First of all, many thanks to everyone who participated and contributed to our first Hollaback! Edinburgh Day Workshop, held on the 13th of October in the McDonald Road Library.It was a day dedicated to dialogue, reflexivity, challenge, intervention and strategizing against street harassment, complimented by various chocolate goodness baked by our own Education Coordinator Lena Wånggren. The day started with an inspiring panel of speakers who gave varied perspectives on the issue of street harassment, followed by a lively and engaging discussion.
Our first speaker was Ellie Hutchinson from Scottish Women’s Aid, also Hollaback! Edinburgh’s leading Coordinator. Ellie presented Hollaback! Edinburgh and its mission statements, pointing to the importance of intervening, that is actively working to prevent instances of street harassment. She talked about the various ways that violence occurs, pointing to the links between harassment in the street and abuse in the home.
Our second speaker, Callum Hendry, discussed the importance of including men in the battle against street harassment. Callum worked as a Policy Officer in the Scottish Government’s Violence Against Women Team, followed by a move to work at Zero Tolerance, helping the Edinburgh-based charity to develop the Scottish Government- funded Violence Against Women Prevention Network. During his time working for Zero Tolerance he volunteered as a member of the White Ribbon Scotland steering group, which aimed to establish a White Ribbon campaign in Scotland. He now works for White Ribbon Scotland, which is part of the international White Ribbon Campaign to engage with men in taking action to end violence against women. In Callum’s own words, “by raising awareness amongst their peers and challenging negative attitudes, men have a large part to play in changing the mindset which leads to or excuses violence against women”.
Our third speaker was Mridul Wadhwa who works as the information and education officer at Shakti Women’s Aid. She is responsible for the design and delivery of training and consultancy to statutory and voluntary organization on issues of domestic abuse and violence against women affecting Black Minority Ethnic women, children and young people. Her organisation, Shakti Women’s Aid, is the largest charity in Scotland supporting BME children and young people affected by domestic abuse. Mridul also reflected on her own experiences of street harassment and highlighted the cultural specificity of her work and the importance of mutual understanding and cooperation.
Our fourth and fifth speakers were James Morton and Laura Aston from the Scottish Transgender Alliance, discussing experiences of street harassment from a transgender perspective. James Morton is the Coordinator of the Scottish Transgender Alliance. He has been an LGBT, disability and feminist equality and human rights activist for over 15 years. The Scottish Transgender Alliance works to improve gender identity and gender reassignment equality across the Scottish public and voluntary sector through research, training, policy guidance and community capacity building. In James’ own words, “the Scottish Transgender Alliance greatly values working together with feminist organisations to challenge gender inequalities and restrictive stereotypes, gender-based violence and street harassment”. Both speakers underlined the importance of inclusiveness, cooperation and understanding of people’s differing experiences and perspectives.
The panel was followed by an engaging discussion, touching upon numerous issues of structural oppression, privilege and disprivilege, self-reflexivity, accountability and all-inclusiveness. Many participants also reflected on the interconnectedness of all the experiences and perspectives presented by the speakers, further indicating the structural and systematic ways in which individuals experience oppressive behaviour.
After a short break, the workshop continued with Inky Fingers and their creative workshop (within a workshop), led by Mairi Campbell-Jack (also Hollaback! Edinburgh’s Political Coordinator) and Katherine McMahon. In Mairi’s words, “Inky Fingers Edinburgh is a spoken word collective who aim to help, encourage and support all those interested in attending or performing spoken word of any type” – they run workshops, open mics and readeasies across Edinburgh. The first part of their workshop consisted in sharing experiences and stories, followed by a creative session of making poems out of various materials found in popular magazines and a discussion.
Finally, the day ended with a film viewing of War Zone (1998), a film by Maggie Hadleigh-West, a filmmaker and activist. The film features Maggie travelling the United States and filming men who harass her, courageously and persistently asking questions about their thoughts, motivation and reasons behind such behaviour. The viewing was followed by an open discussion. The day thus ended with numerous thoughts, ideas and opinions shared, highlighting the importance of including various voices as we work together to challenge and intervene in homophobia, misogyny, racism, sexism, ableism, transphobia and other forms of oppression. We also emphasized that is important not to essentialise and universalise people’s experiences but to recognize their differences and specificity in order to effectively challenge, intervene and change. These are the thoughts that remain with us after the final discussion, left open for further dialogue and criticism.
If you would like to learn more and support our speakers’ organisations, please visit the following links:
Scottish Women’s Aid: http://www.scottishwomensaid.org.uk/
White Ribbon Scotland: http://www.whiteribbonscotland.org.uk/
Shakti Women’s Aid: http://www.shaktiedinburgh.co.uk/
Scottish Transgender Alliance: http://www.scottishtrans.org/
Inky Fingers: http://inkyfingersedinburgh.wordpress.com/
Thank you all for joining us at this event as we anticipate more to come! In solidarity,