Each month we plan on doing a news roundup that includes coverage on the current topic (street harassment, in this case) as well as other issues in the feminist scope along with a brief takeaway of each story.
New Year’s Eve Sexual Assaults in Germany
What better way to ring in the new year than with reports of more than 1,300 sexual assaults taking place throughout popular German cities? At least 3 alleged rapes were reported amongst hundreds of assaults and robberies, spread out over Cologne, Hamburg, and other cities. To make a bad situation worse, many of the alleged attackers were of “Arab or North African appearance” according to former Cologne police chief Wolfgang Albers. In the aftermath of the new year’s attacks, there have been reports of attacks on German migrants in supposed retaliation.
Covered by many international news outlets, including BBC, The New York Times, NBC, The Week and more, this incident has turned into a historical event (and even has it’s own Wikipedia page). For once, the attention has certainly turned to the attacker as the aftermath of these events focuses mainly on the refugee crises as an alleged root cause. Proving that generalization accomplishes nothing (besides fear and retaliation), there have been reports of Syrian men protecting women caught up in the attacks that much of the mainstream media has mostly ignored.
Not only does this event add a spark to the ongoing discussions of street harassment and the refugee crises, but Cologne’s mayor Henriette Reker has also tied it to the the problematic concept of victim blaming. Reker joined the debate with suggestions for how women can avoid danger, which obviously backfired when the hashtag #EineArmLaenge began trending. Thankfully, much of the response to Reker’s “code of conduct” for women has led to further conversation over how these sorts of events are treated by governing bodies and what should actually be done to prevent further instances.
Takeaways: Sexism is not an island. It intersects with many other issues that complicate and exacerbate the problems. This one event has tied into multiple ongoing issues and broadened the scope of each discussion immensely.
File under “Reasons Street Harassment is NOT a Compliment.” Towards the end of January, Janese Talton-Jackson rejected unwanted advances from an unknown man and was subsequently killed for her actions. To anyone who has not personally experienced street harassment or unwanted advances of any kind, it may seem as easy as saying “No, thank you” to get that behavior to stop. Unfortunately, a victim can never tell how the attacker will react and the instances of violent retaliation are more likely than you would think. To quote Margaret Atwood, “Men are afraid that women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them.”
This particular incident was reported by Hello Beautiful, The Independent, Elite Daily, and many others. The blog, When Women Refuse, has collected hundreds of personal and news stories of similar violence inflicted on women who reject sexual advances.
Takeaway: Take people seriously when they tell you about catcalling and how it makes them feel. It may seem like catcalling is fairly harmless, but for many women it is not. It would be easy to dismiss this as an extreme case, but the truth is that it happens too frequently to simply be an outlier.
In this twist of events, the Daily Mail reported on men in ultra-conservative Saudi Arabia becoming outraged after being catcalled by women in a shopping mall. The Saudi shopping centre reported 16 cases of sexual harassment of men by women. Many said the women should be punished severely as a deterrent in future.
Takeaway: There is an obvious element of hypocrisy in this case that highlights what is “okay” for men to do that is at the same time not acceptable coming from women. Nobody should be harassed and everyone should be held equally accountable for their actions.
Anjali dropped out of school because of street harassment that she regularly faced while returning home in South Delhi, India. After attending sessions organized by the campaign started by Safecity, a not-for-profit organization that fights street harassment, she soon mustered the courage to fight back and speak up for others.
In a landmark case, an Ontario judge ruled Gregory Alan Elliot not guilty of harassing women online. According to the court, because Elliot’s Twitter harassment did not contain anything of “violent or sexual nature” and he believed the women felt they were being harassed, but it was not “objectively reasonable” for them to fear for their safety, the case was closed. Many argue that this case was a win for free speech, but victims of harassment all over the world are left feeling like there’s nothing you can do and no one to help you.
“The feelings are the same. You’re trapped, you’re worried this will escalate into something you can’t outrun, you don’t want this person to know where you live or who’s in your family. People will blame you for this regardless—Were you wearing a short skirt? vs.Were you trolling him?—and your recourse is limited. People feel bad for you, sure, but no one can really do anything. So, you try to block it out, and move on.” – Scaachi Koul, Buzzfeed
Takeaway: This case opens the doors to more online harassment, especially in Canada, but also sets a certain standard for the rest of the world.
