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On Saturday, 12 October, our partner My Choice Not Yours took to the streets of Brussels with a life-size print of “Judgments”, an art work by the Canadian artist Rosea Lake.
They asked people of all colors and backgrounds to take a photo with the print and post it on Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr with the hashtag #mychoicenotyours. This street action was in support of Rosea Lake and the impending lawsuit she, together with Rachida Aziz (Founder, AZIRA, My Choice Not Yours), filed against Anke Van dermeersch (Senator, Vlaams Belang).
© Photo: My Choice Not Yours (AZIRA)
Rosea Lake: “Remember back in January, when my photo, Judgments, went viral? So, a couple weeks ago, a Belgian political party stole my work, and used it for their own purposes. They twisted into something completely against my morals – and called it “Freedom or Islam”. So, naturally, I flew to Belgium to stand up for myself – with help from the amazing organization My Choice Not Yours.”
Fashion designer Rachida Aziz, founder of the AZIRA brand and initiator of the My Choice Not Yours campaign, assisted Rosea in putting a stop to the “Women against Islamization” campaign of the Vlaams Belang Senator Van dermeersch through a copyright infringement lawsuit.
Rachida Aziz: “Rosea’s work stands against judgments being passed on women based on their clothing (headscarf or not, long or short skirt). This is precisely the message of the My Choice Not Yours campaign that we launched a few months ago”.
Rosea Lake: ‘It bothers me that they stole my work, but it bothers me even more that the message they’re putting out is just wrong. It’s wrong to condemn people based on the clothes they wear, their religion, race, or sexual orientation. Everybody has a right to make their own choices. No person, or especially government should be able to interfere with that. It’s my choice, not yours.”
Rachida Aziz mobilized her friends to raise the necessary funds (travel expenses and court fees amounting to 3,000 euros, and to date almost 700 euros have been collected, but the bills have already been received) so that Rosea, the 19-year old Canadian could travel to Belgium and lodge her complaint in person at the court of Antwerp. Rachida also reached out to Counselor Mr. Abderrahim Lahlali who offered his services free of charge.
Donations can still be deposited into the account number BE03 0004 1326 7284 BIC BPOTBEB1 stating your name + “support Rosea Lake” in communication.
At the same time, Aziz has also filed a complaint with Belgium’s Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism (CEOOR). After reviewing the complaint, the CEOOR replied by phone that the “content is racist and Islamophobic but we will not pursue it in court as we do not think it will be possible to win”.
Ms. Lake’s lawsuit follows an earlier filing of a cease-and-desist request by world-renowned fashion designer Christian Louboutin, who says the use of the red sole trademark in a political campaign tarnishes its reputation.
UPDATE: Today, on Friday October 25, the president of the Court of Antwerp gave this verdict on the case: the “Islamophobic campaign of Vlaams Belang must be stopped immediately.”
“The court finds that the ideology of the campaign of Vlaams Belang goes against the message of Rosea Lake’s original campaign. Her work can’t be hijacked by this Islamophobic campaign” reports Mr. Abderrahim Lahlali, counsel for Rosea Lake.
In addition to the recognition of plagiarism and misappropriation of the original artwork for racist purposes, the court ordered that Anke Van dermeersch and her party purchase advertising space in the newspapers De Standaard, Het Laatste Nieuws and De Gazet van Antwerpen to announce the verdict.
Rachida Aziz: “This case proves that laws are not effective enough to protect us. It is our duty as citizens to stand up whenever our rights are being violated.”
Rosea Lake wholeheartedly supported Rachida’s efforts. Both women share the same message: “Do not judge women on the choices they make and the clothes they wear”.
A strong conclusion to this case can be read on the My Choice Not Yours website:
“By combining our resources and taking action we can make a difference. We are convinced that solidarity and citizen action are necessary to protect our rights against hatred and injustice. This is a new model of activism and it works!”
The Hollaback! Brussels Team is sending out their warm support and congratulations to MCNY, Rachida and Rosea!
On Tuesday April 30, there will be a demonstration against the lack of prosecution of rapes, that will take place at the Justitiepaleis / Palais de Justice (Place Poelaart) in Brussels. The demonstration will start at 8AM and will probably last a few hours. We won’t be moving from this location.
For this day marks the start of the trial of the accused “T.A.”. He is accused of having raped 14 girls and women including 12 who were underage. Chief witness and victim, Céline Camps, decided to take it upon herself to pursue the case.
We really want to show our support to Céline Camps who has boldly come forward with her story over the past few months. But above all, we really want this initiative to draw attention to the many rapes which go unprosecuted in our country. According to research done by the United Nations, every week 56 rapes and 5 gang rapes are reported in Belgium, yet only 4 percent of the perpetrators are prosecuted (Article in De Standaard, 29/11/2012).
For more information or if you have any questions, please contact us by email on firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch via the Facebook group ‘Support Rape Victims: Rise Against Belgian Rape Policy!’
Earlier press mentions (in Dutch) of Céline Camps‘ court case:
• ‘Alle bewijs was er, toch kon hij blijven verkrachten’ (02/03/2013) Douglas De Coninck, De Morgen
• ‘Mijn verkrachter kon veel vroeger afgestopt zijn’ (03/03/2013), Cedric Lagast and Hans Van de Cauter – Het Nieuwsblad
• ‘Geweld tegen vrouwen. Het verhaal van Céline’ (07/03/2013), Hautekiet – Radio Eén
• ‘Moedige getuigenis van Céline bij Sam’ (07/03/2013), Zet ‘m Op Sam – Studio Brussel
The organising committee “Rise Against Rape”
With the full support of the Hollaback! Brussels teamone comment
A guest blog and #ShareTheStreets report by Anna Claire, one of our current rock star volunteers!! Re-posted from her blog Go Away Everywhere (23/4/2013).
I became a volunteer for Hollaback! Brussels after I went to the second of their two sessions with the students in my program, sessions organized by our fabulously thoughtful and sensitive coördinator Chloé. Several students in the fall had approached her about incidents of harassment they’d experienced in Brussels and how to cope with it, and she, having heard of Hollaback, went to then four (now six!) Hollaback organizers — Julie, Anna, Ingrid, Angelika, Quentin and Jo — and asked them if they’d be willing to do informational outreach sessions with our group.
