Street harassment – this time in NYC (and how they try to fight it)

According to the TEDx website, when feminist icon Gloria Steinem was asked, “What women today inspire you and make you feel that the movement continues?,” her response was, “Emily May of Hollaback!, who has empowered women in the street, literally.”

So who is Emily May and what is Hollaback!? Emily is an activist who (along with a couple of her friends) created Hollaback! in order to fight street harassment in the streets of New York City. Their aim is to empower the targets and make the harasser feel uncomfortable. In order to achieve this, they encourage people to use their smartphones to document, map, and share incidents of street harassment. Hollaback! is now present in 25 countries of the world, in more than a 60 cities.

One Billion Rising

The person behind One Billion Rising event is Eve Ensler, the author of The Vagina Monologues and founder of the V-day movement. What is the new movement about? One Billion Rising claims:

One In Three Women On The Planet Will Be Raped Or Beaten In Her Lifetime.

One Billion Women Violated Is An Atrocity.

One Billion Women Dancing Is A Revolution.

On V-Day’s 15th Anniversary, we are inviting ONE BILLION women and those who love them to WALK OUT, DANCE, RISE UP, and DEMAND an end to this violence. ONE BILLION RISING will move the earth, activating women and men across every country. V-Day wants the world to see our collective strength, our numbers, our solidarity across borders.

What does ONE BILLION look like? On February 14th, 2013, it will look like a REVOLUTION.


A global strike
An invitation to dance
A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
A new time and a new way of being

Many celebrities also started joining the movement, from Jane Fonda to Jessica Alba. Eve Ensler’s recent piece on OBR appeared in The Guardian on September 24th — it is definitely worth reading. And for the record, the one billion is not just a number out of thin air: it is a UN statistic. One out of three women will be beaten up or raped during their lifetime.  Plenty of reasons to rise.

Wearing nothing new

Once again, a little detour from (hard core) feminism. As I wrote in a previous post, I consider the issue of being environmentally friendly (or “green” as we now say) part of being socially sensitive. Sensitive to what is going on in the world and responding to it, consciously.

Part of being green (hate this expression by the way) means trying to buy second hand things. Furniture, books, kitchenware, and ultimately, or actually primarily, clothes. Most girls I know have been to clothes swap events, and most of them have shopped in second hand clothing stores. It is fun: partially social activity, partially treasure hunting, partially looking for a new piece for the wardrobe, and partially eco-friendly.

So my friends, here is a little inspiration by designer (and empowering female figure) Jessi Arrington on how to take this to the next level:

BirthMarkings – creative short film on accepting the body’s changes after giving birth

The International Museum of Women is, as the organizers say about the project, “an innovative online museum that showcases art, stories and ideas to celebrate, inspire and advance the lives of women around the world.” They are a museum without walls, and they give voice to women who are (all too often) unheard.

On this portal I found a video that is only 20 minutes long but it  touches on an interesting subject in an original way. The short film “BirthMarkings” explores women’s bodies after giving birth, and the self-image change that usually follows. Should these stretch marks be called scars? Why is no one talking about them, yet these are things that almost all of us have seen on our mothers’ (or on our own) bodies? Is this something to be ashamed of or is it something natural? The film raises these and other important question about (healthy) body image, motherhood and the (Western) concept of beauty. Margaret Lazarus, the film’s director only focuses on women’s tummies, and that I mean literally: the camera only shows the abdominal regions, and we only hear the women’s voices, but we never see their face.

As someone who has not (yet) given birth, I must admit I am afraid of all that lies ahead of me, of the ways this will affect my body (and soul). So I consider this shock therapy for myself: a lesson on starting to already get accustomed to the thought and learn to deal with it, as this will be something I have little control over. One of those things that affect so many women, but is rarely discussed openly.

Roz Savage, ocean rower

You might ask what an ocean rower has to do with a feminist blog. Well, at first sight: not much. But if you look at her story as a source of inspiration, het motivation as something to think about and herself as a very empowering (female) figure, then you have an instant connection.

For me, being socially sensitive encompasses a lot of things: caring about people, but also about the environment, and about various causes. In my mind they are all inextricably linked. If you do something good for the environment, that affects the people in the long run. And (hopefully, but not in such a straightforward manner) vice versa.

