Wednesday, 23 April 2014

turning tables

Many women describe sexism as a part of 'normal' life. Here Leah Green goes undercover in London to see how unsuspecting men react to sexist situations often experienced by women – but this time perpetrated by a female. All scenes are based on real encounters reported by women to@EverydaySexism

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

eating disorders and feminism

The following post is taken from:

"Eating Disorders: Attack the Institutions, not the Sufferers

I really have no idea where to post this- on my recovery blog or here- but I guess I'll post it on both, because it's relevant in both places. I'm finding that sometimes I post about larger issues and sometimes I get more personal on here- either way, I only discuss what I think will be relevant to other people.

Since I returned home from Guatemala, I have felt completely lost. My eating disorder wasn't symptomatic in the slightest when I was in Guatemala, because I got on a regular meal schedule, my body dysmorphia was controlled due to a lack of mirrors, and because social justice is one of my greatest passions- and when I am immersed in my passions, restrictive eating and food and body rituals don't appeal to me as much. Focusing on larger issues gets me out of my own head and motivates me to focus on making the world a better place rather than destroying my body. I was terrified that when I returned home the disordered mindset and behaviors that I left at home would come back into my life with a vengeance- and I was right. 

How is this relevant to feminism at all? Because whenever I struggle with eating and body image, I am overwhelmed by feelings of guilt and disgust- guilt for being "a bad feminist, a negative role model, and a hypocrite" since I am such a strong advocate for body positivity, and disgust with myself for being "superficial and vain" when there are more important things I should be worrying about, like how to make the world a better place. Apparently, according to Post Secret, I am not the only feminist who feels this way. Check out these two archived secrets: (see images)

Knowing that other people feel the same way as I do puts this into perspective. It makes me sad to think that women berate themselves for struggling with their health, when the only way to recover from an eating disorder is through self-compassion. An eating disorder is painful enough without adding feminist guilt on top of it, and frankly, guilt over one's feminist identity is unnecessary.  

Because Anorexia Nervosa in particular manifests itself in an obsession with thinness, the average person may forget that the illness is not a diet, nor a lifestyle choice, nor a quest for beauty- but rather a direct attack on the flesh that is a symptom of larger, deep-rooted issues (In September I'll be writing an article for Libero on how an eating disorder is really a form of self-harm, so you should check it out!). The thin ideal permeates our entire culture, but only a small percentage of people have eating disorders- why? Because an eating disorder, while fueled by the thin ideal in some cases, is so much more complicatedthan a response to societal ideals. I want to remember this the next time I start hating myself for thinking about food and weight so often when I'm supposed to be a feminist. 

My eating disorder is an illness, not a reflection of my character. My eating disorder is about deeper issues, not about being vain or superficial. I can still advocate for body positivity without feeling like a hypocrite, because my struggles are very personal to me and do not negate my views on body positivity/Health At Every Size as a social movement. Besides, it's not like I am not actively working on overcoming my eating disorder. I am. I am motivated by my desire to practice what I preach as a feminist- but that doesn't mean I should hate myself in the process for not being "perfect" at recovery and self-love.

I think people forget sometimes that feminism is about standing up to oppressive institutions rather than tearing down individuals. Take patriarchy, for example: you can actively fight patriarchy, the systematic outlook of men as superior beings, without hating on individual men who are also negatively impacted by gender stereotypes and expectations (unfortunately, I don't think all feminists realize this!). So, if you want to fight institutions that perpetuate thin ideal, more power to you! Sign petitions to stop magazines from photoshopping, create your own positive body image blog, boycott stores that promote pro-ana attitudes, encourage the young people in your life to value their hearts and minds more than their appearance. However, fighting the thin ideal doesn't include placing the blame on individuals that are victims to our cultural ideals, and that includes people with eating disorders- whether it is someone you know or yourself. People with eating disorders do not deserve your anger or judgment- their personal struggle is really not your business (unless it is a loved one trying to help them with recovery) or a feminist issue. Want to make a difference? Get angry and judgmental about the societal forces that normalize disordered eating. Get angry and judgmental at the health care industry for not putting enough focus on mental health (eating disorder research receives barely any funding and insurance companies are reluctant to cover eating disorder treatment- although this has improved with recent legislation!). Get angry at our cultural ideals for being so fucked up that people who are genuinely passionate about body positivity fall for myths about food, weight, and body image just as much as people who aren't actively trying to be body positive.