If you read my “Femanifest #1,” I mentioned that I had happened across a particular article concerning violence against women (link to Rebecca Solnit) not long before the second session. I’d researched organizations in Brussels which offer women who have suffered violence various forms of aid, but I was looking in particular for volunteer opportunities, which seemed few and far between. I know what I’m doing when I get back to Burlington — the HOPE Works organization downtown is always in need of volunteers — but I didn’t want to wait another seven months before I could take action. It’s not like Brussels is clean of these same kinds of violences. Far from it.
I approached Anna after the second session and asked her what I could do, be it for Hollaback or anywhere else in the city. She took my e-mail and a few e-mails, odd jobs, translations, and virtual hollahugs later, and I was at my first Hollaback offline meeting with the organizers and the other volunteers. I can’t emphasize enough the aura of enthusiastic, all-inclusive optimism that envelopes the Hollaback! Brussels crew. They are resolute and fired up about their goals to point out the wrongness of street harassment and to end it in Brussels’ eighteen communes, but they are not fueled by anger. They’re my favorite example as to how a certain dose of anger is helpful, but too much is counterproductive, is poisonous, is actually destructive. It is from this mélange of good feelings but firm desires and plans of action that the “#ShareTheStreets” idea was derived.
“#ShareTheStreets” built on Hollaback! Brussels’ goal last year of “reclaiming” the streets. There is the sensation, now, that we are more aware of the streets; we are more sensitive to the fact that they belong as much to us as to any harassers who would like to make us feel otherwise; we are more determined not to allow harassment push us to take a much longer route to work or to prevent us from going to a certain event because it’s in a neighborhood where we’ve been harassed. Here, we want to pass that knowledge on to everyone — the streets and public space belong to everyone. Everyone has the right to pass through or to stop and enjoy it as much as they’d like, without any fear of being harassed or assaulted. No matter what time. No matter who they’re with. No matter what they’re doing. No matter what they’re wearing. No matter their gender, sexuality, race or ethnicity. Hollabackers decided that some of the best ways to emphasize these facts were to focus on empowering bystanders to be active, brave, and empathetic; to share stories of positive experiences in Brussels and prove that street harassers do not define the city; and to leave small presents and encouraging or informational messages in public places in the center for passersby to find, to read, and to pass on.
As they say succinctly on their site, “Because only together can we make this city harassment-, discrimination- and violence-free.”
My contribution to the #ShareTheStreets walk was a handful of mix CDs and ten poems, five in English and five in French. I tagged them all with the message cards we made together at the Hollaback offline meeting. Each message card read “#ShareTheStreets” on the front in Brussels’ three languages and proclaimed a different message on the flip side. Some simply said, “See harassment? Hollaback!” while others detailed a different bystander tip. I threw everything in my backpack and headed to the Mont des Arts to meet up with the rest of the Hollaback crew.
They were very visible, having spread out different craft and project materials over some square meters of gravel and a bench. They were tying notecards, putting poems and messages in plastic bags, unwinding feather mobiles — they were chalking on the whitewashed trees and the benches, talking, laughing, aww-ing at the happy factor present in each gift. One box overflowed with small flowers and plants potted in cups, probably our most noticeable and popular gift of the day. Every bench in the park was full of people sunning themselves, enjoying their lunch, reading books, meeting friends, sharing pictures on cameras, relishing the light touch of spring present in the air. One of the volunteers was playing guitar and singing softly in Spanish. Another was a young girl, couldn’t have been older than ten, who was solemnly focused on her task of tying cards to presents.
We began by looping yarn around trees, tying mobiles in their branches. We stuck notecards attached to bobby pins in the bushes and placed the plants on empty benches. We taped the poetry to flat surfaces. Out of the Mont des Arts, we created a veritable, living, breathing mountain of simple, creative, positive art. And even while we were decorating the park, people were touching the mobiles, reading the cards, taking pictures. I videotaped a few of their reactions, when I was sure it wouldn’t be too creepy. They would read the front of the card, flip it over to read the longer message, then nod their heads in agreement. I overheard one guy say to his girlfriend, “That’s so cool. That’s a really good idea.” They seemed a little hesitant to take the more elaborate pieces down. That was part of our whole point — what’s out there in public space is for all of us. These are for you. Take them, love them, pass them on.
Once we decided we’d sufficiently arted the park, we moved to the square in front of the clock and began to chalk. A chalk walk, for those who don’t know, is a simple concept: it involves grabbing a piece of chalk and scrawling a message on a surface to reclaim a part of public space and both make it your own and open it up to others. The concept originally started as a means of reclaiming the spaces where someone was harassed. It’s part of an element of cognitive behavioral therapy, Ingrid explained to us later, to have the patient confront exactly what it is that traumatizes him or her. It’s a major part of the healing, possibly the most difficult part. Having been a patient to this kind of therapy myself, I could tell you, in detail, how hard it is. And I can also tell you how much it heals. The person harassed writes whatever will help them — a message to the harasser, a message to harassers in general, a message alerting people to the realities of street harassment — whatever will best help them reclaim the space. It’s moving, Ingrid was saying, it’s an incredible emotional experience, both to feel and to witness.
From there, we moved down le Boulevard de l’Empereur, tying notes to lamp posts and banisters and window wipers, putting gifts in the baskets of the city’s Villo bicycles, leaving plants and small pieces of beaded jewelry on windowsills. After a quick pick-me-up in Al Jannah on Rue Blaes, we continued through la Place du Jeu de Balle and reached la Porte de Hal as our final destination. We drew long chalked messages down the sloping sidewalks of the park, decorated all the fences, and took a few minutes to appreciate both the work we’d done in the park and the work we’d done throughout the whole day.
While I was tying a few message cards to a fence, a couple with their three small dogs strolled up behind me. One of the men was watching what I was doing as he slowly passed and he said under his breath in English to his partner, “I wonder what they’re doing?” The other man shrugged.
I turned and grinned. “Do you want me to tell you?”
He laughed. “Yes!”