I love spending time on TED, I find it one of the true justifications for the existence of the Internet: spreading knowledge. A few months ago I stumbled upon a presentation by Roz Savage. She is an ocean rower who gave up a high profile career to row across the Pacific, and ultimately to raise awareness along the way of plastic pollution and climate change. (It was because of her that I found out about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, which is a high concentration of (mostly) plastic waste in the Pacific. I was stunned.)

I find Roz an exceptional woman who is leading an exceptional life: she is brave, strong, and was not afraid to turn her life upside down. Enjoy her story:

Street harassment – this time on the streets of Brussels

The Belgian (or at least the Flemish) media has lately been full of coverage on street harassment in Brussels. It was triggered by a film that a 25-year-old film student made as her graduate thesis. Sofie Peeters lives in the southern part of Brussels (close to the South Railway Station), in an area heavily populated by “Belgians of foreign origin” (this local euphemism primarily means immigrants of Moroccon and Turkish descent).

Peeters is apparently carrying a hidden camera (and is sometimes accompanied by a male camerman) as she walks along certain streets in Brussels where she lives. She experiences regular verbal harassment by men, mostly “of foreign origin,” who propose her drinks, ask for her phone number and shout insults. The film premiered in a cinema in July, then the story was quickly picked up by the media, namely a current affairs show called Terzake.

The show and the following debate stirred things up. Peeters insisted that she came out with the story because this was a huge problem for women in the area where she lived, and she wanted “someone to do something about it.” She did fear however that she will be accused of racism, as 99% of the harassers that are featured are of foreign origin, so she tried to present her story as much in a balanced manner as possible: she interviewed friends and acquaintances of all descent, even teenage Moroccon boys and Muslim women. So can she be accused of racism? She argues that she is not trying to portray the Moroccon and Turkish community (men in particular) as overall bad, she calls this phenomenon “a few bad apples on the tree.” In any case, this will definitely not help easing the tensions between the various communities in Brussels and in Belgium in general.

Interestingly (and on a more positive note), the city of Brussels plans to introduce fines for sexist comments on the streets from September, as it was announced last week (250 EUR!). Peeters herself commented that she is not sure in what ways can such a law be implemented (who will recite the sexist comments once taken into the police station), nevertheless, I find it a significant step that city officials and authorities realize how this unwanted, aggressive and disrespectful attention is hurting women and are not afraid to act.

So I give you: Femme de la Rue (Woman of the Street). The movie was shot in French and Dutch but there are English subtitles (unfortunately obviously of “Google translate origin”). This piece contains a teaser trailer at the beginning, then the Terzake interview with Sofie Peeters, then the whole documentary she had made. Worth to watch.

Human Trafficking

“Approximately 800 000 people are trafficked annually across international borders. After the illegal sale of drugs and weapons, the most profitable criminal business is human trafficking.” (A great majority of these are women and children.)

This docudrama will make you think twice about prostitution (yes, even the red light districts of the cities of the Netherlands and Belgium), and about the scale of organized crime. It is an utterly realistic and very disturbing movie that leaves a long-lasting impression. It is the kind of story that will make you “want to do something about this thing.” It features three stories that run parallel: in Prague, Czech Republic, the single mother Helena is seduced by a successful handsome man and travels with him to spend a weekend in Vienna, Austria; in Kiev, Ukraine, the sixteen-year-old Nadia is selected by a model agency and travels to the United States with the other selected candidates; in Manila, Philippines, the twelve-year-old American tourist Annie Gray is abducted in front of her parents. In common, the girls become victims of a powerful international network of sex traffickers leaded by the powerful Sergei Karpovich (brilliantly played by the versatile Robert Carlyle). Mira Sorvino, herself an activist against human trafficking, plays a Russian-American NYPD agent, who convinces  the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Chief  (Donald Sutherland) to hire her, promising that she is a good candidate for fighting this type of crime. (More info on imdb.)

Here is the first part of the movie:

The other parts you will find on catseatnaos’s channel on YouTube. Expect to get hooked.