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I like to dance. I like to dance a lot. I like to dance a lot in a weird and freaky way, and every Good Night Out of mine involves dancing in some format. But every so often on my night out I feel threatened by people shouting homophobic slurs at me or whipping out phones and filming me throwing my shapes about the club.
I have no real problem with someone taking a cheeky video of me; dancing should be shared with everyone. But I am not sure people realise that filming someone without permission can be intimidating or unsettling.
It was after a night out in Edinburgh where I had someone shine their camera light on me and push their phone into within ½ a meter of my face that I realised that this was harassment. I felt vulnerable and intimidated and powerless. Who could I tell and who would listen and who would believe a teenager in shorts dancing alone in a club without anyone to back up my story?
Good Night Out is all about making sure a venue listens to what has happened and that they will take you seriously. I joined the campaign so that others might not be made to feel uncomfortable because of their sexuality on their night out.
I want everybody to have a harassment-free Good Night Out, irrespective of how crazy the shapes you cut are.
CONTENT NOTE: Sexual Assault
My version of a Good Night Out is a good old-fashioned music festival. That might seem like cheating since that’s technically several good nights out but, seriously, I love weekends like Boomtown Fair and Secret Garden Party more than is sensible.
This story is about the worst harassment that I ever experienced on a Good Night Out, which this time was at Reading Festival in 2009.
That fine Saturday afternoon I was standing in one of the front rows at the main stage waiting for Placebo to play. The crowd was rammed with people packed so tight that during the last band I had been picked up and thrown off my feet by the entire crowd. My hands were bent and wedged against my friend’s back with no possibility of changing my position.
It was at this point that I felt a hand snake up my skirt and into my pants where it proceeded to have a root around.
I’ll repeat that.
Someone grabbed my vagina without my invitation or even my seeing said someone’s face.
I couldn’t move away and there was no way of figuring out whose hand it was. The best I could do was say “I don’t know who’s doing that but whoever it is stop it now”. Luckily for me the hand retreated. What’s horrifying is that someone thought that it was okay or, arguably worse, funny to violate my body in the lull between bands.
I’m joining Good Night Out Edinburgh because I want people to know that that’s not okay and to make sure that anyone who experiences anything similar can have it dealt with. You can follow the campaign on Facebook and Twitter where we’ll be talking about our progress and our Good Night Out venues.
Strange as it might seem to introduce myself to a feminist blog with a sympathetic discussion of anti-feminism, that is exactly what I intend to do. You see, I too was once party to the “I’m not a feminist, but-” brigade.
People are often quick to blame the feminist backlash on the bra-burning-moustachioed-man-hating-lesbians depicted by the mainstream media, but I think there must be plenty of anti-feminists well aware that this caricature is just made-up drivel. No, what turned me into an anti-feminist was an unfortunate mix of feminism and the patriarchy. I will begin with the patriarchy since that is all of our favourite thing to complain about. A combination of Bliss magazine articles, photo-shopped supermodels, and a seeming inability to fit into an all-girls’ school all led me to the conclusion that I was a poor excuse for a girl. Reams of pages in my diary at 13 are devoted to plots and schemes to make myself “cool”, “pretty”, and “girly”, but I always felt that I fell short. My failed efforts to be a girl whom boys would fancy and other girls would look up to was ruining my self-esteem, and so I eventually felt safer not trying at all. I identified instead as a ladette – loud, crass, and “one of the boys”.
My upbringing was nothing if not feminist: my staunchly feminist mother taught me that the end-goal was not to find a person to fall in love and settle down with but rather to be happy alone and to need nobody but myself; the school that I went to was not aiming to produce couth young ladies but rather the female figureheads of tomorrow; and I inhabited public spaces with confidence, never experiencing enough fear of street harassment to make me alter my routes home in the dark.
Unfortunately both experiences had the adverse effect of leading me away from feminism. I had had so much trouble identifying with my “sisters” in the first place and now here was feminism reminding me of my gender and my inability to crowbar myself into its ideal. I knew that feminism is still needed by many groups of women, but I personally very rarely felt inhibited by my sex, and was mostly only reminded that I was part of an oppressed group when feminism told me so. I came to resent the movement that repeatedly dictated to me how powerless I am, when I rather saw myself as genderless and powerful. In short, feminism reminded me that I was a woman, and I didn’t like it.
