Question: Are you a bunch of crazed feminists who hate men?
Answer: Actually, Hollaback! is a collective comprised of men and women who believe in building communities where everyone feels comfortable, safe, and respected. Many people, particularly men, are unaware of the frequency and severity of disrespect and intimidation that numerous folks, especially women, experience in public spaces on a daily basis. Hollaback! aims to expose and combat street harassment and provide an empowering forum.
Question: OK, but what exactly is street harassment?
Answer: 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 and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life. At Hollaback!, we believe 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. If you feel like you have been harassed, HOLLABACK!
Question: So let’s say a man sees a woman he thinks is attractive and tells her so. Are you saying that makes him a harasser?
Answer: Some do not find comments such as “Hello, beautiful” or “Hey, gorgeous” offensive. Many do. Others may find them intimidating, intrusive, or just an annoying pain in the arse. Keep in mind that many women experience unsolicited comments, as well as violent verbal assault, from men in public spaces on a regular basis. As many as 25% of women are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. For them, street harassment can feel like ripping off a scab. Rather than deliberating the “gray areas” of street harassment, treat everyone you encounter with respect.
Question: I heard something about your position on anti-racism. What’s that about, and what does it have to do with street harassment?
Answer: Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper hollaback. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of colour as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, Hollaback! asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary. If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post.
Question: But isn’t street harassment a cultural thing?
Answer: Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and nationality. Sexual harassment, and street harassment specifically, is resisted by people around the globe: Hollaback! receives e-mails of support and solidarity from numerous countries and from every continent. To condense another’s culture into vague assumptions about who and what they are is to generalize dangerously about a wide range of experiences and perspectives that exist within any one given culture.
Question: Confronting street harassers can be dangerous. What about safety issues?
Answer: While everyone is vulnerable to stranger rape and sexual assault, studies show that those who are aware of their surroundings, walk with confidence and, if harassed, respond assertively, are less vulnerable. Nevertheless, direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely dangerous, particularly if you are alone or in an unpopulated space. While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to hollaback, do keep issues of safety in mind. Upon deciding to photograph a harasser, you may consider doing so substantially after the initial encounter and from a distance, ensuring the harasser is unaware of your actions.
Question: Isn’t street harassment the price you pay for living in a city?
Answer: No, local taxes are the price you pay for living in a city. We would love to see some portion of our local taxes go towards preventing street harassment, but alas, they don’t. In fact, street harassment is not confined to urban areas. It occurs in shopping centres, cars, car parks, public parks, airplanes, fast-food restaurants, petrol stations, churches, and numerous other public spaces.
Question: If you show off your boobage, shouldn’t you expect some compliments?
Answer: Sure, expect them, but don’t accept them! Just because it happens doesn’t mean it’s okay. A compliment is not a compliment if it makes the recipient feel bad.
Question: Sure, but if “the harasser” were hot, wouldn’t you like it?
Answer: This has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power