Alas, summer, and shorter skirts, means... degrade me please?

Alas, it's summer ladies - which of course means tank tops, shorts, skirts, dresses, anythign that doesn't let the city heat cling to our back for ours as we go about our internships, jobs, LIVES. But, unfortunately, with better weather, comes bigger creeps. Apparently us wishing to keep out body tempatures at a lower level means more gawking, more cat calls, and more attempts to "see what we're all about" -- sooo I URGE you to remember safety when going out in the summer, make sure you have a phone, keep your friends updated as to where you are, and never go home with someone when you're too intoxicated. And as always, keep us up to date on what happens to you so that others may learn from you or help!

For those of you in the Foggy Bottom area...

Here is some information on a self defense class that was given to us... sign up if you have a chance!

Hi all! Hope you are well. Here are few updates. --Lauren

Here's what you'll find below

  • Workshop for LGBTQI people is THIS Saturday...
  • Then one for teens going to college ...
  • Check out the workshops for the fall: Middle-Schoolers & Moms; Guns, Knives & More; and Intro for Women/Girls 16+
  • Where we've been
  • "I said no and I am proud"
  • Thought-provoking news

Self-defense basics for the LGBTQI community

Join us to learn: How to prevent and avoid harassment, attack, and abuse...How to stop a threatening situation with words...Moves to use against common attacks. We'll address the range of situations you might encounter, including hate crimes and abusive relationships.
  • Saturday, June 27, 11 am - 2 pm
  • For anyone who identifies as LGBTQI or an ally, ages 18 and up
  • Downtown DC at MCC (Metropolitan Community Church) (near Mt. Vernon Square/Convention Center on the Yellow and Green Lines)
  • $37 before June 19, $43 after. Sign up with a friend/family member and get $5 off each

Get ready for college: Self-defense for rising high school seniors and first-year college students

We'll address the range of situations you might encounter, including unwanted sexual attention (including rape), and use of alcohol/drugs and technology to violate boundaries.

  • Saturday, August 1, 1-4 pm
  • In Bethesda near Cedar Lane
  • $39 before July 15, $57 after. Sign up with a friend/family member and get $5 off each

Coming up

  • Intro to self defense for middle-schoolers (and moms): a Saturday in September
  • Guns, knives, and more (for those who have taken some self defense): a Saturday in October
  • Intro to self defense (for women and girls 16+): a Sunday in November

You can now pay for classes with Paypal. For more info or to register, contact me at 301-608-3708 or lauren@defendyourself.org. Limited scholarships for low-income people.

Where we've been

Some of the places we've presented in the past few months:

  • Achievers Club/Rockville Community Center
  • Akridge
  • Black Gay Pride Town Hall on Intimate Partner Violence
  • Discovery Communications
  • Go Girls!/ YMCA Youth & Family Services
  • SISTERS/Family Support Center (several elementary, middle, and high schools in Montgomery County and DC)
  • Teen Life Clubs/Children's Hospital
  • Temple Shalom
  • WIN (Women's Information Network)/Women Opening Doors for Women
  • World Bank
  • Younger Women's Task Force

Did you know Defend Yourself offers customized workshops? We will come to your workplace, community group, gathering of family/friends, Girl Scout troop, bowling or book club... you name it! The workshop can be as short or long as you like, and located conveniently for you.


Pat yourselves on the back; do this:

This is Ladies Night received this kind request from Katie Brooks, a May 'o9 graduate from William Jewell College. We think it's worth our while to give ourselves a nice pat on the back, and you should too:

"Never before has the United States seen a time period as the one we are living in now. While the primary focus currently seems to be on gas prices, the falling economy and the situation in the Middle East I'd like to focus on something more encouraging and refreshing.

In 2008 we saw our first serious female presidential candidate. The gender wage has been closing (albeit very slowly) over the past decade. More women hold positions as CEO's, small business owners and politicians than ever before in the history of America. "After World War II the civilian labor force participation for women was a paltry 32%. Today however, six decades later that rate has climbed in excess of 70%" (businessnet.com). Also, of mothers with children between the ages of 6 and 17, an astonishing 77 percent are in the labor force (Carlton Davis).
In contrast, eighty five years ago women didn't have the right to vote. Fifty years ago it was unusual for a single woman to own property. Thirty five years ago the majority of employed women were employed as either secretaries or nurses.

Today, things look vastly different. At the brink of the 21st century women in the United States have access to more and greater opportunities than ever previously. These opportunities are a product of the tireless work of women who came before.

It wasn't until the 1970's that the Ivy League and many other colleges became coed so women could attend. Today we are members of the first generation of students who considered college mandatory and unquestionable. Many parents of today's generation attended college but often were the first in their families to do so and weren't raised with the knowledge that they would undoubtedly attend.

Today educated women are entering into a world with vast, exciting and endless opportunities like never before. With the infinite possibilities the choice and path to choose may sometimes seem intimidating, frightening, exciting, overwhelming… [insert your favorite adjective here!] This though, brings me to the point of this unusual diatribe.

[As graduating or soon to be graduating students,] you have recently entered or are soon entering into a world of unlimited opportunities. How does this makes you feel? Are you intimidated? Nervous? Ready for graduate school? Law school? Preparing to travel? Already employed? Moving back home? Married? Pregnant? Excited? Are you getting the idea…?

