Collective Action Success! BareMinerals Ditches Sexist, Pro-Street Harassment Campaign

This weekend, DC resident Sara Alcid was appalled and outraged when she went to cheer on friends at the Nike Women’s Marathon in DC and saw groups of men holding sexist signs commenting on the women runner’s looks and clothing. Sara found out that the signs were a part of BareMinerals by Bare Escentuals’ “Go Bare” campaign and tour, and DC was the tour’s first stop. Next step: Sara partnered with CASS and Holly Kearl of Stop Street Harassment (SSH) to launch a petition for BareMinerals to stop promoting street harassment and objectifying women runners.

Photos of BareMinerals’ #GoBare campaign at the April 28th Nike Women’s Marathon in DC. Credit: Sara Alcid

Street harassment is no joke. According to research conducted by Kearl, 99 percent of women experience street harassment in the form of sexualy explicit comments, sexist remarks, groping, leering, stalking, public masturbation and assault. What’s more, Kearl found that 46 percent of women said they exercised at a gym because of fear of harassment and assault while outdoors.

We’re HAPPY to report that within just a few hours of launching the petition yesterday morning, BareMinerals contacted Sara and CASS and SSH to let us know that they will NOT be using the signs again. We held a phone call with BareMinerals later yesterday evening, and we were pleased with their genuine regret at having promoted sexual harassment and trivialized women runners.

The following sums up their response:

“First and foremost, we want to say how incredibly sorry we are that we caused any offense. Our messages were meant to motivate and support but you’ve made us realize that not everybody would find these messages motivational or supportive. It’s ironic because you’re exactly the kind of women that we are inspired by because you’re fighting the good fight and standing up for women. Our mission is to make a positive difference in women’s lives and to inspire women to be their very best. So to know that this is not what was translated on the street really pains us. We take your concerns so seriously, and we really believe this is a learning opportunity for our brand. Please rest assured that these signs will not be used going forward on the Go Bare tour. We’re glad we’re having this chance to learn.”

We want to take a moment to thank the BareMinerals team for showing a commitment to women’s concerns, particularly those regarding their freedom from street harassment and sexual objectification. In an act of showing BareMinerals and other companies like it that women respond positively to marketing decisions that value them, we encourage you to send a tweet:

Dear @BareMinerals: Thank you for listening to women’s concerns & taking #streetharassment seriously! #fem2 #endSH

Most importantly, we want to send a huge thanks to everyone who helped tweet and petition to send our message. Your support and activism are the very core of our mission, which holds that — together — we can collectively prevent street harassment (including a culture that normalizes it) and create safe spaces for all.

Thanks, CASS community! Working together to prevent public sexual harassment.

Thanks, CASS community! Working together to prevent public sexual harassment.

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 #GoBare

Tell @bareMinerals: Women didn’t run the @runnikewomen marathon 2b objectified & leered at by random men #GoBare

What Steubenville Tells Us About Rape Culture

By Meredith Whitfield

Here’s the thing about rape culture. It’s scary.

It reminds us that sexual assault necessarily involves the dehumanization of victims, and it reminds us how callous the world can be to those who need help. Rape culture’s MO keeps its players largely silent, so it hasn’t overtly reminded us of its unreasonable expectations about about how women should handle our bodies. In advancing the state of the ongoing dialogue about sexual assault and explaining the problem of rape culture to those who might not understand what it’s like to be a victim, the mainstream media reaction to the Steubenville case has served to reassure us that, hey, rape culture is still scary.

If you haven’t been glued to the internet, here’s the Cliff’s notes version of what’s been going on. Two high school football players, Trent Mays and Ma’lik Richmond, raped a female classmate in Steubenville, OH, last summer. They photographed and videotaped the incident and posted the photos online, and they were tried in juvenile court in March. The trial involved the introduction into evidence of the horrifying and exploitative internet posts, which were shared online by the victim’s classmates. She testified about waking up in a basement, confused and disoriented, and learning what had happened to her through this series of photos.

The verdict came down on March 17, 2013, stating that each defendant will serve a year for the rape itself, and Mays will serve an additional year for “illegal use of a minor in nudity-oriented material.” In the media, the rapists were painted as victims, bright-eyed football players with their whole lives ahead of them, futures crushed by this unfortunate circumstance. Candy Crowley of CNN offered this particular commentary: “…Regardless of what big football players they are, the other one just seventeen, a sixteen year old victim, they still sound like sixteen-year-olds… The thing is, what’s the lasting effect, though, on two young men being found guilty in juvenile court of rape, essentially?”

CNN and other major media outlets have come under fire for their twisted treatment of the story, which heroized the rapists, engaged in rampant victim-blaming, and, in the case of FOX News, even outed the victim’s identity. Bloggers and online sources have dissected the problem ad nauseam, through the lenses of rape apology, of intersectional phenomena, from the athetic-hero angle, and, my favorite, Henry Rollins’s lengthy rumination on the contributing forces of female objectification.

This is where the idea of rape culture transcends the specifics of an exploitative situation: the media. Not everybody knows what it’s like to be a victim, to know a victim, or to watch someone be victimized, and we, societally, rely on media coverage to form opinions and appropriate postures about events. This creates the situational analogue that includes rape, sexual assault, and sexual harassment. I swap stories with my gay friends and female friends about the first time we told the straight dudes in our lives what it’s like to walk down the street alone. Most of them reacted the same way: disbelief.

The way our society works ensures that some people have no firsthand knowledge of stares or comments or touches. No understanding of the subtle intimidation of being outnumbered, of sizing up the people passing you on the street, just in case. No familiarity with an unsupportive community of hemline watchdogs and conspiracy theorists.

Steubenville has a lot to teach us, and the competing cacophony of would-be lessons and persistent rape apologists makes the takeaway hard to digest. And that’s very fair. A balanced understanding of how Steubenville affects rape culture in the US requires an appropriate placement of the incident in a feminist framework. It raises issues of anger and revenge, of the lack of media coverage of LGBT sexual assaults, of the interplay of class and race. The issue is complex, and it deserves a complex and thoughtful call to action.

Here’s what I think the Big Takeaway Question from Steubenville needs to be: “How do we keep this, and stuff like it, from happening again?”

It requires institutional change and allies, it requires an unwavering concerted effort to change the mantra “don’t get raped’ to “don’t rape.” It requires the uncomfortable courage of talking back. It requires respect and patience and education. It requires every sixteen-year-old kid to know what consent is, to know what abuse is, to know what boundaries are, and to understand that certain actions dehumanize. It requires a strong counterculture led by strong advocates who understand the crucial nature of subtle defiance. Healing this disease requires creating a culture of empathy, which can only be achieved by treating people like…. people.

At the time I’m writing this, the AP broke a story out of Torrington, Connecticut about two 18-year-old male football players sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl.

There’s work to do.

Meredith Whitfield is a fairly new transplant to DC from Tennessee. She works for the Department of Justice and shares passions for feminism, knitting and ethiopian food (okay, maybe feminism wins).

MORE FROM “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.”