I came out of college and was waiting at a crossing to cross the road. In the five minutes I was standing there, I had one guy leer at me from his car, another leer and make some creepy, though vague gestures, and two others whistle and shout suggestions of things I could do for them at me as they walked past. Normally when I get this sort of treatment, it’s one of the days I’m wearing a skirt (like that makes it more acceptable *sarcasm*); not this time. This time, since it was winter and *freezing*, I was in boots, jeans and a knee-length coat, with gloves and a scarf on. Literally, the only exposed skin I had was my face. Didn’t seem to stop them commenting on everything else, though.
This interview with Alberta’s site leader Lauren Alston was conducted by Lauren Bedosky.
1.) When did you start your HOLLA? I started working on the Alberta chapter of Hollaback in September of 2010, but Hollaback Alberta officially launched April 1st, 2011.
2.) Why did you start a HOLLA and what does Hollaback mean to you? I started a HOLLA because I was frustrated with how people were disrespected in their own communities, and targeted based on their perceived gender, sexual orientation, race, or any other identifying factors. I am frustrated that I am consistently reminded that some people view me as a sexual object and not a human being with feelings, thoughts, and complexity.
3.) HOLLAfact about your city: Edmonton, the capital city of Alberta, is Canada´s Festival City, hosting over 30 festivals every year!
4.) What was your first experience with street harassment? I can’t remember which one came first but both were when I was about 12 years old: One was getting called “hey sexy” by an older boy. The other was when I was at a pool and a random man grabbed my face and told me how beautiful he thought I was, then when he leaned in to kiss my cheek, I freaked out and ran away.
5.) What’s your signature Hollaback? If the person is threatening, creepy or vulgar I will point out that what they’re doing is street harassment and that it is not appreciated, or if I don’t feel comfortable saying something I will show them a visibly disgusted face. If the person is being stupidly disrespectful (as if they think it’s a joke) I will satirically start making weird animal noises (ie: if they whistle or cat-call I’ll pretend I’m looking for their lost dog and they get the hint), or if they are using cheesy lines I declare my love for fluffy llamas/alpacas and they end up being confused or at least realize they sound equally ridiculous.
6.) What is your proudest holla moment so far? The Hollaback Alberta launch party was very successful with over 100 attendees: we featured local speakers involved in municipal government and the University of Alberta, 5 musical acts, and 7 organizations tabled. We made wonderful contacts with local organizations and non-profits and raised awareness about the initiatives of Hollaback Alberta and why street harassment is an important issue.
7.) What do you do when you’re not holla’ng? Well a lot of my time is spent in school: I’m a graduate student working on my MSc in Neuroscience. But I also enjoy drawing, writing comics for the U of A newspaper: The Gateway, checking out live music with friends, playing music with friends, and playing basketball. I would also not be where I am today if it weren’t for the support of my wonderful family and friends whom I love dearly.
8.) What are you excited about in 2013? The spread of awareness of street harassment: what it is, that it’s not okay, and that we’re not putting up with it! I’m so stoked to see more sites start up around the world, and to continue to be involved with awesome local events and organizations in Alberta!
9.) What inspires you? People who have the courage to speak out for what is right, despite the consequences.
We are Hollaback!, an international movement to end street-harassment, and we have heard from thousands of self-respecting women for whom street harassment is a constant struggle: it is scary, it is dehumanizing, and they do not want it. We collect their stories so that their voices will not go silent: we raise their experiences into a collective HOLLABACK!
In today’s Gawker article Mayor Bloomberg was quoted saying, “I know for a fact that any self-respecting woman who walks past a construction site and doesn’t get a whistle will turn around and walk past again and again until she does get one.” This comment wrongly seeks to place responsibility for street harassment in the hands of the person being harassed. Street harassers are in control of and accountable for their own actions. Catcalling is never the “fault” of women, who, according to Bloomberg’s fantasy, demand that attention.
In addition, his words are an ugly attempt to classify a woman’s value on her ability, and willingness, to elicit sexual attention from strangers. Women, and men as well, should not feel forced to make a trade-off about ownership of their bodies in order to pass by a public space.
As the Mayor of a city with vast public spaces enjoyed by men and women alike, Bloomberg has a duty to make it clear that everyone has a right to feel safe as we go about our days in the sidewalks, streets, and subways.
Many Self-Respecting Women
Today I was reminded why New Media can be kind of awesome. I had two terrible experiences this weekend.
The first one initially seemed harmless – I was stopped by a limo of men on the celebrating a bachelor’s party on the pretense they were asking for directions to a club. Midsentence one of the groom stopped me and said they were just checking out my ass the entire time. I let it slide and walked away – this kind of thing happens. For them, it was socially acceptable.
