public spaces between strangers that are motivated by a person’s actual or perceived gender, sexual orientation, or gender expression.” The relative ubiquity of street harassment makes it difficult to quantify, author Holly Kearl explains in the report, because many people “may not even identify what happened as wrong.”
[Image by Carrie Sloan, via Flickr Creative Commons]
By Arturo R. García
Michael Babchik seems to be content to represent the dregs of the Internet. And Sirius XM seems to be content not to discuss that. But the 18 Million Rising campaign isn’t going to let them get away with it.
Babchik first brought attention to himself at this year’s New York Comic-Con, during which he and the crew of one of his projects, “Man Banter” — one of those programs for the highly-coveted Nice Guys of OkCupid demographic — were accredited as press for the event and used that access to conduct “interviews” with women on the con floor. Including Friend of The R Diana M. Pho (aka Ay-leen The Peacemaker).
Here’s an excerpt of that encounter, as shared by Dianaon Tumblr, with Babchik at that point only identified as The Creepy Interviewer
TCI: Are you a geisha?
TCI: Can I be a geisha?
(Warning bell two)
Me. No, you can’t.
TCI: Why not?
Me: Because you lack certain things, like style, tact, grace—
TCI: Ah, but do I smell?
Me: Well, I dunno, I’e only stood next to you for about 20 seconds, so I can’t tell if you do or not. But however—
TCI: Well in my experience, girls who stand next to me longer than 20 seconds get a cream pie.
Me: I would give you a slap in the face.
Diana reported the incident, and in a welcome show of solidarity, many other attendees boosted the signal, so much so that Banchik was identified, removed from the event and banned forever. According to con leadership, Babchik and his crew were “very careful to stress to all involved the Sirius was not involved in any way.”
But as it turns out, while Sirius XM did not send “Man Banter” to the convention, Babchik still works for the company, for something called Mad Dog Sports Radio. However, when 18 Million Rising members have attempted to ask about this on Sirius’ Facebook page, the company has seen fit to delete their comments.
The message is clear: Sirius would rather not draw attention to the fact that one of its employees likes to go to public events and harass women, despite that person seemingly using his association with the company to scam his way into press accreditation. 18 Million Rising has an online petition calling for Babchik’s ouster from his position, which as of Monday morning has reached 81 percent of its goal of 2,000 signatures. Activities like his are a smear on broadcasting on top of a safety hazard for women in public spaces, and Sirius should find a modicum of shame in recognizing that.
By Guest Contributor Chiquita Brooks, cross-posted from The Goddess Festival: Oshun Returns
Is it just me or has street harassment reached an all time high?! Granted, as women we learn pretty early on that men will “cat call” us at any given time they deem appropriate once we’ve walked out of our homes. It doesn’t matter if you’re sitting in the car at a red light with your mom, or if you’re a mother with your child in hand, at foot, in stroller, or on back, these factors will not deter some men from their quest to get your attention. Unfortunately, it has become common place that cat calling or street harassment is something that as women we “have” to deal with, preferably in silence.
Those of us who identify as LGBTQ are also subject to street harassment, especially if we refuse to wear clothes that are gender specific. I personally experienced the most vicious street harassment, as a queer woman of color. From threats of rape & even death threats simply because I was walking with my partner.
With Mexico’s presidential elections coming up this Sunday – under no shortage of shadiness, mind you – let’s kick off this week’s edition with Molotov’s “Gimme Tha Power,” (nsfw – language) which still resonates a decade after its original release:
Our next track is a find by our own Andrea Plaid: Esperanza Spalding, who we’ve featured before, teams up with jazz great Joe Lovano for a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Can’t Help It,” in a clip that winds its way thru NYC. And if you’re a fan of Wicked or Rent, keep an extra-close eye on her co-star …
Remember “Sh-t Men Say To Men Who Say Sh-t To Women On The Streets”? Check out this Egyptian counterpart, which was posted earlier this month. Directed by Anum Khan with help from HarassMap, “What Men Say to Men Who Harass Women on the Streets” packs an equally potent message.
One more track with a message to close us out: Jasiri X and Rhymefest went to the source when making the video for “Who’s Illegal?,” traveling to Alabama and Arizona and getting a view from the ground-level at the immigration fight in each respective state. The track is currently available as a free download on Jasiri’s Bandcamp site.
By Guest Contributor Erika Nicole Kendall, cross-posted from Black Girl’s Guide To Weight Loss
There is a trigger warning for violence and general issues of safety here. Please protect yourself.
An important part of this journey, for me, has been learning more about myself–paying more attention to the way I do things and the why behind the choices I’ve made. In the past six or seven months, I’ve learned some really nasty things about myself … not nasty because they’re so bad, but nasty because I’m pretty sure it says something about me.
Ask me if I care, though.
When I was 18, I moved out of my mother’s house. Left her house for the dorms, and left the dorms and moved into a house with a couple other people. It wasn’t in the safest environment, but it didn’t matter–I was pulling so many double shifts at work that I barely noticed. I, eventually, would go back home around age 21 to have my daughter.
At this point, it gets tricky. Once I was stable, I moved her to a gated community in Miami. Complete with security–code entrance, security patrolling the neighborhood, and even its own emergency response system, I felt safe there. I felt like it wasn’t a big deal to be out with my daughter after dark, walking around the neighborhood.