Here's the deal; I want you to visually portray your interpretation of how you feel about entering into the real world. Specifically, I want to see your interpretation of yourself and your role, as well as how you fit in to the world today. This may be done with a photograph, a collage, a painting or drawing, a photoshoped image, etc. The image may include words or symbols, pictures, people, etc… You are the creative director!

Here are the guidelines:

The visual interpretation is limited to one image in JPEG format. (The higher quality or 'dpi' the better.)
Image should be submitted to brooksgirlproject@gmail.com
Date for completion is May 31st 2009
Image submission MUST include name, age, hometown, college attended, major, and current job (if applicable).
An optional addition is a statement or explanation of your image… feel free to leave the interpretation up to the audience though.

My name Katie Brooks, I'm 22 and will be graduating this May from William Jewell College in Liberty, MO. This is not a school assignment, just a passion project. I want to be able to share what we, as young, intelligent woman feel about our situation in the world. The ultimate goal is to publish a book with the images of young ambitious females who reside all over the United States. Therefore by submitting your image you agree and to the potential use of it in published form. I will retain the rights to include or not include the image in the book. The personal information included in the book would be the same as listed above minus your hometown and employer (I'm simply using that for demographic purposes). Should you have any questions feel free to email me at the same address; brooksgirlproject@gmail.com, and I will get back to you promptly."

Feel free to email us or Katie directly with any questions or comments on this fun opportunity.



The community service sorority Epsilon Sigma Alpha of the George Washington University is putting on a BATTLE OF THE BANDS show to raise money for ST. JUDE'S HOSPITAL on SATURDAY, MARCH 28th AT 7 PM MARVIN CENTER CONTINENTAL BALLROOM. Entry is $3 and goes to a great cause, there are bands, raffles/prizes, free food, and an all around great time! Join them in their fight against Cancer!


the language barrier

bell hooks brings up in her piece Choosing the Margin as a Space of Radical Openness (The Feminist Standpoint Theory Reader, Sandra Harding, Page 153) that "Language is a Place of Struggle. Dare I speak to oppressed and oppressor in the same voice? Dare I speak to you in a language that will move beyond the boundaries of domination - a language that will not bind you, fence you in, or hold you? The oppressed struggle in language to recover ourselves, to reconcile, to reunite, to renew. Our works are not without meaning, they are an action, a resistance. Language is also a place of struggle."

I found this to be a compelling piece because language is often thought to be the way to get across an idea or an emotion; however, more often than not people do not stop to think about the language they are using to get those ideas across, whether it be to another person or to a group or to the general public.

So here's what I propose: I challenge you to think about every word you use today. Make every word count. Think about the history that each word holds, the context you put it in, and whom you are speaking to. Think about it and see if you change your way of speaking, or if you notice everyday jargon that is loaded with history that you never even thought about before.


McCain Ingraham debate

How does everyone feel about the Meghan McCain / Laura Ingraham issue? For those of you who don't know...Meghan McCain writes on thedailybeast.com and she wrote a piece about how she feels Ann Coulter is not representing Republicans in a good manner. She writes she is not appealing and her ideals are off... this is all based on her political idea of Coulter. Laura Ingraham later on in the week on her radio show said in a valley girl voice: "Ok, I was really hoping that I was going to get that role in the 'Real World', but then I realized that, well, they don't like plus-sized models. They only like the women who look a certain way. And on this 50th anniversary of Barbie, I really have something to say."

She attacked McCain based on her size, not on her political issues, which was McCain's point. And not only that, but it was directed towards an entirely different person/issue. To that, McCain replied "kiss my fat ass."

How is it that we, as women, still try to undermine one another? Here is a woman who went to Columbia, is clearly bright, contributes to multiple academic journels, and had her opinion nationally mocked because she isn't a stick figure? How have we let this happen?



What about reproductive rights?

In connection with my last two posts, I found another academic piece that I wanted to see people's reactions to... from the piece "Reproductive and Sexual Rights: A Feminist Perspective" by Sonia Correa and Rosalind Petchesky (again from Feminist Theory Reader, page 89)

"The idea that women in particular must be able to decide whether, when and how to hace children originated in feminist-birth control movements that developed at least as early as the 1830s among the Owenite socialists in England and spread to many parts ot eh world over the course of a century. Leaders of these movements in Western countries... linked the 'problem of birth control' not only with women's struggle for social and political emancipation, but also with their need to 'own and control' their bodies and obtain secual knowledge and satisfaction. Their counterparts among women's rights advocates in 19th centure Asia, North Africa, and Latin America were more reticent about women's sexuality, emphasizing instead a negative right: that of women (married or single) to refuse unwanted sex or childbearing."

I myself found this interesting, because while the struggle for acknoledgement was universal, the reasoning was clearly western vs. eastern in ideals of why... thoughts?


In connection with the lecture last blogged bout...

