(This is not a real post, but a repost of a facebook status I made on the Catcalls Called Out facebook page. I’m putting it here so that it’s more easily archived, and easy to find. New post coming tomorrow.)
On a personal note: Today I had a particularly trying street harassment experience.
My train was approaching my station, so I walked away from the seats to the area near the doors. There was one other person there. For the entire two minutes I stood there, he swore at me, threatened me with sexual violence and repeatedly insulted my race. He was angry enough that I didn’t feel I could safely respond. When we finally got to my station, he left the train as well, and for a moment, I was sure he was going to follow me.
This wasn’t my first experience with street harassment, racism, or feeling unsafe on public transport- but it still hit me hard. Logically, I know that it wouldn’t have been safe to respond; that I did nothing to provoke him besides existing; that sharing this story should bring shame to the harasser, not me. Yet despite knowing this, there is a part of me that can’t help but feel guilty for ‘letting it upset me.’
I’m telling you this because it’s nonsense; it’s a lie we’ve been fed by a society that tells us that sexual harassment is the price we pay for existing in public spaces. It’s easy to get caught in this lie, even when you know it’s wrong. That’s how pervasive it is. It’s important that we support each other so that when others get caught in this toxic mindset, we can remind them that they have no reason to be ashamed.
I’m gonna be honest with y’all: lately, I haven’t been engaging as much with this campaign as I should because I have been feeling burnt out.
It has nothing to do with the actual street harassment movement or the people or organizations involved with it. Instead, it was a combination of varying personal issues combined with the persistent feeling that can best be summed up by this photo:
While this is the general reaction I have to most stories of street harassment and the spread of rape culture, there are certain stories which produce more violent reactions from me.
And just this month, the Delhi gang rape case? I can not believe I still have to protest this shit. Just about every new development has either made me want to flip tables or curl up into a ball in the corner.
Basically, it has gotten to the point where I’ve been disengaging because I would like to care a little less.
The reason why I’m telling y’all this is because I think it’s really easy to feel this way. When you become aware of rape culture and street harassment and the daily impact it has, it can be overwhelming.
If you get to the point where you are just sick and tired of trying to tell your male friends about how street harassment is a problem, or telling your parents why dressing differently is not the answer to rape culture, or telling your friends why rape jokes are wrong, I’m here to tell you that it’s fine. Everyone get’s burned out, and no one can expect one single person to keep fighting all the time.
As the new year approaches, I would like all of us to pledge to work harder to make rape culture a thing of the past. At the same time, I would also like all of to pledge that the next time someone harasses you, and you find that you can’t speak up, you don’t have to feel like a failure. The fact that you are here and able to survive the daily abuse a person can receive on the streets is enough.
Personally, I feel incredibly lucky that organizations like Hollaback! and Stop Street Harassment have bothered to pay attention to a small campaign like mine, and I think it’s because they know that we’re all in this together.
If you start to feel burnt out, take a break and take care of yourself. We will still be here.
I’ll y’all in 2013.
What is street harassment?
Simply put, it is sexual harassment in public places. It is often gender-based (though it can be motivated by or with other factors such as race or sexuality), and it creates public environments that are perpetually charged with the potential of disrespect and violence.
Cat Calls: Called Out believes that if we want to stop street harassment, even if just in our own area, we have to change our attitude. No one can be a bystander. In order to do so, this campaign has a few goals:
1.) Awareness. People need to know that street harassment happens, it happens everywhere, and it is a problem.
2.) Generating ideas on how to deal with street harassment when you see it or hear about it happening. There are ways to support people when they face street harassment. It can include giving people space to vent, calling out creeps, and et cetera. The “et cetera” part is where your ideas come in.
This may be a small campaign, but it’s an important one, and with your help, we can at least attempt to tackle some of the issues around street harassment in Sydney and in general.
Before we get started though, some disclaimers:
Cat Calls: Called Out is greatly inspired by the Hollaback! movement, as well as LivetheGreendot. Both of these are fantastic international movements, though neither of them have Sydney-based campaigns (though Hollaback! does have a Melbourne-based campaign). At the moment, Cat Calls: Called Out is not meant to be a Sydney version of either of these movements. Rather, this campaign hopes to work off of ideas from these campaigns, as well as generate new ideas to battle street harassment in Sydney.
For the rest of these posts, when I talk about street harassment, I will refer to people who experience sexual harassment with female pronouns due to the majority of street harassment being directed towards people who identify as women. However, this campaign fully acknowledges that street harassment can occur towards anyone in the gender spectrum.
On that note, any and all comments attempting to derail discussions with “but what about men?! / not all men are like that” and similar sentiments will be deleted. Same goes for any sentiments containing slut-shaming, racial profiling and etc. We’re all about support here, y’all. Hopefully this is an unnecessary disclaimer, but you never know.
Thanks for checking us out (not in that way), and stick around- we’ll have a lot more content coming your way.