Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Comment on Responsibility

I am not sure how to enable commenting on this site and I am not sure if it is even a good idea. However, I got this e-mail a few days ago and wanted to post it. I think "S" brings up some worthwhile points but also shows a certain arrogant male privilege that I would love to have some discussion around.

I just read this post on your site:
Thursday, April 24, 2008
"I Never Feel Safe"
I am a white, 17 year old girl living in the South
A couple weeks ago I was walking home. It was late,
around midnight. I was listening to my iPod and not
paying much attention to my surroundings"

What the heck is a 17 year old girl doing walking by
herself at midnight, not paying attention to her
surroundings?? I'm all for a girl being able to walk
safely, but this girl is just DUMB. I am a man and I
would not walk anywhere at midnight oblivious to my
surrounds in any city! If I have to point out how
many different types of wrong this post is, then your
website is truly clueless.

You are promoting boldness for a woman to holla-back
or fight back against the "unfairness" of society. It
sound slike this particular poster feels that she has
the right to walk in a city at midnight, unaware of
any dangers around her. Don't you feel that you have
a responsibility to inform an underage girl such as
this one that NOBODY should have put herself in the
position she did? Instead of being so adamant that a
girl should snap a picture of the harasser, maybe you
could educate and tell underage girls that some things
are not safe.
As the moderator of this blog, I just post the letters people send me; I do not alter them and I certainly do not offer my opinions. That is not the mission of this blog. While I agree with "S" that women (and men) should be aware of their surroundings and the dangers of living in a patriarchal society, I also think that we should strive for a society where anyone can walk around anywhere without fear. This is a safe space where fear is not the primary goal. There is enough fear in mass media we don't need it here. I am sure that the young woman who sent that story is very aware of the dangers of her surroundings without me reminding her. This is a site for empowerment against harassment, a space to tell stories that get lost in mainstream media. I hope that all of Holla Back's readers are safe and cautious, but I want them to know that this is not a site that encourages fear and silence. I hope that "S" can understand that there is enough fear in the world, this is one space for women to feel like their voices matter.

June 26, 2008
Reader Gwendolynn writes:

"While yes, "S" makes a valid point on the safety of walking around at midnight not paying attention to her surroundings and how that isn't safe to do whether your a 17 year old female or a fully grown man, he referenced taking pictures as not being the smart thing to do. I disagree. While any response to any form of harassment should be fully analyzed before you should do it, responses such as ignoring it or looking afraid will only perpetuate the problem. Often, that is the response these sickos are looking for. They want to scare us, they want us to know that they have power over us. And, if they start off making gross comments and getting the kind of responses they are looking for without any sort of reprimand - next time they may not stop at comments. Next time they might flash us. And if that works well, they might think they can touch us. I think you can see where this is going. These creeps arn't expecting us to talk back or take pictures. It destroys their image of us as helpless and them as powerful. And at the moment, it seems like the only way we can fight back. Clearly you must look at the situation at hand before you take such measures. Midnight with few people around - probably not the right moment. Middle of the day in a crowded place? Hell yeah. You better believe I'm saying something."

July 24, 2008
Reader Tomi writes:

"As the webmaster pointed out in her response to you, I am perfectly aware of the dangers of walking alone at night. (I am also aware of the dangers of riding in a car, of cutting vegetables with a sharp knife, of doing gymnastics, of leaving my house at all.) Life is full of potential dangers. Does that mean that I should live in constant fear and unhappiness? Should I quit my job at the movie theatre that I like so much so that I can find 9-5 hours? Should I resolve to be home by sunset every day just so that I can eliminate the risk of being harassed or raped in the dark?
That's the point of this website, of this movement. It's a way to fight back. It's a way to help eradicate sexism. (I noticed that in your response to my post, you called it the 'unfairness of life.' Sexism can hardly be classified as an unfairness. There are plenty of unfairnesses in the world that I accept and grow from, sexism is not one of them. Would you call rape a simple 'unfairness?' I didn't think so.) You state that you are all for a girl being able to walk safely, so why shouldn't I? Why do you speak as if it is my fault? I'm the one that puts myself in the situation? No, it's the men who harass me that put me in the situation. If all the young women in the world stayed indoors after dark, we would only prove that we can be controlled and dominated by these men. That we can be scared and pushed around by them. I will not be scared by them, and I certainly will not be silenced.
Also, I would like to remind you of your responsibility to inform men and boys everywhere that harassing women on the streets is not okay. I've already done my homework, you can do yours.
(p.s. Your computer is liable to blow up at any minute. Maybe it's not so safe for you to use it?)"