An Open Letter to the “Rapey” Comic in Dupont

An Open Letter to the “Rapey” Comic in Dupont
An Open Letter to the “Rapey” Comic in Dupont

Location: Bar by 17th & R Streets NW (Dupont)
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)

An Open Letter to a “Rapey” Comic —

As frequent attendees of open mic nights for local comics this summer, we know that your act generally focuses on invasive banter with the audience (“What race are you?” was a question directed at an Afghan audience member back in September), peppered with cheap jokes that rest on tired stereotypes, like your bit a few weeks ago about prison rape.

We’re not naïve enough to expect rape to be totally off-limits at open mic nights, but what you did at the open mic night on Monday targeted three women there, plain and simple.

When you got on stage, you immediately turned your attention to us. You started by asking us our opinions about condoms, repeatedly telling us that we looked mean. When you noticed one of us sitting with her arms crossed, you admonished her, saying that she should uncross them so you could “verbally rape” her, and proceeded to describe how your words would slip under her shirt and undo her bra, among other things.

Another of the three of us got up to get a beer and when you called out to her she said that she didn’t find rape funny. It could have ended there, but the rest of your “act” was a blur of offensive and stale jokes—some aimed at our table. When you got off the mic, you gave us the finger and told us to go fuck ourselves, to the applause of the rest of the room (mostly fellow comics). The emcee excused your behavior, noting that he himself, like many other comics, had had some trouble “with the ‘R’ word.” Is this a flashback to the Daniel Tosh rape scandal? Or is this some kind of infantile backlash?

Regardless, three women who were obviously not amused [seemed to] threaten your fragile male ego, and you essentially bullied us out of public space as a result.

We left shortly after you got off stage. As patrons, we somehow expected a tiny bit more from the comic scene in DC. Maybe we should have heckled you back or put up a fight, but part of our ingrained survival strategy is knowing how to take a lot of flack without flinching in a society that constantly reminds us of our inferiority. Maybe your survival strategy involves going to open mic nights and making lazy, tired jokes to mostly silent crowds.

We realize we’ll get pegged as humorless feminists for objecting to our verbal rape, so please let us explain that we agree with your assertion that rape jokes can, in fact, be funny in “certain contexts.” Wanda Sykes’s “detachable vagina” riff, and Margaret Cho’s David Hager wineglass-on-the-mattress joke are prime examples of this. These “funny in certain context” rape jokes aren’t unique to female comics; Louis C.K. came out with a bit earlier this year about how, statistically, a woman going on a date with a man is like if you could “only date a half-bear, half-lion. ‘Oh, I hope this one’s nice.’” As Patton Oswalt observed after the Tosh scandal, “No one is trying to make rape, as a subject, off-limits.

No one is talking about censorship. In fact, every viewpoint I’ve read on this, especially from feminists, is simply asking to kick upward, to think twice about who is the target of the punch line, and make sure it isn’t the victim.” Rape jokes that break rape culture in half are funny; singling out audience members to threaten isn’t.

You’ve clearly crossed the line from heckling to harassment.

We think it’s high time you draft some real attempts at humor or get off the bill.

Sincerely,
The Humorless Uptight Bitches at Table 3

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 10/24/13 by Anonymous.

::UPDATE::

We’ve learned that this open letter, which was submitted to CASS on 10/24/13, was also sent to the Washington City Paper (WCP). WCP published the open letter as well as a (horrible) response by the comedian in question

An Open Letter to the “Rapey” Comic in Dupont


Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit 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. Recommended tip: 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).

“I Called Out A Street Harasser And Got Called a Fat B*tch.”

Location: 32 bus stop on Lafayette Park
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)

Coming home from work on a Sunday a group of three young men (between the ages of 17-21) got on the bus a few stops after I did. I did not pay too much attention to them because groups of young people getting on the bus is a normal occurrence on that line.

When the bus stopped at Lafayette Park (in front of the White House) the young guy sitting in front of me noticed a very good looking girl, about his age, on the bus stop. He proceeded to knock on the window and blow kisses at her, from her reaction (turning her back against the bus and walking away from his line of vision) I could tell that she felt uncomfortable. This is the exchange that followed:

Me: You shouldn’t do that. Women do not appreciate being harassed.
Boy:  I know.
M: Then why did you do it? If you think a girl is attractive you should be a man and politely tell her instead of harassing her and making her feel uncomfortable.
B: You don’t understand.
M: Clearly I do not. Please be a man and start treating women with respect.
B:  I know, I do it for my own satisfaction (WHO says this??!?!?!?)
M: From what you just did and said, to rape is a fine line. Please respect women.
B: Shut up you fat bitch

I can’t believe this young man believes he is not only entitled to harass women on the streets but insult someone else in the process. To say that he does not care, that he did it for his own satisfaction was a very scary thing to hear coming from someone his age. I feel sorry for the women that have to interact with him on a daily basis.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 7/24/13 by “A.”

street harassment in DC
DC’s Lafayette Park, located in front of the White House

Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault? Submit 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. Recommended tip: 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).

