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Ponnada: A contemporary, technological spin on spreading feminism

BY SRI PONNADA | JUNE 19, 2014 5:00 AM

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Ladies, have you ever been out anywhere at all and been approached by a guy demanding to get your number? Maybe I should ask how many times this has happened instead, because it has happened to me and my friends far too often.

Now, I’ve heard people saying it’s not that big of a deal. Why not just give a guy your number and build his confidence, right? Well, what if he’s a psycho who will stalk me and murder me? What if I just don’t want to? But unfortunately, women can’t always say no. We’re forced to choose between throwing away our privacy and putting ourselves in immediate danger — and I’m not kidding.

Sometimes these guys get pretty rough. They also might call us names that rhyme with punt and hitch.

Thankfully, for all you women out there who have been harassed for your digits, I have good news. But first, write this number down: 669-221-6251. This is going to be my number whenever I go out (to give to pests that won’t leave me alone), and it should be yours, too.

That’s the number for the Feminist Phone Intervention, the new feminist hotline dedicated to protecting women from creepers by responding to calls and text messages with automatically generated quotes from Bell Hooks, a prominent author and feminist.

Genius.

When I showed it to my friend, she pointed out to me that some guys might pick up on the unfamiliar area code and catch on that it’s a fake number. Feminist Phone Intervention has it covered. The group now offers numbers in each U.S. time zone: women in the New York area can pass out 917-512-2833, and women in the Chicago area — that passes as legitimate for someone in Iowa City —  can hand out 312-697-1778. There are also hotlines in the UK, Canada, and Mexico.

I decided to call the Chicago number and see if it actually works. It didn’t ring, and a female robot-like voice read the following quote: “Sometimes people try to destroy you, precisely because they recognize your power — not because they don’t see it, but because they see it, and they don’t want it to exist.”

How hilarious would it be to see the look on a guy’s face when he calls the number he thinks he scored off me and hears this?

I started giving out fake digits to people when I got to college because I didn’t want every jerk I ran into on the street or in a restaurant to have my cell number. It’s so much easier than giving them your actual number and having to deal with incessant calls and texts. But I always worried that someday I’d run into trouble and something bad would happen. I’m sure that I’m not the only woman who feels this way. As the Tumblr website for the Feminist Phone Intervention states, “We’re raised to know it’s safer to give a fake phone number than to directly reject an aggressive guy.”

I’d love to think that we’re in a society where women can simply decline and everything will OK, but we’re not. So, as long as we’re still in this dark place, we may as well use what we have to keep ourselves safe and spread a little feminism, too.


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