On #YouOKSis and Bystander Intervention (A Round Up Guide)

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.

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Image courtesy of Terrell Starr via NewsOne.com

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

A blog by a woman who was attacked simply for tweeting this article about another woman’s experience with street harassment and the reactions to the hashtag she observed.

5 Things We Can Teach Our Sons About Street Harassment

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.

Added 7/24/14: One of my followers put me onto this song “Notice” by an artist named Deniro Farrar. He addresses street harassment and the challenges Black women face day in and day out. I thought it added context to this discussion.

 

Don’t Believe The Absentee Hype– A Photo Project

Black men are often vilified as being perpetually absent in their children’s lives. People use statistics about Black children being born out-of-wedlock and/or being raised in homes with only one parent living there (usually the mother) to suggest that Black men are, by default, absent fathers.

This is a narrative we need to change because it is simply not true.

The truth is, the Black Family structure has faced unique challenges ever since Africans were kidnapped, traded, and sold into American slavery. Slavery forced Black people to adapt to new family structures and create family in the best ways they could. Yes, there has been a lot of pain and hurt– there’s absolutely no denying that. We also cannot deny that the measures used to critique our families often vilify both Black fathers and Black mothers.

I want to do something to help.

I’m creating “Don’t Believe The Absentee Hype” as a photo essay on Tumblr, a work-in-progress. As I did with Men In Suits and The Hoodie Revolution, I hope to project positive images of Black manhood, through the lens of someone who adores them greatly. I hope to encourage more support and understanding of the challenges facing Black fathers and use their images to change the narrative.

I need your help.
1930740_574955766877_3842_nMy ex-husband and our son, Garvey

While I plan to capture my own photos, I cannot be everywhere at once. I would LOVE to receive photo submissions of Black men with their children. It can be you, your brother, your husband, your son, your father, your best friend.

  • Photos should be Hi-Res (No Instagram photos. No filters)
  • Include the Father’s first name, age, and the children’s first names and ages. If you’re uncomfortable revealing the children’s names, you can provide initials.

Send all photos and information to info@feministajones.com

 

Feminista Jones on @ExhaleTV Discussing Sex-Positive Feminism

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I had the honor of being invited to participate in this wonderful show with Issa Rae, Rene Syler, and Erin Jackson (with other guests Tracey Ellis Ross, Sahar Simmons, and Kimberle Crenshaw). It was a wonderful discussion and I’m so glad to bring the message of sex-positive feminism to the entire country.

I hope you enjoy!

Video was recorded by me, but all rights are reserved by Aspire Network and Exhale TV show

Check out official promo clips ONE and TWO courtesy of Exhale TV Show and Aspire Network10310523_643914332350473_6436988222354483783_n

 

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Feminista Jones on #ablackshow Episode 4: Ramaa Mosley, Donald Sterling, and more

Check me out on Episode 4 of #ablackshow with Elon James

I even have my own GIF

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If you can’t load the video, click here to watch

Suicide is Not Selfish via @BlogHer

I don’t want to hear another person say that suicide is “selfish”.

I am absolutely fed up and done with this idea that because someone took his or her own life, that someone acted selfishly and without consideration of the feelings of others and the impact such an act would have on the lives of others. Many of us were heartbroken after learning that Karyn Washington, blogger and founder of For Brown Girlspassed away in what appears to have been suicide. Those who were close acknowledged that she battled depression and was having some personal struggles. None of us will ever truly know what pain she was in, however, and that is why no one should refer to what she did as “selfish”. As a Black woman, I understand a lot of the unique burdens that we bear and have had to carry for generations. I have written about how we absorb so much pain, silently, because we’re expected to be “strong” and to endure everything and be the sources of strength for everyone.

@thetrudz tweet

Tweet: @thetrudz

Read more on BlogHer

Race & Motherhood on @thefrisky

I was invited to weigh in on the recent arrest of Debra Harrell, a Black mother who left her daughter in a park a few hundred feet away from where she worked. This arrest sparked a lot of discussion about Black motherhood, racist approaches to demonizing certain mothers, and how we need to do more to support poor families in need of childcare and employment opportunities.