I am not saying that you shouldn't hold yourself and the people around you accountable for their words and actions. If someone makes a sexist comment or insults someone else's body, by all means call them out! I would just say that if someone is going through a personal struggle, be supportive- save the feminist analysis and rage for institutions. Hating and judging myself for being both a feminist and in recovery from eating disorders has not benefited myself or society in the slightest, so I am done making my personal recovery journey into a feminist issue. I am actually quite torn about being so public about my eating disorder, because while I have always thought that it is important to be open about it to raise mental health awareness and encourage other people in recovery (making the personal the political!), it is awfully exhausting trying (and sometimes failing) to be a role model/advocate/activist all the time. When I take on these roles, I start to see myself through the eyes of other people rather than through my own eyes, and sometimes I get lost in trying to portray myself in a certain light rather than taking active steps to overcome my eating disorder for ME. Anyway, the point I'm trying to make is this: I advocate for body positivity. I am also in recovery from an eating disorder. The two are not mutually exclusive, and I have decided that I will no longer be ashamed. I will also have to think about how open I choose to be about my personal struggles in the future... 

So, if you're a feminist like me and also struggling with body image and eating- or if you know someone that fits this description- take a step back for a second and show some compassion. And in general, remember that judgment against individuals and judgment against institutions are two very different things.

your femme feminist,

see more at:

HIV p o s i t i v e

photo by Artis LangBruttig & Brittney Terry

About HIV

What is HIV?
HIV is a virus that attacks the body's immune system-the body's defence against diseases.  The latest research suggests that between 70 and 90 per cent of people may experience symptoms of infection a few days after having been infected.  Three symptoms occuring together: fever, rash and a severe sore throat should always be considered a potential indicator of HIV infection.  These symptoms usually disappear within two or three weeks.  Some people may not experience these early symptoms.  In all cases, without effective treatment the immune system will become very weak and no longer be able to fight off illnesses.

Are HIV and AIDS the same?
No. When someone is described as living with HIV, they have the HIV virus in their body. A person is considered to have developed AIDS when the immune system is so weak it can no longer fight off a range of diseases with which it would normally cope.

Is there a cure for HIV?
No, but treatment can keep the virus under control and the immune system healthy.  People on HIV treatment can live a healthy, active life, although they may experience side effects from the treatment.  If HIV is diagnosed late, treatment may be less effective in preventing AIDS.

Find out more facts about HIV and some of the myths at our website HIVAware.

Living with HIV

What's it like living with HIV?
If people with HIV are diagnosed early and respond to treatment they can be healthy, work and have relationships like anyone else and have a long life expectancy.

Coming to terms with an HIV diagnosis and getting used to treatment can be very difficult however, and people living with HIV will often need support from healthcare providers, friends and family, employers and support organisations. Read real stories from people living with HIV talking about their experiences.

What treatment is available for people with HIV?
HIV treatment was transformed with the introduction in 1996 of Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) which now means that as long as someone is diagnosed in time and then adheres to their medication they can in the vast majority of cases manage their health condition and look forward to a near normal life expectancy. 

There are side-effects for some people who take ART, including fatigue, depression and diarrhoea, though these are increasingly well-managed. 

In the early days of treatment, people with HIV had to take a very large number of pills, often with complex timing and/or dietary requirements, but advances in treatment now mean someone commencing treatment will in all probability have to take only one pill a day.

Why do people find it hard to tell others they're HIV positive?
People living with HIV may find it hard to tell others about their condition as they worry that people will reject them, or they will experience prejudice from friends, family and colleagues. People living with HIV can also experience discrimination in their workplace, in healthcare settings (for example GPs and dentists), from members of their local community and through the media.

