Street Harassment Twitter Chat Tonight!

Tonight – June 26th 2013- is the first #catchafyah tweet-up on #streetharassment in the Caribbean. Join the conversation on Twitter at 8pm Eastern Caribbean time. Have you ever experienced street harassment in the Caribbean? How did you react? What can be done to change things? What does street harassment look, feel and sound like in the Caribbean? What does street harassment say about Caribbean gender relations?“

Follow me at @WomenSpeakPro as well as other #catchafyah Caribbean twitterati who will be participating like @redforgender @sheroxlox @malaikaBSL  @JahageeSisters @sablikatriumph @BlakkaEllis

Check out some our posts on Street Harassment on WomenSpeak tagged #streetharassment and let us know your thoughts tonight. 

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Poster developed by Tracey Chan and Stephanie Leitch

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An Open Letter to Caribbean Men from Caribbean Women

An Open Letter to Caribbean Men from Caribbean Women

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Ask WomenSpeak

“Hey simone interesting post and no I’m not a Woman but a Man. I agree with what your saying, since believe me or not have self-control. Anyway since we both are qualified in Sociology at the tertiary level let me ask this question. There is as you know a psychosocial relationship between the sexes. So is it that if a woman wears a short skirt she herself thinks its sexy or is that men like to see more skin and they think its sexy? in other words is a woman’s thoughts on what is sexy based on men”

You are a woman with a man inside watching a woman. You are your own voyeur. 
― Margaret AtwoodThe Robber Bride

Dear Anonymous,

I’m not sure I know exactly what you mean by “psychosocial relationship” but I do know that the relationship between men and women is influenced by many factors: physical/hormonal; cultural; social.

So, it may be perfectly natural to want to be sexually attractive to the opposite sex, but perhaps the way one determines what that looks like, depends on our cultural definitions of what is ‘sexy’, as well as social ‘gender scripts’ about how women should behave towards men, and men towards women.

Certainly, we know that all modern societies are still greatly driven by the ‘male perspective’. So that the way both women and men come to view the world is based on a male-centred value system. Therein is the conundrum faced in the above quote by Margaret Atwood.

Were you alive when baby-doll dresses were all the rage? I loved me some baby-doll dresses. My boyfriend hated them. Loose and shapeless; not what he thought of as sexy. So maaaaaybe when I was going out with him, I miiiiiight have maybe put on something else. Or not.

What am I trying to say? Well, just that it’s all mixed up and although we are all influenced by these various cultural, social and biological factors, each individual may be more, or less influenced by one factor over the others. In turn this will therefore differently determine the way we relate to men or women, or the choices we make about how we want to present ourselves – in dress, in attitude, in demeanor.

What is important to remember in the context of gender equity and justice is that regardless of a woman’s choice of dress, and for whatever reasons she has made that choice, it does not give others the right to infringe upon her human rights to safety, freedom of movement and freedom from harassment – verbal or physical. 

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“Pssst. I own you.”

As we approach the end of the Anti-Street Harassment Week, I’d like to talk a little about why Street Harassment is not just a sexual harassment issue, but the practice and reinforcement of male dominance.

A few weeks ago I went to the post office a block away from where I work. As I was walking back to my office, I passed by a car park with a wire fence. From inside the car park I heard a male voice say “Sweet Face.” I kept walking and he continued “Sweet Face, Sweet Face.”

I decided that I just couldn’t let this one pass. Not today. I wouldn’t let my psychological and physical space be corrupted by this man’s intrusion. I turned to look at him as I kept walking.

“Don’t call me that”

“What I should call you, then”

“I don’t want you calling me at all”

He had been following me all along the inside perimeter of the car park till I turned the corner. He raised his voice.

“Tell me your name. If you don’t tell me  your name I am going to call out to you every single day you pass here.”

It was a threat. 