Last week I posted an overview of a speech I went to on Tunisia and the terms of abortion there, and in other Islamic countries... Now that everyone has had time to digest that post, I would like to see what people think when looking at this issue in context of an excerpt from "Globalization of the Local/Localization of the Global: Mapping Transnational Women's Movements" by Amrita Basu (found in the Feminist Theory Reader by Carole McCann and Seung-Kyung Kim). The excerpt reads:

"A coalition of conservative Islamic groups and Christian anti-abortion activists sough to shape the agenda of the Cairo conference on population and development in 1994 and to influence the World Plan of Action at the Beijing conference in 1995. The coalition included some powerful nongovernmental ograniztations, such as the International Right to Life Committee and Human Life International; religious bodies, like the Vatican' and some states, preeminently the Islamic Republic of Iran. Like women's organizations, this coalition functions at local, national, and transnational levels." -pg 71

In context of this lecutre previously posted about... how does it affect your thoughts on how this all comes together, this globalization effort of feminists, with such a diverse religious group, especially the stark opposite anti-abortion groups and Islamic groups, who, in some places, do not limit the use of abortions at all... Thoughts?


Reproductive Health in North Africa and the Middle East

I recently attended a speech on Reproductive Health in North Africa and Middle East by Dr. Kimberly Mills (sponsored by Voices for Choices student group at GW). Dr Mills has researched the M.I.N.A .area, specifically focusing on Tunisia and how the reproductive health of women is addressed in the traditionally Islamic areas. She spoke on the stereotypes that befall Islamic women and MINA area because of the veils that the women wear around.

There are 4 schools of Sunni Law in Islam; 1. Hanafi 2. Maliki 3. Shafi'i 4. Habali Within these 3 schools there are different takes on the text on the subject of Abortion. From the text (in Mills' translation/in her shorthand): "When killing is a soul, it is NOT okay. The question becomes, when does ensoulment take place? Also, if the health of the mother is in jeopardy, it is necessary to abroad the fetus." From here there are many ways that the different leaders of the community can choose to translate and interpret the text. Mills said that depending on the country and who is making the laws there were changes to the Islamic law you follow.

In Tunisia; however, abortion is not considered a "big deal". Mills described how many of the women she interacted with there would ask her why they saw on TV all the protests of abortion rights in the U.S., etc. In their view it was "no one else's business". In 1980 Tunisia passed a law where there is free and on demand abortions for anyone who needs them. Previous to that, it was only married women who could get legal abortions, but in 1980 it was changed to all women. (Unmarried women have a seperate door they 'slip in through' on the side within the clinics for family planning). The ruling says that 120 days after conception is when the baby is seen to be ensouled, and so that is the "cutoff" point of when a woman can get an abortion. Tunisia is almost more progressive because women are allowed to get their own divorce, without the consent of their husbands, and they also get custody of their children if they do get a divorce. (In many countries where women can get divorces, the children still belong to the man. )

Along with abortions, family planning clinics in countries like Tunisia offer women help with baby care such as OBGYN appointments, midwife services, help feeding a baby, milking their breasts if they don't have a pump, etc.

In Saudi Arabia, the common practice of marrying your first cousin has caused an issue of genetic blood disorders within the community, so Saudi Arabia allows abortions if there is a genetic issue because of incestual pairings. In Algeria and Egypt rape is the only reason to get an abortion. In Iran there are condoms widley available, but not advertised towards women for health reasons, and abortions are limited (especially for single women). Sterilization is a process that is part of the family planning many of the M.I.N.A. countries use to stifle their population growth. In Tunisia sterelization is free. Mills found that the most common thought amongst Islamic countries is that the women are too stupid to be able to handle taking pills b/c they would forget to take them once a day, so sterilization was a better plan.

Mills said that while Tunisia is considered a non-progressive country by the US standards because the women are still seen in subservient roles, their views on reproductive helath were much farther than the US'. Mills then ended with: "They are the 'Arab light' of the Arab world - the diet coke of Arabs if you will."

Comments? Questions? Let's hear them!


Along with the blokes... what comes next?

What about other countries have people encountered? Is it worse? Better? What about the cultural divides and differences (or similarities?) that can make these lude comments continue? Is it, as suggested, that because some countries/cultures have a more tradition view of house and home and gender attitudes, that is is then okay to act this way and holler at girls disrespectfully? Or is it some combination of things? Or globalization of a media driven culture in which women are seen as the playthings for men, and therefore are treated as such? Comments...



having just moved to australia, i don't want to give it a bad name because it is awesome (enough to motivate me to move here!) but the men in brisbane, unlike what I found in sydney and melbourne, do.not.stop!!! you cannot walk past a busy street corner or a pub in the brisbane suburbs without a slew of whistles, gross up-and-downs, "hey babys," and "what the hell is your problem?!" which is particularly off-putting and usually comes after one ignores the earlier calls. its not just toward me--many many many women. more than what i experienced in washington, too!

i asked my aussie touchstone ollie what he thought about it, who explained "thats a country thing, a very blokey thing. if you walked by a man's pub in the country, they would be all over you with whistles and call-outs." ah, my favorite articulation of machismo masculinity: the aussie bloke. a man's man who plays rugby and footie and drinks grog and eats like a horse and has the upper hand on his mrs. and hates the fags and the abos (aboriginals). this seems like an over-exaggeration and in many ways this characterization is the extreme form of the case, but aspects of the "bloke" are present and reasserted everywhere, by men and women, and in cases like what i've experienced in the West End of brisbane.

and lets bust the race discussion found earlier on the blog wide open and say these are all white middle class men doing the hollering in the aussie countryside...its not a racialized phenomenon like in washington. i can assure you it is still just as off-putting.