I explained that it was International Anti-Street Harassment Week, that our concept was sharing the streets with everyone, and if they should happen to see one of our gifts, they should pick it up. The two nodded and carried on walking their dogs. They moved slowly through the park, reading all the note cards, picking up the flowers, touching the mobiles. As they came to the end of a full loop, nearly meeting back up with us, the first man decided to pick up a tulip bulb planted in a pot. Ingrid clapped, so excited someone had taken the initiative to claim a present. Beaming, he asked if he could take a picture with a few of us. His partner held the three leashes and snapped a shot of the two of us with the triumphant present finder. He turned to us afterwards and, clutching his plant, said, “I’m so glad you all are doing this. The city needs something like this. We,” he said, gesturing to his partner, “are kind of known in the neighborhood. Here in St. Gilles, you know, ‘cause we’re always walking the dogs. We just got harassed pretty badly last week… we get spit on and stuff.” He paused. “So thank you, really.”
I wanted to hug the shit out of him. “That’s why we’re doing this. We absolutely do need this. That shouldn’t happen.” I didn’t need to tell him that, of course. We waved an amical goodbye.
We finished up our long afternoon and evening with a quick drink in Potemkine, just across the street. It’s a special group of people, the Brussels Hollabackers. We talked forever, about all sorts of things ranging from feminism and harassment to films we remembered from childhood. The conversation on the more difficult, often heated issues–rape culture, street harassment, Femen’s actions–took place in the way these conversations always should: without anger, without hate, without judgment. Only open ears and an effort to understand what someone is saying and why. The space between those in the group and between others is so open, so free, so fluid. You never feel ill at ease, or like an outsider–you feel like you are one of them. I don’t mean that in a clique way. I think it comes from the fact that they are working to foster that kind of communication on a large scale in Brussels–that openness and that freedom–and they start with themselves, in their daily lives, with their friends, family, and acquaintances. It’s not a sensation of a conscious effort on their part to try to include everyone and make everyone feel good–it’s just what ends up happening because it is coming from such a positive place. That is Hollaback! Brussels. That is the principle of #ShareTheStreets.
And because of this positivity, I experienced a feeling in the streets of Brussels that I’d never felt before, or if I have, it hasn’t been for any longer than a few minutes. I felt… I mean, I felt like myself. I felt like I could walk where I wanted, do what I wanted, whistle what I wanted (I was whistling a lot of indie folk hits), skip up and down the pavé however I wanted. I didn’t worry about whether my skirt was riding up or not, or whether my shirt was slouching down too low. I didn’t spare two seconds’ thought to what male passersby might do to me. It wasn’t particularly because we were all in a group–as we walked, we spread out over large areas to scatter our presents as widely as possible. It wasn’t because I was taking a defensive, it’s my right to be here too, kind of attitude. It was, plain and simple, that hopefulness, that belief in the citizens of Brussels that we are mostly good, we are inherently good, and we just need a little nudge to show it. Maybe a girl with a navy knapsack and floral sunglasses whistling Boy & Bear’s “Feeding Line” was a nudge for someone. Maybe finding a potted plant in the basket of a Villo was another. Maybe seeing a group of teenagers clustered around one of our longer messages, reading it out loud, was yet one other.
The streets belong to all of us. Owning the streets, reclaiming them, it doesn’t mean guarding them jealously to ourselves. Then we’re back to square one. It meant what I felt that Saturday that we walked from the Mont des Arts to les Marolles, making each other and other smile, getting strangers to walk away with an extra bit of reflection and of kindness. Even getting one person to think differently about street harassment, or making a victim’s day a little brighter–that’s still one person whose day you affected, and positively.
We didn’t take Brussels by storm. We took it by cups of plant and petites pensées du jour.
Anna Claire.one comment
International Anti-Street-Harassment Week 2013 (April 7-13) is going GLOBAL today!
Here in Brussels WE #ShareTheStreets.
Your Hollaback! Brussels team: Anna, Quentin Angelika, Ingrid, Julie & Jo.
AND the current #ShareTheStreets Volunteer Team: Anna Claire, Elizabet & Karin.
Hollaback! Brussels is having its first (symbolic) anniversary… On March 24, 2012, we pre-launched with a Chalk Walk.
We decided that if we were gonna go for this adventure, we had to get rid of all the breaks and do some sort of start-up initiation together. We each wrote down a story about the street harassment we experienced (Ingrid, Anna, Angelika, Julie), mapped it and then went back to the place where it had happened, only to reclaim the spot with chalk in our hands.
We called it a ‘Chalk Walk’ and it did something to us. It gave us an energy, a new strength. Doing this action, eliminated certain fears brought on by years of experiencing street harassment, it felt like we were reclaiming a freedom we imagined we had lost.
And then we thought, EVERYONE should experience this.
4 Chalk Walks later…., Hollaback!s around the globe are chalkwalk-ing. It proved to be a powerful way to respond, to react. And that’s what’s Hollaback! all about, responding to street harassment, whichever way works for you. Whether you do it by sharing your story on your local Hollaback! site, on the go via the app, confiding to your friends & family, or by reclaiming the street with a Chalk Walk, your reaction is all about the right to be you. We have a right to define ourselves on our own terms when we walk out the door, whatever that means that day. That hour. That minute.
SO! This March 2013, we’re letting the Chalk Walk loose upon the world! Thanks to an idea of Emily, a volunteer, we created a new tumblr for all people & Hollaback’s worldwide to connect, to support each other and to do their own Chalk Walks! We hope the We#ChalkWalk tumblr sets sail and gets a life of its own, motivating people to respond to street harassment, racism, sexism, homophobia and gender-based violence…
Since we started our first Hollaback! chapter last year in the spirit of “Reclaiming”, this April 2013 we’re turning the page for our second chapter: “Sharing”.
For the International Anti-Street-Harassment Week 2013 (April 7-13) we’re trying out something new: #ShareTheStreets.
During this week, we’ll be posting a series of bystander stories, showing examples of people in Brussels reacting and helping out their fellow citizens – in the form of – thoughtful gestures, acts of kindness, of bravery, of standing up for victims of street harassment, sexism, racism, homophobia and violence.
At the end of the week, on April 13, we’re organizing a #ShareTheStreets Walk. We will walk around Brussels, leaving “gifts” for the city, gifts for lucky finders, in trees, in little alleyways, on doorsteps, on squares, on benches, window sills, .. These gifts will be small pieces of ‘art’, plants or flowers, objects, goodies,…. They will be left for strangers to find. They will have a little messages attached in order to start up a conversation, a street dialogue of gifts to each other, suggesting that we care, give and receive together, rise up as bystanders, help each other out.
