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Kelly Gallagher is a filmmaker working on her MFA at University of Iowa, originally hailing from the Philadelphia area. Gallagher makes films specifically focused on overlooked herstories of revolution, resistance, and struggles against oppression. Her latest film is I AM THE MACE, in which she identifies herself as a weapon against street harassment. We asked Gallagher to talk about the inspiration for this film and the impact it’s having in her college-town community. Her story reminds us that our most powerful tool in the fight against sexism is our stories themselves–and our courage to share them in whatever ways we can, whether through voice, written word, sound, film, etc. We applaud Gallagher and thank her for the privilege to share her story here! This is I AM THE MACE:
Excerpt from the transcript:
I am not your cunt, I am not your bitch, I am not your slut, I am not your whore.
I am not your entertainment when you walk home from the bar, I am not some bitch that would look good in your car. I am the MACE in my pocket, waiting to blind you. I am the knife in my purse, waiting to cut you.
Do not tell me, “Hey, smile baby.” If I smile, it’s for myself. I do it for me.
When I shut you down, when I holler back, you act surprised. You’re taken aback, you’re angrier, you get aggressive.
But I couldn’t give less a shit if you are annoyed, because I am through. I am done. I’m not taking this shit from anyone. I am walking home in peace tonight.
Q. What inspired this film? Would you mind sharing your story on the harassment you’ve experienced/witnessed?
A. My own experiences dealing with street harassment, along with my friends’ stories, were the inspiration for making this film. Probably one of the most aggressive experiences of street harassment I’ve ever experienced in my life happened while I was a junior in college at Penn State. I was walking home after hanging out with some friends really late into the night. It was pretty quiet and desolate for Penn State streets, probably because it was around 3:30 or 4 a.m., and most party goers were home for the night. It seemed so eerily desolate out, that I called my then-boyfriend at the time, so I’d have someone to keep me company on the walk home. As I was approaching my block, I heard someone running towards me. Before I could even turn around to see, I felt someone smack my ass, as hard as they could. It literally felt like someone swung a bat with full force and hit my rear end with all the power they could muster. The guy shouted some sexist remark that fell on my deaf ears because everything around me went silent. It’s like my ears stopped working and all I can remember now is the pain of the hit and of the violation. At first I stood there, in disbelief as he walked on. Then, before I knew what I was doing, my feet started moving quickly towards him. I started shouting back, “HOW DARE YOU! WHO DO YOU THINK YOU ARE!?!!” My boyfriend at the time, still on the phone with me, asked me to please get home and discuss with him what had just happened. The only things I could feel for the rest of the night were the physical pain of being smacked with full force and the emotional pain of feeling so violated. I’ve dealt with street harassment a hundred times before that incident and since that incident, but that night has always been with me, and has been the impetus for me shutting down and hollering back all street harassment scumbags since. After that incident, I knew I never would let another street harasser intimidate me or make me feel uncomfortable ever again.
Q. Has MACE ignited any conversation about street harassment at the U of Iowa?
A. I’ve gotten really positive feedback about the film, though it’s only just been made and put online very recently and only just started to spread a bit. If it spreads more I’d certainly love for it to ignite important discussions about street harassment here at the University of Iowa, and everywhere really. I think films like “I AM THE MACE” allow for important representations of female empowerment that allow us to reflect on our own ways of fighting back against street harassment and misogyny. I remember the first time I saw the film “Born in Flames” by Lizzie Borden. I remember how important it was for me to see women standing up together against street harassers, and how watching it all unfold on screen made me reflect on how I would deal in those same situations. The more chances we get to see and hear women shutting down street harassment in strong and unapologetic ways, the better we become at vehemently shutting down street harassers ourselves!
Q. We completely agree! How do you Hollaback! against street harassment?
A. I Hollaback! against street harassment by assertively calling street harassers out and shutting them down immediately when they harass me on the street. I like to do this loudly so that the rest of the public walking nearby can hear, and so that the street harasser has been clearly called out. Then I firmly continue on my way because while they may try and engage in a back and forth, I’m not giving them the satisfaction. I also always carry pepper spray and a whistle on my keychain. Beyond shutting down street harassment on the street, I Hollaback! by creating and sharing films like “I AM THE MACE,” in hopes of igniting a larger dialogue about not only fighting to end street harassment, but fighting to end the kind of misogynistic culture that allows and perpetuates street harassment. I chose the title “I AM THE MACE,” because I think it’s important that we remember that we ourselves are in fact weapons against street harassment scum.
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