“I witnessed a man talk about taking advantage of an intoxicated woman on the Metro. What can we do to intervene?”

Location: Blue Line, Pentagon Metro Station
Time: Night (7:30pm-12am)

This happened a year ago. My friend and I were riding home on Metro after class, around 10pm. Across the aisle from us (the seats that face each other) was a girl who had a little too much fun at happy hour. She was barely staying awake. As we were approaching Pentagon station, she got up to get out. As people were filing out, a middle-aged man who was sitting next to us got up, bent down and commented to me and my friend about “going home with her tonight,” and got off the train just as the doors were closing. As the train pulled away we could see him go up and talk to her.

We were stunned. I wanted to help but I did not know what to do. My stop was the next one but what would I have reported? Yes he was unbelievably inappropriate but I don’t feel like I saw enough. There interaction could have ended on the platform for all I know. Still bothers me when I think about it. Watched the news for days afterward seeing if anything did happen and was reported to police. Luckily I never heard of anything.

I would appreciate some guidance on what I could have done to help her in case I ever witness this in the future.

Emphases by CASS.
Submitted 5/6/13 by Anonymous

Sex without consent = sexual assault; Don’t Be That Guy Campaign

 


Do you have a personal experience with gender-based public sexual harassment or assault?
Submit 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. Recommended tip: 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).

 

Sugarcoated & Corporate-Sponsored Street Harassment at DC’s Nike Women’s Half Marathon

By Sara Alcid, DC Resident and Contributing Writer, Everyday Feminism

The admiration and respect that I have for the 15,000 women that ran in the Nike Women’s Half Marathon held in DC this past weekend is immeasurable. I was on the sidelines cheering on my best friend’s mom and aunt as they crossed the finish line arm in arm. But on my way to see them at the finish line, I passed by a fleet of fraternity brothers cheering on runners with “You Look Beautiful All Sweaty,” “Hello Gorgeous,” and “Cute Running Shoes” signs. I had to do a double-take.

I was appalled and outraged that the athletic endurance and personal triumph of the 15,000 women runners were being trivialized by these objectifying and sexist signs.

It turns out the signs are part of BareMinerals by Bare Escentuals’ “Go Bare” campaign and tour.

Nothing like having your physical feats reduced to your looks by men on the street. Photo by Sara Alcid.

A few of the fraternity brothers noticed my shocked look and held up large posters with their phone numbers written on them. The cherry on top, really.

Running a half marathon is an empowering act of strength and motivation and has absolutely nothing to do with how you look, including how “beautiful” a group of random fraternity brothers on the sidelines think you look when you’re “all sweaty.” Women do not run for male approval of their sweatiness.

It’s hard enough for women to feel safe, secure and comfortable running in their own neighborhoods to train for half marathons in the first place. Street harassment is a real and scary part of many women’s daily runs, as well as their commutes to work and trips to the grocery store.  Much of the street harassment that we experience is centered around our looks, especially men’s opinions of them. Women’s bodies are the subjects of public commentary and conversations—both in the media and on the street.

The “Go Bare” campaign signs, held by Bare Escentuals’ very own team of “DC fraternity boys” (their phrasing, not mine) are tools of street harassment.

They’re simply sugarcoating and romanticizing the street harassment with pretty, professionally printed signs and free makeup at the finish line.

Would we see these signs at a men’s half marathon? No.

Random men leering at you and telling you that you look hot while you run? Just what women need. Photo by Sara Alcid.

Along with trivializing the runners’ admirable strength and drive, these signs represent a gateway to sexual harassment and assault, like all street harassment does.

Because when men publicly provide commentary on women’s bodies and beauty—and when it is so publicly condoned, like it was at the Nike Women’s Half Marathon, street harassment is normalized and women’s bodies become invitations for unwanted judgment and non-consensual interaction.

“Street harassment — both in DC and elsewhere — is a serious and pervasive problem that limits women’s mobility and access to public spaces,” said Renee Davidson, Communications Director of Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), a grassroots group working to prevent sexual harassment and assault in DC. “Our website collects local stories of street harassment, and we regularly hear from women that they are afraid to run or exercise outdoors as a result of the leering and catcalling they receive from strangers. Public sexual harassment is part of a larger rape culture; it occurs on a continuum and can lead to more violent crimes like rape and assault. BareMinerals needs to know that while sexual harassment has always been deemed an inconvenience, it’s also a crime, and it needs to be given zero tolerance rather than exploited as a marketing tool to sell makeup.”