Check out this article at TheFrisky.com featuring me and these wonderful women:

Being Feminist Makes Me a Better Man

June  is Guest Blogger Month here at FeministaJones.Com . I solicited a few bloggers, writers, poets, etc to contribute posts lending their perspectives and experiences on feminism, race, mental health, sexuality, relationships, liberation, sex, and everything this blog is about. I hope you appreciate their contributions as much as I have. If you’re interested in being featured, please submit your pitches to info@feministajones.com

 

“…our real responsibility is to endlessly redefine each other. I cannot live without you, and you cannot live without me – and the children can’t live without us,” says James Baldwin.

“But we have to define ourselves for each other,” replies Audre Lorde.

My journey of becoming a Black Male Feminist has been a filled with lot of questions, answers, problems, solutions, debates, compromises, allegations, apologies, misunderstanding, light-bulb moments, and a whole lot of ambivalent emotions. But Feminism has undoubtedly made me a better person. In fact, it taught me more about manhood than I even (at least consciously) intended it to. 

Earlier in my engagement into Black Feminism, I wondered why Black women always wanted to talk about differences. Sometimes it felt like they were positing differences on me that I didn’t even know we had. Some were obvious and I conceded, while others seem fabricated. Plus we have enough shared history, shared triumphs, trials, and tribulations we can speak on. Why concentrate so hard on how we are different? Doesn’t that hinder solidarity? My thought process probably mirrored a liberal who swears they don’t see race; well-intentioned, but ultimately misguided.

As I dug deeper into the concepts of Black Feminism, I began to understand why it is so important for men and women to discuss and embrace our differences. This enlightenment was furthered when I read a conversation between famous revolutionary thinkers James Baldwin and Audre Lorde. The dialogue (originally published in ESSENCE Magazine in 1984) was about the importance of recognizing that shared racial histories cannot overshadow divergent gendered histories between Black men and women.  

Voicing our differences is not inherently a bad thing. If we only deal with how we are the same, it leaves us grossly unequipped to address our deep grievances when one confronts the other. No wonder why we implode into Men Vs. Women debates at the slightest provocation.

“When we deal with sameness only, we develop weapons that we use against each other when the differences become apparent.” – Audre Lorde

Many discussions with gendered perspectives quickly turn into arguments. There are times when these exchanges go from heated, but respectful debates to all out finger pointing; a tennis game of “Men do ABC!” to “But women do XYZ!” Wounds are opened, and no one wins. This is far more dangerous than it is constructive, especially for Black people, because we intimately know each other’s secrets. It doesn’t take much effort to open each other’s closet and expose the skeletons inside.

5677353297_96bf076a5e_zImage: mbf2012 via Flickr

 

A big reason why men need to engage in feminism is because these type of arguments play right into the cards of sexism (and sometimes racism). At the end of the day, the vast majority of these heated arguments (win, lose, or draw) ultimately benefits men, and hurts women.

Men in all walks of life provide cautionary tales against “loving these hoes”, but rarely question how their sexual exploits reflects on their own lack character and willpower. Both sexes go on Facebook and shame the around-the-way girls for getting pregnant at a young age, chastising them as if their mistake is clearly of indicative their lack of self-respect, dignity, and moral fortitude. At the same time, we act as if these babies (in Lorde’s words) happened from “immaculate conception”; as if babies fall from the sky, landing in the arm of fast little girls. 

A man who has copious amounts of sex is “The King”. A woman who does that is a variation of many words, all meaning “slut”. A man who is assertive is being a man. A woman is being assertive is a bitch. Men are socialized at a very young age that one of your central preoccupations in life is to have as much sex with as many women as possible. Women are taught to guard their chastity as if their souls depended on it, to neither succumb to their natural urges, nor those of horny men, arrive at marriage a virgin, and somehow be a porn-star with their husbands. Men are taught that violence is a suitable conflict resolution, but society never admits how that notion materializes into violence against women. These types of contradiction aren’t sustainable interactions between sexes. This is not yin and yang. This is not what harmony looks like.