not that it stops me! having lived in costa rica as well, a central american country so heavily immersed in machismo that the strict gender roles it entails are all but unbreakable, a place in which women come to look for and purposely elicit cat-calls and hollering, ive come to have thick enough skin to just keep on going about my day. as in washington and brisbane, you put on your sunnies and ipod to give you a feigned sense of anonymity, and keep walking...

should that have to be it?


what you can do

Street harassment, violence against women, and other forms of hate have become expected, even acceptable, realities of everyday life. Changing these realities is something only we can initiate and see through. Deviate social norms, relentlessly break your silence, cancel history and stop hatred:

"Spectatorship is all too comfortable for many individuals. In accepting hate and prejudice, whether actively or passively, the members of society are typically rewarded in both a psychological and material sense. By contrast, those relatively rare individuals who choose to violate norms of seperatism, respect diversity, and fight for the rights of exploited and victimized groups are likely to suffer loses of their own" (Levin 2002:79).

Breaking your silence and speaking out "means breaking through the cultural stereotypes and political propoganda to recognize that the members of a particular group are human beings who are worth saving" (Levin 2002:80).

People who break their silence and speak out against street harassment are "the rebels, the deviants, the incredibly decent and indepedently motivated people who, even under trying circumstances, simply (or not so simply) refused to follow the dictates of legitimate authority" (Levin 2002:91).

"Thus, if even one spectator decides to break away from the inertia of the masses and become a rebel, he or she might serve as a role model for many other bystanders to imitate" (Levin 2002:91).


on a lighter note

A comedic take on street harassment from the cultural icon Jerry Seinfield.

If you're pressed for time, This is Ladies Night recommends skipping ahead to minute three to get to the juicy part.


live from costa rica




I'm writing on behalf of This is Ladies Night from my childhood home in Costa Rica, where I'm catching up with my parents and catching wind of the latest local news. I've attached a tragically powerful and particularly personal story for you to read. A special thanks to my mommadukes for helping me prepare this post.

Like many stories, this one is best understood by reading from a range of sources, which I've tried to include here. There is another interesting report on this story that was threaded on a newsblog post and could not be linked above, so please see the "comments" link at the bottom of this post for more information.

The jist of the story is that three female employees of the swankiest hotel/casino in my town were kidnapped walking home from work, robbed, raped, and shot. One woman died and the other two survived after being left for dead.

For those of us who travel in Costa Rica and the rest of Latin America, this is not the stuff of guide books and tourist propoganda. This is the kind of violent crime that was once unsual and astonishing, and which is now becoming frequent and commonplace. With the recent influx of Western tourists, expatriates and material wealth, the increased availability of good 'stuff' to steal has led to an increase in armed theft and violent crime. Analysts predict that the troubled global economy and consequent "desperate times" it will create will only exacerbate the situation.

Most of us gringos already know not to walk outside (day or night) when avoidable, not to wear jewelry, not to use our phones or ipods or cameras in public, and to avoid any signs of vulnerability, cluelessness, or foreginness. We can no longer take public cabs (they often perform joint robberies, rapes, and murders) and cannot take pirate cabs. Some of us know not to drive alone, let alone drive without a weapon in the car. All of these precautions seemed particularly necessary due to our gringoness, foreigness, whiteness--gringoness is perceived to mean richness so we've often been dubbed the most likely targets of such crimes.

But this crime was not a crime against gringos. It was a crime against three women who had access to gringo wealth and gringo power. The White House Hotel and Casino is notorious for its extremely wealthy clientelle, and therefore their employees have come to have access to a higher level of gratuities than employees of other establishments. Was this merely a crime of opportunity, though? I think not. This crime illuminates a history of oppression on the part of the ever-so-"entitled" gringos against Latin American indigenous peoples. It is symptomatic of the uneven distribution of wealth that empowers white, normative peoples and disenfranchises non-white, non-normative indigenous peoples. It reveals the dangers of unbridled, free-market, international economies. Finally, it demonstrates the rampant misogyny that characterizes so many societies and cultures in this world.

This crime can be considered a hate crime--an overkill, overly-violent crime that exceeded the purpose of robbery. The men forced the women into their car, robbed them, took them to an ATM and forced them to withdraw money for the men. Then the crime continued to include such violent mechanisms of reclaiming perceived "threatened" power as rape and murder.

This crime sends a message to all women to stay the hell off the streets. To run inside and lock our doors in fear. Costa Rican women who upset the traditional "gender" and "race" power hierarchy by pursuing financial independence through interacting with gringos are being told to beware--the system is being policed.

This culture of fear is initiating a kind of dehumanized savagery in even the most empathetic people. My own family expressed relief over hearing about a recent motorcycle robber who was soon tracked down after commiting theft and was beaten to death by a few men's bare hands in the middle of the street.

What do we do? What do we do!

Even the way the media reports on these stories enables Costa Rican misogyny. The earlier newspaper articles covering the White House Murders did not even report the possibility of rape in the attacks. It turns out that the men took the women to a short-stay motel designed to accomodate the sex-worker industry and were denied their petition to all rent one room together by the motel manager. The men said they did not want to have to pay for two rooms. Nevertheless, the women were in fact raped in the motel before being driven around my neighborhood and shot and left for dead in several locations, all within 4 to 8 kilometeres from my house.

