Street Harrassment

Eyes straight ahead. Keys firmly clutched in hand, pepper spray ready. Headphones in, music on mute. Keep walking. Stay brisk—don’t slow down.

The sun is setting. Franklin Street is suddenly bathed in a warm, glowing light. You allow yourself to briefly relax, a moment to take in the picturesque scene before you. A male pedestrian asks you a question.

Ignore. Continue walking. A group of women across the street catch your eye. Cross the road. Walk behind them.

Finally, you arrive at your destination—you can breathe, a sigh of momentary relief before you soon must leave again.

This script is repeated over and over and over again, no matter the time or place.

Go out in groups.

Carry a pocketknife.

Always stay alert, never let your guard down.

Check, check, check.

If someone attacks you, it’s because you missed something. A slip-up. You’re targeted with questions.

Why’d you wear that?

Can’t you take a compliment?

Why were you out so late?

When arriving at UNC-Chapel Hill, incoming students are told that Chapel Hill is the Southern Part of Heaven—a safe, fun, inclusive haven where you can freely learn and grow. For many students, though, this promise rings hollow.

This insidious, constantly unsafe feeling in public spaces is characterized by street harassment—sexual harassment in public spaces, including catcalling, stalking, touching without consent, etc.

Street harassment is incredibly prevalent. In a study conducted by Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, and Cornell University, researchers found that 29 percent of those who shared their experiences of street harassment on Hollaback!’s website were physically touched in a public space without their consent, while 57 percent were subject to verbal harassment.

On college campuses, harassment has other implications, too. The threat of street harassment often will dissuade women from studying in a library late due to fear of walking home late at night, negatively impacting academics. According to Hollaback!, 67 percent of students experienced harassment on campus, 61 percent witnessed another student being harassed on college campus, and only 18 percent of students had not experienced or witnessed harassment on campus. Hollaback! Also found that a staggering 46 percent of students said harassment caused disappointment with college experience.

I can recall multiple times in which I simply decided to remain in my dorm to complete assignments during the evening, even though I focus significantly better in a quiet, studious library—a choice male students, specifically cis, white, heterosexual men, rarely have to consider.

Women and other marginalized folks should be able to freely exist and move around in the world without fear of potential bodily, mental, and emotional harm.

Now What?

If you’re like me, you’ve only gotten angrier since the inauguration. I honestly feel like for each day that goes by, my anger level increase tenfold. Sometimes I feel like maybe that’s not such a good thing, but I’m hoping that the anger that is still fueling me after I watch the news will be what keeps up my motivation to fight the system. I don’t want to become complacent with what is happening around me, especially after so many women marched on Saturday.

So let’s revisit that march to remind us why we should stay angry.

The March

“CHANGE, REPRESENTATION, RIGHTS ACCESS, ERADICATION OF MEN, UNDERSTANDING, SHATTERING PATRIARCHY, EMPATHY… just kidding. That would be ideal… Hopefully a sense of seriousness.” Senior Abigail Parlier says about what she hoped the implications of the international women’s marches. She was there amongst a group of strong Tar Heel women who decided to go to Raleigh. The disappointment she felt about the majority white crowd has also been a subject of criticism when the rose-colored glasses came off Sunday. She was also critical to bring up that the march was not just about women’s rights, but it was  “a whole conglomeration of things that feminism really represents…. And that we reduced women to a vagina (even though vaginas rock) but not all women have them.”

So now what do we do to make sure that the problematic issues at the march are addressed and that the momentum doesn’t die?

Call Your senators.

Senator Thom Tillis (R)

  • Washington DC Office: 202-224-6342
  • Charlotte Office: 704-509-9087
  • Greenville Office: 252-329-0371
  • Hendersonville Office: 828-693-8750
  • High Point Office: 336-885-0685
  • Raleigh Office: 919-856-4630

Senator Richard Burr (R)

  • Washington DC Office: 202-224-3154
  • Asheville Office: 828-350-2437
  • Rocky Mount Office: 252-977-9522
  • Winston-Salem Office: 800-685-8916

Call Your Representatives

George “GK” Butterfield Jr.  (D) – 1st district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3101
  • Durham Office: 919-908-0164
  • Wilson Office: 252-237-9816

George Holding (R) – 2nd district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3032
  • Raleigh Office: 919-782-4400

Walter Jones Jr. (R) – 3rd district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3415
  • Greenville Office: 252-931-1003
  • Havelock Office: 252-555-6846
  • Jacksonville Office: 252-555-6846

David Price (D) – 4th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-1784
  • Raleigh Office: 919-859-5999
  • Western District Office: 919-967-7924

Virginia Foxx (R) – 5th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-2071
  • Boone Office: 828-265-0240
  • Clemmons Office: 226-778-0211

Mark Walker (R) – 6th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3065
  • Graham Office: 226-229-0159
  • Greensboro Office: 226-222-5005

David Rouzer (R) – 7th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-2731
  • Brunswick County Office: 910-253-6111
  • Johnston County Office: 919-938-3040
  • New Hanover County Office: 910-395-0202

Richard Hudson (R) – 8th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-3715
  • Concord Office: 704-786-1004
  • Fayetteville Office: 910-997-2071

Robert Pittenger (R) – 9th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-1976
  • Charlotte Office: 704-362-1060
  • Fayetteville Office: 910-303-0669
  • Monroe Office: 704-917-9573

Patrick McHenry (R) – 10th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-2576
  • Hickory Office: 828-327-6100
  • Gastonia Office: 704-833-0096
  • Black Mountain Office: 828-669-0600

Mark Meadows (R) – 11th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-6401
  • Henderson County Office: 828-693-5603

Alma Adams (D) – 12th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-1510
  • Charlotte Office: 704-344-9950

Ted Budd (R) – 13th district

  • Washington DC Office: 202-225-4531
  • Advance Office: no number listed
  • Mooresville Office: no number listed

NEXT TIME YOU CAN VOTE:

November 6, 2018 General mid-term elections

What happens? All 435 seats in the House of Representatives and 33 of the 100 seats in the Senate will be contested. Also, 39 state and territorial governorships will be contested.

