A lot has been going on in the world of social justice, particularly around “street harassment”. I first wrote about it on this blog 3 years ago, and since then, I have been rather outspoken about it. I wrote this about how I notice a difference in how I’m treated based on my hairstyle, and I featured this guest post from a brother who is vocal against SH and a woman who wanted to share her own experience with it.
It cannot be said that this is something “new” I’m taking on. This has been an issue I’ve been very passionate ever since a young college student in Washington D.C. was shot for not giving out her phone number. Soray Chemaly has a fantastic article about several incidents that made news where women were severely injured or killed because of street harassment, if you’re interested in reading more about how damaging this can be.
So one day I shared this story about how I intervened when a young mother was being harassed on the street. During this conversation, I called on everyone to just try it once…try to intervene when someone is being harassed, but in a way that won’t exacerbate the situation. @BlackGirlDanger on Twitter hashtagged my question “You ok, sis?” and so this discussion and movement came about.
This isn’t the first time SH has been addressed.Stop Telling Women to Smile is a fantastic art-as-resistence project by #Nerdland foot soldier, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. She has been bringing awareness to this phenomenon and her art is being showcased around the globe. International Street Harassment Week is a real thing. Stop Street Harassment and Holla Back! have been fighting against SH for years now, each taking their own approaches and focusing on different issues. SSH conducted a national study on SH, the first of its kind, and the reports were indicative of what we’ve always known– most women have experienced SH and quite a few men have as well. I critiqued the study because I felt that it didn’t capture the experiences of the people I feel are most vulnerable to the harshest types of SH– Black women (cis and trans). I’m also coming from a sociology/social work/ research background so the methodology was terribly flawed, IMO. I get that it was a population study, but having more men in the study than women really startled me. Nevertheless, SSH has been doing a great job of documenting resistence to SH around the globe and it is worth looking through their archives and reading about how victims in various countries are fighting back.
Street harassment is a global problem. Period.
But this time, I wanted to center the experiences of ALL Black women and discuss how our experiences are oftentimes very different from what others go through. In tweeting about it, Terrell Starr from NewsOne decided he wanted to cover the story and make a video. This really helped take the discussion to a broader platform, but also opened it to attacks. I’m not going to waste a lot of time talking about the trolling because 1. it’s been covered in a number of pieces and 2. it isn’t worth the attention. Simply put: a man seeking to promote his latest movie and make money off of the marks that blindly follow him generated a bunch of false equivalencies and lies to have a controversy to get attention and market his products. The charlatan tried it. Failed, but tried it. His mindless minions are still trolling the hashtag, but when you hate Black women (and are stunted in the areas of intelligence, critical thinking, and deductive reasoning), it’s hard to resist opportunities to attack and abuse women with the most ridiculous and illogical statements imaginable. So be it. *shrug* (Warning: A lot of the trolling contains really harsh racial slurs, sexist slurs, and is loaded with disgusting misogyny. Avoid if possible)
Here are some of the resources that I believe are essential to understanding what #YouOKSis is about. I hope they can help you out.
NewsOne Article (with video embedded)
The video as it appears on Upworthy, which was a huge signal boost, thanks to Erica William Simon. This invited a lot more people to the conversation and spread awareness of how we can all do more for each other, regardless of race, gender, religion, sexual identity, or class.
The Compilation of Tweets From the Actual #YouOKSis Chat (courtesy of Trudy from GradientLair.com). She also adds other informative links, particularly to her own writing about it. This includes how we define street harassment, the types of exderpiences we have had, and some solutions on how to safely intervene as bystanders.
My own video giving context to the discussion
An audio recording of an experience I hadJuly 17, 2014 in Detroit while attending a conference… when I tried to make it a teachable moment, despite not having to.
An article on #YouOKSis by Britni Danielle on Yahoo! News
An article by Demetria Irwin, managing editor at Jackee Reid’s Single and Living Fab site.
A bit on the vitriol the #YouOKSis chat received
As more come to my attention, I will share more resources.
Overall, we’ve received super positive feedback and support from people who feel like they now have a better idea of how they can help people who are victims of SH. Many people said they were unsure of what to do or if they could do anything but now they feel empowered to do more. That’s all I wanted, really. Come up with solutions and give Black women the opportunity to share THEIR stories. The tag is universal and everyone can weigh in. We welcome the support and want to continue to build with other movements to fight street harassment.