One newspaper also mentioned in a three line sidebar that another woman in the neigborhood was murdered that same night. She was shot in her home five times, and nothing was taken from her or her domicile.

The point here is that the pervasive boogeyman that haunts women on the streets in Washington is the same one attacking, raping and murdering people in Costa Rica and all over the world. While this tragedy was sickeningly tragic, I can't say I'm surprised--almost everyone I know here has been violently robbed, assaulted, attacked, or both.

This is life in Costa Rica, and in so many places.

This has to change.


no cell phones would have ruined me

This weekend I drove to visit some friends of mine at Villanova, by way of Baltimore to pick up a friend at Loyola. Along the drive I got lost (of course) and when I called a friend to get directions (she was at her computer) and we had been over them and I couldnt figure out what road was which (no signs, obviously) she suggested I pull over at a gas station to figure it out. Not going to lie, I took one look at the places I was passing and decided to put gas prices out of my mind and just to figure it out on my own. Why would I do that? because the thought of getting out of the car and having to walk past all these men (at some places I could see men just sitting on the curb or walking in large groups) to go ask for directions, which clearly meant I didn't belong there was just too much for me to handle. Instead I spent 30 min on the phone with a friend until she figured out what to do and I got onto the road and on my way. This of course is all in areas that I was unfamiliar with. I hate that it was the fact that I couldnt even get directions without knowing I was going to be "attacked" (definately verbally, but I was in a bad part of Balitomore, I wasnt about to chance it physically) - what did we do in the age of no cell phones?


a man just followed me home

i know i should let some more time pass before i write this...but, it has been a couple of hours so at least i will be able to restrain my strong desire to litter this post with four-letter profanities.

a man followed me home from the metro. and wouldn't take no for an answer.

like so many of my friends, i am absolutely overwhelmed with schoolwork--borderline nervous breakdown. but im trying to git 'ir done, to cope. the last week or so i've spent every waking moment when im not in class doing homework, often in the library. i stay until just before the metro closes so i can spend the tiredest part of my day commuting (thus maximizing my alert hours for quality study.)

well i won't be doing that anymore.

i was metro-ing home like usual, listening to my ipod and trying not to fall asleep. it was reasonably crowded, a typical tuesday night. i got off at my stop and after passing through the ticket-taker and approaching the stairs, the man behind me stopped to ask, "are you an actress?"

oh, COME ON!!! first of all, im wearing what i wore to class today (jeans, boots, and a long sleeve, full length baggy down jacket. ok, a different hair accessory from the norm but aren't i entitled to wear a damn hat if i want without getting FOLLOWED HOME??? i felt like what my friend described on her trip to egypt, wishing she had a veil just so she wouldnt feel so exposed and unsafe all the time) second of all, who says that?

i said no, pointed to my books and said im a student. the escalator ride up he kept talking to me so i entertained it--nothing wrong with some neighborly chit-chat. i didnt want to stereotype and assume the only reason a man talks to a woman is for sex. but at the top of the escalator after several more stomach-churning compliments thrown my way i started to panic---he better follow my lead and part ways.

instead he decided to walk in my direction, toward the absolutely deserted, unlit, silent abyss that is 11:30 pm Q street--to continue hitting on me. and with every "no" from me came a new "but" from him.

-can we get coffee/go to the park/go dancing/go drinking/hang out sometime? can i have your number? i'd like to get to know you better.
-no, but thank you. it's inappropriate/i feel uncomfortable/i have a partner and this is inappropriate altogether
-but i won't tell him.
-im just not comfortable.
-make up your mind, make a decision.
-i did, i said no.
-can i have your number?
-how can we see each other again? its harmless.

and this is the part i f**king hate. the part where i get bullied into using excuses out of fear for my safety to diffuse the situation and explain/justify my "no." using my boyfriend as protection was bad enough, but then i used the reality of my thesis taking up my whole world to justify why i have no time to make a new friend. and then i said something even worse, out of nervous fear.

i said, with my phone grasped readily in my hand in my pocket:

-maybe we'll just run into each other one day.
-how can we run into each other without phone numbers?
-i was thinking of going to the zoo this weekend...
-you should, it's good.
-yea, because i was thinking of going like saturday...

IT GETS WORSE on my part.

as we approach the corner of 18th and Q i think fast--didn't want him to know where i live--and said that was my apartment ahead of us and that im going home. really it's where my friend lives.

he insisted on hugging me and kissing my cheek goodbye. i was just too scared to cause a stir, and wanted to do whatever it took to get him to go away, to ride away on his bike. why, oh WHY did i even let it go two blocks...so many things i would have done differently but i just kept thinking, "When did No stop meaning No? How much more direct does one have to be?"

My gut is to think it's my fault, my cowtowing to his power dominance and my engagement in this situation...i think this stuff is what makes men like him think what he does is ok and makes women like me just lay down and take it. But it's NOT my fault. I've been raised by society to think of myself and expect others to treat me like a fragile egg on a spoon being carried by a man on a tightrope--there for the taking and extremely fragile. and silent.

ok, weird analogy.

but isnt it amazing, that this situation also encourages me (a) never to walk alone ever and (b) assume every man that talks to me is trying to hit on me, harrass me, or take advantage of me. Is that fair to me or to 'them'???? no.

gosh, i just wanted him to disappear, disappear into another neighborhood, another city--and to return to me my feeling of safety. i told the doorman of my friend's building to please let me in because i was being followed. he did, and so i went up to talk to my friend.

i thought about it. maybe i was overreacting, maybe he was harmless, and maybe im just easy to scare. or maybe this is a primary example of what we at This is Ladies Night hope to bring to light and STOP.

maybe it was culture-clash...he recently immigrated from jamaica, maybe women there say "no" to be coy.

