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Hey, y’all! Alicia from the Hollaback! Bahamas team here. I started to make a Facebook post, but thought I should share it here.
I experience street harassment every single time I leave my house. If I’m out, it happens. Multiple times per day. I intentionally limit the amount of times and the amount of time I have to spend out of my house because, really, this cow dung is annoying, time-sucking, dehumanizing, and exhausting. It sucks every single time it happens, but there are times when I am just not about dealing with it. Today, I just needing a freaking break.
I’ve been having a less-than-stellar day and decided I needed some self-care items. I had to walk because, in true day-from-hell fashion, the car wouldn’t start. I crossed the road when I saw a group of at least six men with a dog a few paces ahead. I wrapped my fingers around my tool of choice. These are the things I do as a woman, well aware of the risk I take every time I dare to be in a public space, especially alone. And a woman who is afraid of dogs. I found myself walking behind a man and, being a very fast walker, I intentionally slowed my pace to stay behind him. When we got to the store, he held the door open for me. As I approached, he started his little conversation.
Minutes go by.
HIM: [stands at end of aisle I’m in] Um… I think I said that wrong. I meant I was used to seeing you with the long hair. [gestures like long, flowing hair]
ME: Sir, it’s been YEARS since I’ve had long hair, and I don’t care if you [looks him up and down] think I’m beautiful or not. Excuse me. [passes him to get to the cashier]
I didn’t address this man. I showed no interest in having a conversation with him. He doesn’t know me, at all. He’s seen me a few times, YEARS ago. I have been rockin’ short hair, HARD, for ten years off and on, and four years consistently. Somehow, he felt quite comfortable with commenting on, not only my appearance, but my decisions regarding my appearance. When he realized he screwed up big time, his solution was not to apologize. He tried to explain it away. He wanted to take up more time in my shit-tacular day. Armed with two cans of Coca-Cola, a pack of oreos, and a pack of M&Ms I was not having it. He needed to be out of my way, and out of my day.
I know this seems like something I should/would be immune to by now, especially doing this work, but it’s not. On occasion, the outright misogyny, body shaming, exercise of power, and patriarchal behavior and views (of everyone, but especially complete strangers) is a bit more than I can/want to handle. There are times when it’s nice to know you’re not alone, other people understand, and not everyone is quick to invalidate your feelings or experiences. That’s why we’ve got the I’ve Got Your Back button, and I hope you’ll click it for me today.
Hollaback! Bahamas participated in a Twitter chat on Tuesday which was led by Holly Kearl – Founder of Stop Street Harassment and International Anti-Street Harassment Week and author of several book on street harassment – using the hashtag #GlobalSHActivism.
The online event brought together activists from all over the world to talk about street harassment.
We discussed the challenges we face in addressing it, methods we use to combat it, and what it looks like in our cities.
It was great to learn about initiatives by organizations and individuals all over the world.
Missed the chat? Catch up on the conversation by checking out the Storify.
I was with a friend who was visiting, and we decided to go to a private beach. We parked, and as I got out of the car, a man called out from about 6 spaces away, “If there was ever a vehicle I’d like to tow it’d be that one!”
I whipped around to face him and said, “THIS one?” pointing at the car.
He shook his had with nervous laughter saying, “No, no.”
I kept pushing the issue, but he wouldn’t respond except to say he was just kidding. I walked toward him, demanding to know where he worked because he was in uniform. When I got close enough, I read the business name on his shirt and told him his boss would be hearing from me.
There’s a video making the rounds that makes us cringe. It shows women sitting with their boyfriends as they watch footage of the women being harassed in the street.
This video, unsurprisingly, is being lauded and shared widely. It’s not surprising because the world is still looking at street harassment – and pretty much every other issue of gender – in a patriarchal way.