I can admit, there are times some ideas (if left un-engaged) in Feminism can feel like an attack on men (especially Black men, since we are often presented as a caricature of the masculinity’s most extreme traits). But I’m sure the ambivalent emotions are similar to how a white person in this country feels when Black people speak about racism, or a rich person passing the homeless on the way to work each morning. Defenses kick in, there’s mixture of hurt, guilt, anger, deflection, fear, a tendency to personalize (even though the problem is systemic), to deny, to moralize in your favor, to make your experience the judge and jury, to “other-ize”, and retaliate with passivity or aggression. 

Like racism, classism, and many other social ills, sexism is a problem exacerbated by ignorance. In his classic novel “The Fire Next Time”, James Baldwin says “whatever White people do not know about Negroes reveals, precisely and inexorably, what they do not know about themselves”.

If you look at the quote, you can substitute “White people” and “Negroes” with virtually an historical oppressor-oppressed pairing (rich/poor, hetero-sexual/LGTBQ, etc.) or swap out “themselves” with “history”, and it would still hold true. Insert “Men” and “Women” into the phrase, and you can see why men need to engage in Feminism.

What men don’t know about women ultimately reveals what we don’t know about us; about the ways society’s prevalent conception of masculinity can constrict and corrupt us, while menacing women.

Ironically, when I started engaging Black Feminism, started reading Maya Angelou, reading bell hooks and dream hampton and Audre Lorde and Angela Davis, bumping Rapsody on my iPod, I learned more about the reality of women. The trick, however, was that I actually was learning much more about myself than I was about being a woman. And maybe that was my hidden intention in the first place.

I love being a man. I have a certain perspective simply because I am a man and not a woman. And I wholeheartedly think (whether it is true or not) that there are things about being a man that women can’t understand, and vice versa. But there is no irony in the fact that there are things I don’t know about myself, about manhood, because I am a man. And in turn, there’s stuff women know much more about than I do; about me, about masculinity, about how the world works, simply because they are a Woman. They have to know about it in order to survive, just like Black people had to understand white people in order to survive racism, or gays have to be aware of heterosexuals’ fear to survive homophobia. So it may be counter-intuitive, but Feminism may be one of the best ways for a man to “Man Up”. 

We can’t make society more inclusive for men and women until we both understand each other. But it’s just as important to know yourself. And you can only change yourself if you know yourself.

I am a man. Being a Feminist doesn’t make me “feminine”. It makes me a better, more complete man than I was before.

 Joshua Adams is an arts & culture journalist from Chicago, currently attending grad school at USC. Music and writing are his biggest passions, connecting the dots is his life goal. Follow him on Twitter: @iRockJoshA

A Violation Like No Other

June  is Guest Blogger Month here at FeministaJones.Com . I solicited a few bloggers, writers, poets, etc to contribute posts lending their perspectives and experiences on feminism, race, mental health, sexuality, relationships, liberation, sex, and everything this blog is about. I hope you appreciate their contributions as much as I have. If you’re interested in being featured, please submit your pitches to info@feministajones.com

TW: sexual assault, transphobic violence, stalking

 Editor’s Note: A young trans woman asked me to give her space to share her story. Sometimes, just being heard helps ease the burden of bearing these experiences alone and in silence.

Rape. Stalking. Threats of violence.

These were not what I had in mind when I went to University. I knew that they happened on college campuses all the time and I knew that as a woman, as a transsexual, I do have the risk of experiencing violence during my college career. I did not know that all I had to do was leave my dorm to experience it.

I’d forgotten that I should expect violence. My punishment for this trespass was rape, stalking, and threats of violence from several men on campus. The details of my rape, although important, are irrelevant to this story. I won’t bore you with the details and circumstances.

Raped by a man who used his sinister charm and disarming personality, stalked by a man who lied to find me, and being threatened with violence in the middle of University’s busiest walkway with nobody in sight to stop him; all of this is enough to break a person down but the finishing blow comes with the double betrayal: institutional betrayal and abandonment.

