No worries! Check out the link for the highlights.
What stood out for me was the recognition that street harassment is often the gateway for other forms of violence against women & girls, that it has become normalised as a rite of passage for girls & that we can intervene in the very places where this takes place with street theatre which reflects all the issues discussed!
Guest post by Sherlina Nageer of Red Thread, Guyana
This is how it happens
This is how it happens
A woman is walking home alone
Nevermind what she’s wearing
There is no one else on the road
Some streetlights, but not the whole way
A car rolls up slowly behind her
Young man at the wheel begins the familiar hustle- “Goodnight. How you doing?”
Seemingly innocuous, right? Except that it isn’t
As usual, she ignores them
She is five houses away from her gate
Rebuffed, the car drives off
Then it pulls onto a neighbor’s bridge and turns around
Coming back, directly at her now
She is caught in the headlights
When they meet again, a hand snakes out the window and grabs her arm
Instinctively, she pulls away
“Touch me again, motherfucker!” she spits furiously
He looks at her semi-curiously
This seems not to be the reaction he expected
“Eh, is wha wrong wid you?”
“Fucking touch me again!” she challenges
Her keys are in her hand; his eyes an easy target
But there are more like him in the back seat and she is alone on the road
After a moment’s consideration, they drive away and she storms home
This is how it happens
Except sometimes they don’t loosen their grip and drive away
My friend N lives in the back of the Parfait Harmonie housing scheme. It is a long walk in to her house from where the bus drops her off. There are no taxis running short drop but even if there were, it’s not like she could afford to take taxis all the time. Predators can see the women coming from far off. They have plenty of time to hide behind the bushes, in ambush. N has been robbed and assaulted. She has written several letters begging the authorities to install streetlights. Months later, there are still no lights. She tries not to get caught on the road in the dark anymore. Her teenage daughter is similarly restricted. Another friend- A- lives in a long-established community that still doesn’t have electricity decades after its settlement. Every night, she has to go outside in the dark to bring her generator- her most valuable possession- back into her house. Those minutes are the most dangerous time of day for her. “Anything could happen; I know,” she says. “But I have no choice; I can’t leave it outside.”
Us vs Them
*They* don’t walk; *they* drive or are driven- SUVs and luxury vehicles with tinted windows and air conditioning. *They* live behind high walls and electrical fences, with armed guards at the gate. So *their* wives, daughters, and granddaughters don’t have to fend off the advances of sick fuckers who grab women on the street, robbing and raping them. *Their* wives, daughters, and granddaughters don’t have to struggle to fetch heavy generators up the steps while worrying about getting jumped in the dark. Which is not to say that *their* wives, daughters, and granddaughters don’t get raped, beaten, or victimized btw- that just doesn’t happen on the street. Because *they* are just like the others; they rob, rape, and beat just like the rest- worse actually because they are wrapped in the cloak of power and privilege. So no surprise then, that *their* people welcome admitted pedophiles and anal rape advocates with open arms, and pay them top dollar to perform for the masses.
BOYCOTT HITS AND JAMS! BOYCOTT JAMZONE! GUYANESE SAY NO TO PEDOPHILES AND RAPE LOVERS!
walking the streets without fear
this is what i dream about
when i’m not having visions of raining bloody vengance down on the fucking predators
Tonight at 8pm Eastern Caribbean time/EST (that’s 7pm for those in Jamaica) join us on twitter for the #catchafyah tweet-up on #streetharassment in the Caribbean.
To participate just join the coversation using the hashtag #streetharassment and our #catchafyah hashtag for Caribbean feminist activism.