HIV prejudice is often the result of ignorance about how HIV is passed on and unfounded fear of becoming infected. Encouraging those around us to talk about HIV and find out the facts can help overcome this. You can find advice about how to react when someone tells you they have HIV at HIVAware


How is HIV passed on?
HIV can be passed on through infected blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. The most common ways HIV is passed on are:

Sex without a condom with someone living with HIV

  • Sharing infected needles, syringes or other injecting drug 
  • equipment

  • From an HIV-positive mother (to her child) during pregnancy, 
  • childbirth or breastfeeding - if the right steps to prevent infection are not taken

Can you get HIV from oral sex?
Oral sex carries a much lower risk than vaginal or anal sex, but HIV can still be passed on through cuts or ulcers in the mouth if they come into contact with infected bodily fluids.

Can you get HIV from kissing?
No. HIV cannot be passed on through:

Kissing or touching

  • Spitting, coughing or sneezing

  • Toilet seats, swimming pools, or shared facilities or utensils

Can women living with HIV still have a baby?

Yes. HIV can be passed from mother to child, but there are steps that can be taken to reduce the possibility of the child contracting HIV to less than one per cent, including giving the mother and child antiretroviral HIV drugs, delivering the child by Caesarean and not breastfeeding the baby.


Could I get HIV?

If you are sexually active or share needles you could be at risk from getting HIV. Although anyone can become infected, some communities in the UK have higher rates of infection, such as gay and bisexual men and Black African men and women. Take our online test to find out if you have put yourself at risk here.

How can I protect myself from HIV?

Always use a condom when having vaginal or anal sex. You also may want to use a condom or dental dam during oral sex although the risk of transmission of HIV is much lower. Always use a condom that carries the European CE safety mark. You can get free condoms from a family planning or sexual health clinic, which you can locate at Never share needles, syringes or any other injecting equipment.

- See more at:

For more information about HIV and AIDS please visit:

Monday, 31 March 2014

grief after rape

The following post is taken from:

"..I was trying to come up with a list of helpful websites to put up that looked at the long-term consequences of rape. What did I find? Endless, endless pages talking about ‘stages’. even gives you ‘Instructions’ on how to get over rape..

1. emotional shock and disbelief
2. embarrassment, shame, guilt
3. disorientation
3. anger, rage, revenge fantasies

Personally, I never felt disoriented, and I certainly never felt guilt. Emotional disbelief perhaps, but only after a a few hours of emotional weeping and definite awareness of what had happened to me. I’m very certain that I felt anger as the rape was going on. These stages seem somewhat out of order.  Maybe a different set of stages from another article would be more useful..

Again, I didn’t feel these stages in an ordered, chronological way. A lot of those emotions I did feel, but at random, and often all at once, in a big SMUSH of anguish.So what can we tell from all this? That these stages are total nonsense.  Not because everyone should deal with rape in the order that I did (not that there was an order), but that everyone deals with rape differently. My opinion on this is 90% borrowed from my very good friend Rachel’s dissertation on grief, so I thought I might as well just quote it verbatim:

“We are constrained and controlled by the manner in which we talk about things, living only within our spoken categories, as if the only choices that are open to us are those that we have uttered into existence. Therefore, if we follow Kubler-Ross [and her five stages] and see grief only in terms of denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance – in that order – then what happens if we feel relieved, or guilty, or if we experience denial after an initial acceptance?