Because only Together can we make this city harassment-, discrimination- and violence-free.
Wanna join us?
On April 6, we’re organizing a 2nd Hollaback! Offline! in OR Expresso Bar (2 – 5pm) to prepare for our #Share The Streets Walk next weekend. Feel welcome to drop by, pitch in and join the conversation..
Contact us if you wanna walk & #ShareTheStreets with us on April 13. We’ll get back to you asap with all necessary info.
Your Hollaback! Brussels team: Ingrid, Anna, Angelika, Julie, Quentin & Jo.
AND the current #ShareTheStreets Volunteer Team: Anna Claire, Karin & Elizabet
This March 2013, we’re letting the Chalk Walk loose upon the world!
We created a new tumblr for all people & Hollaback’s worldwide to connect, to support each other to reclaim the streets, and do their own Chalk Walks!
Some of us know, no matter who you are or where you come from, that the simple act of walking in public can get scary at the drop of a hat. We’ve been followed, insulted, harassed or even assaulted by people who do what they do because they think we don’t belong on the street. Well, they’re wrong, and we deserve better.
A Chalk Walk is your way to Hollaback!, your chance to turn the tables.
A Chalk Walk is you reclaiming the street, your freedom.
A Chalk Walk is you healing yourself, telling the world, “I have the right to be here. To be me. To walk wherever, whenever, however I please.”
So bring a piece of chalk with you the next time you’re out walking. Write a message to the person who tried (and FAILED) to intimidate you. And submit or tag a photo of your #chalkwalk to ours…
We Chalk Walk against street harassment, sexism, racism, homophobia and gender-based violence.
We Chalk Walk to show we share the streets and that we’re all in this together.
Your Hollaback! Brussels team: Anna, Julie, Angelika, Quentin, Jo and Ingrid.
YEP. Three crazy days make one heck of a crazy week!
But before we embark on our train of thoughts, we’re pleased to announce Hollaback! Brussels has NEW team members! HOORAY!
Jo and Quentin, two already regular volunteers, are joining the Brussels’ Holla ranks, bringing their own different voices to the team and making way for change & more badass-ness! Hollaback To the NEXT level, here we go! And so …
The other two speakers were MEP Franziska Brantner and Anne Wizorek, initiator of #Aufschrei (#Outcry). Angelika rocked the discussion with lots of great ideas and information, and represented Hollaback! like a champ!
Here’s a selection of Quotes and Points from the day’s discussion:
- Evidenced by what has been going on recently in India, Egypt, the US, South-Africa and Germany, sexism and its related forms of violence are obviously global issues.
- After the story in Germany of a journalist calling out sexism from a prominent politician, the public debate latched only onto the relationship between journalists and politicians, rather than debating sexism as such.
- Twitter is important for the dynamics of the ‘sexism’ debate because young people can share their stories in an informal way and contribute to the movement/discussion. So, Yay for story sharing!
- Sexism pervades different aspects of our lives; in the workplace, in public spaces and in private spaces like home and school.
- Rather than accepting sexism as a reality, having conversations about it and bringing the issue into the media helps people realize we can actually do something about the situation. It doesn’t have to be “just the way things are”.
- What about men’s reactions of “now we don’t know how to interact with women?” People found this was actually not true, that you can feel the line of when it is appropriate and when it is not. Usually the people who are actually investigating this question for themselves are only ‘accidental harassers’ and their curiosity shows that they want to work on equality. The consensus in the room (filled with women and men) was that usually upon discussing with men, they actually DO know the difference.
- Pro-equality is not anti-men. Anti-sexism is better for men too because the goal is to not force hyper-masculinity in the same way it does not force stereotypical femininity. Men will have more options and be able to be whoever they are: Themselves!
- There was the observation that the EU parliament is a highly sexualized workplace. MEP Brantner cited multiple examples of when she experienced sexism because of her relatively young age, blonde hair and gender. Also she was made to show her badge to enter the cafeteria, debates, and other events, while multiple older, male, grey haired colleagues walked into the room unchecked.
- Power relations exist at work regardless of gender (intimidation tactics).
- Victim blaming includes; ‘’women should be stronger”, “women should not take public transport after 10pm’’,.. (focus that the women need to fix the problem rather than the harassers not harassing).
- “It is sexist that the Women’s Rights minister in Germany is always a woman.”
- “We have decided what is female behavior and male behavior in this sexist society”. If a woman negotiates for a raise, she is called ‘’not nice’’ because ‘’niceness’’ is expected as a “female quality’’. If a man negotiates for a raise, that is “expected” behavior.
- An example was given, where a woman said something critical or hard to handle on the internet, and the retorts were about ‘how ugly she is’ and ‘how no one will ever want to marry her’, thus naming things that are valued about women rather than having a proper debate about the topic. A male debate participant would never receive remarks about how his opinion doesn’t matter because he is a ‘fat ugly ho’ (comments like this about women are used to maintain the status quo of what is labeled and expected of a man and what is labeled and expected of a woman).
- “Speaking up can mean losing your job or missing out on career opportunities” (for a male or a female).
- We need police and other public personnel sensibilization (stories arose in the debate of safety officers making lewd gestures and comments).
- Would it work to have a female quota as well as pay grade equality in the workplace?
- One Billion Rising was mentioned, an international movement to reclaim public space and reclaim our bodies in those spaces.
- How to involve men in the movement?
- Why is it scary or embarrassing to be a feminist if feminism means ‘I believe in equality’? Is coolness of jargon an issue?
- Discussion of whether legal measures are effective solutions, internet issues (‘’the internet is ⅔ male users, ⅓ female. The internet is a man’s space’’).
- Is responding to internet harassers a waste of time and energy? Is ignoring them giving them too much allowance of space?
- Everyone’s ultimate goal: “Changing the ways we actually deal with each other’’.
- Is a role model campaign a helpful thing (like male role models)? Making ‘’cool’’ the way to go… do we want to adhere to this model?
