hey richmond, i’m a co-founder of hollaback rva, an organization which you may have noticed has little to no presence in richmond. that is because i have no leadership/organization management skills or experience and we have virtually no members! i signed onto hollaback a long time ago because i believe in what it represents, but due to personal and mental health issues i really can’t hold it up anymore. if you and your plucky team of social activists/internet dwellers have any interest in helping to shoulder the responsibility of keeping the various hollaback rva sites active (facebook, tumblr, twitter, and the official wordpress where people can share their street harassment experiences) or in creating a physical presence in the city, PLEASE email firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll gladly give you a rundown of what’s going on!
I’ve reported on stop and frisk for two years, and in that time I’ve talked to young men who have experienced stop-and-frisk, and the stories they tell are harrowing. A black teenager in Bedford-Stuyvesant described how embarrassed he was to have “old ladies” watch as his pants landed around his ankles while police searched him. A 17-year-old in the Bronx explained that police, “They go in my pants. You’re not supposed to go in my pants.” Being touched by a female police officer can be especially upsetting for adolescent males. “It’s annoying because it doesn’t matter what kind of cop it is, female or male, they’re gonna frisk you. If you say something to the female about it, the female says something to you like ‘What? I can do what I want.’ And they still frisk you. You can’t say sexual harassment, nothing,” 18-year-old South Bronx resident Garnell told me last year, adding, “And they go hard, grabbing stuff they’re not supposed to.”
A New York attorney told me last year he has video of a cop saying he just “credit card-swiped” a man’s ass — without gloves, naturally. What kind of gun can fit between two butt cheeks? And why are cops touching penises, anyway? The answer is simple: They’re not looking for guns, but hoping to make arrests. While stop-and-frisk is only legally allowed for the purpose of uncovering weapons, it has been linked to far more low-level summonses and pot busts than guns. As 18-year-old Lower East resident “Twin” recently told me, “They run their hands down your ass crack because they think you’re hiding drugs there.” In the public housing on Baruch Street, he says police hang out until they see someone “suspicious” enough to grope.
Reporters also tend to cling to the idea that, while suspicion of unlawful activity is a legal prerequisite to a street stop, the vast majority of stops — nearly 90% — do not result in arrest. The 10% that do, however, deserve mention. Manhattan federal judge Shira Scheindlin recently ordered an immediate cease to police stops outside of Bronx private housing (before temporarily lifting the ban while she determines a remedy), citing the commonality of suspicionless stops. As the Bronx district attorney’s office noted this fall when it announced refusal to prosecute trespassing charges, unlawful stop-and-frisks were leading to bogus arrests. Imagine your son going to his friend’s house and missing curfew because, unable to prove he lived at the building he was exiting, he had been arrested for trespass. Or, imagine being the mother of a 12-year-old who went out to shoot hoops in Brownsville, Brooklyn — one of the city’s most violent neighborhoods — and was missing for hours, only to find out he had been taken down to the precinct to determine his identification following a street stop.
Never mind that they’re not old enough to drive, brown and black kids in New York carry IDs for different reasons. For older-looking teens in high stop-and-frisk neighborhoods, their first arrests came when they failed to produce valid ID during a street stop. As one community affairs officer in Brownsville told me after I inquired about the arrest of a 12-year-old without ID: “Well, does he look older?” He looked about 14 — old enough for the NYPD to declare his underwear suspicious enough to be searched. Stop-and-frisk happens to young males in some neighborhoods so often— almost daily, in fact — that it becomes a part of their everyday life.
With cops regularly shoving their hands down the pants of teenagers in particular neighborhoods, it should come as no surprise that they sometimes pull out a bag of weed. In these situations, an illegal search can quickly become a bogus marijuana charge. Queens College sociologist Harry Levine’s work demonstrates that this is precisely why 50,000 New Yorkers (mostly in the same neighborhoods where stop-and-frisk is prevalent) are arrested annually for pot in public. Once the cops remove weed from a kid’s pocket, they can deem it “in public view,” a more serious offense than marijuana that is concealed. Controversy over these nonsensical arrests led NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly to send an internal memo to the NYPD, advising police that weed they bring into public view cannot be prosecuted as if the kid was smoking or waving his weed around for the cops to see. It is also why Governor Andrew Cuomo is pushing for the decriminalization of marijuana in public view. In a city full of white, bong-smoking college students, almost 90% of those arrested for pot are black or Latino.
But it’s not just marijuana arrests that are linked to stop-and-frisk. The racial profiling tool provides the initial contact that can lead to a citation necessary to fill a quota. The NYPD follows the “Broken Windows” strategy of policing, in which a zero-tolerance policy for low-level crimes is expected to drive down more serious crimes like shootings. Thus, in the same neighborhoods where police deploy stop-and-frisk, a teen can’t ride a bike on the sidewalk without getting a ticket.
A catcall is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The purity myth is entirely about reminding you that you are not yours. The fetishization of female purity in a world where catcalls are an acceptable form of communication telegraphs one thing very clearly:
“Women, stop sexualizing yourselves—that’s our job, and you’re taking all the fun out of it.”
The sexualization of women is only appealing if it’s nonconsensual. Otherwise it’s “sluttiness,” and sluttiness is agency and agency is threatening."
trigger warning: street harassment, sexual harassmentA shocking video has been released by the UN, putting viewers in the shoes of an average female in Egypt and the sexual harassment she’s faced with around every corner. We say, it’s about time.
We live in a society that glorifies sexual assault to a degree that when I was a teenager I asked myself whether something was wrong with me for not being groped in the streets. The pride with which my classmates spoke of how apparently every random male hit on them made me wonder whether I was just too ugly to be desired. Something is rotten when harassment becomes the means young girls are taught to determine their self-worth with.
street harassment is really a luck-of-the-draw style phenomenon, the levels you’re exposed to depend on where you live and who you’re around. on MULTIPLE occasions i have seen men accidentally cat-call other men out of cars, simply because the men on the street had long hair and were seen from behind (and assumed to be women).
on the flip side, i know that women with short hair are publicly “hit on” less often, because their presentation is considered less feminine and they are therefore perceived as more intimidating.
you have to remember that street harassment is not about trying to make connections with other people, it’s about affirming a power structure and reminding women (or queer people, or fat people, or POCs) that we are below the harasser. that we don’t have a right to space.
it’s really not about compliments! real compliments are much rarer unfortunately. apparently it’s easier for people to yell “nice tits!” at a stranger than to say something kind and well thought out to somebody. anyway, if you’ve never been harassed, i really hope you don’t see this as somehow a failure about yourself because it reeeaallly isn’t. you can just chalk it up to chance.