What tends to happen is that we feel that this is not allowed. Not allowed?! Surely we can see how ridiculous this is? But in the midst of the chaos of grief I don't think we can, and this simply adds to our distress. By spending all of our energy on attempting to follow these strict modern conceptions of grief we are actually restricting our emotions – we are not allowing ourselves to properly and fully grieve, and to do so in a manner that is comfortable and helpful for us. We are all individual and as such, each experience one has one will understand and process in a unique manner. So where could any sense possibly lie in trying to box each individual into the same grieving process? We are all going to experience and react to this differently too. We should expect, and we should be allowed, this freedom.”
I have a massive resonance with this. Whilst some of the stages found online do reference promiscuity, it doesn’t really get talked about in everyday magazines – what women are likely to have read before having been raped – so when I reacted by becoming Britain’s Biggest Slut, all I knew was that I was supposed to be terrified of men and hide in my house for the next three years. I felt like I was dealing with my rape wrongly. How awful to make someone who has already been subjected to sexual assault feel as though they should be ashamed for how they dealt with it. Apologies to male readers, but I am reminded of Meredith’s stinging retort to Derek in Grey’s Anatomy:
 ”I make no apologies for how I chose to fix what you broke.”
Of course, my wild days weren’t quite a matter of deliberate choice, but the principle remains the same.
Why do we feel the need to label everything up, to organise and order? I think when we are confronted by something as horrific as rape, when the ground has fallen away from us because our child, wife or sister has told us that they were sexually attacked, we like to pretend that there is still a solid foundation. We dream up these stages, as if humans were all automatons just following a roadmap. As if attempting to cope with a trauma like that could be anything other than, in Rachel’s words, “the chaos of grief”. It is chaotic. We are all over the place. That is how it is supposed to happen.
When I first read Rachel’s dissertation, I disagreed with it. I wrote notes on her pages talking about how, in the chaos of grief, perhaps having a roadmap to follow would be a small comfort to me. But the problem with that idea is that you can’t choose how you grieve. You can’t decide that today will be a bargaining day, or that today I will feel anger. These emotions are triggered by what we experience every day: perhaps we walked past someone who resembled our rapist, or perhaps I had a helpful conversation with a friend and had a breakthrough.
The best thing to do is to allow that any of a whole range of emotions can occur at any time, and that these won’t always make sense. Nor will we experience one emotion, finish it, and then move onto the next. I now like to think of myself as being able to talk about my rape in a sensible manner. But my last post – Who is Mark? – left me shaken for the rest of the evening to the extent that I got out the video player and watched some of my childhood favourites, clinging to the familiar. I am far from whole, far from healed. My emotions, my feelings about the rape, fluctuate on a weekly and sometimes daily basis. But I’m not worried about that. The pain will go in time – my time."

"Upward spiral of grief

In much of today’s media, we meet the misguided idea of ‘stages of bereavement’ and the idea that we have to ‘pass through’ them to ‘acceptance.’
It is our idea to replace the idea of ‘stages’ with a picture of a spiral. The ‘Upward Spiral of Grief’ allows people to accept their feelings, to accept that these feelings may come back and that grieving is long term work. For example, if 6 months after a loss, you still feel really tearful and sad one day, you may worry that there is something wrong with you.
However, you will be in a different place to that black hole in the beginning. Your feelings will be the same, but with less intensity. You will have moved around the spiral. You have moved on and made some adjustments. By using this spiral we can alleviate the pressure of having to move on through the stages of bereavement. It may become less frightening to revisit these feelings time and time again. It does not mean that you have gone back to the black hole in the beginning.
The idea of acceptance can also be misleading. We prefer to replace it with the word ‘adjustment.’ If we bereaved are really honest, we rarely accept the loss. We learn to live with it; we change our life accordingly. But, accept? Hardly.
There is little doubt that we do share similar feelings following a bereavement, such as shock, despair, pining, denial, anger, fear, guilt, anxiety, relief, sadness. It is comforting to know that these feelings are ‘normal.’ However, over the course of time the idea of stages has become misunderstood. Some people feel under enormous pressure to ‘pass through’ these stages in order to ‘move on’ and accept their loss. We argue that it is more realistic to think of grieving in an upward spiral.
At Grief Encounter we aim to dispel these myths and give people the freedom to say that life will never be the same."
- See more at:

Saturday, 29 March 2014


"I have suffered from depression for decades. Sometimes life has been good, and the depression has been in the background, but sometimes it comes to the fore and takes control of how I see the world.
When it is in the background, little things can be bad, but not overwhelming, and I can see a point to trying, and a reason for doing things.
When it is in the foreground nothing is worthwhile. I see life as a huge onerous, endless task, with no prospect of improvement.
Simply getting up takes a mammoth effort, because it seems so pointless. My thought patterns are stuck in a deep, dark rut with no hope.
It is so hard to describe the despair of that state, where even showering, dressing and eating are things that overwhelm or daunt me, and I do not believe I deserve to feel any better.
I am a survivor of depression. It is still there, but I am learning to deal with it.
I have dragged myself out of that pit slowly, with the help of medications that meant I did not find those simple tasks a huge challenge, and allowed me the time to find new ways of thinking, through therapy.
Some people do not get through this. They are in a state where they cannot see that things will change, they cannot see that they can improve, so they act to end the pain.
I know this feeling very well.
For those who have friends or family with this disease, please realise that the feeling of despair is not their fault, and nor is it yours.
Many diseases take people to the brink of despair, where battling another day is a dreadful prospect. Depression is one of these, and while you may not see the symptoms and the agony, it is there.
For those who are in this place, hold on to the thought that things can change, that you may not be seeing things in a balanced way, and that you do deserve better.
Keep trying, and keep asking for help.
You may have not found the help you need yet, but it is there.
You do not have to face this alone."

Taken from:

Suicide has been defined as a "permanent solution to a temporary problem." For the person caught in the black hole of depression, however, there is nothing temporary about the hell he or she is experiencing. The resulting sense of hopelessness is the major trigger for suicidal thoughts, feelings and attempts. This hopelessness includes:
no hope for the future

no hope that things will ever change

no hope that I will ever be well or stable

no hope that I will be able to meet my goals in life (or even have goals)

no hope that the pain will ever stop

no hope that I can do anything to change it

When the psyche is assailed by this level of despair, suicide feels like the only way out. If you are feeling suicidal, here are some thoughts that can help you to counter the suicidal urge:
  1. Remember that you are under the influence of a "drug" called depression which is distorting your view of reality. As a result, your feelings of hopelessness do not accurately reflect your true potential for recovery.
  2. Depression, like everything else in the physical world, is cyclic. In most cases, it comes and goes; it has a beginning and an end. A useful affirmation to repeat is, "Nothing stays the same forever. This, too, shall pass."
  3. An overwhelming majority of people who have suffered from suicidal feelings have fully recovered. The odds that you will get better are in your favor.
  4. If you have family and/or friends in your life, realize that they will be devastated by losing you. Their suffering will only add to the existing suffering in the world.
  5. Use the techniques described in the depression survival plan in this book to increase your coping resources and to keep yourself safe.
  6. Remember that feelings and actions are two different things. Just because you feel like killing yourself, it doesn't mean you have to act on it this minute. This is one time when procrastinating is a good idea.
  7. Do not remain alone when you are feeling suicidal. If you are feeling overwhelmed, ask for help. Set up a suicide support system with people who can spot your mood swings even before you do, and will take action to keep you safe. Make a pact that you will contact them when you are feeling suicidal. If you don't have friends who can do this, try to locate a depression support group at a hospital or clinic.
  8. Use your local crisis hotline as a resource. Their job is to support you through your struggle, one day at a time.
  9. Regulate anything in your environment that may be used to harm you. Flush old medications down the toilet, keeping only small quantities of those you take regularly. Dispose of all firearms you have, or give them to a support person for safekeeping.
Finally, remember, people do get through this, even when they feel as bad as you do right now. Here is a passage from Kathy Cronkite's At the Edge of Darkness that was very helpful in restoring my hope.
Part of the anxiety and dread of depression is that "storm in the brain" that blocks out all possibility of sunlight. In the depths of despair that by definition murders faith, courage may have to suffice. Keep slogging. Even if you don't believe it at the moment, remind yourself of the existence of good. Reassure yourself: "Once I enjoyed 'X,' I will again." The disease may have turned off the spigot of love, but it will come back."

Taken from:

" do we help suicidal people fight against the despair and hopelessness that make them want to reject life? We have to understand their pain and what ending their life means to them, in order to help. If we rush to tell them how wonderful life is when all they know is deep despair, we may add to their feeling that no one understands the depth of their pain. This is a risk that we don't want to take.
Most of us are afraid of opening up the topic of suicide with depressed people, because we think that if we entertain the topic we are giving them permission to take their life. We also don't want to shame and embarrass them. Even therapists often feel this, even though it's our job to bring up this difficult subject matter with our patients.