I say "no" to mean "no."

i sat with megan for a long time, trying to chat away the shakiness. i scrounged quarters around her apartment so i could take a $5 cab for the four blocks from her place to my place. i told the cab driver why i was cabbing such a short distance and he waited for me to be inside my front gate before driving off (nice guy.) now it's 2 am, my whole plan for productivity tomorrow is set back because i'll inevitably be tired, and im seriously thinking ill never commute home at night again (unless with a group, of course.) BTW, he lives a block from me, but he doesn't know that, of course.

why is this our status quo?

why doesn't "no" mean "no"?

i was seriously frightened.


Breaking the Silence

A friend of This is Ladies Night shared with us this brave example of how she broke the silence (ok, and maybe the car door):

"I was leaving work one night and as I was walking home I encountered a car with three men. They were stopped at the stoplight and I was crossing the street to go back home. All of the sudden, they started making cat calls out their window. Instead of reacting I pretended I just didn't hear them. Well apparently that infuriated them because then they started shouting out the window that I was fat and ugly. I was already in a bad mood from work, and I was not going to pretend I didn't hear those comments. I went right up to their car and started kicking it, trying to make as many dents in it as possible. I was so furious, I was yelling obscenities and kicking their front lights and the sides of the doors. Then they started threatening to hurt me so I backed off and went home. It was late at night, there were three large men and I was by myself, but I think they got the message, and hopefully they will think twice about harassing another girl from their car!"


Article in Boston Globe

This is an article we just found that was printed in the Boston Globe about the growing fight against harassment in the streets.


Who are these guys?

In addition to thinking about what happens on Halloween night, I want to encourage bloggers to think about what role race plays in cat-calling and how cat-calling/hollering makes you feel. Barbara Perry notes that the sexuality of men of color/nonwhite men is often constructed as "dangerous," or they're portrayed as oversexed (In the Name of Hate). Do you think this is true? How does this affect a woman's (or your) decisions to go out at night alone, or your fear of men hollering (if you do fear it)? It would be interesting to hear viewpoints on this idea and how race affects how you perceive the cat-calling. Does the race of the guy who's calling affect whether you feel fearful? If you picture a guy cat-calling who is he? And you don't have to focus on race. Is he rich, poor? Old or young? Why do you think of him like this? Feel free to discuss!


Mean Girls Halloween Quote

With Halloween coming up we only felt it appropriate to ask this of our readers... what are the rules on Halloween? Girls are assumed to dress up as a scantily clad animal, actress, or just plan scantily clad girl - does this change the cat-calling mantra? Do you find yourself saying it's okay to dress up like that, then get catcalled but it's funny and appropriate and most likely going to happen because of how you're dressed? Let us know!

Of course, here's the popular culture reference to this dilemma of Halloween once a girl graduates from being their favorite character from the American Girl Collection. Gotta dress like a slut... or look like... :


What do people think about this?

One comment about being cat-called was this one:

Molly said...

I totally understand why these types of comments upset people and I agree that they can be offensive but I must say it really doesn't bother me at all. Clearly these guys aren't choosey about who they talk to and I certainly doubt they actually expect someone to stop what theyre doing and take them up on their charming offers, so as far as I'm concerned it's just more noise. I ignore sirens and car horns both of which are annoying and distracting; I think of cat-calls the same way. They're just background noise. Ive gotten so good at ignoring them that at this point I often don't even notice it happens until a friend points it out. And I know it is waaaaayy more common for guys to do this, but I've heard women do it too.

This is different than what most women have posted on here... what are everyone's thoughts?

Breaking the Silence

Found this great quote in Chapter 19 of Barbara Perry's "Hate and Bias Crime: A Reader"

Regarding gender bias, "by recognizing the group-based animosity underlying these victimizations, we not only decry the violence but also take the first step in confronting the underlying attitude that allows violence to occur." (Weisburd and Levin 1994:41).

That is, breaking our silence and engaging in this forum for discussion allows us (a) to decry the culture of fear created by cat-calling and other behaviors that single out women in the public sphere, and (b) to begin confronting and changing the underlying attitudes toward women that make men feel like they can behave this way and that make women feel like this unwanted attention is inevitable.


A friend and I paused our walk home from Adams Morgan one Friday night to meet up with friends at 17th and U. We weren't standing there for five minutes before one...two...THREE different cars had slowed down, opened their windows, honked their horns, and hollered at us. One group of gentlemen suggested we were "working," standing on the corner, "scantily"-clad so late at night (nice, guys.) My friend and I rolled our eyes and tried to ignore the attention, continuing our conversation about our plans for the rest of the weekend.

As the minutes passed, I realized it wasn't just the 'cat-callers' uncomfortable with our presence on that corner. Several cabs pulled over to the side of the road, and even at our insistence that we were walking and didn't need transport, they repeatedly called at us to ride with them. "Really, NO THANKS." A side note: it's totally unfortunate that women need to take cabs everywhere because these streets are too 'dangerous' for them.