Here are questions we can’t help but ask about this video:
While we’re sure this video will reach some people and, hopefully, make them think twice before harassing someone, it – and it’s underlying message – is problematic. We believe in meeting people where they are, but we also believe the anti-street harassment movement should have integrity and authenticity, and should not eschew feminist principles in its process, product, or solution. We want to end street harassment, but we don’t want to perpetuate the idea that women are property, and only deserve respect, safety, and freedom on the basis of their relationships with men.no comments
Did you read Small Islands and Good Manners Part I? It explored the cultural norms of The Bahamas that seem to dictate that strangers interact with one another, whether or not it makes one of them uncomfortable. People appear to be resistant to acknowledging or understanding changes in society which either put women and girls at risk, or call upon men and boys to change the ways they interact with women and girls.
In Part II, Alicia delves into the differences in the experiences of Bahamian women and Bahamian men. The article challenges the idea that manners are more important than safety, or even perceived safety.
Bahamian men move through life with a tremendous amount of unrecognized privilege. They are concerned about their egos, manners and courtesies extended to them, and the subsequent feelings they inspire. They are unaware of – or simply unmoved by – the perpetual fear plaguing women simply for existing in a world where men dominate in the physical sphere. They are unfamiliar with a woman’s thought process as she approaches them, or any area where they could be lurking.
Check it the full article here.
Street harassment is largely viewed as a minor inconvenience – if that – to be dealt with by women. Many fail to see it as a threat, an act of violence, an interrupter, a part of rape culture, or the compromise of safety in public spaces. Too often, we talk about street harassment as though it only affects adults.
In an article for the Stop Street Harassment blog, Alicia shares her first memory of street harassment. She was in her school uniform, 8 years old, and with her mother.
The first time I was street harassed, I was with my mother, wearing a plaid jumper, and 8 years old. It was terrifying, embarrassing, and guilt-inducing. My mother was furious, but I couldn’t tell whether the object of her rage was the creepy 30-something man or me.
“That’s a pretty girl, eh?”
My chest overheated and I froze. Something about it wasn’t right.
“Whatchu sayin’ mother-in-law. I wan’ marry your daughter.”
Read the full article here.
Last year I decided to write a research paper on sexual harassment as a means to try and educate my fellow Bahamians that cat calling should not be ignored. In the process I wrote a small survey and handed it to 50 individuals only 30 individuals reported some form sexual harassment. My research proved that Bahamians were not even aware that catcalling was actually a form of sexual harassment or even realized that they were being harassed. They were not aware there was a way to react OTHER than ignoring it and moving on with life. Many were not even aware that they were being sexually harassed when their decline of the advances produced a negative reaction in the other individual. Many who were surveyed as a means to cope have decided to take actions of sexual harassment as a sign of attractiveness, as they felt helpless about being able to do anything about it. As one individual wrote “I cant do anything about it, so I might as well say that I am attractive.”
Most Bahamian Individuals are conditioned to believe that sexual harassment is ok and you have to accept it because there is nothing that can be done about it. I am proud to see that there is a “I holla back” page for the region of the Bahamas. This is very meaningful to me on so many different levels. As I am an individual who refuses to turn a blind eye to catcalling and sexual harassment. I refuse to accept it as a “part of life” and I actively attempt to work against it. Thank you for the existence of this page. Please maintain it and update it regularly.
A lot of times, when we talk about street harassment, people tell us it’s a cultural thing. We maintain that the only culture it’s a part of is rape culture. Street harassment takes place everywhere, without exception. This is made evident by the 90 cities with Hollaback! sites, and the thousands of stories we have collected from people of varying genders, ages, races, sexual orientations, nationalities, and languages.
In a blog post for Stop Street Harassment, Hollaback! Bahamas Director Alicia Wallace shared her experience on the streets of two cities in California. In it, she highlights the ways street harassment feels different in unknown places, and how it affects the way she chooses to hollaback.
Street harassment looks, sounds, and feels different depending on identity, location, time of day, and any number of other factors. The harassment I experience on a daily basis in Nassau is unlike harassment in any other place I’ve visited. I’m accustomed to the go-to names, phrases, and gestures of people in my city, but placed in an unfamiliar city, I don’t know what to expect, or how to respond. Language barriers prevent me from making assessments with the same accuracy as when I completely understand what is being said. Having limited knowledge of a place can be disempowering, changing the way I respond to harassment.
Read the full post here.