We hope that other debates like this one can take place in the future so that as issues arise we can discuss them together. We’ll leave you with a paraphrase of EU Law on equal treatment offered by MEP Franziska Brantner:
“Harassment in the workplace occurs where an unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature occurs, related to the sex of a person, with the purpose or effect of violating the dignity of a person, and/or creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment“.
On February 13, Hollaback! Brussels was invited back to CIEE, after a well-received session last semester, to hold a second ‘Community Circle’ with their study abroad students. Anna and Jo met with a group of about 20 American college students who are in Brussels this semester.
Street harassment was something which all the young women were aware of, and this session gave them a chance to share their own stories of street harassment, both in Brussels and elsewhere, and consider how harassment made them feel. Like so many victims of harassment, many of the students expressed their conflicting emotions: they don’t want to endanger their personal safety, but at the same time they feel doubly violated if they are not able to respond proactively to their harassers.
We discussed Hollaback’s definition of harassment as ‘anything which makes you uncomfortable‘. We also discussed different ways of reacting both in the moment and afterwards, and were happy to tell them about the actions Hollaback! is taking against street harassment in Brussels, and the possibility of sharing stories on our website as an empowering way to react.
What’s in store ? :
Well, we’re in experiment-mode… Coming up, are some try-outs that have the following names: ‘We Chalk-Walk‘, #ShareTheStreets and ‘Hollaback! Offline!‘. You might see them popping up soon on our facebook page.
Another try-out is the welcoming of one-time and regular Guest Bloggers to the site.
Two guest blogs are already up there, 1 by Garance and 1 by Marlene. And soon we will be posting regular guest blogs by Emilie Van Limbergen. We’re also hopeful that some male bloggers might present themselves!
The idea is to use this site to the fullest, to continue with the discussion, bring debate to the table, allow people to voice their opinions in line with our Hollaback values, present a platform for people – professional, or non-professional writers – that have meaningful stuff to contribute…. We hope that multiple and diverse tales on this site can help create the support everyone needs to break through the silence around street harassment, racism, homophobia and gender-based violence.
On March 6, Julie from Hollaback! Brussels will participate in a debate at the ULB (University ‘Libre’ of Brussels) after the screening of the by now well-known documentary “Femme de la Rue”. ‘Aimer à l’ULB’ is organizing this evening for their ‘Week of Women’ from March, 5 to 8, 2013, which includes film-screenings, debates, panels, photo-expositions and more.
On March 8, It’s International Women’s Day! Hollaback! Brussels members are making this day count & stand with other ‘Women on The Bridge‘ from 12.30 till 13.30. We also might be trying out our first Hollaback! Offline! (more on this soon).
On March 11, Julie is participating in another debate after a “Femme de la Rue” film-screening. This time in Watermael Boitsfort, in ‘Centre Culturel “La Vénerie”‘. Other participants are Irène Kaufer, from “Garance” and Bea Ercolini from “Touche Pas à Ma Pôte”.
And with all That written down, …
Holla Over & Out!
Your NEW Hollaback! Brussels team: Quentin, Jo, Julie, Ingrid, Angelika & Anna !
Brussels, so it was.. You rose.. You danced.. You shook it..
It was arctic freaking cold. Nature had decided that if we were gonna shake something into awareness, it had to be at least minus 5 degrees Celsius.
Yet You materialized, gloves & hats on, in colorful mode..
At 12 pm, You rose & warmed up this city at Place de Luxembourg.
At 5.30 pm, You along with a Thousand cut loose & broke the chain at Place de La Monnaie.
At 6.30 pm, You spoke up in the ‘Street Circle of Women & Those that Love Them’ at La Bourse. In Chalk-Walk style, You wrote powerful messages on the pavement, a NO to violence against women screaming out boldly, yet You also chalked out some Love & Humor along the way.
At 7.30 pm, You gave in to the conga rhythms of Yvan & unplugged a soul dance at Gare Centrale.
At 10 pm, You reclaimed the Night and Never stopped dancing at the One Billion Rising Afterparty.
And here we are, 2 days later, trying to collect the innumerable images and videos You spread around the internet and it’s impossible to make you all appear in this post! Yet the full energy of it all is still out there, dancing around on the internet, leaving traces in the over 203 countries that rose…
The battle to end violence against women isn’t over, today again 2 violent, horrendous rapes in Belgium were reported in the newspaper.
But if ‘One Billion Rising’ is the beginning of a new, committed fight against these atrocities, it’s one heck of A Beginning! So let’s continue Rising!
This is what You can do TODAY (before 19/2/13): Use the energy of One Billion Rising and write to your MEPs. The European Women’s Lobby just forwarded this call for action to push Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) to back the Written Declaration 37 asking the EU to ratify the Council of Europe Convention against violence against women!Photo 1 & 3 © Marion Paquet
Meanwhile, our Hollaback sisters & brothers also rose up around the globe! These are their Tales…
Hollaback Czech Republic coordinated a photo project where they gathered on the steps of the National Museum on Wenceslas Square and silently rose. Gail, site leader of Ozvi se! / HollaBack! Czech spoke up and her co-organizer recited Eve Ensler’s new piece. One Billion Rising Prague, includes also members of V-Day Prague International Voice, Czech Women’s Lobby, and proFem.
Hollaback Baltimore, USA was at the One Billion Rising Reception after a performance of the Vagina Monologues at the Maryland Institute College of Art.
Hollaback San Francisco, USA coordinated a flash mob Prayerdance at the Civic Center Demonstration & a V-Day Flash Mob After Party. Their partners are El Rio, One Billion Rising SF, Code Pink, NOW SF, Global exchange, NCLRights, Amnesty International, APIQWTC, QWOCMAP, Hollaback! SF, CSC, Fabulosa, Mango, and SFDK.
Hollaback Victoria, Canada met in Bastion Square & danced their way to Library Square in coordination with their partners: One Billion Rising Victoria, Sexual Assault Centre, and Women’s Transition House and Island Sexual Health.Guerilla Art in Washington DC. Photo credit: FORCE: Upsetting Rape Culture
3 generations of women dancing in Cordoba, Argentina. Video credit: ©Valeria Garre
Your NEW Hollaback!Brussels Team: Angelika, Anna, Ingrid, Jo, Julie & Quentin2 comments
Hollaback! Brussels welcomes you all to CREATE a change, RECLAIM the streets and DANCE to shake this world into awareness so we can end violence against women now!
