street harassment

Stop Groping Me

Left handby Matilda Branson

Trigger Warning: discussion of sexual harassment and assault

Groping. Definition: When used in a sexual context, groping is touching or fondling another person in a sexual way using the hands; it generally has a negative connotation, and is considered molestation in most societies.

I’m really sick of being groped. I started to think about times I’ve been the target of a groper, frotteur (someone who masturbates by rubbing against another person, often in a crowd) or flasher, or experienced sexual harassment in public places. I was both shocked and enraged at how many seemingly small incidents have occurred throughout my lifetime.

The supervising barman who whipped me on the ass with a tea towel when I bent over to pick up a tray of glasses, or insisted unnecessarily on squeezing past me in tight spaces of the bar when as I carried boxes of beer – something he would never do with male colleagues. The elderly priest at a funeral who repetitively squeezed my bottom as I passed around a bowl of chips at the wake. The boss in his fifties who made constant sexual innuendo and tried to kiss me on a work trip.

Backpacking: on an overnight ferry in the Greek Islands, where a man walked up to my friend and I, staring at us intently and grinning manically – with his hand moving furiously near his fly, as he watched us and masturbated publicly – and to see that man walk off the ferry the next morning with a family in tow. The Costa Rican bus conductor who cornered me – the last passenger – in my seat on the second story of a double decker bus and refused to let me off unless I kissed him.

Working overseas: using my handbag as a barrier between myself and a man on a tightly packed train carriage in Southeast Asia, and arriving at work with a handbag covered in semen. The group of teen boys I walked past on an evening walk, where one boy pushed another so he “fell” into my breasts, and as I walked away, called out, “I wanna f#%k you baby.” The man who gropes my ass as I’m out shopping with my boyfriend for a soup ladle and spices at a local market in Kathmandu. The taxi driver who insists on “taking a short cut” at 8.30pm at night, then stops in an alley, cuts the engine and lights, then says, “Give me all your money, or I’m going to hurt you.” The man in the alley who flashes his penis at my housemates and I as we leave our house.

And what have I done in response to these situations? I’ve pretended it didn’t happen. I’ve frozen and not moved until the moment passed. I’ve convinced myself it was an accident and ignored the cold twist of gut instinct telling me otherwise. I’ve laughed it off and turned it into a funny anecdote to recount at a later date to friends, or I haven’t told anyone. Read more

Posted on by Matilda Branson in Feminism 1 Comment

Teen Girls Talk About Street Harassment

Screencapture from FAAN Mail video on street harassmentA group of young women from buildON, working with the Philadelphia group FAAN Mail (Fostering Activism and Alternatives Now!) created this video to share examples of the street harassment they’ve experienced. They’re hoping this video will assist with an effort by HollabackPhilly to coordinate an upcoming City Council hearing to raise awareness of the issue and its real impact.

According to Stop Street Harassment, over 80% of Canadian women have experienced street harassment from a male stranger, and that detrimentally impacts their perceived public safety. And a 2013 study of LGBTQ people in the European Union found half avoided public spaces or changed their routines out of fear of street harassment.

Street harassment is a daily reality for many women and LGBTQ people. It’s something that we need to stop minimizing and start taking seriously.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Feminism 2 Comments

FFFF: Shit Men (Should) Say to Street Harassers

Funny Feminist Friday Film square logoA group of people in New York City created this video for International Anti-Street Harassment Week and shows some non-violent ways men can be more than a bystander when they see another man harassing a woman on the street. Yay for inspiring and funny at the same time.

Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in FFFF Leave a comment

An Open Letter to the Kids Who Harassed Me From Their School Bus

busby Jessica Critcher

An open letter to the children who harassed me from the window of their school bus

cc: Their parents


Dear Boys,

It’s me, the angry lady from Boston. I hope you had fun on your field trip. Maybe you were in my neighborhood to see our Paul Revere statue. But my guess is that you were here to visit the New England Aquarium, because the way you yelled at me and called me names made me feel like an animal in a zoo. For their sake, I hope you were nicer to the animals. I don’t think I could forgive you if you spoke to a penguin the same way you spoke to me.

I was having a pretty good day up until I crossed in front of your school bus and you started shouting things at me. I didn’t hear all of the comments, thank goodness, but the one that stuck out the most was “You’re fat!” I heard that one repeated by a few of you, so I guess you really wanted to be sure I heard that part.

Those comments hurt my feelings, boys. But before I go any further, I need to tell you something: My feelings were not hurt because you called me fat. There is nothing wrong with being fat. I’m fatter than a lot of my friends, and some of my friends are fatter than I am. It’s a waste of time to compare myself to other people. How fat a person is does not change how smart, kind, creative, thoughtful or valuable a person is. I can be fat and still be beautiful, and even if I wasn’t beautiful, I would still be a person whose thoughts and feelings matter. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism 2 Comments

New Feminist Apps Tackle Dating Violence, Street Harassment

notyourbabyby Jarrah Hodge

Back in 2011 Gender Focus contributor Roxanna Bennett reported on YWCA Canada’s Safety Siren app, which gave women and girls a way to use their smart phones to learn about dating violence and easily send an emergency signal if ever in danger.

Now, other Canadian non-profits are adapting our new technology to give young women new, on-the-spot tools to fight violence and harassment.

Toronto non-profit METRAC (Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children) launched their “Not Your Baby” app last fall after they heard many people saying they didn’t know how to deal with harassment on the spot. The app provides a technological solution to help people as they experience harassment. People using the app select where they are and what kind of harassment they are experiencing and the app pops up helpful suggestions. Users can also submit their own suggestions for how to deal with these kinds of difficult situations.

