Empowering Discussions

Stop Teaching Girls That Disgusting Behavior From Men and Boys is “Just How They Are”!

I remember many instances on the street and bus when some man wouldn’t leave me alone. It ranged from hollering at me or telling me to smile, continuing to talk to me after I tried to read a book or put on my headphones, sitting too close to me or “accidentally” bumping into or touching me. The crazy thing is how I felt embarrassed about the attention and so uncomfortable with the idea of making them stop. In my mind it was almost as if they had a right to be disgusting because that’s “just how men and boys are” and as someone with low self-worth I didn’t feel strong enough to be assertive.

If I was feeling brave I might ASK them to leave me alone. Instead of a forceful “Get off me” I said a quiet “Please move away” because I thought being polite would work, but it didn’t and it still doesn’t! 

Looking back I just cringe at how much rude behavior I put up with even though I had every right to shut it down.

I was a timid girl and stayed that way well into my twenties. An important lesson girls need is how to be forceful and assertive. Which I now do through teaching self-defense. All girls and women need to feel confident enough to use a clear firm voice and tell people, both men and women, when they feel unsafe and threatened.

However strong we teach girls to be, it’s hard to feel safe when you know going anywhere means the possibility of harassment. To change a culture of disrespecting and harassing women we need men to take part. Women can initiate all the change we want, but if men and boys don’t change their interactions with us we will stay stuck. Read more stories and find resources at Mtjg.wordpress.com/2014/12/17/public-shame


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Empowering Discussions

Burt’s Bees Stirs Up the Beast that is Street Harassment And Hollaback Fights Back.

Words may not have physical power, but they certainly influence what is acceptable in our culture. Burt’s Bees may not have meant to start a fire with the copy on their packaging of moisturizer, but they did. The ignorantly written message reads, “Soak in the moisturizing seductiveness of shea butter and indulge in the scent of vanilla and rice milk. And let the catcalling commence.” Street harassment is a real issue that women and girls have to deal with, but just because it is so prevalent doesn’t mean we should sit back and take it as part of our society.

Colleen Kiphart brought the matter of this offensive marketing label to Hollaback! Despite a lackluster apology from Burt’s and Güd together they have started a petition for Burts to stop production and apologize for their bad choice of words. You can sign the petition at Change.org.

Colleen Kiphart says, “I deal with catcalling regularly in my neighborhood. It is uninvited, unwanted, and demeaning. I stand up for myself, but many women can’t or don’t know they can. I am frustrated to see a socially-conscious company like Burt’s Bees perpetuate the myth that women want to be objectified by strangers on the street…”

Personally, street harassment has been a part of my life since I was a teenager and caused me to live fearful for many years. Being told to “Smile” seems to be a favorite line along with “You’d be so much prettier in my car”. Slimier versions such as asking me to perform oral sex or trying to physically grope me have also been obstacles in the gauntlet of walking on a public street. Usually I simply get called a ho or a bitch if I talk back or refuse to respond culminating in a lifetime of feeling unsafe to walk down the street, whether alone or in company of other women or children.

As mad as I am about street harassment, when a company as popular as Burts Bees makes such an awful mistake it can be used as a gift. The issue gets more media attention than if it had been a lesser known brand. Now we have another chance to talk about catcalling and why it isn’t appreciated. Talking about an issue leads to taking action which leads to change.

“Burt’s Bees and Güd are perpetuating the myth that street harassment is a ‘compliment.’ We’ve received over 5,000 stories from people around the globe telling us that street harassment is scary, demeaning, and traumatizing. Last time I checked, that’s not what a ‘compliment’ feels like,” said Emily May, Co-Founder and Executive Director of Hollaback!. Hollaback! breaks the silence that has perpetuated sexual violence internationally, asserts that any and all gender-based violence is unacceptable, and creates a world where we have an option—and, more importantly—a response.  Find out more at ihollaback.org.

Having some strange and usually much larger man approach me or call after me on the street is not comforting. Even though I am a self defense teacher I shouldn’t have to walk down the street with my head hung low in hopes of avoiding harassment. Our culture needs to shift away from the attitude that women are targets and toys. More men need to step up and say this is not appropriate behavior. It’s time for this to end. Catcalling is not a compliment.

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If you like this post check out my books “More Than Just a Girl” and “Fierce” on Amazon.com and Bookemon.com.