A shiver went through me. I kept walking. I looked up and saw a man and woman glance at me. I guess a few people had been observing our exchange as I walked. The looks were curious. I guess they were wondering why I would engage this man at all or possibly they were waiting to see if the situation would escalate.

Two things ran through my mind.

1. Thank God I don’t have to pass this route everyday.

2. What would I do if I did have to pass this route everyday?

It also made me think about his threat. His aggression. The way he was demanding that I tell him my name. His sense of entitlement. Him feeling like he had the right to harass me and intimidate me to get me to do what he wanted. And that he would continue to do so, despite my feelings.

It is so clear to me that the high rates of domestic violence and rape in this country have very much to do with the way men see themselves in relation to women. That they have the right to dominate, in any space, even in a public space, any woman whatsoever. And to challenge that entitlement is to invite increased aggression, and violence if necessary, in order to maintain the status quo.

All those people who looked at me as I confronted this man also participated in the perpetuation of this status quo. Perhaps they were as disgusted as I was. Perhaps they too wanted to say something. But, it’s simply not a part of the script. We accept that men will accost, verbally abuse, intimidate, threaten and say whatever they want to women, and women will either keep silent or face the wrath of a man who feels his entitlement is being challenged.

There are no easy answers here. Like every other woman I am confronted with street harassment almost on a daily basis. And most times when I weigh the psychic energy needed to confront it against the fastest way to remove myself from the offending ass, I opt to say nothing. And on the days when my spirit just can’t bear one more crude, crass or just damn annoying “psst”, I have to weigh whether I am in a safe enough space to confront.

But it’s more than just me. It’s more than just a sexist comment on the street. It’s more than cultural. It is the most pervasive and socially accepted practice of discrimination against women; a gender script played out millions of times a day reinforcing men’s dominance over women.

Simone – WomenSpeak

Trinidad and Tobago

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[Sexism] is still present and it affects us every day of our lives,” explains Simone. “If you take the time to examine street harassment, you see that it has a great deal to do with discrimination.

Anti-Street Harassment Week awareness raising and advocacy continues all over the world this week. WomenSpeak got a nice little mention in this article  by Holly Kearl  for IPPFWHR highlighting some of the work being done in Latin America and the Caribbean.
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Second International Anti-Street Harassment Day

March 18th, 2012 marks the second year that International Anti-Street Harassment Day is taking place in countries all over the world. Last year the WomenSpeak Project joined founder of the event Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment in promoting the event and encouraging Caribbean Women To tell their own stories and post their own Anti-Street Harassment Manifestos. We also had an original art submission by Tracey Chan who this year has partnered with Stephanie Leitch to share artwork as part of a Street Harassment Art Exhibit held in Washington, DC jointly curated by Holly Kearl and the Deaf Abused Women’s Network

This year the Meet Us on the Street Campaign runs for an entire week from March 18-24 and various organisations and individuals are taking part in activities that will highlight the issue of Street Harassment and how it negatively impacts women’s freedom of movement and inflicts fear, intimidation and violence on a daily basis on a whole half of the world’s population. 

I encourage Caribbean women to share your own stories with us, or to submit any artwork, poetry or short video telling us how Street Harassment has impacted you personally. 

Artwork  collaboration by Tracey Chan and Stephanie Leitch

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I felt like the perpetrator.

I decided to switch up my exercise routine and take a walk early one Saturday morning. I wore leggings (long tights), with a long tank top coming down to the tops of my thighs.

At one house on the corner, a group of young men were sitting outside with a female relative. One said, “Good Morning.” I looked at him and repeated, “Good Morning”.

As soon as I turned the corner, I heard behind me, “I like dem legs.” I reacted. I flipped him off.

The woman commented that if she was out for a walk, she would not go around showing people the ‘middle finger’.

I realised that the street I had turned down was lonely. There were no people around since the day was early. I could hear the men and woman still talking about me.

I felt scared. If one of them decided he was insulted enough…

I walked faster, thinking about the consequences of my actions. I felt like the perpetrator.

