Charla Harlow (of the Harlow Project) was with us at the Chalk Party in Fulton Park on Monday, April 8, collecting video stories of street harassment from men and women. On Saturday, May 18th, she’ll be on the road again with BMC at SOS Crown Heights’ Kingston Ave Festival, collecting more of your stories.
But who is she and why does she care about street harassment?
You’re not a social justice activist by trade. What made you want to do something to stop street harassment?
I witnessed a young girl being harassed by a group of guys one evening and I felt completely disempowered and silenced in that moment. I remember wanting to say something but not knowing what to say. This project is a way for me to give myself and other women a voice.
Why do you think film is a powerful medium to share women’s stories?
Film is a powerful medium especially for a project like this because it makes the subjects real to the viewer. You not only see a face but you hear a voice. The voices of women are important because there are many oppressive systems that try to silence us.
You’ve interviewed women and men about street harassment. What about talking to men about harassment has surprised you the most?
I’ve been surprised by the number of male allies that I’ve spoken to. However, I’m more surprised by some of the men saying they speak out against street harassment, not necessarily out of respect for a woman and her safety, but more so because they don’t want to be associated the harasser or be seen as an enabler.
What is the most ridiculous instance of street harassment you’ve experienced or heard about?
One evening I was walking home and a guy started following me after I refused to talk to him. I called my mom and walked past my apartment to a busier corner so he wouldn’t know where I lived. When he saw me on the phone he walked the other way.
What is one thing someone reading this can do to help the movement?
One thing someone can do is stand and be a witness to street harassment. Sometimes just the mere presence of someone else watching can stop the harasser or even provide comfort to the person being harassed. I would also recommend that people practice speaking up even if it’s a simple, “That’s not my name” or “That’s not cool” in response to street harassment. It’s important that we step outside of our comfort levels and reclaim our voices.