Street harassment is never okay and the last thing we need is sugarcoated and corporate-sponsored street harassment.

Join me in urging Bare Escentuals to drop their offensive and problematic campaign slogans from future stops on their “Go Bare” tour.

Let BareMinerals know you won’t stand for street harassment by following up with a Tweet. Copy and paste:
Dear @bareMinerals: Women didn’t run the @runnikewomen marathon 2b objectified & leered at by random men http://chn.ge/12VqjIp #GoBare

Tell @bareMinerals: Women didn’t run the @runnikewomen marathon 2b objectified & leered at by random men http://chn.ge/12VqjIp #GoBare

My Streets, My Body: How street harassment impacts my weight, my eating habits, my health

Over the course of 2010-2011, I lost 100 pounds and had skin removal surgery. With every progressive step in my weight loss journey, the level of harassment I experienced continued to rise.

By “Dechanique”

I finally called the WMATA harassment hotline and reported the constant street harassment I’ve been receiving outside the New Carrolton Metro station, by the kiss-n-ride bus stop. It’s a gauntlet of leering, mouth-flapping assholes from the escalators to the crosswalk. I get on my best bitch-face, but it hardly ever helps.

The officer on the other line was very understanding, which eased my anxiety in calling. They took my complaint, told me they would be alerting their evening shift of the problem, and if I ever feel unsafe, if I call and let them know I’m on my way to the station, an officer will be placed outside. I asked if it would be possible to place some anti-harassment posters on the bus shelters, because if these guys are going to be standing around waiting for their buses, might as well educate themselves on how to (not) talk to women who just want to get home. My comment was acknowledged, but no affirmative was made.

“Street harassment isn’t about whether they find you attractive or not, it’s about control, power, and dominance of women in public spaces.
“Street harassment isn’t about whether they find you attractive or not, it’s about control, power, and dominance of women in public spaces.

 


It’ll be two years in September since my surgery.  Street harassment colors my life outside the house like it never has before.  My anxiety level has sky-rocketed.


Street harassment was a rude awakening for me. Much of my life, I had been very heavy, and while I experienced harassment going about my day to day life, it was mostly to bully or shame me about my weight, with the occasional spattering of comments on my shapely posterior or legs. It wasn’t very common, and I felt relatively safe walking around (though very insecure about my appearance).

Then I started losing weight.  About 40lbs down, I started getting noticed more.  The cat-calls increased in number and frequency. The “dayum gurl”s, the “hello sexy”s, didn’t seem so bad at the time.  Low self-esteem and hunger for acceptance played a role in my tolerance. I stopped to talk to people, I was flattered, I was excited! When guys called out to me on the street I would respond positively. It quickly became uncomfortable. Walking home from the gym the day after Valentines 2011, I was stopped at a street corner by a group of men standing outside an apartment complex. I was happy to talk to them at first, about bicycling and life as mostly-pedestrians in the District. When I indicated I should continue home, the man who called to me originally began to try to get me to come inside. I politely declined, and in desperation, he offered me $500 to “keep him company”. I left quickly.

Two blocks later, I was stopped again by a different group of men, asking me to be their Valentines.

This was becoming a serious problem.

From then on, it never stopped being a problem. It was a cut that got infected. It’s now gangrenous and a constant force in my life.

Street harassment was a rude awakening. Over the course of 2010-2011, I lost 100lbs and had skin removal surgery. With every progressive step in my weight loss journey, the level of harassment I experienced continued to rise. Sometimes, when it gets bad, it makes me want to bury myself in boxes of pizza and tubs of iced cream and get so big I never have to leave the house again. But I can’t. I don’t want to let the harassment run my life, and I am certainly not going to let some dickbag who can’t keep his words/hands to himself ruin all the hard work I put into my weight loss and happiness I feel with my husband and our new home together.

It’ll be two years in September since my surgery. Street harassment colors my life outside the house like it never has before. My anxiety level has sky-rocketed. Anytime I leave the safety of my home, car, or office, I’m on guard, on alert. Walking by or through groups of men, I wonder if they’re going to say something. For a while, I thought it would be best to just ignore it. Keep walking, pretend I don’t hear them, because I didn’t want to confront them and face the possibility of physical assault. But just like playground bullies, silence gives them power. My shame and meekness gave them power. Because street harassment isn’t about whether they find you attractive or not, it’s about control, power, and dominance of women in public spaces. It’s a constant reminder that you don’t belong, that you are only there like a piece of meat to be examined and commented upon, like I’m there for their fucking eye-pleasure.


Street harassment was a cut that got infected. It’s now gangrenous and a constant force in my life.


street harassment and self esteem
“By the end of dinner and the glass of wine, I was still angry, almost shaking, so I self-medicated. And I felt better by the end of the bowl.”

