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Interview with Out on the Streets Director, Niamh Gaskin

Niamh Gaskin

Niamh Gaskin

In celebration of International Anti-Street Harassment Week (March 30 – April 5) Hollaback! Dublin are screening the première of the thought-provoking Out on the Streets a short Irish documentary about street harassment and its affects. We caught up with the director Niamh Gaskin to discuss her film and her thoughts on the issue…

What inspired you to make a documentary about street harassment?

What interests me as a topic, is the culture around sexual harassment in our society today. Over and over again, in our nightclubs, in our workplaces, in our schools, on our screens, women’s (and many minorities’) right to say ‘no’ and to be comfortable seems to be demeaned. Women are sometimes objectified to the point that it’s easy for a harasser to forget they have feelings. I could have made three feature length documentaries on sexual harassment and still have things to say on the topic, I felt I narrowed it down and focused on street harassment in particular, as an issue many women face on a daily basis, yet we seem to be conditioned to just accept it.

Have you personally experienced street harassment?

Yeah, it’s happened me a good few times, and mostly I’ve always been surprised at how much it affects me. Usually, it frustrates me, it makes me feel very self-conscious and uncomfortable. Sometimes, it’s made me feel afraid, and then the worst part is, I feel stupid for having these varied emotions, like I’m not entitled to be affected by something people deem as ‘harmless fun’. And then some other times, especially when I’m not alone, I can just brush them off. It’s never a particularly fun addition to your day.

From making the documentary, did you come to any conclusion about the perpetrators of harassment?

For the most part, I believe that the perpetrators of street harassment just don’t think about the feelings of the victim. They’re just ignorant to the effect they’re having while trying to make themselves look or feel more powerful through this act. It’s not that they’re evil people, it’s not like the people who dismiss street harassment are cruel, they just need to be reminded that the victims they are harassing are people too, and not just objects. I think if they were taught to empathise with the victim at all, that street harassment wouldn’t be such an issue.

Did you find that participants were open to speaking to you about their experiences?

Yes, most of the people in the documentary were ones who felt very strongly about street harassment. It was difficult to find people who were quite indifferent on the topic to talk to us about their views or experiences. I mean, there are many people who feel that street harassment is not a big issue, but none were willing to go on camera and talk about this.

Do you think that this is an issue that people are dismissive of?

Yeah, I do in a way. I did have several people really question why I was making this documentary, and I appreciate people have different priorities, but some people seemed determined not to accept this as a problem. Other times, after talking with people, they were surprised to think about how little they’d dwelt on the idea of street harassment before or how much it had actually affected them.

Check out Niamh’s “Out on the Streets” as well as 3 other short films about street harassment at Hollaback! Dublin’s free screening in Wall & Keogh, Portobello on April 2 at 6pm.

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Phone Show trivializes workplace harassment; We want an apology

Attention: Chris Barry, 104FM Phone Show host

 

Dear Mr. Barry,

 

We were upset to hear the recent comments on the March 5 episode of The Phone Show condoning slapping women’s behinds in the workplace. The remark that women who get upset are “just prudes” or “a bit precious” is disrespectful and serves to undermine women’s autonomy over their bodies. Further, this attitude suggests to women that, to gain acceptance from their male colleagues, they must put up with this type of behaviour and appear to be fine with it or risk being labeled a prude by their colleagues and subjected to further disrespect and ridicule.

 

Workplace sexual harassment, which The Employment Equality Act defines as “unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature,” is illegal in Ireland. Contributing to a culture that attacks women who speak up against this type of unsolicited contact encourages men to behave however they wish with the expectation they will get away with it.

 

Sexual violence is an overwhelming problem in Ireland and around the world. A recent EU Agency of Fundamental Rights study found eight percent of Irish women report having experienced sexual violence, with 28 percent admitting they’d feared an assault in the past year. Though a “harmless” slap on the bottom or comment to a passerby may seem entirely different from a rape, both lie along the spectrum of sexual violence. Of the 55 percent of Irish women who have experienced sexual harassment, 32 percent were harassed in the workplace. To a woman who has experienced sexual violence, this can be extremely traumatizing. If men can get away with “minor” types of harassment, they will be more likely to objectify women and regard their own desires as superior to the interests of the women they encounter. This is the type of environment that allows sexual assault to persist.

