First they whistle at you and call you sweetie or babe – and if you don’t react you are a slut. Do you know this too? Have you ever been sexually harassed? Franzi and Gina have been harassed many times in one way or another. They will tell you what catcalls and slut shaming mean and how you can deal with sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment can happen to anyone – Gina’s experience
“It was kind of strange. I was always sure that if something like that ever happened, I would know how to defend myself. I also assumed that something like that would never happen to me, because I don’t necessarily correspond to the generally accepted ideal of beauty. But that was nonsense. Something like that can happen to anyone, no matter how you look,” Gina (20 years old, from the Ruhr area) explains. She has already been the victim of sexual harassment several times.
“I never thought it would be so hard to face it. Or to fight back. Or to call for help. I always thought that I could defend myself in a situation like this, but I couldn’t. Not because I was too weak, but because I was paralyzed.”
This is what the often-mentioned expressions actually mean:
– Catcalls are assaultive, sexually oriented comments made by men to women they encounter on the street or in other public spaces. Catcalls often include references to appearance and the body. So, catcalling is verbal sexual harassment.
This kind of attention has nothing to do with a compliment, appreciation, interest or respect.
On the contrary, catcalling is a degradation of the woman and a gesture of supposed (!) male dominance and superiority. (Brigitte)
– Hollaback means “yell back” and refers to a form of reaction to sexual harassment, such as catcalls, and is intended to draw attention to everyday public harassment.
– Slut shaming means that women are attacked for their outspoken behaviour or revealing ways of dressing are attacked and condemned. They are talked into feeling shame. And in the end, it means that the victim is blamed for what happens to her.
The problem with this is, above all, that it does not only come from men but often from women among themselves. (gofeminin)
– Victim blaming or blaming the victim is the description for a procedure that seeks the blame for an assault on the victim himself. This leads to increased secondary victimization and possibly to more severe trauma sequelae.
Stop Victim Shaming! It’s not the victim’s fault – only the perpetrators!
The biggest problem I had with the reaction from others were the indirect accusations. After something like that had just happened to me, I didn’t want to hear what I should have done better, but simply that it was not my fault. This may sound stupid, but I always had a bit of a feeling that I was the one at fault.
For example, if I hadn’t sat in that exact seat on the bus, but on some other seat, it wouldn’t have happened. Or if I had not gone out partying in the first place, it wouldn’t have happened. Or if I had simply taken more care of myself, it wouldn’t have happened. At some point I had to admit to myself that it happened because of this horrible person, not because of me!
Recognizing structural sexism and taking it seriously
I think the biggest challenge is to deal with people who don’t take sexism seriously or have no experience with it. In principle, I can kind of understand that too, though I don’t condone it. If you haven’t had such experiences, it might be hard to understand why sexist jokes or comments hurt you and you’re portrayed as whiny and like you always want to play victim. However, some people don’t see that this is indicative of the structural sexism of our society.
I want, I may and I can!
I simply know that I want to learn to defend myself. It’s not my strength that’s my problem, it’s my psyche that has been soaked up with sexism and keeps me from standing up for myself. I want to keep going out partying and doing all the things women are warned not to do, simply because I am a person who wants to live my life. But I want to put myself first and be my own protector.
Gina’s tip for sexual harassment: Express your opinion!
If you don’t like something, you don’t have to suffer from it. And I’m not just referring to sexism. Often girls and women keep their mouths closed even though they care about something, and as a result, your valuable opinions are lost. You are worth listening to.” If you are interested in the topic of sexism, then here is the right article for you.
intombi for girls – how you can be part of it!
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Catcallsof_ – Franzi draws attention to sexual harassment with chalk attentively
“For a long time, I didn’t pay attention to sexist slogans, resigned myself to my own experiences and only gradually understood in everyday life how many places a woman really experiences sexism,” Franzi (29, from Bonn) reveals to us. “Social media in particular have had a very strong influence on me. Here, not only women come together who can report on their experiences, but also just the opposite, people who downplay these experiences, justify them or carry them out themselves.
I don’t want to exempt myself from that,” she clarifies. “I have definitely made sexist jokes, too. But I have learned from my mistakes and I learn every day. Often one is not directly aware of what one can do with some actions or statements. But that’s what activism and educational work is there for.”
Understanding other affected people from your own experience and educating them together
Franzi has often had to listen to useless and offensive comments herself. For example, a fellow student dressed in the same top told her she was dressed too provocatively. Or a strange older man said that he had to tell her at the train station that she should keep her blouse (with the two top buttons open) closed, because that way people wouldn’t walk around outside or things could fall out. “I was honestly shocked and blindsided.” She realized she had to do something. And it has to be public, it has to reach a lot of people.
Catcallsof_ – A great idea for the proverbial chalking up of misbehaviour.
“The Chalkback.org Organisation and the associated “Catcallsof_” Instagram accounts were my first port of call,” she tells us. Here, anyone can share his or her personal story, and account owners walk around the city writing the story in chalk on the place where it happened. The idea comes from Sophie Sandberg from New York City. She started in 2016 to draw attention to this form of sexual harassment with chalk drawings. Inspired by this, Franzi decided to create the account Catcallsof.Bonn. In the meantime, there are similar accounts in many cities around the world.
First of all, we want to tell you that there is no single perfect answer. But no matter how you respond, it’s not wrong!
Possible tips we found at the Hollaback! initiative:
1. Use strong body language. Look the harassing person directly in the eye; speak in a firm, clear voice. Voice, facial expression, and body language together – without sending mixed signals – show/demonstrate confidence and strength.
2. Demonstrate confidence and calmness to the outside world; even if you don’t feel that way, it is important to appear calm, serious and confident.
3. Do not apologize, or look for an excuse, or ask a question. You don’t have to apologize for how you feel or what you want. Be strong and untouchable.
4. You do not have to respond to distractions, questions, threats, accusations, or self-pity from the attacker. Stay with yourself. Repeat what you have to say or simply leave the situation.
5. Do not call anyone in the situation bad names or lose your temper: reacting in this way will most likely result in increased aggression and violence on the part of the aggressor.
6. You decide when you are done! Success in this situation is simply what you consider it to be. If you have said what you needed to say and feel like you want to go, Do it!
Strong together for a social rethink!
“For me, chalking and integrating with people and to be a strong advocate against sexism and for other people makes me happy, gives me strength and pushes me forward.
Because that’s what’s important: the exchange and the attention,” Franzi is sure. “Only in this way a social rethinking can take place and can create change. I hope that such striking actions, make people aware of the problem, perhaps make them think and react differently in certain situations than before or exchange with their acquaintances and friends.
Franzi’s tip: You are NOT to be blamed!
My tip for girls who are harassed on the street: There is no wrong reaction from you. No one has to be ashamed of his or her reaction to harassment. You can get loud, pepper back, turn your head away, keep walking, give the middle finger, laugh, ask for help, and ignore. Because you are NOT to blame. The blame always lies with the perpetrator and if you dare, say out loud what you think of such harassment. And if not, write a message to the CatCalls account in your city. Because this is also a form of resistance.
Photos: Franzi draws attention to sexual harassment with chalk Catcallsof_
Women who are affected by sexualized violence can contact the help hotline “Violence against Women” with all their questions. The help hotline also puts them in touch with support facilities in the vicinity. Relatives, friends and professionals can also get advice. You can call here around the clock: 08000 116 016.
You can also get advice in a chat, in sign language and in 17 different different languages.
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