Guest Post: On International Anti-Street Harassment Day, AtreveteDF Urges Youth Education

AtreveteDF, a new chapter of Hollaback!, fights against street harassment throughout Mexico City.

Earlier this fall, Feminist Teacher readers learned about the work that my high school students did with Emily May’s Hollaback! anti-street harassment movement. In particular, my student Grace Tobin testified at a New York City Council hearing on street harassment and the peers in her class sent in their powerful testimonies to the Hollaback blog. The importance of addressing street harassment in schools was never made more apparent to me than when my students shared their stories about being harassed on the subways and streets of New York, especially going to and from school.

Now that I’m in Mexico on a Fulbright, I have had the honor to meet with the founder of the Hollaback! chapter here in Mexico City, called AtreveteDF. A fairly new addition to the national and now global work that Hollaback! started in 2005, AtreveteDF is a growing force in the anti-street harassment movement. To mark International Anti-Street Harassment Day today, I invited AtreveteDF to write a guest post sharing its work and vision, especially in relation to the need to address this issue with young people. Below, readers will find both English and Spanish versions of AtreveteDF’s guest post. Please note that due to safety concerns, AtreveteDF contributed their post anonymously.

Education Against Street Harassment

One memory remains from a recent visit to a soccer stadium here in Mexico. Two kids, who were about 6 or 7, were shouting–in an almost eloquent manner–quite derogatory and objectifying comments to the cheerleaders and other women in the stadium. They also made comments directed at the players of the opposing team regarding homosexuality and their supposed “lack of manliness” as well as to members from their own team when players failed to score. People passed by and laughed; most men and women seemed to applaud this behavior, and nobody, including myself, asked them to be respectful or otherwise.

Today is International Anti- Street Harassment Day. When we speak of the daily realities many women and LGBTQ folks face when they walk down the street, let’s not forget to mention the children and youth who learn how to repeat these behaviors from the widespread sexual violence in our communities, the media, their homes, streets and schools.

While verbal harassment disguised as a compliment is not considered by many as sexual abuse (though it is by law in Mexico

"No fue romantico en aquel entonces, no es romantico hoy"; "It wasn't romantic back then, and it's not romantic today."

City), it is the beginning of a chain of gender-based violence that leads to femicide. Cases of violence against women have been treated with impunity here in Mexico; in other words, it is normalized and ignored. This is the message, subliminal or otherwise, that is portrayed to the children of our community. If you’re a man the thinking might be: “It’s ok, no big deal,” and if you are a woman, the thinking might be, “Well, what can you do about it? “

We also know that in terms of machismo, “one is not born but made.” During the years of childhood and adolescence, there is much that can be done to counteract the collective forms of reaffirming masculinity that is perpetuated by both men and women in our society.

Any educational effort to promote equity should consider the different cultural and educational environments we navigate so that messages of respect towards women and for diversity constitute are accounted for. At a UNESCO meeting on masculinity and culture of peace it was mentioned that coupled with teacher training on effective methods against sexism, homophobia, and racism, measures should be taken “to reduce hierarchies and gender antagonisms at all levels of social life [such as] the public arena, mass media, the private sphere, the workplace, and institutions.” Moreover, within schools, talking about gender as only an isolated topic should be avoided, and instead incorporated into discussions about equity, peace, and respect within the curriculum since all subjects include themes that touch on both men and women.

Ileana Jiménez (Feminist Teacher) told me how her male students’ perception of street harassment changed when they listened to the experiences of their female peers during a workshop with Emily May, founder of Hollaback; for these boys to realize that this was a daily reality for their peers caused a real impact, as many had never stopped to think about the issue.

For this very reason, I strongly believe that sharing personal stories about street harassment is essential to demonstrating how gender-based violence and discrimination are more common than they appear. They are proof that these compelling realities for women and LGBQT folks should not go unnoticed, especially since they are such an important element of the widespread violence in Mexico.

AtréveteDF (Atreverse means “to dare”)

At the end of last year, I discovered the Hollaback! blog and decided to reach out to the New York Hollaback! team to open a

"No Soy Tu Mami," (I'm not your 'mami') from AtreveteDF's Latin American sister counterpart in Buenos Aires.

Mexico City chapter. We’ve always known that founding it would be controversial, particularly because of the fact that since Mexico has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, some think there are more important issues to deal than street harassment. Many people consider the “compliments” that call attention to women subject to interpretation rather than degrading; others believe that they part of a culture of courtship and “picardía.”

Clearly, this is not so, since now there is a Mexico City law specifying that forms of sexual abuse in public places range from leering, comments, suggestive gestures, and touching. Even with this law, AtreveteDF believes that there are cultural limitations to this legislation since women are often questioned and made to feel guilty when they share a story or complaint about harassment and /or sexual abuse.

We would like to reiterate that the AtréveteDF/Hollaback! movement around the world is not anti-man, but instead, anti-harassment. We recognize that not all men harass women and many are aware of its impact and work against it. We firmly believe that sharing stories and ways to deal with street harassment en masse is an effective way to raise awareness about social problems that are frequently made invisible.

When voices come together, it leads to creating and modifying public policies as well as to creating supportive communities for those who are made to think that their experience of street harassment has no value or that they are responsible for what has happened to them.

Dare to tell your story and let’s walk our streets without fear.

Follow AtreveteDF on Twitter and on Facebook.