Then I remembered, at age fifteen, walking home from my exercise class in the evening, wearing T-shirts and long pants, and having men call me ‘sexy’, ‘darling’, ‘beautiful’. But never to my face…always just as I walked past. I remembered feeling uncomfortable, always on the lookout for someone who might decide to use more than words.

I avoid that house now. I no longer feel like walking. I haven’t worn my favorite pair of leggings (long tights) since.

 

Caribbean Woman

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Deputy Prime Minister of SVG tells women – Dress properly. Don’t tempt men

Deputy PM and Education Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines makes incredibly outrageous and dangerous statements which essentially blame women and the way they dress for the violence perpetrated against them by men. This is the reason why violence against women is so rampant throughout the Caribbean: because we have a culture which tacitly excuses and tries to explain away the murders, rapes and beatings as something that women contribute to by the things they do, the clothes they wear, the places they go. As long as people feel they are justified and have ‘cause’ to ‘put women in their place’ this violence will continue.

redforgender:

“I want to ask our young women, in particular to dress themselves properly. I know that sometimes, their mode of dress is not good at all and it is important that they dress themselves and do not give temptation to our men.”

SVG: Deputy PM tells women to dress properly and not tempt men. She says that women’s breasts are intended to feed children and comfort their husbands. This hetero/sexist drivel was offered in response to the high level of violence against women and girls and femicides in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. What do you think of the Deputy PM’s remarks?

CODE RED is a feminist collective of Caribbean women and men. Visit our website for critical Caribbean feminist commentary. Find us on facebook and follow us on twitter.

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“Whistling is for DOGS! Say good afternoon!”

soulsistrin:

This is an issue that is near and dear to my heart.  It is something limits my life.  I developed somewhat of a phobia of walking the streets of Port of Spain after moving here because of this.  The leering looks, men staring directly at my breasts and private parts, men making comments to me or about me.  I rarely ever walk the streets anymore.  I don’t even like walking around the Savannah.  The men in the cars hiss and whistle.  I cannot stand it. 

I remember being on Frederick Street one day, the busiest street in Port of Spain.  I was having a conversation with someone on the pavement and a construction worker high up on a building was incessant, whistling to get my attention.  At first I ignored him but eventually I lost my temper.  “Why you whistling at me so!” I shouted up at him.  “Whistling is for DOGS!  Say good afternoon!”  The entire block burst into laughter and the man was visibly chagrined.  He smiled lamely, apologized, and told me good afternoon, to which I responded politely.

I was walking up the street to my parents’ home in Maraval one day and two secondary school boys were crossing the intersection as I approached.  One of them made a comment and I shot him a look.  The second boy digged him in the ribs with his elbow.  “Say good afternoon say good afternoon!” The first boy blurted out, “Good afternoon miss.” I smiled and told them good afternoon and we went on our ways.

I avoid walking the streets here.  When I do I make it a point to respond politely to men who are polite to me.  I cannot do much more than to encourage them when they do not act like cave men.  But sometimes the nasty leering look is all I get.  It makes me feel as if I am walking down the street naked.  I am being violated by their eyes.  It disgusts me, but you have to be careful who you talk to and how in Trinidad.  I could get a positive response or I could cussed out.  Thankfully the latter has never happened to me.  But I still have to gear myself up mentally every time I have to walk on the street.  I still cross when I see a group of men.  I always wear loose fitting clothes, walk fast, make no eye contact.  It’s ridiculous.  Because I get it all the time even when I am driving my car.  And I always wonder… has this ever worked for you?  Has a women ever responded positively?  I know men who insist that women like it.  That we feel complimented and not ignored.  I’d like to ask you on behalf of all the women who DON’T like it, that since you can’t tell the difference, then please just be polite and say good afternoon if you have to say anything to us at all.  I am not a body or a face.  I am yourdaughter, sister, girlfriend, mother, wife.

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