Two of our blog posts have been about engaging male allies (See Male Allies and Male Allies Part II). However, the goal of Holla Back DC! is to engage all individuals in our community (including our oppressors) regardless of gender and/or sexual orientation – this includes our fellow women. Sometimes I am shocked by how women continue to perpetuate the cycle of gender-based violence. We have seen women re-victimize other women by pointing out what they did wrong or stating what they “should have” done; placing the blame back on the victim and taking it off the perpetrator.
Since starting Holla Back DC! we have heard women place the blame back on other women by saying things like, “you were being too nice”, “you shouldn’t walk alone at night”, “you shouldn’t walk down that street”, “you shouldn’t have engaged with him”, “you should’ve seen the signs”, “you shouldn’t be at such and such place at that time”, and “you should have reacted in this way instead”.
I don’t believe that as women, we intend to do this to one another but it is happening. Our hope is that we start talking about why. The bottom line is that perpetrators shouldn’t harass. We must stop blaming one another and instead challenge ourselves to look at the larger picture and how patriarchal values embedded in our society perpetuate the various forms of gender-based violence.
At Holla Back DC! we are all for sharing ideas and resources about ways to engage your perpetrator in a non-violent way, how to report incidents, and creating a safe space to talk about the ways in which we have reacted to gender-based public sexual harassment. We must remember that different situations call for different reactions. You never know how the harasser will react, and you must do what you feel safe and comfortable with. We all have the right to wear what we want, when we want, walking or using public transportation whenever we want, with who we want.