METRAC Communications Director Andrea Gunraj told me that over 250 people responded to their survey in the lead-up to creating the app: “We found that people had a diversity of responses depending on the context and situation of the harassment. I learned a lot reading peoples’ comments and stories and felt that ideas on dealing with harassment at school were so smart, especially when it’s not easy to make a complaint or the person harassing you is a friend.”

Gunraj is pleased by the media coverage and positive feedback they’ve had so far. Being out there alongside other campaigns like Hollaback! and Stop Street Harassment, Gunraj is optimistic that more people are becoming aware of harassment as an issue, but warns “we have a long way to go before harassment is seen as unacceptable in any space – street, home, work, malls, public transit, and so on. There is still the idea that some people are ‘fair game’ for harassment just by virtue of who they are.”

Another new initiative has come out of BC, where the Ending Violence Association has partnered with Telus on an app for women who are at a high risk of violence. The SOS Response app is being piloted in Prince George, Courtenay, Terrace, Vernon and Surrey. Local assistance programs in those communities are identifying at-risk women and providing them with a phone with the app installed. The app is very simple for a woman in crisis to use. All she has to do is press a button and the phone takes 30 photos in 30 seconds, which are sent to the security monitoring centre along with GPS information.

“The SOS mobile monitored alarm app is an easy-to-use, cost-efficient tool that will increase safety for women across Canada who are fleeing violence,” said Tracy Porteous, Executive Director of EVA BC. “The program is also a great example of community and business working together in the most positive of ways.”

Of course,these kinds of apps aren’t enough in and of themselves. As Gunraj told me about “Not My Baby”, “It’s a simple app and not an end-all solution, but it’s just one way of broadening the dialogue.”  If new technology can be leveraged in this way to give useful information and help women and girls feel safer and more empowered in their space, that’s a huge step in the right direction.


Posted on by Jarrah Hodge in Can-Con, Feminism 1 Comment

See a Woman Reading? Leave Her Alone.

484px-Reading_woman_2by Jessica Critcher

A few months ago, I went to meet with a colleague at his apartment. Since I wasn’t familiar with the neighborhood and I’m paranoid about being late, I budgeted extra time to find the address. It turned out to be easy to find, so I ended up with an hour to myself. Thankfully, a person who likes to read is never bored. I pulled out a book (This book, actually) and prepared to indulge in an hour of reading in a quiet, sunny public park. I barely got through one page before a man started talking to me.

He told me I was cute and asked me if I had a boyfriend. And even after I told him I was married, he just kept talking at me. For the record, I understand that this man was just trying to be friendly, and he probably didn’t mean to annoy me or make me feel weird. But since I felt weird and annoyed, his intentions were irrelevant.

Eventually I pulled out my phone, told him I was running late, and headed on my way. By then I was too upset to properly concentrate on my book. But it wasn’t even about the book in the first place. It was about my personal space, which he ignored. This kind of thing happens all the time.

Whenever I express my frustration about this, someone invariably tells me, “But he was just trying to be friendly/strike up a conversation/learn more about the subject.” Stop. What you are telling me is that the fact that a man wants to talk to is more important (and should therefore be given more consideration) than the fact that I want to be left alone. I should dig deeper and find the good intentions behind why this man interrupted me. I should give this man the benefit of a doubt and take the fact that he bothered me as a compliment. The desires of a stranger are more important than mine.

I had a friend counter my point, saying that she personally likes it when people stop to chat her up while she’s reading. If you like that, good for you! Opportunities for that to happen are plentiful. I happen to detest it and would like it to stop. People usually follow this up by asking how potential partners are supposed to meet each other, as if it’s supposed to check-mate my argument. But that’s not my problem. If you really want to know, check out this piece called “Schrödinger’s Rapist,” which offers some advice on how to approach women without being creepy:

To begin with, you must accept that I set my own risk tolerance. When you approach me, I will begin to evaluate the possibility you will do me harm. That possibility is never 0%. For some women, particularly women who have been victims of violent assaults, any level of risk is unacceptable. Those women do not want to be approached, no matter how nice you are or how much you’d like to date them. Okay? That’s their right. Don’t get pissy about it. Women are under no obligation to hear the sales pitch before deciding they are not in the market to buy.

I like that some people find reading to be an attractive trait. But I don’t read for anyone’s enjoyment but my own. Men of the world, if you see a woman reading a book, eyes darting from line to line, wrapped up in her own universe, leave her alone. She is probably having a moment, and she deserves to have it. Read more

Posted on by Jessica Critcher in Feminism 19 Comments

Youth Can Prevent Violence Against Women & Girls

infographicRe-posted with permission from the Battered Women’s Support Services Ending Violence blog.

1. Use Social Media-Social media has an empowering effect send articles, with the click of a button, you can spread the word. Youth do not need the mainstream media to voice their views!

2. Report- Report photos that exploit girls and young women when you see them on social media sites like Facebook and Instagram

3. Be media literate and critical-Be critical of what you see otherwise it become normalized and we are desensitized! The media regularly uses images of violence against women and objectifies girls and women to sell products. Women are also objectified in movies, music and magazines. If you see an ad or commercial that is sexist and degrading towards women – write or e-mail the company and don’t by their products. Read more

Posted on by Battered Women's Support Services in Can-Con, Feminism 2 Comments