Follow us @redforgender and some of the other Caribbean twitterati who will be participating like @sheroxlox @malaikaBSL @WomenSpeakPro @JahageeSisters @sablikatriumph @BlakkaEllis
Not on twitter? Leave your comments, stories, perspectives below or on our facebook page https://www.facebook.com/redforgender
This BBC article about street harassment was posted to the CODE RED facebook page. The poster noted that “there certainly is a great deal of ‘seepsin’ in the Caribbean.” By seepsing she is refering to what Trini’s call “sooting” or the way men use a hissing sound to get women’s attention when they are walking in the street. Someone else responded that
I like this article, but how would you get a message like this across in the Caribbean where culturally male-female relations are often viewed as “the hunter and the pursued” and how will you define boundaries? E.g. what would be an acceptable method of indicating attraction / asking someone out to dinner without be labeled a stalker.
The central idea here is that men have the right to initiate sexual contact or indicate sexual/romantic interest and that there must be a way of retaining that right that does not count as harassment. (And certainly, many women have countered that they quite appreciate unsolicited compliments.)
I responded to the post by seeking to connect street harassment to other the forms of harassment women face which, as Caribbean legal feminist scholar, Tracy Robinson, points out, do not even have a name in law. I offered a personal experience of 18 years of harassment in my home and the chronic harassment of women students of the University of the West Indies just because they are women:
Aside from street harassment of women by men there is also the harassment of women in their homes. Just recently a man broke the windows of two women UWI students within 30 minutes of each other and threatened them with sexual obsenities of what he would like to do with them. The police were called. Just last week I woke up to a man standing outside my bedroom window with a flashlight trying to look inside. This was around 4:30 am. Having endured this kind of harassment since I was 11 years old I did not bother to call the police.
Then this week a Nation News columnist proudly relates the uninvited comments he said to a young woman because in his opinion she was inappropriately dressed. Clearly, he does not view his behaviour as harassment:
Walking in front of me were two women, one of whom wore an extremely short skirt, which was made of a light material. With every step, she was trying to hold the skirt to prevent it from blowing up but the wind was winning the battle.
As she climbed the steps, she struggled to keep the skirt down, and I asked: “Why yuh trying to keep it down for? You dun know you put on that skirt to show off de stuff, stop pretending! If yuh uncomfortable wearing it, why yuh put it on in the first place?”
He then goes on to state how he selects his wife’s clothing to ensure that she is appropriately dressed:
Last December, I spent four days trying to find a dress for my wife to wear to a wedding. I was so disappointed and frustrated that almost every single store I visited only had dresses with a low neck, which was designedto reveal cleavage.
Whether it is the husband as benign patriarch lovingly selecting his wife’s clothing or publicly disciplining another woman about her choice of clothing, I am disturbed by the ways in which women’s bodies become property and are then policed and disciplined.
Students at the prestigious Yale University filed a title IX complaint against the university for failure to properly address incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault which has resulted in a “hostile environment.” In the words of complainant Hannah Zeavin, this campus climate “precludes women from having the same equal opportunity to the Yale education as their male counterparts.”
These disciplining and policing behaviours circumscribe women’s access to the public sphere, preserve unequal gender relations and contribute to a sense of fear among women. Women then police themselves, for example, by curtailing their own movements. The irony is, however, that the same kind of treatment you receive in the street may be brought to your very doorstep. Not even the home then is safe for women.
I want to draw a connection between the supposedly innocuous behaviours such as “tiefing a wine” or uninvited flirting and those which seem obviously reprehensible like rape. They all stem from the unacknowledged and unquestioned male privilege and men’s assertion of their right to control women’s bodies. And as the Yale law suit highlights, women will not allow these harms to go unchallenged.
This post is but a small intervention in the hopes that it would inspire those who wear their privilege so proudly to rethink that privilege. To begin to see the harmful in the seemingly innocuous. As feminists, we are often accused of preaching to the converted but I know for a fact that CODE RED’s facebook page and blog are read by those who are decidedly not feminist and who as it stands have a mainstream media platform which allows them to reach a wide audience. I have opened the dicussion.
Original note posted on the SEEING RED blog here http://redforgender.tumblr.com/post/4282806046/pssst-my-sexy-friend
Read the note on the blog for the links to all the articles referred to (am too lazy to re-insert all the links here).