I later moved to an area that was densely populated by men who saw fit to stand in packs and stare, shout, and touch without permission. There were stories of men masturbating outside friends’ houses and rapes in the nearby area. I felt unsafe to the point that I could not leave the house, and was often tearfully angry that society’s fixation on my gender was leaving me fearful of something as simple as walking outside in broad daylight. I would like to say that I changed my tune at this point, but unfortunately that took moving away from the city where friends repeatedly stated, “You believe in equal rights for both sexes? But then you are a feminist!” to study a postgraduate module at Edinburgh in feminist theories. I began to realise that, while feminism felt like a smug companion who kept elbowing me in the ribs and stage whispering “You’re a GIRL, and you’re POWERLESS”, men on the street were reducing me to a pair of legs and tits in a much more terrifying way. I decided that if the whole world, feminist and anti-feminist alike, was going to keep reminding me that I am a woman and that I am oppressed, then I at least wanted to be on the side that is fighting for an alternative. If I can’t view gender as insignificant to how I live my life, then I want to join the increasing volume of angry voices that are provoking the courage to Hollaback!
Lovely Hollaback! activists and supporters! After a fantastic year of meetings, new friends, events, and both difficult and very good times, the Edinburgh team are now taking a wee break over the holidays, to come back in January with renewed feminist excitement and strength.
As Audre Lorde advises, we all need to take care of ourselves – you too!
Thank you all for a wonderful year! Happy HOLLAdays and may you have a great New Year!
As part of the 16 Days of Activism for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, you are very warmly invited to the Write to End Violence Against Women Feminist Writing Day School. Download the flyer here: FeministWritingDaySchool_1
To register please visit the EventBrite page where you can sign up for two of the following sessions:
Morning Session 1. What’s her story?
Hannah Lavery, Appletree Writers
Hannah Lavery from Appletree Writers will offer a busy morning of writing. Looking at women’s lives as inspiration for our writing the session will be a practical workshop which will offer ways and techniques to get you started and keep you going.
Morning Session 2. Online Storytelling and Creative Activism
Hollaback! will explore the importance of storytelling in the feminist movement, and look at ways we can be creative in our activism.
Afternoon Session 1. Writing for Empowerment
Magi Gibson, Writer in Residence Glasgow Women’s Library
Do you ever feel that no-one listens to you? That there are things you’d like to get out of your system and down on paper – but you don’t know how? In this two hour workshop, poet and writer Magi Gibson will help you turn your thoughts into powerful pieces of writing.
Afternoon Session 2. Your Feminist Voice
Talat Yaqoob, YWCA Scotland
Talat Yaqoob from YWCA Scotland will be leading a workshop reflecting on her lessons as a public speaker and blogger on feminist issues. The workshop will explore the public sphere of your feminist voice. You’ll have a chance to write your own short articles about tough topics and stand on your soapbox to speak about your feminism as well as learning from examples of feminists on YouTube.
If you have any questions, please send an email to [email protected].
Come prepared for a fab day of feminist writing and be sure to bring your pen and paper!
Text credit: Zero Tolerance
Last month, I had just moved to Edinburgh and I was exploring in the early afternoon alone. I won’t even describe what I was wearing or where I’m from because that has no bearing on the amount of common courtesy I should receive. A van pulled up beside me and a man started whistling to get my attention. I ignored him and kept walking. He kept pulling up beside me and whistling. I kept ignoring him and walking. Eventually, after a few blocks, he revved and sped away.
I hate all harassment, but I think harassment from cars is the most cowardly kind a man/person can participate in and it’s so frustratingly hard to turn to the victim’s advantage. You can’t even whip off a badass comeback before he speeds away, and often you don’t even get to see his face so you can’t publicly shame him with a photo or description.
It certainly heightened my anxiety about living in this area on my own.
I was in Cab Vol on the 18/10/14 and was dancing by myself at the nightclub. I dressed in an alternative way. I was having a very good night and then 4 guys started making comments on the way I dressing and dancing, when they started shouting at me shouting ‘Gaaaay’ in the fashion of Senor Chang from Community. While I still am perplexed why calling someone Gay is an insult to them, it put a downer on my night. If I choose to dress and dance in a particular way I would hope people would accept it irrespective of my sexuality. The other thing which bothered me was the incessant filming of my dancing style.
I successfully intervened last evening when I saw a man intimidating a woman on the Royal Mile. With a surprising amount of ease, I ended up successfully diverting the person away and gave the woman an opportunity to move on down the road to wherever she was headed.