For the rape, I’d been punished for the consumption of alcohol (I was 21, legal drinking age). During the questioning, the school official told me that only questions related to the drinking would be asked and that questions regarding the guest would not be. This was a lie, I was forced under threat of punishment to divulge the details of my rape. From here, everyone had been told. Most frighteningly, students had been told of my rape. In multiple victim-blaming opinion pieces and editorials in the University student newspaper, The News, appeared my location and details of my rape that were not supposed to have been public knowledge.

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Image: Devon Buchannan via Flickr

The only information that is required to be published is that a rape happened, because of laws regarding campus safety. Details of my case that do not appear in campus crime logs were given to student writers, however. I tried to allow the event to pass, but I couldn’t stand the pressure and had a mental breakdown that included a plan to throw myself in front of a subway train. Even after an attempt to stop further stories from coming out that included details, yet another story came out after I’d been released from the hospital!

From the start, the rape investigation had been botched. Nobody took my rapist’s name down and guest logs from that day vanished. Further, nobody bothered to ask why he was in a rush to leave. The worst of all, nobody took any of the physical evidence he’d left on me. If I’d chosen to press charges at that very moment, there wouldn’t have been a case against him because they let the evidence walk away or disappear. When I’d chosen to press charges, the University Police Department cop on my case never even returned my phone call.

Even though I couldn’t get justice – or even my rapist’s name – I tried getting support from on-campus resources. Their biggest resource and the secondary jewel in the school’s student life crown, the Wellness Resource Center, denied helping me. Their reason? Officially, because rape was “outside of their jurisdiction”. Unofficially, according to an administrator in the school’s Office of University Housing and Residential Life, because I am a transsexual and helping me would be the same as helping a male. It should be noted that their peer counselors and professional staff pride themselves on strides made to support male and “LGBT” survivors. I quickly discovered that what they would say they were capable of and what they were willing to do were two separate things.

The University’s own sexual assault policies never followed through for me, no matter how much I asked:

“Regardless of whether a victim elects to pursue a criminal complaint, the university will assist victims of sexual assault, domestic violence, dating violence, and stalking. To the extent of the victim’s cooperation and consent, university offices, including Campus Safety Services, Counseling Services, the Wellness Resource Center, and the special services manager at Campus Safety Services will work cooperatively to ensure that the complainant’s health, physical safety, and academic status are protected, pending the outcome of a formal university investigation of the complaint. For example, if reasonably available, a complainant may be offered changes to academic or living situations in addition to counseling, health services and assistance in notifying appropriate local law enforcement.”

The heartbreak I felt when my university wouldn’t help me, wouldn’t follow through with their legal and moral responsibilities, was still nothing in comparison to the fear I lived in because of the stalker that I had. My stalker first met me outside of my building, and continued to harass me whenever he’d see me. I kept going to the Wellness Resource Center and 9 times out of 10, could never reach a professional staff member. On the one time I managed to, I was given the “rape is out of our jurisdiction” line and told to go to Campus Safety and Security for help with my stalker. CSS refused to help me, stating that I should “find my own stalker” or “have a friend find out about him”.

The third incident which sealed my fear of being on campus into place was when a student tried to attack me and threatened my life and safety on the most used walkway on main campus and nobody helped me. I’d been walking home from the store when he got in my face, calling me a “f*ggot” and other anti-gay and anti-trans slurs, telling me he’d crack my skull. There were no security guards in that area and when I’d called UPD, they laughed at me and hung up. When an incident such as that happens on campus, we’re explicitly told not to call 911 and to call their police. Had I not ran from that situation, anything could have happened to me that night and nobody would have done a thing. The University prides itself on being a University that values diversity, but that’s not the reality. They turn a blind eye to students who menace women and LGBT individuals.

I could never walk around campus without looking over my shoulder at any time of day again. I developed crippling C-PTSD that left me having panic attacks any time a male would come near me. Even when I was with my best friend, I never stopped scanning the room, just in case my stalker might appear. And, like clockwork, he did appear. He harassed me in the middle of a school office and all I could do was sit and shake like a little girl afraid of the dark. I lived, and to an extent, continue to live my life in fear even when I’m away from campus. What was supposed to be one of many achievements was seared into my memory and my body as scar.

Princess is a 22 year old trans woman of color nerd, writer, and activist. Her work focuses on trans survivors of sexual violence

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