La educación contra el acoso en las calles

El recuerdo principal de mi ultima visita a un estadio de futbol aquí en México es el de dos niños, de aproximadamente 6 o 7 años gritándoles cosas denigrantes, con motivos de objetificación y por cierto bastante elocuentes a las mujeres que caminaban por las gradas o que animaban el juego; ni hablar de los comentarios de homosexualidad y ‘falta de hombría’ dirigidos a los jugadores del equipo contrario o al del que apoyaban cuando fallaban en alguna jugada. La gente pasaba y se reía, la mayoría de los hombres y mujeres parecían aplaudir este comportamiento, y nadie, incluyéndome, se quejó o les pidió respeto.

Hoy es el Día Internacional contra el Acoso en las Calles y mientras hablamos del diario caminar de muchas mujeres y personas LGBT, no olvidemos mencionar a la infancia y juventud que son testigos y aprendices de la violencia sexual generalizada en nuestras comunidades en los medios, en sus hogares, en las calles y en las escuelas.

Si bien el acoso verbal como un piropo ofensivo para muchos no se considera abuso sexual (lo es por ley en la Ciudad de México), es este el principio de una cadena de violencia con base de género que llega hasta el feminicidio. Con el ejemplo de la impunidad con la que se han tratado los casos de violencia hacia las mujeres a lo largo de la historia de México y últimamente, este es naturalizado e ignorado. Esta es la imagen, subliminal o no, que se refleja hacia los niños y niñas de nuestra comunidad. Que si eres hombre . . .“Que no pasa nada”,  que si eres mujer, “¿Pues qué le vas a hacer?”

Sabemos que en términos de machismo uno no nace, sino se hace, y en la infancia y adolescencia hay mucho que se puede hacer para contrarrestar las formas colectivas de reafirmar masculinidades impuestas y perpetuadas por hombres y mujeres a la par.

Dentro de cualquier esfuerzo educativo que promueva la equidad, se deben de considerar los diferentes ámbitos culturales y educativos que navegamos para que los mensajes de respeto hacia las mujeres y hacia la diversidad conformen una experiencia completa para los hombres y las mujeres. En una reunión de la UNESCO sobre masculinidades y cultura de paz se menciona que aunada a la capacitación de maestros en métodos eficaces contra la discriminación como el sexismo, la homofobia y el racismo, se deben de tomar “medidas para reducir las jerarquías y los antagonismos de género a través de la gama de la vida social [como] la arena pública, los medios de comunicación masivos, la esfera privada, los lugares de trabajo, las instituciones.” Por otra parte, dentro del ámbito escolar se debe de evitar el hablar de género de forma aislada, y comenzar a generalizar la equidad, la paz y el respeto dentro del curriculum ya que cualquier tema de aprendizaje tiene que ver y es revisado tanto por hombres como mujeres.

Ileana Jiménez (Feminist Teacher) me contó sobre la experiencia y cambio de percepción que tuvieron sus alumnos al escuchar las experiencias de sus compañeras con respecto al acoso en las calles el día que tuvieron un taller con Emily May, la co-fundadora de Hollaback!; el saber que esta era una realidad diaria para ellas los hizo reflexionar, ya que la mayoría jamás se habían detenido a pensarlo. Por esto mismo, creo cada vez más que las historias de acoso en las calles es un ejemplo imprescindible para demostrar que la violencia de género y la discriminación son mas comunes de lo que parecen y que son realidades contundentes para las mujeres y  miembros de la comunidad LGBTQ que no deben de pasar desapercibidas, siendo estas un eslabones importante dentro de la violencia generalizada en nuestro país.

AtréveteDF

A finales del año pasado me encontré con el blog de Hollaback! y decidí comenzar los planes con el equipo de Hollaback y otras personas de abrir el capítulo en el Distrito Federal. Siempre hemos sabido que su apertura iba a ser controversial, particularmente por el hecho de que hay quienes piensan que siendo uno de los países con mayor índice de violencia hacia la mujer, hay cosas más importantes a tratar. Mucha gente considera los piropos y el atraer la atención de una mujer de manera denigrante es subjetivo y que es parte de una cultura de cortejo y picardía muy arraigada.

Tan no lo es que ya existe legislación en esta ciudad que especifica que las formas de abuso sexual en la vía pública incluyen desde miradas lascivas, comentarios e insinuaciones sobre el cuerpo hasta tocamientos. Por otra parte me pareció que la legislación tiene todavía la limitación cultural donde es común que una mujer que denuncia o comparte una historia de acoso/abuso sexual sea puesta en duda, muchas veces se le hace sentir culpable por ser acosada.

Quisiera reiterar que el movimiento de Atrévete no es anti-hombres sino anti-acoso, que reconocemos que no todos los hombres acosan y que muchos están conscientes de sus efectos y están en contra de ello. Creemos firmemente que el hecho de compartir historias y formas de lidiar con el acoso en masa, es una forma efectiva de crear conciencia sobre problemas sociales invisibilizados, y que finalmente cuando las voces se unen, es más fácil crear o modificar políticas públicas al igual que crear comunidades de apoyo para quienes creen que su experiencia ha sido única, que no tiene valor o que son culpables por lo que les ha sucedido.

Atrévete a contar tu historia y transitemos las calles sin miedo.

Síguenos en Twitter y en Facebook.

7 thoughts on “Guest Post: On International Anti-Street Harassment Day, AtreveteDF Urges Youth Education

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