Whether you are a therapist, a friend, or a loved one of someone who may be contemplating suicide, we all have to appreciate the meaning of the suicidal act in order to understand it, so that we are not afraid to have such discussions. I open up this difficult subject matter with you today, so that you understand what suicide is really all about and how you may help a loved one who is contemplating suicide. Understanding is the best way to reach a suicidal person and help him or her to continue living.

What is Suicide?

An Attempt To Solve A Problem

Suicide is a senseless act to those who wish to live. But, death as an option to one's problems makes sense to the suicidal person. The thought of suicide occurs most often when a person feels they have run out of solutions to problems that seem inescapable, intolerably painful, and never-ending. It may be a physical or mental illness that deteriorates the body or mind, as in Lou Gehrig's disease or Bipolar disorder. Or, it may result from the death or suicide of a loved one. Perhaps, it's a downward spiral from money woes and a devastating change in lifestyle. For some, public disgrace or humiliation makes it intolerable to go on living; while, for others, the intolerable condition may result from the post-traumatic stress of military combat, homicide, rape, or imprisonment.

No matter the situation that brings a person to contemplate death, there's one thing that suicidal people share in common; they cannot love life, right now. They have experienced a basic and comprehensive breakdown in their values, way of living, self-esteem, and ability to make sense of life and to give it meaning that restores their hope and the will to live.

We are hard-wired to survive, to fight in times of stress and threat, so suicide feels so wrong to us. The suicidal person has fallen to the other side of this evolutionary fight for survival. They have chosen to flee, through death.

It doesn't matter how we'd respond, or how severe the circumstances seem to us, suicidal people cannot love life or find meaning in it, in their deteriorated mental state. Nonetheless, it's important for us to know that they do not really want to die; they just want a way out from their suffering. Suicide seems like the only way out.."

Taken from:

"If you are reading this because you are having suicidal thoughts, try to ask someone for help. It may be difficult at this time, but it's important to know you are not beyond help and you are not alone.
Talking to someone can help you see beyond feelings of loneliness or despair and help you realise there are options.
There are people who want to talk to you and who want to help. Try talking to a family member or friend about how you are feeling.
There are several telephone helplines you can call at any time of the day or night. You can speak to someone who understands how you are feeling and can help you through the immediate crisis.

Helplines and support groups

  • Samaritans (08457 90 90 90) operates a 24-hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write down how you are feeling, or if you are worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans
  • Childline (0800 1111) runs a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number will not show up on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is a voluntary organisation that supports teenagers and young adults who are feeling suicidal.
  • Depression Alliance is a charity for people with depression. It does not have a helpline, but offers a wide range of useful resources and links to other relevant information.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, have a low mood or are having suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for both children and adults affected by bullying.

Help for young men

Men may be more likely to avoid or ignore problems and many are reluctant to talk about their feelings or seek help when they need it.
A support group called the Campaign Against Living Miserably (CALM) is an excellent resource for young men who are feeling unhappy. As well as the website, CALM also has a helpline (0800 58 58 58).

Talking to someone you trust

If you do not want to speak to someone on a helpline, you could talk to:
  • a member of your family, a friend or someone you trust, such as a teacher
  • your GP, a mental healthcare professional or another healthcare professional
  • a minister, priest or other type of religious leader

Seeing your GP

It would also help to see your GP. They can advise you about appropriate treatment if they think you have a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.
Your GP may be able to help you with access to talking therapies. Talking therapies, such as counselling andcognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), are often used to help people who have suicidal thoughts and usually involve talking about your feelings with a professional.
Taken from:

More information can be found here:

Wednesday, 19 March 2014

street harassment

The following post is written by Leah Pickett taken from:

"Standing up to street harassment

Every day, women (and men) are harassed, followed and publicly objectified on city streets.