Follow the Women’s March 10 Actions/100 Days

The official website of the Women’s March has a campaign for 10 organized actions to occur over Trump’s first 100 days in office.  Imagine just how effective this is going to be when the same millions of women who marched (and those who couldn’t march) continue to be active.

My Closing Remarks

Mostly, stay angry. Stay angry and nasty. If you stay angry and stay aware of what is going on with the Trump administration, you are more likely to take more action. I know it took this orange fire lit under some asses of some women to make them realize just how big of a deal this was, and they took to the streets. I was surprised at some of the people I saw who attended marches…. Now lets keep the momentum going. Don’t turn off technology or separate yourself from Facebook because your racist uncle keeps commenting on your status and your other racist cousin keeps sharing pro-Trump/anti-feminist memes… embrace what you’re seeing and let it remind you why you’re fighting. Let it be the fuel that drives you to make this world a better place. It is better to be aware of the atrocities happening so that you know what to fight.

The Women’s March 2017: An Improvement, Not a Final Achievement

By Sunday morning, the Women’s March 2017 had a Wikipedia page. It became a historic event, with people all over the world marching in response to the inauguration of Donald J. Trump and the threat to various progressive values that it meant. Although, it should be noted that the march was framed as pro-woman generally, focused on intersectional feminism rather than being solely anti-Trump. The photos depicting the hundreds of marches from every continent left me in awe. Responses from many UNC students who travelled to D.C., or any of the other sister marches across the country described the gatherings as moving, inspiring, a sense of true solidarity. But amidst the celebration of successfully spurring a worldwide phenomenon, there have also been many voices decrying the hypocrisy and perpetuating division associated with the feminist movement.

I have heard so many different opinions about the march, and the feminist movement in general during the last few days. I will not denounce the march, but I won’t call it a total success either. I am proud to have marched in Asheville, and I am proud of my friends who travelled all over to march too. It is important that we discuss how the march succeeded, but also how it failed.

The actual messages of the organizers of the march and those who spoke were beautiful and inclusive. America Ferrera gave a powerful speech reminding everyone that the US is made up of far more than the people who voted for the current government: “The president is not America. His cabinet is not America. Congress is not America. We are America. And we are here to stay. We will not go from being a nation of immigrants to a nation of ignorance.” Janelle Monae began the chant “Sandra Bland! Say her name!,” joined by the “Mothers of the Movement.” One UNC student I spoke to who travelled to D.C., said that she thought that the most poignant words were from Tamika Mallory: “Welcome to my world, welcome to our world … for some of you it is new, for some of us it is not so new at all.” In other words, for all the women there who suddenly felt oppressed by the election of a man who has spewed such blatantly sexist rhetoric, remember how long women of colour have dealt with far worse struggles.

Despite such intersectional messages and reminders, there can be no denying that many women did not feel motivated to participate because of their long sense of alienation from the feminist movement. As Jenna Wortham of the New York Times Magazine put it, “who didn’t go to the women’s march matters more than who did.” We have to take note of why many women felt that a march, framed as representing all women, did not actually represent them. One of the most frequently shared images from the march was of a woman holding a sign saying, “don’t forget white women voted for Trump.” It’s true; 53% of white women did vote for Trump and 94% of black women voted for Hillary Clinton. Black women “show up for white women to advance causes that benefit entire movements; the reciprocity is rarely shown.”

It is severely problematic that many many women of colour do not feel included in the feminist movement and as the results of this election demonstrated, many white women value their racial privilege above seeking gender equality. Finally, there also needs to be a much larger push to include transgender women in conversations about gender equality. Many people felt that the emphasis on symbols of vaginas, uteruses and ovaries excluded transgender women. Cis women need to acknowledge that the fight for gender equality extends far beyond their day-to-day interactions with sexism, and transgender women are currently fighting for basic rights and freedoms.  

White women need to realise that their cause is much stronger if they treat minority and transgender women as true sisters and embrace the beautiful notion of intersectional feminism for ALL women. Most feminists in theory agree that women of colour and transgender women should be welcomed, but they must be more active in pursuing those beliefs.

Another UNC student I spoke to said that she was disappointed that the turnout of people was not more intersectional. However, she hoped that the speakers emphasizing an inclusionary message was an indication that in the future, it would be more likely for women of all different backgrounds to stand together.

I loved that there was one mass response to the divisiveness and hatred that Trump used to win the election. However, those women need to open their arms and be more outspoken about their support for the women and men fighting for Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights, refugee rights, immigrant rights and disability rights. I think this march was a step towards improvement, not necessarily an accomplishment in itself. We should acknowledge how wonderful such a massive, peaceful demonstration is, but also realize that it shouldn’t be enough. I hope that it is a sign that women will acknowledge one another’s differences and varying priorities and stand up for one another and all social justice causes together. 

 

Edited for clarity on 1/25/17 at 12:00pm.