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One of my best friends from Sheffield is currently visiting me in Hong Kong. We went to a birthday dinner my boyfriend had invited us to the other night in a restaurant, and stepped out for a cigarette. Getting into the lift, there were two middle aged guys with two women who I assumed were their wives, and a woman who wasn’t with them.
The moment the doors opened, they started staring at my friend’s breasts. She stood with her back to them, she’s not short but they were bigger. I was facing them, it was cramped and going only four floors down. They both leered down her top, and were making very obvious comments about her, which I think they thought were subtle enough to go unnoticed.
I could not believe what I was witnessing. I said to the one stood closest, “What do you think you’re doing?” He looked at me in confrontation, and I said, “That’s not okay.” His looked changed. The two women with them looked shocked, the lift landed and the other woman told us all to get out. Outside, my friend burst into tears.
I have rarely felt such anger. I have heard stories of harassment from female friends, but this is the first time I have witnessed it.
The reason I tell this story here, despite it not happening in Sheffield, is that I learned so much about street harassment from the organisers of this group. And because of that, the words, “That’s not okay” came so naturally. I will always stand up for my friends, but without what I have learned from Hollaback I would perhaps have been intimidated too. If it’s hard for a guy witnessing this to stand up, I can only imagine what it’s like for a woman being targeted to do so.
Wanna take part in our ‘why do you hollaback?’ photo campaign? We are asking people to spread the anti-street harassment message by telling us why they think standing up to street harassment is important, by completing the sentence ‘I hollaback because…’ . Grab a bit of card, get scribbling, snap, then send! email us at firstname.lastname@example.org , or upload to our twitter or facebook.
This is an typical example of street harassment that, I’m sure, girls experience all the time. I’ve lost count of the number of times it’s happened to me, but this time, I decided to say something.
I was running back from netball at around 9pm, wearing a rather short netball dress. I saw a group of ‘lads’ approaching and thought ‘Oh no! I’m going to get it now’. I dropped my head and kept on running, steeling myself for the shouts and comments which, sure enough, swiftly ensued.
“Waaayyyy!! Go on! Nice legs! Run faster! Fancy a shag…” Blah blah blah….. It really seems that, for some men, this is expected behaviour; like they’d be being subversive if they didn’t behave like this. They weren’t expecting my response, though…
I stopped dead in my tracks, right in front of them, and said “Right, OK. I’m on my own. It’s dark. You’re a group of guys. I’m sure you’re nice enough guys, but I could be really scared of you. You had two choices: respect my right to go for a run, understand that I might find you a bit intimidating and so leave me alone.. OR you could intimidate me, treat me like a piece of meat and make me feel really uncomfortable. Thanks for making the second choice. So how do you feel now? Macho? Like real ‘lads’? I hope it’s worth it for you. Next time, maybe think before you do what you just did.”
They were really apologetic. I don’t think it had ever occurred to them before that this type of behaviour could be classed as harassment. I’d definitely do this again. If enough people did the same, perhaps groups of men would think twice before mouthing off at lone females.
I was waiting at the traffic lights on my bike and from a car coming around the corner, a man shouted “Alright sexy?!”.
I just had time before he sped off to shout “fuck you” back at him, but the thing that pisses me off most about street harassment from drivers is that there’s rarely time to tell them in a more articulate way why their actions are annoying and disrespectful.
We had an absolutely fantastic week of events to mark International Anti-Street Harassment Week here in Sheffield, we want to say a huge THANK YOU to all those who joined in and celebrated with us! We met some wonderful people and put on some ridiculously fun and inspiring events including discussion workshops, zine making, a craftivism session, a film screening of Cairo 678 and a Chalk Walk around the City Centre. Pictures will appear on the facebook and website, or send us ones you took!
To follow on from Anti- Street Harassment Week, we are holding an AGM for people who want to get involved in organising for Hollaback! Sheffield.
We have a few roles and objectives in mind including campaigns, education and events. We’re also looking for two or three new site leaders (to replace Kate and Maria as we’re both leaving Sheffield in the next few months). We’re also open to ideas, so why not come along and share yours, as well as finding out how you can help to fight street harassment in Sheffield?