One out of every three women worldwide has been or will be a victim of violence in her lifetime… this means that one billion women have been or will be raped, abused and/or beaten.
This number imposes silence, astonishment, rebellion…
On February 14th, a movement will rise across the world in order to protest against this global crisis, demanding an end to violence against women – through dancing, singing and art. One billion women and Those That Love Them will gather in order to bring HOPE into this world.
Or in the words of V-day, the organization who has launched “One Billion Rising”: ‘One billion women dancing is a Revolution.’
Hollaback! Brussels will join this movement and welcomes you all to Strike, Dance, Rise with us!
On February, 14, at 6.30 pm, we’ll meet up at La Bourse. There we will form a circle. One after the other, we will share our ideas, how the world we’re aspiring for – the world for which we rise – looks like.
Upon finishing this circle, we invite you to join us for a short ‘chalk-walk’. Together we’ll reclaim the streets, armed with chalk, you can write down on the pavement what you need to express, what needs to be said.
When we regroup, live music will start playing and together we’ll play a dance-game of copying each others movements for a while.. only to go on improvising freely, move as we feel like it, dance together.
We’ll conclude this day in beauty by regrouping at Ekxi, La Bourse in order to chat, exchange our impressions or even to create future fights/actions!!!
To keep updated, please join our Facebook event.
Tweet: @VDAY @HollabackBXL with the hashtag #OBR, #BrusselsRising
There are 2 other events planned for ‘One Billion Rising’ in Brussels. We Hollaback! Brussels ladies will also participate and welcome you to come along if you feel like.
1) Flash mob, organized by the European Women Lobby, at 5.30 pm, Place de la Monnaie.
It needs some preparation :-). Watch the tutorial, learn the song and the choreography for the flash mob.
2) V-Night @seven will organize a V-Day afterparty at the Aloft Brussels Schuman. Everyone will be invited to continue rising and dancing until late in the night.
Your Hollaback! Brussels teamone comment
On the 22nd of January, Hollaback! Brussels stood up in solidarity for LGBTQ – organisations and people in Russia.
With our OUTRAGE! friends and several Belgian, European, LGBTQ – & Human Rights – organizations & their allies, we demonstrated in front of the Russian Embassy in Brussels.
The Russian Federation is about to vote on a law that would ban “homosexual propaganda” on a national level. Just last year, in Saint Petersburg, a similar proposal successfully passed on a city-wide level. If this new law passes, the Russian Federation will be able to hand out fines up to 12.000 Euro’s or sentence jail-time to those LGBTQ organizations and people that in their view are guilty of “propaganda”. In other words, the work of these organizations will be censored.
Furthermore, this would be the end of all anti-discrimination or HIV-prevention campaigns, it would be the end of all debate about LGBTQ rights – also in schools. A simple kiss in public between 2 LGBTQ individuals would be outlawed.
This law proposal is a sincere violation of Human Rights and it gives way to a legitimization of violence against LGBTQ people.
We reacted upon the international call of Russian LGBTQ organizations, with regards to the homophobic violence rife in Russia, with regards to the recent freedom of speech violations that Pussy Riot and many journalists are undergoing.
We stand in solidarity and demand that this new legislation doesn’t become a reality.
Your Hollaback!Brussels team
Gosh, Hollaback! Brussels has been running to and fro and it’s ‘bout damn time to sit down and tell you all what’s been going on ‘Behind the Scenes’ ;-)..
This September, we had a meeting with Bruno de Lille (Groen! = Green party) – who’s pretty cool by the way – but for those who do not know him; he’s the Brussels’ State Secretary for Equal Opportunities (& other departments, too many to mention!:)).
The exchange was genuinely interesting as he wanted to know what we’re all about and at the same time it was an opportunity for us to understand what he and his team hope to achieve. One of his main concerns is tackling homophobia, racism & sexism in Brussels.
Two governmental projects have been set up thus far;
One called “Report Violence” (Meld Geweld / Signalez la violence) informs citizens where to report ‘hate crimes’, this means; discrimination, harassment & violence with a homophobic, racist or sexist nature.
The site navigates you to the 2 main institutions that are already in place to deal with these types of perpetrations: the Centre for Equal Opportunities & Opposition to Racism and the Institute for the Equality of women & men.
Having filed 2 complaints ourselves to the ‘Institute for the Equality of women & men’, we noted that the Institute’s description for ‘the types of things for which you can file a complaint’ does not provide the option to choose street harassment and sexism in the public space, media or other areas for that matter.
However the “Report Violence” campaign is a first (& much needed) step to inform citizens of their rights, and to send out a message from the Brussels’ government that there’s no tolerance for hate crimes in this city.
Another campaign/event – called the Fourteen Days of Equal Opportunities (Quinzaine de l’Egalité des chances) – ran from November 9 till 26.
With a theme called RESPECT it hit the Brussels streets and venues. With many debates, events, performances, lectures and films, the campaign raised awareness that Brussels needs the involvement of all its citizens to create an atmosphere of respect.
All in all, the meeting with Bruno de Lille and his team came as a nice surprise.
First, we noticed that a critical dialogue with politicians can teach us things as a movement. Second, to fight street harassment, sexism and other discriminations we need an active commitment from our local politicians, institutions and public services and we also desperately need a new legislation that can address the current grey areas wherein street harassment and sexism fall. So, any step towards this has a ‘hooray’ feeling!
Hopefully these 2 campaigns can spark citizens’ awareness and participation, because we need the entire society involved. We all carry a responsibility to end street harassment and other types of discrimination and violent acts.
Let’s also keep in mind there’s only so much legislation can do. The root causes of street harassment, sexism, homophobia & racism need to be unveiled, research is needed, educational projects need to be set into place– there has to be more will to examine the full spectrum of what we’re up against.
Onwards in September, we had our very first Community Circle. This event was set in motion by a large group of American expat students & their Resident Coordinator who invited us to come and talk about ways to deal with street harassment. Hollaback! volunteers formed a circle with the students where we talked privately about our experiences. The volunteers gave tips on how they deal with harassment, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, what to avoid, but also we talked about if there’s a difference in experiencing street harassment in the USA and here in Brussels.
