These issues were certainly not being raised for the first time…..Muriel Stanley Venne pointed to the National Aboriginal Women’s Summit of 2007, and the fact that no action had been taken on the recommendations made there. The Liberal, NDP and Bloc members all had questions relating to the impact on Aboriginal people of the government’s law and order agenda and crime bills, and the resulting decision to build new prisons at a large cost to the public. Some members (e.g. Crowder and Demers) were critical of the ongoing federal policies of colonization and assimilation, with Demers asking in despair at one point, “Qui sommes nous?” (”who are we”, referring to the settler society and all we have wrought). Demers also asked a question about whether the mandatory long form census should be reinstated as one way of gathering information about the circumstances of Aboriginal women. Witnesses agreed with this point, yet also noted that action rather than information gathering was required.
I won’t start posting videos all the time, but here are a few anti domestic violence campaigns which focus on “the rest of us”, and one anti sex assault campaign which speaks directly to the offender, plus Hollaback! which aims to empower women who face street harassment. Lots to talk about here, I think, but I’ll just give you the raw material.
At “the rest of us”:
First, an anti domestic violence campaign from India called Bell Bajao (Ring the Bell). It encourages people (men?) to interrupt when they hear violence in a home. Actually, the point of the campaign is to encourage action against domestic violence – the doorbell is both a metaphor and a real possibility.
Similar points from South Africa’s POWA (People Opposing Women Abuse):
At “the potential offender”
This one, from SAVE (sexual assault voices of edmonton) is placed in men’s washrooms at bars – aimed directly at the “opportunistic” offender:
The three advertisements were chosen after focus-group testing showed the messages were clearly understood by, and resonated with, young men.
Finally, Hollaback, an initiative aimed at women who are actually targeted by street harassment.
What we need is a major cultural shift. We need to create a social environment where yelling sexual comments at people on the street is considered unacceptable, and people speak up when they see someone being harassed. For this kind of change, we need a movement, and that is what Hollaback! is trying to build.
I love it like I love the fact that I finally noticed that at some point over the past seven years I aged out of the kind of street harassment Hollaback is talking about. Nice! Anyway, I suppose I could always think about speaking up for other women, couldn’t I? Hollaback has nicely though through a position on race, and I appreciate that:
Question: I heard something about your position on antiracism. What’s that about, and what does it have to do with street harassment?
Answer: Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper hollaback. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, Hollaback! asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary. If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post.
Initiatives combating various forms of sexual harassment and assault have continually struggled against the perpetuation of racist stereotypes, and in particular, the construction of men of color as sexual predators. There exist widespread fictions regarding who perpetrators are: the myth of racial minorities, particularly latino and black men, as prototypical rapists and as being more prone to violence is quite common. This stems in part from a tragic and violent history in which black men in the U.S. were commonly and unjustly accused of assaulting white women, and as such were lynched by mobs and “tried” in biased courts.
Because of the complexity of institutional and socially ingrained prejudices, Hollaback! prioritizes resisting both direct as well as unconscious and unintentional reinforcement of social hierarchies. Simultaneously, Hollaback! aims to highlight the interrelations between sexism, racism, and other forms of bias and violence.
Question: But isn’t street harassment a cultural thing?
Answer: Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and nationality. Sexual harassment, and street harassment specifically, is resisted by people around the globe: Hollaback! receives e-mails of support and solidarity from numerous countries and from every continent. To condense another’s culture into vague assumptions about who and what they are is to generalize dangerously about a wide range of experiences and perspectives that exist within any one given culture.