By Sarah Blake and Emily May, Hollaback!
When Hollaback first started more than five years ago, we knew that we, along with thousands of other women and LGBTQ New Yorkers, were sick of trying to ignore the aggressive lewd comments, public masturbation and groping that are so commonplace on the city’s streets, subways and buses. But, at the same time, when we talked about “street harassment,” few people knew what we were even talking about. The term wasn’t commonly used then, and when we would explain what we were talking about, we were often told that the problem was minor, “just the price you pay” for living in a city, or, “not a problem here.” As we join activists around the world, led by Stop Street Harassment author Holly Kearl in recognizing the first ever International Anti-Street Harassment Day on March 20, we can see how much has changed – and how, in many ways, we have only just begun.
There is now rapidly building momentum for the movement to end street harassment around the world, and Hollaback has become a network supporting a multiplying number of local leaders around the world. Along with organizations like Harassmap in Egypt and Women Speak in Trinidad and Tobago, Hollaback’s volunteer leaders in twelve cities around the world are now working to engage their own communities to challenge the attitudes, myths and assumptions that allow street harassment to remain a daily, global, reality. There is no question that we, together, are ready for the next step: creating a world where women and LGBTQ folks are as safe in the streets as anyone else. On March 20, Hollaback leaders around the world will be holding community forums, leading and taking part in street, blog and twitter campaigns, filming public service announcements and more.
We hope that these events will mark the start of the next step:
Atlanta, GA: Hollaback Atlanta will be conducting the first on-site street harassment survey at the Five Points MARTA (Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority) train station. An extremely busy train stop, we hope to find out more information about the harassment faced by MARTA riders (myself included) on a daily basis. Currently MARTA has no anti-street harassment policies, and we're hoping to change that! By conducting research, we want to present the peeps in charge at MARTA with some data to prove that they need to take harassment more seriously. Hopefully this project will enable Hollaback Atlanta to help make Atlanta's public transit a harassment-free space for all who ride it!
Baltimore, MD: Hollaback Bmore is hosting a Community Talk on Street Harassment at the Baltimore Free School 3pm - including free childcare, self-defense tips and filming of a public service announcement to be posted on "Why I Holla Back" to be posted on Hollaback Baltimore’s blog
Buenos Aires, Argentina: Atrevete Buenos Aires will be handing out stickers, the Spanish version of the “catcaller's form,” (courtesy of The Riot) educational pamphlets on street harassment and self defense and factsheets from Stop Street Harassment site so that everyone can work in their own environment with their own micro-actions. We will be talking about what each one of us can do to raise awareness.
Columbia, Missouri: Hollaback CoMo will be holding a community mud stenciling project in front of local businesses and passing out information about street harassment and International Anti-Street Harassment Day.
France: Hollaback France is preparing an Anti-Street Harassment Kit with stickers/postcards, the catcaller form and advice on how to cope with street harassment.
Mexico City, Mexico: Atrévete DF will launch a public announcement, (pronouncement) about street harassment in conjunction with www.espolea.org, which works with youth on issues related to harm reduction, HIV, reproductive rights and gender with youth.
Portland, OR: Hollaback PDX is showing the film War Zone and having a community conversation. If you are in Portland and would like more information, visit the Facebook event page.
Prague, Czech Republic: Hollaback Czech Republic will be holding a gathering to open the subject for conversation for the first time in English here in Prague, share stories and dispel myths – will include video screenings on street harassment, followed by a discussion.
To learn more about how you can participate in International Anti-Street Harassment Day, visit Stop Street Harassment and don’t forget to visit Hollaback to see what Hollaback is doing in your community – or just share your story.
Emily May is a co-founder and the current Executive Director of Hollaback. She founded Hollaback in 2005, and, prior to becoming Hollaback’s first Executive Director, held several professional positions in direct service and anti-poverty organizations, including case manager, political action coordinator and director of development. She holds a Masters degree in Social Policy from the London School of Economics.
Sarah Blake is the international movement coordinator for Hollaback and an independent consultant in the field of international reproductive health research, advocacy and communications. She holds a Masters degree in Gender, Development and Globalisation from the London School of Economics.
©Photo by Elizabeth Rappaport - Emily May 2010