Having hardly experienced this prior to my weight loss, my tolerance for this disruption to my life and habits didn’t take very long to reach the point of confrontation.  A few weeks ago, I began calling people out for their harassment using the simple phase “STOP HARASSING WOMEN”.  I steeled myself and made it a point to fire back at anyone who thought it was okay to harass me. The anxiety is hard to deal with sometimes.  I walk by and through strangers on the sidewalk and wonder if anyone is going to say something. I repeat the words in my head, and constantly reaffirm to myself that I will tell them off if they harass me. Someone walks by me and coughs, or clears their throat, or begins talking on the phone or to their neighbor and my heart jumps into my throat, only to settle when I realize what’s going on and leap again at the next person. It’s a rollercoaster and I want to get off it, right the fuck now.

Last night, I was harassed again leaving the metro. It was too dark to wear sunglasses, which I do whenever I can to avoid eye-contact. Judging by the number of men waiting for the bus, I considered walking through the kiss-n-ride to the sidewalk and avoiding the bus stop entirely. I told myself no, because I shouldn’t have to fear the bus stop.  So I looked straight ahead towards the crosswalk and marched forward.  I had almost made it through the gauntlet, past the first two bus shelters, rounding the corner, when someone decided to open their god damn mouth with a “oohhhh hey sexy” *leer*. So I told him off, “Stop harassing women!” He made a laugh, a derisive dismissal, so I continued. “It’s called street harassment. It’s unwanted sexual advances.” Was the only thing I could push out of my mouth as the heat filled my face and my heart threatened to choke me. He made a whatever and I continued, picking up the pace to the crosswalk.

He walked the same path.  My worst fear- it looks like we’re neighbors.  He walked into my community. I remained quiet and kept walking behind him. He would look over his shoulder to see if I was still there. Finally, he asks, “You live here?” In a confused way. When I affirmed, he apologized! I was.. shocked! I said OK and kept walking. He walked down the same hill I usually walk to get to my house, but still feeling pretty uncomfortable, I decided to walk one more street over and take that hill down instead. I was actually about to tweet that this guy apologized, holy shit guys, but then he yelled out as I walked away “Bye sexy!” and I wanted to bash my face repeatedly into a wall.

When I made it to the bottom of the hill, he was walking up the same block I live on. I waved at my neighbor next door and rushed into my house. I was safe. I was home. But all the joy and excitement from nailing the Extended Butterfly in pole class, the happy highs of my friends at the gym, had vanished. I moved from anxiety to rage, and ranted extensively about street harassment and rape culture to my husband.

I paced around angrily for a while. I showed my husband the Extended Butterfly, and ate dinner, still mad. By the end of dinner and the glass of wine, I was still angry, almost shaking, so I self-medicated. And I felt better by the end of the bowl.


Maybe if more people, men and women alike, speak up against street harassment, the cultural attitude will change.


But I shouldn’t have to do this. I shouldn’t have to fear walking from the metro, or from my office to the grocery store. I shouldn’t have to deal with the gauntlet that is the New Carrollton kiss-n-ride. No woman should.  We deserve respect and to be left alone. Me leaving my house ≠ inviting strangers to comment on my body and make me feel uncomfortable.

The WMATA Stop Harassment campaign is a good start. I hope the transit authority takes my request to put the posters in the bus shelters seriously. April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. I decided to write the First Lady to see if she can lend a voice to this pervasive problem. It’s a pie in the sky that she may read my letter, but street harassment needs to become a regular part of our national conversation on respecting women’s autonomy.

She may never read my letter. The guys I tell to stop harassing me may continue to dismiss me.  WMATA may never put up those posters in the bus shelter. But I, for one, refuse to be silent about harassment. I will keep telling men to stop harassing women, though I fear violent retaliation.  Because silence helps no one. Maybe if more people, men and women alike, speak up against street harassment, the cultural attitude will change.  If children and teens are taught about harassment and consent, if women, men, the media, celebrities and people in authority decry street harassment and make it socially unacceptable, things will change.

Change is slow. But like my husband says – culture and the status-quo is a very large boat to turn around. Progress is slow, but the great thing about large boats turning is that once it starts to turn, it’s very hard to push it back around.

Today is my birthday. I am 29 years old. I will stand up to street harassment. Maybe if I keep standing, and keep fighting, and others keep fighting, we can turn this culture boat around so everyone can walk home without fear of harassment.

This piece was originally published on Dechanique’s blog.


MORE FROM “My Streets, Too”:

ABOUT “MY STREETS, TOO”
“My Streets, Too” is CASS’s ongoing series on personal writings on street harassment by members of the DC community. Email Renee to submit writings using your full name, initials, or anonymously (just let us know). Please be sure to use the subject line “My Streets, Too.”

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