This must be a horrible neighborhood, but only if you’re black.

Location: Glover Park
Time: Daytime (9:30am-3:30pm) Evening Rush Hour (3:30pm-7:30pm)

I just moved to Glover Park from NE. A short time after moving in my next door neighbor confronted a guest of mine as she left, and later asked me if I sold weed to my guests. She admitted several neighbors were curious, and had been asking questions including why my curtains were closed all day. To that I answered it was creepy they’d check, but that, in fact, my curtains were open until the sun went down, and that you can’t see into my house because of the way the sun shines on it – that is precisely why I keep them open until sun down, sometimes well beyond sun down.

In any case, a few days later 3 different guests told me they had had their license plates pictured by one of my neighbors.

Tonight I had a long time friend, and artist stop by my house to drop off some art work. She just moved from a huge house into a small apartment, and had them in storage. I offered my wall space, and even to sell her art as I hold art exhibition events. When she arrived, as we unloaded the paintings – the neighbor came out and took a picture of her license plate. My friend was livid, and went to knock on her door. She denied having taken the picture, and locked her screen door as if we were going to bust in.

Here’s the deal – I know I’m black. I know they don’t want me here. This is not their choice, and I want them to stop!

My neighbor to the other side puts her trash in my trash bin. Another neighbor told a friend he couldn’t park in front of his house.

This must be a horrible neighborhood, but only if you’re black.

Submitted 2/7/18 by “MC”

Do you have a personal experience with harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or 202-962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

He asked if I’m “from here” and demanded to see my ID.

Location: 7th and P, playground

Time: Evening Rush Hour (3:30pm-7:30pm)

I was walking into the park with my three-year-old, and I kneeled down to talk to him. A man stopped, put his hands on the gate, and stared at us. I looked back at him, and I asked him why he was staring at us. He asked me if I’m “from here” and demanded to see my ID. I was confused at first by what he even meant. I told him that I didn’t need to show him ID, and he insisted that I did. I told him that he was making me uncomfortable and that he should leave the park if he wasn’t with a child. We walked away, and he did, too. A man sitting on a bench asked us if we were OK. I stayed at the park for another hour after that, but I was shaken. I kept thinking he might come back with a weapon. I’m still so shaken and confused.

Submitted 6/1/17 by “JR”

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Share your story to help raise awareness about the pervasiveness and harmful effects of street harassment. All submissions are posted anonymously unless otherwise specified.

If you experience or have experienced sexual harassment on the DC Metro system: Whether the event is happening at the moment or occurred months ago, we strongly encourage you to report to Metro Transit Police (MTP): www.wmata.com/harassment or (202) 962-2121. Reporting helps identify suspects as well as commons trends in harassment. You can program MTP’s number into your phone so you can easily reach them when needed.

If you need assistance in coping with public sexual harassment or assault, please contact the DC Rape Crisis Center (DCRCC) 24/7 crisis hotline at 202-333-RAPE (202-333-7279).

Artivism: Muslim Women’s Experiences with Harassment

The photos and interviews below were part of an artivism project by Dejah K. Greene of the Sanctuaries.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Khadija Ali

Have you ever experienced street harassment on the metro or around the DMV area?

Though I’m not from the metro/DMV area, I have experienced street harassment on my visits there and in other major cities, such as in Benghazi, Libya (where my parents are from and where I spent many summers as a teenager), and in Germany. 

What happened, and how did you respond?

When I was visiting my friend in Silver Spring, a lot of the harassment consisted mostly of just annoying things like “smile” or “hey beautiful” and it was just very demeaning. It caught me off guard too because I’ve been living in the south in Nashville for the better part of a decade and you don’t experience as much harassment here. Whenever I’d spend my summers in Libya, I remember being between the ages of 13-16 and being catcalled — still a child! I couldn’t walk down less than a mile to the convenience store to pick up some things without the neighborhood boys commenting on my clothes or hijab.

In Libya and the rest of the Middle East, a lot of the men and boys who catcall would use one specific religious saying called “mashaAllah,” which roughly describes a sort of thankfulness, or joy at something good or happy that God has willed. Keep in mind that this is a term Muslims around the world use on a day to day basis. So I remember as a teenager just being appalled at how this wonderful phrase that reminds us of God would just be defiled and degraded by sick men and boys. And no one cared if I was walking with my dad or my brother or with one of my aunts or my mother, they would just exhibit zero shame. It was difficult because in that culture, responding would mean encouraging them. I learned this the hard way when I decided to flip some of these catcallers off once and they started jeering and following me around for awhile until I decided to ignore them and they left me alone. 

How do you think your racial, ethnic, or religious identity(/ies) affects the way you experience harassment?

In terms of my very apparent Muslim identity, my conservative attire, and head covering, I’ve found that harassment does not discriminate against what women wear. In Libya, I would get harassed about my hijab, in the South I’d get yelled at and accused of being a terrorist or Osama bin Laden’s wife/sister/daughter for wearing my hijab. There is this stigma towards women who might choose to dress less conservatively than others which people have used to explain the culture of harassment and rape when that simply is not true. I mean, look at me. I am covered from head to toe, literally the only thing you can see are my face and hands, and I still get harassed. There are other Muslim women out there who are in full Niqab (full face covering in addition to body and hands) and they too are victims of street harassment and rape. 