The AGM will be next Thursday (the 18th of April) at 6.30pm at The Bath Hotel, which is a pub just off West Street. Take a looky at the facebook event here : https://www.facebook.com/events/169172099905875/
We’re really excited to get more people involved and to hear your ideas..see you there!
Love from Hollaback! Sheffield
Thanks to everyone who came on our chalk walk tonight! We are already looking forward to the next one!
I was on Ecclesall Road yesterday walking with my bike and could see a group of around six ‘lads’ walking towards me. I started to anticipate that I might be harassed. They’d almost passed and I thought I was safe, when one shouted some abuse at me loudly as some of his friends laughed. I don’t want to repeat what he said because it would make me feel more degraded, but it involved ‘comic’ reference to my body and a threat of sexual violence.
I did a double-take and – unusually for me – decided to respond, though as I didn’t have a pre-prepared line I think it all came out sounding a bit prim. I asked him how he could dare to talk to a stranger like that, and said that it’s not ok to threaten people with sexual violence. One of his friends asked what he’d said, and I said it had been something very offensive – to that he responded that I should have hit him. Of course I wasn’t going to do that. I’m pretty sure that if I had it wouldn’t have had a good outcome for me.
At that point I had too much adrenaline to respond and we were in the middle of a side road with a car approaching, so I gave him a ‘grow up’/raised eyebrow look, got on my bike and rode off. I don’t know if it achieved anything, but I think they certainly hadn’t anticipated a response and were disconcerted.
I’d been in an anxious mood that day for various reasons and after the group of men had walked on, had to get off my bike and have a (fortunately minor) panic attack. In some ways I think the attack might have been more due to shock at my own response and having gone into ‘fight or flight’ mode than to the harassment itself. Still, I was glad I responded. I felt like they hadn’t silenced me and that I have more of an idea of what to say next time.
The 7th to the 13th of April 2013 will be INTERNATIONAL ANTI-STREET HARASSMENT WEEK and Hollaback! Sheffield are very excited to present a series of events going on the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th of April in celebration!
All events are free to attend. Check out the list below and bring your friends…
MONDAY 8th APRIL
***Hollaback! Workshop with Sheffield Feminist Network***
7.15 at the Quaker Meeting House
Come along to this discussion-led workshop where we’ll be exploring our experiences of and reactions to street harassment… What is it, why does it happen, how does it make us feel and what can we do about it? This event is for self-defining women only.
TUESDAY 9th APRIL
***Anti-Street Harassment Craftivism***
6.30pm at New Roots Glossop Road Speakeasy
Whatever we wear, wherever we go… let’s spread our anti-street harassment message!
Crafts + activism = Craftivism. Bring your old clothes/ plain t-shirts/ canvas bags/ scraps of material for patches, and ideas for slogans or images! We’ve got some paint, fabric pens, spray paint, sewing stuff, crayons and stickers… bring along what you can and any other crafty ideas are welcome
WEDNESDAY 10th APRIL
***Zine-making Workshop with Sheffield University Women’s Committee***
4.00 – 5.00pm at the Students Union, Gallery Room 2
(self-defining women only)
Together we will be putting our DIY hats on to translate our experiences of and responses towards street harassment into picture/ cartoon/ written form to make a collective zine!
***Cairo 678 Film Screening*** – 7.00pm at Sheffield University Students’ Union, Room TBC
Cairo 678 , فيلم is a 2010 film that unfolds the poignant story of three women and their search for justice from the daily plight of sexual harassment in Egypt.
Trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=COesFcvkXaE
THURSDAY 11th APRIL
meet at 6.00pm at Devonshire Green next to The Forum
Come with us as we chalk our way around the streets of Sheffield on an adventure to show whose streets these are… all of ours! Let’s reclaim the streets where we’ve been followed, insulted, harassed or assaulted. There’s no set route, just come with your chalk and messages you want to spread. Check out these awesome pictures of Hollaback Ghent’s chalk walk for some inspiration: http://wechalkwalk.tumblr.com/
Feeling inspired by these anti-street harassment events? Why not come along to the Hollaback! Sheffield AGM on April 18th, 6.30pm at The Bath Hotel to find out how you can get involved? https://www.facebook.com/events/169172099905875/