Please join me in welcoming Hollaback Boston to the long list of other Hollaback sites around the globe. The site just launched at the end of 2011, and also has a Facebook and a Twitter account to follow.
Hollaback is a movement dedicated to ending street harassment through online apps and social media. It was created as a safe space for females and LGBTQ individuals to talk about their personal experiences, as they are vastly more likely to be affected by gender-based violence. It allows them a space to report any form of street harassment they may personally experience or that they see happen to a friend or stranger. It offers people the ability to report what happened, how it made them feel, how they responded, and if they wish they had responded any differently now that time separated them from the harassment. It also allows readers to comment about the stories and to offer words of validation and support.
The creators of Hollaback believe that the concept and ability to write about harassment is important for a couple different reason. First, on an individual level, it gives people an outlet to write about what happened and to learn that they aren't the only ones who are frustrated on a daily basis by street harassers. By writing about the street harassment, each individual is given the opportunity to speak out in a safe and controlled environment whereas they may not feel comfortable responding directly to the harasser but don't want to remain silent. Secondly, these stories affect society as people across the country and around the globe can read and post stories from their cities or others. It allows others to try to empathize with how pervasive street harassment is and how it makes each individual feel. With each story, the movement is able to get a bit stronger and could inspire changes within formal organizations, such as the police and lawmakers. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect in their work place, their home, their school, and on the street.
Hollaback defines street harassment as: “a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces". At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinate groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to be assaulted in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life. Hollaback! believes that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. While there is always the classic, “Hey baby, nice tits!”, there are many other forms that go unnoted or written off as unwanted or unsolited compliments. Instead of silently fuming or turning inwards, now people who have been addressed have the option to HOLLABACK!”.
Stories on the many Hollaback websites range from comments to whispers to touching to upskirting. These stories link together to demonstrate that street harassment is extremely pervasive around the country. One of the important first steps to creating a movement and demonstrating the magnitude of a problem is to show how many people it affects. One critical steps to healing is to realize that other people have been through a similar experience and that you are not alone. Hollaback provides an avenue for both of these platforms, and it is very exciting that there is now a specific Boston chapter.
One of my favorite posts thus far is a comic strip about the pervasiveness of street harassment. It is important to point out that while much of the harassments are verbal comments, these comments build up over the day, week, month, and year. They each contribute to feelings of being unsafe in a public place. It’s comments such as these that Hollaback wants to bring into the light, in addition to incidents of touching, groping, public masturbating, and flashing. The frequency of each of these behaviors leads people to believe that it is just a normal occurance that we have to learn to accept as women or as an LGBTQ individual or because we live in a city. But it’s not okay. What it does is create a society that normalizes sexual and gender-based violence. Ending street harassment is critical in our work to end sexual violence in general.
If you want to learn more about Hollaback Boston specifically, see their website. And of course, don’t forget to check out their Twitter and Facebook pages. If you want to learn more about the creation of the Hollaback movement you can do so here.
It’s SUPER easy to get involved. You can submit your personal stories here, either anonymously or not.
Written by: Stacey