The funniest part of the experience was the man who came to rescue us two 'damsels in distress.' Enjoying an end-of-the-night kebab, the man crossed U St to tell us he'd been watching us in his apartment window and wanted to "make sure we were alright," aka "make sure we were taken care of." I just said yes and stared at my feet. My friend, though, had had enough. She yelled, "WE'RE JUST STANDING HERE, WE'RE FINE, BYE!!!" It might have come off as an overreaction, which caused the man to stumble away down U St, but after some thought I understood her frustration. It's like women need a reason to be out on the corner, a validation for their presence outside. Its like a woman out late, dressed a certain way, without male companions is automatically rendered a 'damsel in distress,' or a whore (to stick to the age-old madonna/whore binary. sorry!) Yes, the cab driver and maybe even the kebab guy were being "helpful," but helpful toward accomplishing what? We were hanging outside in our neighborhood just minding our business. We felt safe until all of this unwanted attention was thrust upon us---just for existing. Constructing women as easy victims, targets, and weak actually contributes to the culture of fear that keeps so many of them marginalized and 'indoors'--rather than making them feel 'safer.'

In retrospect, I really admire my friend's fiery response. Next time I'll holler back, too.


The following excerpt entitled, "The Lessons We Learn," comes from a report on two women viciously murdered on the AT.

"The day after the murders were reported in The Washington Post, a woman camping along the Appalachian Trail was reported as saying that she felt safe hiking with a male companion. She said "But when I think of the women out here hiking alone, it really scares me." If we see this as the isolated incident, rather than a hate crime with political implications for all members of the targeted group, then statements like this can be made. But how would a statement like that play in the case of the 40 odd African American churches that have been burned (see News pages this issue)? Imagine an African American saying "When I think of African Americans going to all black churches, it scares me. I feel safe going to churches that are predominantly white."

[We succumb to many dangers by] ceding whole arenas of life as "too dangerous" for women alone. Many women feel they would be "asking for it" if they went certain places without male escorts. So we simply agree not to go places such as camping, out at night, or into cities without a male escort.

"I miss my husband"

I once talked to a couple of married women about why they missed their husbands when they were gone on business trips. I found this strange, because I loved it when my husband went away (I was married at the time). I loved feeling the freedom to be and do whatever I wanted. When I asked them what it was about their husbands they missed and why they did not relish time alone, they replied that they didn't feel safe -- that they were afraid to be alone. So, in addition to all the activities women may not participate in outside their homes due to the "danger," many women don't even feel safe to live alone.

It's not even that we are not safe in certain locations. We are not safe anywhere we go without a male escort. We feel safe in our own homes (as long as a man is there), we feel safe in the woods (as long as a man is there), and we feel safe to go out at night (as long as it is with a man). I suppose we feel safe to go some places without a man -- a shopping mall during the day, the grocery store, the day care center to pick up the kids (coincidentally all things which fit neatly into women's traditional roles). But major areas of our lives, especially those which defy traditional feminine roles (such as going camping alone or living without men), are circumscribed because of the supposedly random isolated incidents by a few psychos."

(Murder on the Appalachian Trail Mantilla, Karla; copyright Off Our Backs, Inc. Jul 1996; Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning Company. All rights Reserved)


Mid-Day Grocery Run

I was running over to Safeway for some essentials around midday on a Wednesday. I descended the front staircase to my apartment complex in a typical afternoon frump outfit when my heart sank. I noticed a crowd of men hanging on the corner about 100 meters away. Some were sitting, some were standing, all were chatting excitedly. It’s not that I’m not neighborly, but my time spent walking these streets has trained me like Pavlov’s dog to expect what I now deem the inevitable: coos and calls and hoots and hollers, all unwanted attention.

As I suspected, I approached the corner of 15th and R and waited for a green light, while the men all stood up to give me the old ‘up and down’ and ask me where I’m going, what I’m doing, and can they come. As I also suspected, I evoked the presence of a man to “protect” myself, regain agency, regain control. I playfully responded, “I live with someone, boys, thanks though,” to which one of the men responded “Where’s he at? I’ll live with you.” I smiled and walked away from a sea of ‘come back here, baby’s and hit the grocery store aisles. On my way home from the shop I considered taking an out-of-my-way-route home to avoid the crowd and make it home in peace and quiet. But keeping quiet keeps me scared and keeps me controlled, so I braved the streets and headed home my normal route. I was relieved to discover the men had moved on by the time I arrived at my corner.

Was the episode seemingly innocent and playful? Yes. Did I need to respond, acknowledge the attention, evoke the presence of a man to “protect” or “explain” my disinterest and existence? I wish I didn’t. I wish I didn’t have to play into these discussions. Somehow I felt guilty playing into the discussion but taking charge and “participating” made me feel like I was more in charge. Like our poll from the first week of the blog, should we respond or ignore? Or should we ‘correct,’ tell the men to stop?


I wonder what Aretha would say about this one: I have always had this theory (supported by some reliable academic literature) that in our society, a woman needs a man in one shape, form or interpretation to justify her presence in the public sphere. If she is out with a man, she is less likely to be hollered at. If she is out at a bar or club or, frankly, anywhere, she is often forced (or feels forced out of fear, discomfort, and unwanted attention) to invoke the presence of a man, i.e. “Sorry, I’m seeing someone/living with someone/here with someone.” More than once I’ve been asked, “So, I don’t see a ring on your finger!” or better yet, “It’s just dancing.” Howabout, no means no?

