What is Hollaback?
The real motive of street harassment is intimidation. To make its target scared or uncomfortable, and to make the harasser feel powerful. But what if there was a simple way to take that power away by exposing it? You can now use your smartphone to do just that by documenting, mapping, and sharing incidents of street harassment. Join an entire community ready to Hollaback!
Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces.
We envision a world where street harassment is not tolerated and where we all enjoy equal access to public spaces.
What is Street Harassment?
Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women, LGBTQ folks, People of Colour, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.
Street harassment can be sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. It is an expression of the interlocking and overlapping oppressions we face and it functions as a means to silence our voices and “keep us in our place.”
At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. If you’ve experienced street harassment, we’ve got your back!
Why Hollaback matters:
Dedicated to fighting street harassment, Hollaback! has empowered people in over 79 cities and 26 countries internationally to respond through a smartphone/web application. Users are encouraged to speak up when they see harassment by quickly documenting it in a short post (photo optional) and sharing it to a publicly viewable map. Anyone browsing the stories on the Hollaback! maps immediately understands 3 things:
1) If you’ve been harassed, you’re not alone,
2) Street harassment is used to exert control over others by making them feel scared or uncomfortable. It is much more than individuals just acting inappropriately.
3) There are street harassment “hotspots” in most cities often centered around high pedestrian traffic areas.
Why you should Hollaback:
There are two reasons to hollaback: for you, and for the world.
For you: Hollaback! is all about your right to be you: A person who never has to take it or just keep walking, but one who has a badass response when they are messed with. Someone who knows they have the right to define themselves instead of being defined by some creep’s point of view. Because none of us are as simple as a list of physical attributes. We have a right to be who we are, not who we are told to be. We have a right to define ourselves on our own terms when we walk out the door, whatever that means that day. That hour. That minute.
Street harassment teaches us to be silent. We don’t put up with harassment in the home, at work, or at school. And now we aren’t putting up with it in the street either. By holla’ing back you are transforming an experience that is lonely and isolating into one that is sharable. You change the power dynamic by flipping the lens off of you and onto the harasser. And you enter a worldwide community of people who’ve got your back.
For the world: Stories change the world. Don’t believe us? Think about Rodney King, Anita Hill, or Matthew Sheppard. These stories didn’t just change the world, they shaped policy.
The internet has given us a new campfire. Each time you hollaback, you are given a king-sized platform to tell your story. Thousands will read it and your story will shift their understanding of what harassment means. Some will walk away understanding what it feels like to be in your shoes, others will feel like they are not alone for the first time or that it’s not their fault. Your story will redefine safety in your community—it will inspire legislators, the police, and other authorities to take this issue seriously – to approach it with sensitivity, and to create policies that make everyone feel safe. Your story will build an irrefutable case as to why street harassment is not OK. A case strong enough to change the world.
But it all starts with the simplest of gestures: Your hollaback.
How Hollaback! works
Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. But it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay. At Hollaback!, we don’t buy it.
We believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident without being objectified. Sexual harassment is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence OK. There exists a clear legal framework to reproach sexual harassment and abuse in the home and at work, but when it comes to the streets—all bets are off. This gap isn’t because street harassment hurts any less, it’s because there hasn’t been a solution. Until now. The explosion of mobile technology has given us an unprecedented opportunity to end street harassment—and with it, the opportunity to take on one of the final new frontiers for women’s rights around the world.
By collecting women, LGBTQ folks’ and others stories and pictures in a safe and share-able way with our very own mobile phone applications, Hollaback! is creating a crowd-sourced initiative to end street harassment. Hollaback! breaks the silence that has perpetuated sexual violence internationally, asserts that any and all gender-based violence is unacceptable, and creates a world where we have an option—and, more importantly—a response.
At the core of our model lies the belief that movements start with people telling their stories – and they succeed with people taking action. Before the Internet age, there was only one mic, one podium, one speaker. But now, thanks to the proliferation of blogging and social media, it is no longer the loudest, wealthiest and most powerful who rule the airwaves: anyone with access to their local library’s internet portal can have a voice. At Hollaback!, we leverage technology to bring voice to an issue that historically has been silenced, and to build leadership within this movement to break the silence.
Break the silence: We work with women, girls, LGBTQ individuals, People of Colour, and people with disabilities to document stories in words and pictures, and to literally indicate on a map, where they experienced harassment in public spaces. Doing this provides a forum for individuals to share their experiences and brings attention to this long-ignored issue.
Inspire international leadership: Much of Hollaback!’s power lies in its scalability. To scale effectively, we train young women and LGBTQ leaders throughout the world to use their skills to build a grassroots movement focused on ending street harassment. We train in the application of technology as we also work to ensure that their actions are strategic and high-impact.
Shift public opinion: Our broad-based campaign is designed to reach the public at large by inspiring individuals to take action. We provide educational workshops to schools, universities, and community groups, and engage citizens through traditional and social media.
Engage elected officials: We present collected and mapped data to elected officials and policymakers in areas experiencing high incidences of street harassment and will engage legislators to work with our trained leaders to address street harassment in their communities.
If you would like to get involved in this initiative in Peterborough and the Kawarthas, please send us an email at [email protected]