Eventually, I would move her (and our new puppy, Sushi) closer toward the beach, where it was less secluded, but because it was Miami Beach, cops patrolled the area every ten to fifteen minutes. I felt, again, safe. The island was no wider than maybe four or five street blocks, and I knew what those street blocks looked like. They were clean, loiterer free, frequent police visibility… safe. If I wanted to walk take my dog for a brief potty walk in a short dress, I could do that without being audibly harassed.
But when I moved to New York …
Quick break from the format today to present some videos commemorating International Anti-Street Harassment Week. First, out of New York City, via Clutch Magazine, is “Sh-t Men Say To Men Who Say Sh-t To Women On The Street”:
The next video, also based out of NYC, isn’t directly related to gender-based street harassment, but as the Crunk Feminist Collective points out, it’s not that dissimilar:
The CFC raises this point about the video:
I also wonder what it is about the death of a young black man that gets people moving. There wasn’t the same mobilization around Aiyana Jones but I wonder if it’s also an accumulation of wrongs?
What does justice look like here? And why are we still pleading for justice? How do we (can we) take it? How and when will we make connections between our movements?
Courtesy of Media That Matters, here’s Nuala Cabral’s “Walking Home,” which Cabral says “has led to some necessary dialogue about street harassment and the issues it brings up, such as self-esteem, gender, sexuality, violence and community.” Last year, Cabral went on to coordinate International Anti Street Harassment Day efforts in her town. (Video is NSFW – language.)
By Guest Contributor Sonita Moss
I don’t feel safe in Seattle.
Specifically, I don’t feel safe in public.
I love this city. Its many neighborhoods, the “little” big city vibe with a more laid-back pace of life. The expansive mountain ranges and views of ocean waters. Housing so dense it is seemingly stacked on hill after hill of pavement and grass. The skyline at dusk and twilight, travelling both north and south on the I-5. It is unrushed and easy, yet there is some nameless vibrance to this place.
Of course, I’ve been here just shy of 8 weeks.
I’m still a rookie, but I am a maverick of emotion. I don’t feel safe here.
The dueling intersections of my social identities: race, class, gender & age have forged a path of extremely unpleasant, unwelcome events at a rate that I have never experienced in my entire life. Here are the facts, the need-to-know-to-get-it information:
I am black. I am a young woman in my early 20s, but I am frequently presumed to be younger. This is important. I am living below the poverty line.
That is a recipe for disaster.
Reader Caitlin sent in her video about street harassment and the very strange predilection for men to lead in with her race when trying to get her attention. In her video “How to Hit on an Asian Girl/How Not to Harass an Asian Girl,” Caitlin goes through some of the most ridiculous things said to Asian American women who are just in public space.
1. Asian women are not equatable to Asian food. Even if you’re hungry.
2. You’ve cultivated an impressive catalogue of 80′s war movies. Well done sir. But the sidewalk is not your mother’s basement and I am not an internet forum. Keep the movie quotes to yourself.
3. Pop culture references that invariably suggest someone is foreign, submissive/docile, or willing to service you sexually should always be avoided. In other words: find a new fetish.
4. Seriously, when has anything referencing the Vietnam war ever gotten anyone laid? (Stanley Kubrick, who knew your legacy would be Asian female street harassment?)
5. If the first thing you think of when you see an Asian woman is “I should ask her to feed me,” you should know you’re not fit for human companionship. Period. Get a rice cooker. It won’t care if you fetishize it.
6. This is America; assume the Asian female you’re chatting with is American. Talk to her about red vs. blue politics, her favorite type of pie, who is better: Katy Perry or Ke[s]ha, or at the very least, baseball – not about foods that use chopsticks. Your ability to feed yourself is an accomplishment – but she doesn’t need to know that.
Caitlin’s video was hilarious. I’ve heard all these stories – and so much more! – from my Asian American friends over the years. And, if I was queen of the airwaves, I’d have this running as a PSA, along with other notices about street harassment in general. But there’s one thing that keeps sticking out in my mind, and it’s generally the same refrain we hear over and over again when we post abut street harassment: the idea of men watching the vid and going “What am I supposed to say then?” (Yeah, just headdesk and move on.)
I always think about a certain verse on Murs’ “Dark Skinned White Girls,” a song that’s really problematic despite its good intentions. The verse about mixed girls was fairly revealing about the mindset of these kind of guys (emphasis mine):
Now half and half of mixed girls
I know what the battle be
Everytime you go out it’s “whats your nationality?”
Everybody always wanna dig up in ya background
You don’t look… now how does that sound?
I couldn’t tell you were… oh is that right?
Do you take it as a compliment or start up a fight?
Venezualan and Indian, Rican and Dominican
Japanese or Portuguese, Quarter of Brazilian
White and Korean, Black and Pinay
We’ll find out later
It don’t matter, ya fly
It don’t really matter to most of us guys
We just need an excuse to get close or say “hi”
Somehow, it never seems to matter what the woman likes or appreciates, which is this unexplored dimension of street harassment. If the objection to women protesting street harassment is that we should forgive a man’s clumsy attempts to pick up a woman he finds attractive, then wouldn’t not offending a woman be pretty high on that man’s priority list? But there’s no way to yell out “sucky sucky five dollar” at a woman passing by and not be offensive. So there’s clearly another motive at play. What is it? What makes racism so appealing for street harassers?
Black Women x the Streets x Harassment
Kill Me or Leave Me Alone: Street Harassment as a Public Health Issue
Addicted to Race 119: Annie Le, Gospel Tours, Fractions, Street Harassment
Oh You Can’t Speak To A Brotha?
Racism as a Lifestyle Choice
Catcalling is a Cross Cultural Annoyance