Well this theory was completely shattered the other afternoon as I was eye-assaulted not once but twice in the time it took my boyfriend and I to purchase a subway foot-long and find a bench in front of the White House at which to eat. First, Ollie ducked into the restroom and the four men eating their lunches at a table ten or so feet from me all put down their subs to stare—not to look, to stare. Despite my uncomfortable shifting and defiant eye-lock right back at each of them they kept right on staring. Ollie rejoined me and we went outside to eat our lunch. Unfortunately, this subway (17th and G) has glass walls so all of the men simply adjusted their seats and continued to stare at me after we were sitting outside on the bench.

Both of us were aggravated (I was ranting big-time at this point—I was starving and wanted to enjoy my lunch in peace) and so we relocated to a bench in front of the White House to eat. Despite Ollie’s and my canoodling that I would have thought made it very clear I was not on the market (not that a person should have to canoodle or even validate their presence with a sign of “I’m spoken for”), a man riding his bike slowed down to grill me. I made eye contact hoping the awkwardness would send him away, but he continued. Ollie locked eyes with the man which made him look away temporarily—and as soon as Ollie returned to the meatball sub, the eyes were all over me again, accompanied by a creepy (even sinister—am I projecting too much) smirk. I was so pissed. The man then doubled back and rode by us even slower. I should just have postcard sized-photos to hand out so creeps can leave me the hell alone and let me eat my sandwiches in peace. Ollie was super annoyed, as was I, and the man on the bike was finally shooed away by the police preparing for the afternoon motorcade.

Now this sidewalk and this subway were both swarming with women. Was it the phallic shape of the sub sandwich I was shoving in my mouth with both hands that caught these people’s attention? Was it my charming good looks (wink, wink!)? I conjecture that the subway incident was symptomatic of my being temporarily ‘single’ while Ollie was in the bathroom. The explanation for the bike guy…I happened to be sitting still rather than on the move, an easy target for someone who likes to take a good (unwelcome) look. An actuarial crime, then, perhaps—I was just an easy target for a man’s hungry eyes? Either way, we need to talk about this stuff, share our stories, break the silence, remember these happenings are NOT the victim’s fault—and be sure to demand a little RESPECT!

Spread the Word

It's great to see the blog kicked into gear. For any newcomers, here's an expansion on who we are, what we are doing, and what we hope to accomplish.

We want to make women in our community (as GW students and Washingtonians) feel comfortable—even good—on the streets. We want to give the following women a voice:

women who feel that they have to wear an ipod to drown out the cat-calls hurled at them as they walk down the sidewalk

women who are forced to spend exorbitant amount of money on transportation (taxi cabs) in order to be out and to feel and be safe

women who can’t go out at all because they don’t have the cash flow for those taxi cabs

women who have to invent or constantly mention significant others, fianc├ęs, and live-in partners to legitimize their going out into the public without looking for a potential mate

women who don’t feel empowered to defend there bodies, their space, or their propriety when in the public sphere

women who must cover up and conceal their bodies before going out into the public sphere to avoid unwanted attention and being told “they’re asking for it”

women who don’t feel safe being in public without male escorts to protect them

women who are verbally, physically, or emotionally assaulted by the words and actions of others on the streets that force them off the streets and into their homes

women who can’t walk down a quiet street alone without experiencing at least some degree of fear

We want to take back the night (and the day!!) We hope to accomplish this by breaking our silence, giving ourselves a loud, strong, fearless voice fostered by online discussion and sharing.

Please join in, spread the word, and feel free to contact us with comments, contentions, questions, and contributions. thisisladiesnight@gmail.com


trouble posting on our blog

some of you are having trouble posting responses... below each post there is a "comment" button - if you press that you can share your stories or opinions about what has happened to you... here is one response which is quite interesting from lbora:

LBora said...

It seems to be a trend that no matter how your dressed that a women is an easy target for these gross comments. So it brings up the question how does this stop? What really confusses me is why these comments are said in the first place, so women really respond? I highly doubt that these "invites" such as being a guys hoe are ever excepted, so why do they still do it?

Any comments on this one ladies? I believe it is a question we are all asking ourselves... any ideas on how to make it stop?! things you've done.. .things you've seen done, or just ideas in general... press the comments button and let us know!


walking home from work

Walking back from work (on Conn. Ave) the other day I walked past a bus stop where two guys were sitting. I was in my work clothes, but nothing fancy, and as I walked past the little place where you wait for the bus, the guys banged on the plastic separating me and them and shouted "heyyy babbyy lookin' good wanna come on this bus ride with us?!" I ignored them and kept walking... but what is it about guys that they think that's okay? I mean honestly, what would they have me do, stop and say "oh okay, that sounds like fun, where you going?"

this is ladies night

washington, dc, United States
Have you ever been walking down the street and been hollered at, or perhaps been beeped at by a car - or whistled at while waiting for your ride? We know what it feels like and we want YOU to know that WE'RE RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. Share your experiences here. Share your stories, your reactions, your reflections... maybe your message will help someone else.