 

We hope you can appreciate the potential negative consequences of broadcasting attitudes that condone objectifying women’s bodies and trivializing their feelings in a world where sexual assault and harassment are a reality for many women. We would greatly appreciate a public apology to the women of Dublin, and would be happy to come on your show to discuss the matter further if you wish.

 

Sincerely yours,
Hollaback! Dublin

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Happy Birthday to us!

Chalkwalk NYIt’s been one year since Hollaback! Dublin launched and what a year it’s been!

 

We’re so proud of what we’ve achieved this year, but there’s still plenty on our birthday wishlist that we want to achieve in the next year.

  • Greater intersectionality so that Hollaback! Dublin serves everyone, no matter their race, class, sexuality or gender.
  • We want to collect more stories! We need your stories so that we can show street harassment affects us all.
  • We really want to collaborate with more organisations working to end gender based violence and harassment.

 

Let us know if you can help with any of those things! We’re going to be celebrating Hollaback! Dublin’s 1st birthday with a hangout in Accents coffee lounge at 3pm on the 30th of November. It will be chance for people who are interested in talking about street harassment to meet up and celebrate that we Hollaback!

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Lucila’s Story:I have never experienced the affirmation of male power over women in such a violent way before

I had the incredibly bad luck of having two situations of harassment the same day in differents areas. The first one was when I was waiting for a friend at the door of LIDL on Thomas Street. While I was waiting there, a guy stood by my side and asked me “lady, do you wanna fuck?”. I ignored him and turned around, but he kept repeating the same thing over and over again. I was so frustrated at this and annoyed that at some point I turned around and shouted at him, telling him to leave alone or I would call the police. In that moment the guy just turned around,babbling something uncomprehensible and walked away.

But I have such a bad luck, that sadly that would not be the last awful experience I would have that day. After visiting my friend, I went to wait for my bus at the bus stop in Bachelor’s Walk, the one that is just in front of a tanning salon. While I was waiting for my bus to come, a group of 4 young guys came in the opposite direction and one of them grabbed my boobs. I inmediately reacted and they started running, I chased them and hit one on the face with my umbrella, shouting things at them, angry and ofuscated. After that, they tried to intimidate me, saying that they were going to call the police because I hit one of them. Another one called me a tramp. Then another one tried to touch me again and I hit him with my umbrella too. This time he reacted more violently and tried to defend himself, trying to punch me in the face. After that,they just ran away,laughing at their deed and making fun of me. I stood there, frustrated, helpless and not knowing what to do. The people that saw what just happened didn’t even try to help me or said anything, and there was no garda around. But I don’t think that would have made a difference.

This made me so sick to my stomach. I am an international student, and although my country is considered to be unsafe, this has never happened to me there and to be honest, it does not made feel safe in the public space in this city anymore. I have never experienced the affirmation of male power over women in such a violent way before. It is sickening that this young guys are growing up with the idea that they can do anything they want to women without their consent or tell us disrespectful things, breaking the line of respect and limiting our freedom to walk on the streets. It seems to me that we are growing potential rapists and abussers. Nothing seems to have changed from past times. Women rights are just a formality. We are still objects, slaves.

I've got your back!
21+

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Caoi’s Story: A pretty girl, like you.

I was cycling along the Grand Canal from town to Celbridge on a sunny Tuesday around lunch time. I stopped just after Clondalkin (over half way) to have a drink of water just before the cycle lane ended and the path became more secluded. A man’s voice came from across the river and said “Do you need some help love?”, to which I replied “No, thanks”. He said, “It’s very dangerous to be cycling around here by yourself, with all of these men about. A pretty girl, like you.”… I don’t know if it was a twisted compliment, a sincere warning or a thought on his mind, but I cycled as quickly as I could past any men that I came across for the rest of my journey. I was terrified and extremely vulnerable, being by myself on this quiet country lane. I did not stop again, paranoid that someone was now following behind me. And I was filled with absolute terror if I saw someone up ahead, eager to speed past them. On what should have been a Beatrix Potter kind of bike journey.