The evening was a success and gave support. It has inspired us to organize more of these ‘Community Circles’ as we see how small groups of women can empower each other.
The next one we’re doing might be with a group of VUB students, but more news on that soon.
On October 6, we had our 3rd Chalk-Walk. The Hollaback girls from Ghent came to show their support and we had a television crew from the French National Television TF1 who filmed our chalk-writing and street talks with passers-by.
Yet again, there’s certain new strengths that come into play with these Chalk-Walk-s. Women feel the support of each other to reclaim and write down the feeling or words they need to express. Doing this & feeling this, means a lot.
However powerful as we felt, we started to wonder why not many of the participants really felt like sharing a story or going to reclaim the spot where they experienced harassment.
After some reflection, we reached the conclusion that we need to go about these Chalk-Walk’s differently.
Thanks to an idea of a volunteer, we’ll be proposing a new kind of Chalk-Walk..
More news on this soon!
On October 9 & 10, Hollaback! Brussels got together with Greta from Hollaback! Poland and Gail from Hollaback! Czech Republic and we went to the European Parliament.
Reason? We received a welcoming invitation to take part in a Pan-European Platform (PEP) hosted by the NGO SOLIDAR. The invitation was described as an opportunity to speak up in the EU Parliament about women’s issues and gender-based violence, but secondly also a chance to meet and share experiences with people from other civil movements in Europe who were also in attendance. The aim was to learn from each others’ fights and construct a platform together where we would present alternative solutions for Europe’s state of affairs. The predominant areas the attendees are most active in are violence against women, street harassment, human rights, eco-sustainable projects, clean energy, social injustice, saving water from privatization and the movement against the privatization of the commons and public space, direct democracy, .. .
All in all, the experience was great for Hollaback! Brussels because it gave us the chance to meet our Hollaback sisters – who are truly awesome – and learn from them. Yet other parts of this experience were less than great. These 2 days contained some feisty discussions, a lot of abstractions and some underlying distrust. Suffice it to say, if you get a lot of engaged, concerned citizens into a room together, you get a lot of opinions ;-). But also to this we listened and we learned..
The result of all of these goings on is that currently we’ve set up a workgroup with some other European Hollabacks and our aim is to orchestrate the first European Council on Street Harassment. So fingers crossed, we hope, to be continued…
On November 14, we had our 1st ever HOLLA Support Action Team (= S.A.T.) meeting.
Since our 6 month anniversary, we Hollaback! Ladies had been scheming about how we could get all our badass volunteers more involved in Hollaback! Brussels, how we could know everyone better, and how we could become more efficient as a movement. So the idea came to form a Support team who could take up certain roles within Hollaback! Brussels. The first meeting was success, and we’re happy to welcome Joanna, Quentin, Emily and Judith to the Hollaback! family. All are fully committed to kick some serious stuff forwards! We currently set up a education-project team, a translation, graphic and guest-blogging team and we’re trying it all out as we speak. Other beautiful ideas came to the surface and we hope that in the next months to come, these ideas may grow into reality.
What’s in store ? :
On January 12, we ‘HOLLA in da Street’.
That’s right. We’re trying out a new, yet simple thing. Every 2 months, a group of us will pick a public spot & announce that’s where we’ll be. Our purpose for being there is to talk to you, to talk respectfully about street harassment, sexism, homophobia and racism in this city. We are there to talk about what you feel needs to be done, about how street harassment affects you, how you handle it, how we handle it, to give each other tips, to listen to each other, to be curious, to talk to passers by who want to be informed and to simply meet each other as citizens of this creative city… So Come Holla! Meet us in da street on January 12 from 2pm till 4pm. (Location to be determined soon, follow up with us on our Facebook page)
On February 14, we RISE-DANCE-STRIKE and join the #1bn Rising all over the world.
One Billion Rising urges people around the globe to rise up and demand an end to violence against women, in a mass protest on February 14, 2013.
Eve Ensler (founder of the One Billion Rising movement): “One in three women on the planet will be raped or beaten in her lifetime. Ending violence against women is as important as ending poverty, or Aids or global warming.”
Hollaback!Brussels will hit the streets with a group of musicians inviting everyone to join us. We’ll dance energetically, sending out the energy this world needs to end violence against women.
Please follow our Facebook page to stay tuned, we’ll be announcing the event soon!
Yes, well, that’s it for now. Pheew! Maybe you have stopped reading along the line, wondering if it was ever to end ;-).
But no worries, we hope to keep you all better informed from now on with regular “Behind the Scenes” to come!
If you also want to be involved in Hollaback! Brussels, you can simply send us an email, and we’ll get back to you promptly! Also don’t hesitate to share your ideas with us, we’ll be happy to listen.
Your Hollaback! Brussels team: Anna, Angelika, Julie and Ingrid5 comments
It had been sunny all day. A bit windy, but sunny.
7pm, night is setting in. Eighteen or so lovely enthusiasts show up at the entrance of De Brouckère Metro station to start Hollaback!Brussels’ 2nd CHALK-WALK. We have chalk, self-made banners, flyers in hand – and a lot of badass energy!
and then.. It starts to rain.
But: Who living in Brussels will let her/himself be deterred by such a negligible fact as rain?
Exactly: No One.
The covered roof of the entrance of De Brouckère proves to be a perfect hideout – we huddle together and after some troubled looks towards the pitch-black sky, we start writing on the pavement, there, on the spot.
More and more people running from the rain join our shelter – slowly it gets crowded under there – and they become (unintentional) bystanders watching us while we write our colorful messages. We hand out flyers, explain what we are doing, why we are here. It feels exciting; unusual for some, thrilling for others.
And then the rain stops pouring … just for a second. With the urge to move on, we look for areas that are at least slightly covered so our chalk messages are not immediately washed away. We run to another protected area.
More chalk-walkers come forward and write how they feel about street harassment, how it affects them, what they think should be done about it. We talk with bystanders, passers-by and rain shelter seekers. Reactions range from “Oh, is it that bad in Brussels?” (from tourists) to “Yeah, it happens a lot, you’re right” to “Wow, finally someone is doing something about it” to “You girls are amazing”. And it starts to sink in how important this is, being on the street like this, talking with people, starting a dialogue. But also for ourselves: It’s empowering, it liberates us from certain fears, and being in a group like this reinforces the fact that we ‘have each other’s backs’.