What’s one word to describe the way you want people to interact with you in public spaces?

Honorably. 

What do you think men should understand about catcalling?

Men should understand that women are not objects to be commented on and looked at. They should learn to have more shame and lower their gaze. Really, men need to reflect upon the notion of the Male Gaze and how that affects the way women alter the manner through which they conduct themselves on a day-to-day basis. Catcalling is absolutely rooted in the Male Gaze. So that means that all women who are harassed (verbally/sexually/etc.) are subject to the Male Gaze. We do not enjoy having our bodies being gazed upon. At all. Period. So long as men do not recognize the Male Gaze as a problem, women will still be dehumanized in every instance of harassment.

Oh, and one last thing I’d like to ask all men to think about: What would your Mama say or do if she saw you catcalling?

Dina El-Rifai

Have you ever experienced street harassment on the metro or around the DMV area?
Yes. The most recent experience was as I was walking to the Metro station with my friend. I think the encounter could have taken an entirely different turn had my friend not been there with me.

What happened, and how did you respond?

We were walking back. My friend is mixed — White and Latina. White-passing. This man, dressed in an over-sized suit — purple if I remember correctly — and completely drunk, starts talking directly to me. Looks at me and begins to ask me if my people date, or “mess with” Black men. I look at him and then look straight ahead, shortening the distance between me and my friend. The man, however, begins to follow us, standing inches from me, and begins to rant about the changing demographic of this city, repeatedly referencing my Muslim identity and his perception of me as “foreign” as the center of his monologue. He appears frustrated of my unwillingness to answer his questions, and says “you people are so afraid here because of what you experience overseas.” This was assuming that 1) I’m not from here and have lived abroad extensively; and 2) that I must have experienced violence abroad because they must be so backwards and oppressive “where I’m from.” He then attempts to assure me that I need not be afraid of him, as he inches closer to me, and continues to follow us for several blocks. He goes as far to say “I won’t try to do anything sexual or anything” — which instilled more fear in me than anything. As we were finally able to part ways, he repeatedly yelled “you need dick, you will always need dick.”

The entire time he was following us, I tried to be very calculated in my response, as I always am. I often try to ignore harassers and keep my eyes forward, usually acting like I do not hear them. Any response often can seem like encouragement for harassers to continue the interaction. However, after their third and fourth and fifth demands for my attention, I begin to fear that my silence or lack of acknowledgment will escalate the situation or anger them. So, when I choose to respond, I try to be firm and calculated, communicating through body language that I see you, hear you, and am uninterested.

It is exhausting to have to be this calculated, and to still be respectful to the harasser, in fear that any perception of disrespect of superiority from me could escalate the situation and put me in danger.

How do you think your racial, ethnic, or religious identity(/ies) affects the way you experience harassment?
As a Muslim woman who wears hijab, I feel that there are multiple targets on my back that make me vulnerable to street harassment. I think there’s a strong interplay here of my Muslim identity and my identity as a woman and how that’s perceived by men especially in the U.S that explains the experience of harassment. It is not only the feeling of entitlement to comment on my body, but the perception of Muslim women as inferior, oppressed, and powerless that I think is a key driver in the way that Muslim women experience harassment. I think this is also coupled with the refusal of American men to respect the choices of Muslim women who choose to cover — they feel entitled to our bodies and cannot fathom that we would intentionally deny them access to the consumption of our bodies.

While I wear hijab as a declaration of the inherent power that I hold that is independent of my body and sexuality, harassers seek to demonstrate the power they presume to have over us, objectify us. It is this very perception of Muslim women as weak, powerless, and oppressed, that is also used to justify U.S invasion, occupation, and bombing of Muslim-majority countries.

What’s one word to describe the way you want people to interact with you in public spaces?

Dignity.

What do you think men should understand about catcalling?

Street harassment, at its core, is an imposition of power by men and their sense of entitlement to attention from women. Know that women, *all* women, deserve to feel safe and in control, and you’re unwanted and forced.

Intersectionality Isn’t Just a Buzzword. Here’s How to Put It into Practice.

Intersectionality, a term coined in the 1980s by UCLA and Columbia law professor Kimberle Crenshaw, seeks to define the overlapping oppressions that people who are part of multiple marginalized groups experience. “Intersectionality draws attention to invisibilities that exist in feminism, in anti-racism, in class politics,” she shared in a New Statesman article, pointing out the erasure of black women from an anti-racist movement focused on the experiences of black men and a feminist movement focused on the experiences of white women. “It takes a lot of work to consistently challenge ourselves to be attentive to aspects of power that we don’t ourselves experience.”

Organizations are more frequently including “intersectionality” as a buzzword in their messaging, but they’re still struggling with how to put the idea into practice. A number of people have come to me over the last few months with the question: “How can I make my activism and organizing work more intersectional?”

