Monday, September 29, 2014

Hey baby

My original idea for this project was only about street harassment. I wrote a proposal for my class to create a project similar to Caroline Tompkins' photo campaign, "Hey Baby", in which she photographs her catcallers. Here is another link that describes the project more and includes part of an interview with Tompkins. I turned my proposal in two weeks ago, but a week later, had not experienced any street harassment since the proposal (hooray! except not for my project...). I talked to my teacher on Thursday (four days ago) and revised my plan. Enter, this blog.

Thursday night a guy yelled at me from a car as I was walking the five minutes to my friend's apartment. So I took a picture.

On Friday, sitting outside Linda's, doing homework and eating tots with a friend, a guy yelled at us as he drove down Franklin Street. Picture number two.

On Saturday afternoon I walked down Franklin Street, coming home after studying on campus. A man said something to me as I walked past. Less than ten minutes later, as I got closer to home, another man yelled from a car. 


On Sunday, as I was filling my car with gas, a man at the station started talking to me. He was very friendly, and we chatted about UNC and our weekends. As I got back into my car, he called me "baby."


I didn't take a picture of that one, but... just what?

I guess I could have done that photo project after all.

Instead, I'm incorporating the project here. I did not realize until having these encounters and taking these pictures the bravery that Caroline Tompkins is embodying in her photo campaign. I was scared to take a picture of the man on Franklin Street! I knew I wanted to take one, but I walked a bit, turned around, sat down, and stealthily took a picture of a sign. The man is somewhere in the background. Tompkins, though, is getting right up in her harassers' faces and calling them out. I am honestly not sure I could have done that. More power to her.

Another thing I noticed from these pictures: they are all taken from far away. You sure can't tell from the pictures which car each man was in - actually, you can't even see the car in any of the pictures! To me, this distance symbolizes more than just the speed of their cars. I have the image and the memory of these actions. The men, though, are so removed from the situation, that we don't even know who they are. They are anonymous, and therefore can safely act without consequence.

A final thought: Although I documented these instances, they honestly didn't bother me that much. Each time, I thought to myself, "Seriously?" but kind of moved on with my day. Isn't it weird that this is so normal?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Meet Me!

Hi there! Thanks for taking the time to check out my blog. Before I get going, let me introduce myself and my page.

My name is Alban, and I am a senior at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.  I am a Psychology and German double major and Women’s Studies minor. I am currently enrolled in WMST 350: Spitting in the Wind with Dr. Tanya Shields, and it is that class for which I am conducting a month-long Feminist Action Project: this blog.

I got the idea for this blog when considering the idea of street harassment, or catcalling. Many women (and men, but I’ll focus on women here) experience gender-based street harassment on a regular basis. In a poll by Oxygen/Markle Pulse, 87% of American women ages 18-64 reported experiencing harassment by a male stranger, and over half of those women reported experiencing "extreme" harassment like touching, grabbing, rubbing, brushing, or following. In thinking about my own experiences with street harassment, I realized something striking. Some memories of street harassment are burned in my memory – instances when I looked around speechless, went home fuming, or yelled back at my harassers. And then I realized – the people who harass me and others on the street probably don’t think twice about it. I remember like it was yesterday the time several months ago when I was walking from the gym to my car – in the middle of campus – when some guys drove by in a car and one yelled “I WANNA F*CK YOU!” at me, and then drove on. Does he remember that now? Doubt it, but it still makes me uncomfortable to think about.

So the point of this blog is to let everyone – men and women – know what I experience on a daily basis as a woman. I want to give people an inside view into how society’s image of a woman affects the life of a real-life woman. Maybe, by reading about my experience with street harassment, harassers will think twice about what they are doing. And by reading about the other experiences that I share here, people will gain new perspectives, and reconsider some of their own actions.

Don’t get me wrong – there are lots of things about being a woman that I LOVE. But the reality is that there are also some other things that aren’t so great. Hence the title of this blog: Miss Fortune/Misfortune. Being a woman can be a blessing and a curse!

I want to emphasize right here and now, though, that my experience is not by any means representative of all women’s experiences. I hope that, as you read, you can relate to some things, but that you also recognize differences in our experiences. Please feel free to comment and share your thoughts as you explore mine.

Also, in an effort to bring different perspectives to this blog, I’ll be interviewing some other people and sharing their stories here as well. I hope that the mix of my thoughts and experiences with those of others, I can create a uniquely safe space where everyone can share pieces of themselves. I am definitely looking forward to seeing where this blog goes, and I hope you'll check back throughout the next few weeks to find out more!