We walk on from shelter to shelter and when the rain finally stops, for real this time, we go to reclaim the biggest spot we had marked on our map: “La Bourse”.
There, we notice it works really well to write with chalk on the pavement when it’s still quite wet ;-), who’d a thought. A large group of bystanders circle around us, trying to read, thinking we’re doing a performance of some sort. We enter into conversations, some are difficult to walk away from, some are awesome & encouraging, some require a lot of energy, some feel good, others not.
Rue du Midi is our end-point of the night. Everyone’s elated. This was so awesome. This is what we should do every day! …. This reinforces that things can change.
So Brussels… our message to you dear friend:
You DO have the power to end street harassment!!Reclaim the street, every day!
Your Hollaback!Brussel team
Up next for July/August/September: Self-defense classes with Garance and a Big Holla Party! More news soon!
Hollaback! Brussels invites you all to RECLAIM the STREETS with us on Saturday, June 16, 2012!
We dedicate this Walk and send all our support to all our Egyptian sisters and brothers in Tahrir – who were holding a march last Friday, June 8, demanding an end to sexual harassment and were atrociously assaulted and attacked by a mob.
Exki, Place de Brouckère, next to UGC cinéma..
We’ll be there around 18h or 6pm -ish, to meet up, chit-chat, have tea and prepare. This is optional! You can also just join us @ Brouckère –>
Starting at 7pm/19h @ De Brouckère, Boulevard Anspach 20, Main entrance to Metro, we will have a Chalk-Walk together around Brussels following a predetermined course.
9pm/21h @ Porte de Hal
You can join us later/ leave earlier if that fits better into your time schedule! Just tell us & we’ll keep you updated!
We will stop at specific places to ‘Reclaim the Streets’ and write down strong chalk messages on the pavement, showing Brussels that street harassment & sexual violence is NOT ok & we will no longer put up with it.
Women & Men of BXL, come support, chit-chat, write & walk with us on Hollaback! Brussels’ first Chalk-Walk by NIGHT!!!
Your Hollaback!Brussels teamno comments
At the end of our first flashmob on Monday the 30th of April at Gare Centrale we collected some proposals on notepads.
We started a dialogue and notepads were available so that participants and passersby could anonymously write ideas for solutions: how do you think we can put an end to street harassment? what do you do when you get harassed, threatened? Do you have any tips? What you do as a bystander?
Here are a few of the responses….
Thanks to everyone who participated in our first flashmob that took place on Monday the 30th of April at Gare Centrale!
The slogan of our flashmob was “I’m dreaming… of a Brussels without sexual harassment & violence.”
And that was exactly what we were doing: We were “dreaming”. First up was our team member Anna, who walked to the side entrance, looked into the sky – and unveiled a sheet of paper on her back with the inscription: “I’m dreaming.. of a Brussels without sexual harassment & violence. Do you think this is possible? Come and stand next to me.”
Two more “dreamers” came and joined, absorbed in a daydream about a friendlier Brussels, a Brussels where everyone can feel safe, without the fear of being harassed, insulted or assaulted. Then five more activists joined…
… and finally the rest of the crowd. We stood there for five minutes, dreaming, watching, seeing passers-by who stopped and read our messages. Some of them nodded with approval, some of them stayed and waited, wondering what would happen.
Then we dispersed, as quickly as we had arrived…
… and came back a few moments later, with our brand new banner, in order to raise awareness for the cause and gather ideas on what we could do in order to tackle the problem of sexual harassment in Brussels.
We talked with a lot of people, and some interesting discussions arose, providing us with new ideas and boosting our motivation to carry on the fight for the good cause!
Thank you once again to all the volunteers who helped us & our Outrage! friends – this would not have been possible without you!
In our next post, you can read about the proposals we collected!
(Photos by Patsy & Nina)
We meet up at ‘Ribaucourt, Molenbeek’. The place where Angelika was harassed. The streets still look quite empty, as if Brussels hasn’t fully woken up yet.
We arrive cheerfully to the ‘spot’, we organise, make our DIY ‘banners’, excited. Time to start. This is Angelika’s moment. With colorful chalk she starts to write on the sidewalk. People pass by glancing quickly, trying to read what she’s writing. ‘I was harassed here. I Hollaback. I reclaim the street.’ she writes strongly.
When it’s over we hug and congratulate Angelika and with our banner she goes and stands at the top of her chalk-text, reclaiming this street, this sidewalk!
Next stop: Lemonnier. The place where Anna was harassed. The tram takes us there and Anna retells parts of her story. She shows us where she went and stood trying to get away from her harasser, there, in the middle of that four-lane boulevard. The ritual is the same.
She starts to write, getting into the moment. People pass. Try to read. When it’s over we hug her firmly and congratulate her. She proudly and beautifully reclaims this spot.
And so we continue. To the Metro/Subway ‘De Brouckere’.
She decides to write in front of the subway entrance, on the sidewalk. It’s a busy spot. When she starts, some people actually stop to see what’s she’s writing, what’s happening. The language changes. Writing in French now.
A guy comes over asks us ‘what we are doing?’ We explain, he thinks ‘this is great, he hasn’t seen anyone do this before’. Ingrid boldly reclaims ‘De Brouckere’.
We hug and congratulate her and we’re off again to our last stop: the bridge at the cemetery of Ixelles. The place where Julie was harassed.
Again a busy place. Cars honk their horns at us while we’re on the bridge. What are we doing? People pass.
Julie writes in beautiful French. It feels like artwork. We let her get into her moment. She writes: ‘J’ai été harcelée ici. La rue m’appartient. Hollaback’.
La rue m’appartient: The street belongs to me. Such a ‘right way’ to say this.
When Julie is finished, she goes and stands on the bridge and fiercely reclaims it. We hug her and cheer!
And that .. concludes the first part of our day! AWESOME is not even a strong enough word to describe it! EMPOWERING comes close! What we discovered was that writing with chalk on the sidewalk, on the street, on the bridge, telling Brussels: “I was harassed here’ ‘I reclaim the street’ is a powerful, liberating ritual and an amazing hollaback !
Check out our Facebook page for more photos about this street action!