Here are four steps that you can take as an organizer or organizational decision-maker to ensure your work is prioritizing marginalized communities:

  1. De-center yourself; center those who are marginalized by multiple layers of oppression. Systems of oppression like race, class, and sex are interconnected — creating an experience that is transformative, not additive. That means that a shared gender identity will not necessarily produce a shared experience among all women of varying race, class, sexual orientation, housing status, or other factors. For example, though both white women and black women experience gender-based harassment, black women’s experiences with harassment are frequently racialized. Similarly, Muslim women experience gender-based harassment in the context of Islamophobia, and trans women of color experience harassment that is sexist, racist, and transphobic.
  2. Stop asking people of color to show up in the spaces that you organize; show up in the spaces they’ve organized. I consistently hear organizers and nonprofits say they’d like to recruit more people of color to their volunteer base, their Boards, their staff…but they just don’t know how to bring them to the table. Don’t ask yourself why people of color aren’t showing up; ask yourself: Am I showing up? How many POC-led events and meetings have you attended? How have you supported POC-led organizing? How do you amplify the events and messages of POC? POC have been organizing for decades to address the most pressing issues in their communities. Don’t ask them to make the connections to the issue you’re working on — that’s your work to do. Don’t ask them to find ways to overcome hurdles like lack of access to transportation and affordable childcare to find their way to the tables you’ve set. Bring your tables to them. Make your tables kid-friendly. And bring food to put on those tables, too.
  3. Stop telling people of color that they should care about your issue because it disproportionately affects them; find out the specific ways that your issue affects them, and prioritize solutions that may be different. Just about every issue disproportionately affects communities of color — homelessness, health care access, street harassment, poverty, climate change. But when we talk about solutions, we frequently work toward the solutions that accommodate those with privilege, and then we say, “Our solutions will be great for everyone because this issue disproportionately affects communities of color!” That’s not how it works. All of these issues affect marginalized communities in different ways, and that means that the solutions are different. POC have been let down for years by activists whose solutions don’t recognize their unique needs — and that is taxing. First, we have to do the work to find out how these issues are specifically affecting those who live at the margins — and particularly how people are affected when they are part of multiple marginalized groups, such as disabled homeless undocumented trans women of color. Then, once we know how they’re affected, work toward the solutions that address those needs. But how will I find out the different ways that marginalized communities are affected by the issue that’s important to me, you ask? Well…
  4. Pass the mic — and listen. You aren’t here to be a voice for marginalized communities, but you can use your place of privilege to center and amplify their voices. If your organization is asked to speak, write or act on an issue, offer that opportunity to someone directly impacted by that issue instead of speaking for them. And then, listen. This one is literally that simple. Resist the temptation to explain, defend or add your two cents. Instead, step back and defer to people’s lived experiences. Watch our 2015 roundtable on street harassment in full to hear about the experiences of Muslim women with hate-based harassment and trans women of color with hate-based harassment and assault in shelters. We asked those women to testify, we listened to their stories, and we’ve worked with them toward solutions — and we understand that we need to follow their lead.

At CASS, we have worked to center these priorities in the bedrock of all we do. We show up to rallies and events organized by people of color and particularly trans women of color. We take the lead from Muslim organizers when we work to address Islamophobic harassment against Muslim women and queer/trans Muslims, and we join coalitions led by sex workers and those frequently profiled as sex workers when we work to address harassment against trans women of color. We know that the solutions that work for women who are housed, white, cis, able-bodied, and straight are not the same ones that will work for women who are unhoused, nonwhite, trans, disabled, black, and queer.

We understand that street harassment is more than just sexual comments shouted by strangers on the street. It is discrimination in places of public accommodation, like Muslim women being threatened with handcuffs for refusing to remove their religious headwear or trans women of color being misgendered and sent to the men’s restroom. It’s harassment against people who are perceived as vulnerable in some way, and in more cases, seen as vulnerable in multiple ways.

That’s why I’ve proposed that CASS’s Board of Directors and Advisory Council vote to update its mission to serve everyone. Street harassment is not just sexual; it is harassment based on someone’s real or perceived gender identity, racial identity, ethnic identity, religious identity, housing status, sexual orientation, ability, age, health status, and any other identity that makes someone vulnerable — and it especially affects those with a combination of those identities. It manifests in a different way for cis white women than it does for trans women of color. And therefore, the solutions are different.

And if we center the needs of those who live at the margins, there will be a ripple effect for everyone.

Want to join this discussion? Apply to join CASS’s Board! We bring food to Board meetings, and kids are always welcome.

The Scariest Night of the Year

Happy Halloween, everyone! But before you enjoy a fun weekend with friends, please ask yourself if your “costume” is appropriating a culture that is not yours.

After all, the scariest part of Halloween night should not be this (also, we love this video!):


Still need some help on what is appropriate? Here are three simple rules:

1. Don’t wear blackface.
Just don’t do it. Never. Wear. Blackface.

2. Cultures are not costumes.
So, please don’t wear a Native American headdress. Or go to a party as “sexy” Native American, or Geisha, or Roma. Just don’t.

3. If you feel a bit uneasy about your costume, consider wearing something else.
There are PLENTY of costumes you can make or buy that don’t appropriate other cultures!

Halloween should be fun. Don’t make it an uncomfortable night for someone.

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