Not all news is bad! The toy industry has experienced some feminist upset recently, from demands to include the main character of the Star Wars movie in boxed sets to Barbie’s multiple makeovers. The famously unrealistic doll is now available in a variety of shapes to reflect a larger variety of more realistic female bodies.
Along with the new hair textures and skin tones introduced last year, Mattel hopes to appeal to their audiences by better reflecting the diversity in the real world.
Takeaways: While this is great progress towards more diversity in the media and consumer world, this change has reopened the discussion around gendered toys and how to improve that market place even more.
It doesn’t matter which party you support in the U.S. presidential elections, Megyn Kelly will not allow misogyny – or any irrelevant and hateful attacks – to play a part in this campaign season. From calling out Trump to grilling Jeb Bush, Kelly has become a role model for all in her strength as presidential debate moderator and Fox News anchor.
Kelly attributes her approach to success as her own idol, Oprah Winfrey, has. “[Oprah] never wallowed in any sort of victimhood…. She didn’t play the gender card and she didn’t play the race card. She was just so good we couldn’t ignore her. That’s my example…. Just get to the table and then do better than everybody else.” [Megyn] adds with a laugh, “But every so often, as all [women] know, you have to stop and slap somebody around a little bit who doesn’t understand that we are actually equals and not second-class citizens.”
Though Megyn does not call herself a feminist, she has become a feminist icon. She claims it’s because her accomplishments speak for themselves and have nothing to do with her gender. Kelly’s stand against Trump helped her surpass news star, Bill O’Reilly, in the key demographic of 25–54 for three months in 2015.
Takeaways: It does not matter that Megyn is a woman. She is standing her ground and has earned the respect of friends and foes with her straightforward discussion of issues of sexism at the forefront of the presidential campaign.
With the Super Bowl fast approaching, it’s good news that women are finally making waves in professional sports. The Buffalo Bills announced in January that they have hired the NFL’s first female full-time coach. This move follows the Cardinal’s hiring of the league’s female assistant in July, 2016.
In an industry so plagued by sex and abuse scandals (including 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 to list a few), this is relatively small news. Domestic violence accounts for 85 of the 713 arrests of NFL players since 2000 and the NFL’s reaction to such cases has varied immensely. The relationship between the Super Bowl and sex trafficking is another discussion in itself.
Even so, the tiniest of steps towards progress should be acknowledged. The NFL may have a history of sweeping glaring scandals under the rug, but only through public discussion can they be encouraged to make a change for the better.
Takeaways: Small steps are being made in male dominated industries, but we still have so far to go. Celebrate the small victories and keep pushing for change by openly discussing these issues of inequality and sexist mistreatment.
Jonathan Kalin tours college campuses and teaching required courses on consent, because debates around this “gray area” continue on. In this instance, he plays a clip from the infamous movie Superbad, which makes his audience of students laugh.
Founder of Party with Consent, Kalin is bringing more attention to the issue of consent and how it plays a HUGE role on college campuses especially.
“The statistics by this point are familiar: More than one in five college women will become victims of sexual assault, most of them by somebody they know, with very few coming forward to report the crimes. In the vast majority of these cases (80 percent, according to a 2009 study), alcohol is involved, for both women and men.
More surprising, perhaps, is that the way men and women understand consent is in almost direct opposition to each other: One study found that 61 percent of men say they rely on nonverbal cues — body language — to indicate if a woman is consenting to a sexual act, while only 10 percent of women say they actually give consent via body language (most say they wait to be asked).” – Jessica Bennett, The New York Times
When it comes to consent education, there has been some rebuttal from some who believe it can’t solve everyone’s problems or that these courses are an invasion or privacy. While not perfect, at the very least these courses further the discussion around consent in a time when college campuses are plagued by related scandals.
Takeaways: Consent apparently needs to be taught and can differ from person to person. The basic idea of “only yes means yes” is an element of most consent education campaigns, but the format of these courses has yet to be perfected.
Did we miss something huge? Let us know! Submissions are always welcome and comments are highly encouraged and will be approved to further discussion as long as they follow our guidelines. Please keep an open mind and respect your fellow humans.