Laura reports on an online harassment campaign against Alicia Murillo, a Spanish feminist who has spearheaded a project to highlight street harassment

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.