El Paso women find solidarity in activism and on Instagram

El Paso News

Photo: The Today Show

EL PASO, Texas (KTSM) – Women across the Borderland are supporting each other using the various platforms available to them.

Last week, women throughout the country united over the ubiquity of being called a “f*cking b*tch” by a man following Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s verbal lashing from a male colleague.

“As a Vice-Chair of the Democratic Women’s Caucus and the Freshman Representatives of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, Congresswoman Escobar (TX-16) joined her colleagues in condemning the personal attacks against her colleague. Sexist, hateful behavior, though sadly common, must not be tolerated,” the Office of Congresswoman Veronica Escobar tells KTSM 9 News.

Women in El Paso shared their stories with KTSM 9 News about their experiences with verbal abuse and sexism.

“I get called that all the time at work,” says one El Paso woman who worked as a bartender pre-pandemic. “It usually happens when their card declines.”

“I can’t even count how many times I’ve been called ugly or fat by a man that had just called me beautiful because I turned down his advances,” says another El Paso woman.

One woman in east El Paso was approached by a man while she caught up on emails in her car. He knocked on her window and asked about her nationality.

“I told him I didn’t want to answer any of his questions because I was trying to work and to please leave me alone,” she tells KTSM 9 News.

“Then he started calling me a ‘f*cking b*tch’ and asked me why I didn’t want to answer his questions. This man – who I didn’t know – came to my window and basically demanded for me to interact with him, and when he didn’t get the response he wanted, he flew off the handle.”

Women being verbally assaulted for turning down a man’s request for conversation, direction to smile, or refusal to acquiesce to professional criticism is not new – but the response of women in the face of sexism, racism, and harassment has been particularly nuanced this summer.

According to the Pew Research Center, 44 percent of young women report experiencing offensive language online after turning down a man, compared to 23 percent of men who participated in the study.

A 2014 study reported that 65 percent of women in the U.S. have experienced in-person harassment on the street.

Over the weekend, a viral challenge flooded Instagram timelines that featured black and white selfies of women with vague captions along the lines of “challenge accepted.”

According to The Today Show, the mission of the challenge is to spread positivity online while also empowering women.

Celebrities like Kerry Washington, Khloe Kardashian, and Vanessa Bryant have participated, posting captions that celebrate “the power of women loving each other and lifting each other up.”

While the challenge is intended to be a benign expression of solidarity, critics argue there is no activism or awareness raised by posting a singular selfie of a singular woman.

Some women are adapting their challenge to include not only their black and white selfie but also a screenshot of a donation confirmation to an organization that supports women.

Tracy Allison, a magazine photographer, and editor in Nashville took the challenge a step further by sharing a screenshot of a donation she made, as well as information and resources to organizations that support women.

“From what I gather, it’s about posting a black and white selfie and asking women who share your values to do the same,” Allison tells KTSM 9 News.

“That’s all well and good but to me, it seems like a missed opportunity to make a bit more of a tangible difference. I don’t usually do these challenge things but I’m encouraging other women to not only post a selfie but also donate to a charity that supports women.”

Others are taking more traditional routes to advocacy that supports women.

Next month, Title IX rules that protect survivors of sexual assault will change drastically for schools and universities.

UTEP has yet to make a statement regarding how the university will be impacted by these changes or the ways protection for survivors will be guaranteed.

Under the new rules, a university may dismiss misconduct claims that occur outside of the university setting that includes off-campus housing and study abroad programs; schools may delay investigations longer than the original requirement; cross-examination of the survivor by the perpetrator or their friends, families, and associates will be permitted.

Current and former UTEP students are petitioning to demand UTEP inform the community about the new rules’ potential impact.

KTSM 9 News spoke with Antonia Taylor who started the UTEP petition and has participated in marches to raise awareness about sexual abuse.

“I think posting on social media is a great thing and it spreads awareness,” Taylor tells KTSM 9 News. “But actually, doing the work and advocating outside of that is extremely important.”

To contribute to an organization that works to support women, please see below:

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