Harassment shows its ugly face in many forms: a bully at school, an abuser at home, an underminer in the workplace, or an army of trolls online.
However, perhaps no form of harassment is more overt or troublingly common than catcalling: the whistles and kiss noises, the staccato beeps of car horns, the whispered or shouted evaluations of someone's physical appearance on the sidewalk, and the many other forms of street harassment (stalking, groping, leering, etc.) that women continually receive in public spaces, often on a daily basis.
I have experienced public objectification—whether it be whistle and a wink, a double tap of a car horn, or an unwelcome comment on my body that sends a tiny shiver down my spine—every single time that I go out walking in Chicago.
It doesn't matter which neighborhood I'm in, whether I have makeup on or not, if I'm wearing a miniskirt or a baggy sweatshirt and jeans.
Without fail, a complete stranger (usually a man or group of men, although women in their company have occasionally joined in) will take the time out of their day to put me in my place as a woman magnified through the lens of rape culture: a female specimen to be ogled, disrespected, and dehumanized as nothing but an object of their gaze. 
Most of the time, I ignore them and keep walking; because isn't that what you're supposed to do? Other instances break the straw holding together an already fragile day, and I want to hide or scream or cry. I want to yell back that my body is not theirs to claim, that I'm more than just a piece of meat to be verbally chewed and torn apart for sport.
My look is more skinny nerdgirl than glamazon; but even if I did choose to wear high heels and skintight dresses every day, I still wouldn't deserve the "Hey, sexy" and "Mmm, lookin' good" whispers, smacking of lips, and anonymous shouts from rolled-down windows, often followed by nervous laughter from passersby.
I am not alone in this. When I reached out to others on Twitter, asking if they would be willing to share their stories of street harassment, they responded with tweets of "too many stories!" and "I feel like every woman in a city like Chicago has more than one experience to share."
Do we have to stand by and take this kind of harassment from strangers, watch it happen to others without saying a word, or "just ignore it" like many of us have often been told? The answer is no; you shouldn't have to shut up and take it. You deserve to walk down the street without being harassed by strangers. You deserve to stand your ground, and it's okay to ask for help. 
Renee Davidson, Communications Director of the grassroots group Collective Action for Safe Spaces (CASS), says that she has received over 600 stories of street harassment in the D.C. metropolitan area.
"Our submissions are overwhelming from women, but men -- particularly LGBT and gender nonconforming men -- experience street harassment as well," says Davidson, " Women and men can take a stand against this by speaking up when they’re harassed, whether that means responding to the harasser, sharing their story with a group like CASS or Hollaback, or starting a conversation about street harassment with their friends and the men in their lives."
"Street harassment is also intensely normalized, such that being told to 'brush it off' has caused many women to accept it as just another part of moving in public. By speaking up about our experiences with street harassment, we are letting it be known that it's a problem."
Yes, men also face sexual harassment from strangers on street corners, and their experiences matter just as much. But when stories of male-on-female aggression pop up again and again, like this piece from the Huffington Post about a man running over a 14-year-old girl for refusing to have sex with him, it's time to dig deeper into what's perpetuating this chronic narrative. And then we should actually do something about it. 
Just as we should be educating men to not rape (instead of simply teaching women how to avoid rapey situations), we should also teach boys from a very young age that catcalling is degrading, hurtful, and harmful to the fabric of our society. Street harassment fuels rape culture, "blurring lines" to the point that many women can no longer tell the difference between a compliment and objectification. Leering at women on the street and hollering pointed comments about their bodies is the furthest thing from respectable behavior; it's blatant misogyny and patriarchy incarnate.
"Learning tips on bystander intervention is also a great way to help prevent sexual harassment," adds Davidson, "If you encounter someone street harassing another person, you can tell them to 'respect women' or any other interjection that feels natural for you."
We don't have to keep our mouths shut. We don't have to grin and bear it. No one deserves to be harassed on the way to the grocery store or while walking home at night, and it's time for us to start talking back.
Resources for education, inspiration and support:,, this Atlantic article on a new app to help women and members of the LGBTQ community report street harassment, the "Stop Telling Woman to Smile"project, and HollabackChicago!, an anti-harassment forum for Chicagoans. 
If you have a street harassment story to share, please sound off in the comment section below. Let's start talking."