This is the first edition of a new weekly series focusing on organizations and non-profits. The series highlights what they do and how they do it as well how you can get involved. If you have recommendations, please suggest them in the comments!
When I first started this blog, I wrote a list of topics that I wanted to talk about (most of which are still on that list). One in particular is street harassment. Before moving to New York, I had experienced little of this and the little that I had was someone calling me a “fat bitch” or whatever out of a car. When I lived in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn, I experienced street harassment on every block, every time I left my apartment escalating the lack of safety I already felt. Now, in my nicer Manhattan neighborhood, my safety still feels threatened every time I am whistled at or commented on and especially when someone follows me a few blocks to inform me of their opinions about my appearance. I have never understood how this was acceptable behavior, and men who I have talked to about it just say to ignore it or call the police. I cannot imagine how backed up the NYPD would be if every woman called them every time they were harassed. Calling the police is unlikely to end this and ignoring it only allows what is wrong to continue to persist. Luckily, there are organizations such as HollaBack to raise awareness and battle street harassment.
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. 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.
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 do not 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 okay. 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 and LGBTQ folks’ 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.
But what if it didn’t have to be that way? We’re partnering up with the bystander program Green Dot to help you intervene when you see street harassment happen – and to celebrate and document your success using our website and apps. A green dot is just a moment in time when you make a choice to be actively and visibly intolerant of street harassment. A green dot is your chance to show that street harassment sucks and isn’t okay with you, to show targets of street harassment that you’ve got their back, and to show everyone in your life that you expect them to do their part to make the community safer.
Two things are necessary for street harassment to happen: 1) a person or group who chooses to harass someone and 2) a community of bystanders willing to let it happen. When we start replacing moments of bystander inaction with moments when we have each other’s backs, we will make our vision of a daily life without street harassment a reality. Thinking really hard about how awful street harassment is isn’t going to make it go away. Action is the only thing that will.
Here are three steps to move from bystander inaction to a bystander IN ACTION! (1) Notice what street harassment looks like, (2) Notice what keeps you from acting, (3) Pick a Green Dot that works for you!
What you might notice…uh, is that street harassment?
- Comments about someone’s appearance, gender, sexual orientation, etc)
- Vulgar Gestures
- Sexually Explicit Comments (e.g., “Hey baby, I’d like a piece of that”)
- Kissing Noises
- Following someone
- Flashing someone or exposing oneself
- Blocking someone’s path
- Sexual touching or grabbing (e.g., touching someone’s legs, breasts or butt)
- Public masturbation
This information was obtained from HollaBack!’s website (www.ihollaback.org). Please visit the site for more information about this outstanding organization!