Spanish feminist subjected to harassment campaign

// 9 September 2012

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basta de acoso.jpgNB: The links in this post are all in Spanish, but I’ve summarised the content.

Last week, Spanish feminist, singer and actress Alicia Murillo was subject to a campaign of harassment instigated by ForoCoches, a forum for car enthusiasts with more than 600,000 members. Her crime? The creation of a Hollaback! style project designed to turn the tables on men who harass women in the street.

The project, called “El cazador cazado” (The Hunter Becomes The Hunted), started in May this year and involves Murillo and other participants filming men who verbally or physically harass them in the street. The aim is to collect proof of street harassment by asking the men to repeat what they said or explain what they did on camera, or at least record them reacting aggressively to this request. Witnesses to the harassment and abuse are also filmed. Murillo has been publishing her own videos on her blog and YouTube page.

When members of ForoCoches got wind of this uppity behavior, they decided to strike, unleashing an “avalanche of abuse” through social media. You’ll no doubt be delighted to hear that Spanish-speaking misogynist trolls are just as creative and original in their insults as our English-speaking friends:

I’m being bombarded with insults on YouTube. They’re saying stuff like “If you dress like a whore of course people are going to treat you like a whore”; “If you don’t want people to look at you, don’t go out on the street or cover yourself with a sheet”; “You’re just bitter because no guys want to fuck you”; “Go shave” etc. etc. [my translation, original here]

The comments – which also included the obligatory rape threats – were coming in every five minutes. She also received threatening phone calls from various men after one of the forum members got hold of her number. In a gross twist of irony, the trolls succeeded in persuading YouTube to take down all her videos by repeatedly flagging them as “abusive, intimidating and threatening”.

Pikara Magazine, to which Murillo contributes, has had to turn off comments, and has released a statement supporting Alicia and the project and denouncing the behavior of both the trolls and YouTube.

The fact that so many men in the Spanish-speaking world reacted in the same aggressive way that we in the English-speaking world have sadly become so used to when a woman shines a spotlight on and stands up to male abuse shows just how how widespread misogyny is: precisely the point Murillo was seeking to make with her video project.

For me, it’s a reminder of how important it is not to tiptoe around when discussing sexism: the aggressors here are men, protecting the “right” of other men to harass and abuse women, to judge and have access to our bodies in the street, to invade our privacy and assert their dominance of public space. Men need to stop behaving like this. And those men who don’t behave like this need to step up and help them stop.

All too often when we name men as the perpetrators of sexism, individual men pipe up and complain that they don’t behave like that and it’s therefore offensive for us to point the finger. But, guys, if you don’t like it, don’t blame us. Blame the sexist men who make us feel wary every time we walk past a group of you in the street. Personally, I’d rather not assume the worst of total strangers, but I’ve been harassed enough times by enough men to know that you can’t tell a sexist from a non-sexist just by looking at them. If you want to differentiate yourself, if you want us to stop pointing the finger at your sex, do something about it.

As a feminist, I don’t for a minute believe that men are inherently evil, inherently predisposed to treat women like crap. Sexism is a learned behaviour, and it can be unlearned. Alicia Murillo’s abusers may be too far gone, but their sons – hopefully – aren’t. It would be really quite nice if, instead of global forums full of misogynist men gleefully subjecting feminists to abuse, we had global forums of men unlearning and fighting against sexism.

A grrl can dream… In the meantime, mucha solidaridad to our feminist sisters over in Spain.

You can show your support for Alicia using the twitter hashtag #TodxsConAliciaMurillo.

The image shows a cartoon of four serious, confident-looking women, two black, two white, on a pink background featuring the female symbol and the words “Basta ya de acoso al feminismo” (Stop harassing feminism) above them and “#TodxsConAliciaMurillo” below.

Comments From You

Laura // Posted 10 September 2012 at 8:30 am

So the first comment I received on this post was from an offended man who didn’t like me pointing out that men were the perpetrators of this harassment. If you read a post about a woman being bombarded with abuse for speaking out against abuse and the one thing you feel the need to comment on is not how disgusting this abuse is or how important it is that we tackle street harassment or what you’re going to do to help end it, but the fact that your feelings have been hurt by me pointing out that members of your sex did this, you’re part of the problem.

We need to recognise the gendered nature of sexist oppression: while women can hold sexist views, the overall structure of sexist oppression is men oppressing women: just check out the Everyday Sexism website. If we can’t highlight this, we can’t do anything about it.

Lucy // Posted 10 September 2012 at 4:35 pm

Isn’t it really sad that the knee-jerk response to a post like this should be doubt, and disapproval of the person who is being harassed, rather than the behaviour of those who ‘do the harassing’ ?

I think that many women have become so ‘used’ to everyday harassment that they just take it as a given, something they can’t do anything about – which is exactly what we’re raised to do. When I was 17, I took driving lessons to get my motorbike licence – the teacher, a guy in his mid-forties, missed no opportunity to touch me (knees, thighs,etc) and, using the pretext of ‘helping me put on my gear’ – rub up against me.

When I reported the behaviour to my mother and the people at the driving school, they informed me that ‘it probably meant nothing’, and that I should just tolerate it and forget about it. I also was made to understand that it was probably my own dirty mind getting the wrong idea about these ‘friendly touches’ – I still get angry every time I think about it.

We really must fight this sort of behaviour, by making it clear it is neither welcome nor acceptable.

And, even more importantly, people need to focus on the real problem – the guys doing the harassing, not the women reporting it.

LauraB // Posted 11 September 2012 at 11:59 am

Lucy, that instructor was a total creep. Yuck. When I was a teenager a boy at our youth group pinched my bum and my mum, who helped at the group, said, ‘well you do have a very nice bottom!’ as if I should be flattered by the attention. Thanks Mum!

My most recent unwanted attention was a group of lads saying, ‘Uh uh [sex noises] uh uh, up the arse!’ at me when I got out of a car in the carpark of the travel lodge I was staying in. I gave them a withering look and they laughed at me so by the time I’d got to the reception I’d decided not to let it go and complained to the extremely nice receptionist who went and moved them on. It felt good not letting it go and it felt even better that the receptionist took me seriously.

The two worst reactions to complaining about unwanted attention: ‘get over yourself’ and ‘it happens to everyone, you’re not all that’ as if I am *boasting* about it. Fume. I _know_ it happens to everyone, it’s just one of the ways we are constantly put in our place. That’s what makes it SO infuriating, being othered just cos we dare to go outside.

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