I've got your back!
8+

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Zoni’s Story: the guys seem to think its okay to touch me and my female friends inappropriately without permission

Anytime I head to some gay bar, the guys seem to think its okay to touch me and my female friends inappropriately without permission.  Its okay if my male friends do it, because they’re my friend (and even then they wouldn’t touch me like that anyway), but a lot of men in the gay scene think they are entitled to touch my ass or my breasts and do the same thing to my female friends just because they are gay/bisexual.  Im a lesbian woman hanging out with my mates in gay clubs and I don’t expect to be groped by men who then turn around and tell me “it’s okay im gay, I don’t fancy you, lighten up” as if that makes their inappropriate touching okay.  If they aren’t touching my bum, they are feeling up my hair; If they aren’t commenting on my breasts, they are commenting on my friend’s bum.  It’s pathetic, annoying and one of the reasons I don’t hang out in the scene much anymore.

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HOLLA:Revolution

Last week Hollaback! Dublin attended the first ever HOLLA::Revolutiona public speaker series and site leader retreat that took place in New York University. It’s a big statement to say you’re hosting a revolution. But there was no other word to describe what happened.

There were 17 speakers at the public event and all of them had messages that changed our worlds a little bit. Some of the highlights included (but were by no means limited to) the badass Nicola Briggs talking about successfully confronting her harasser on the New York subway in 2010, Rochelle Keyhan, Hollaback! Philly’s site leader, who taught us about the history of street harassment (or street mashing as it was known back in the 1800s),  Ryann Holmes of Bklyn Boihood  on street harassment from a boi’s point of view, THIS ridiculously funny (and accurate) video by Sasheer Zamata and Jimmie Briggs of the Man Up! Project who spoke wonderfully about encouraging healthy masculinity.

Rochelle

Rochelle Keyhan on The History of Street Harassment

After the speaker series, 20 global Hollaback! site leaders (including site leaders from Dublin and Belfast) spent 3 days discussing the future of the Hollaback movement. It was an honour to be in a room full of such passionate and dedicated individuals and everyone left energised and ready to bring the revolution to their hometown!

I’m sure you’re dying to know what we came up with and here it is-we’re going to end street harassment! Ok, so it already says that at the top of the page, but it’s nice to be reminded. We talked about a lot of things at the retreat– group dynamics, time management, fundraising, crisis response, strategic planning—but all of it with the long term goal of making street harassment a thing of the past. Our long term goals sometimes get forgotten in the process of just trying to get people to acknowledge street harassment, so these were some great conversations to have.

We also found time for an awesome chalk walk in Washington Square Park. The chalk walk was widely well received and prompted so many conversations with people interested in Hollaback! We are spreading the message!

Chalkwalk NY

Chalkwalk in Washington Square Park

It was a revolution to be in a room full of men and women who know that street harassment is a real problem. It was a revolution to be in a room full of people who not just to recognize street harassment as a problem, but who are also finding amazing solutions to it. It was a revolution that everyone remembered to acknowledge the importance of intersectionality.

So we attended a revolution and we’re bringing it back to Dublin. We have a lot of plans for how we’re going to end street harassment in Dublin, and how you can help us to do it, so keep checking back to find out about them!

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Lou’s Story:I think it’s sad that street harassment is one of the first experiences of our sexuality that we women can have

In general, I don’t find that street harassment is a huge problem in Dublin, it’s not so big that it’s difficult to live a normal life, as it can be in other cities. I have moved out of Ireland to other places where the level of harassment has made me feel like a prisoner in my own home, prompting me to join Hollaback. But, reading the stories has made me think of the first time I was harassed, and it did indeed, take place in Dublin.

I was 13 and was walking to my friend’s house after school in my school uniform. While walking on a busy road, a huge 18-wheeler lorry drove past me, with the driver blasting the horn and making lewd gestures at me with his tongue while screaming something that I couldn’t hear over the horn. It was so loud that I and everyone around me jumped in shock and the windows in the buildings nearby rattled. He drove off quickly.

At the time, if I had known what to do or where to go, maybe I would have made a note of his number plate, and acted accordingly. Or, perhaps a bystander would, since they all looked appropriately appalled.

This is by no means the worst experience of harassment that I’ve encountered (I could write a book), but now that I look back, I think it’s sad that street harassment is one of the first experiences of our sexuality that we women can have. And I use the term ‘we women’ because I bet every female around the world has experienced it. Also, harassment is never right, but it’s even worse when there’s an uncomfortable air of paedophilia around it, as there always is if it’s towards a schoolgirl (or boy) in uniform. I hope that when I have a daughter, society will have advanced, and she won’t have to experience it. The ironic thing is many of the harassers hope for the same thing for their own daughters.

I've got your back!
10+

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