But this afternoon I had an experience that upset me a lot more on the TTC. A man was shouting about how he was American and picking on an old man for his clothing choice. He started chanting red, white and blue. Then his eyes got mine. He held it, and said “pink.” He proceed to make lewd gestures and suggest what he would “like to do to me.” I held his gaze until I got off the train, and he didn’t stop the entire time. Nobody did anything. Neither did I.
I realized later that these two incidents were actually the same, even if I felt more directly threatened by one. All these men saw when they looked at me was my gender (my clothes weren’t even an instigator as they were for the older man, though I am not suggesting he deserved to be harassed either). And these things were said to make me uncomfortable, and to make them feel powerful. Yet the first case is unfortunately common and for some aspects of our culture (Pickup Artistry?) acceptable.
But the shame is that this is so often faced with silence. But we don’t have to. And that’s the beauty of this website. (Thank you)
Walking back to my dorm from the campus library after studying late into the night, I had to cross a busy intersection. While waiting to cross, a car turned down the cross street, slowed down next to me and a guy in the passenger seat said “I like mine thick,” to me and just gawked at me. It was terrifying because the car almost slowed to a stop. I was too scared to do anything but walk quickly in the other direction.
At this time in my life I was doing work as a costumer for my community college’s production of the Wizard of Oz. We had to work a LOT that month, so when we got our lunch breaks, sometimes I would head over to the local mall to chill out for the hour and grab a bite to eat. The way our mall is set up is that the parking lots are in sort of a circle with the mall building in the center. There are sidewalks leading to the building, and if you’re walking in one parking lot, you can see the other lots on either side. (Kind of like a wheel where the sidewalks are the spokes.)
I was walking down one sidewalk with a lot on each side of me. Minding my own business. Then I hear, all the way from another sidewalk on the other end of one of the lots:
“HEY BABY!! HEY! YOU LOOK HOT IN THAT DRESS! HEY!!”
I glanced over in his direction and saw a guy, all the way across the lot on my left, keeping pace with me. I sped up a little, so did he. He kept shouting.
“HEY! HEY! WHY DON’T CHOO COME ON OVER HERE BABY! HEY!”
I was getting closer to one of the entrances to the building, and wondered if I could keep ignoring him. It wasn’t working.
“HEY BABY! HEY! COME ON OVER HERE! HEY HEY!”
It was becoming clear that ignoring him was not going to make him stop. He probably would have kept shouting at me all the way to the building and I was a little afraid of running into him inside the mall. I gathered up my courage and shouted back as loud as I could, thanking my theatre training for teaching me to throw my voice from the diaphragm:
“LEAVE ME ALONE!!!!”
He heard me. But still didn’t stop. That only turned his shouts of “hey baby” into:
“F*CK YOU C*NT!! F*CK YOU!! YOU STUPID B*TCH!” F*CK YOU!!”
Gee…and just a second ago I was “hot in that dress…” Amazing how quickly a harasser’s opinion of you can change.
My fiancé and I were taking a stroll at night near Main street in our town. There are a lot of bars down Main and it’s intersecting streets, so there were some drunk patrons leaving one of the bars that we passed by. I noticed one of them was a guy I had known in high school, and I remembered that this guy had been very creepy and didn’t have a sense of personal space and I had been harassed by him many times before in several situations, so I urged my fiancé to walk a little faster and hope that he wouldn’t notice me.
He did…and he started shouting at me from behind.
“Damn! Look that that ASS!” he said “Girl you must work out!”
My fiancé put his arm around me and pulled me a little closer. This guy was drunk, but I remembered that he is no less creepy when sober. I knew there would be a confrontation in the street if I turned around and said anything, so we walked a little faster, trying to get to the traffic signal to cross the street, and told my fiancé to not acknowledge him.
“Come on girl, I see dat ass, lemme see your face!”
“Keep walking….keep walking…he’s not there…” I said in a hushed voice.
We got to the signal, but it had JUST changed and now cars were going by. We quickly turned the corner out of sight and ran behind one of the buildings so the harasser lost us. We ended up going in a circle back to the other end of the street where the bar was.
Every time I see this guy in public, I turn the other way. Whether he’s drunk or sober, he always creeps me out.
I was walking when a guy was just standing in the sidewalk yelled at me “I bet you have a nice ass” As I passed him, I turned and gave him the middle finger.
This happened when I was a teenager, maybe 16 or so. I was walking into a grocery store when I passed this creepy guy eyeballing me, as he walked away I overheard him say “too young” in a disappointed way. The town I was in is known for its high number of sex offenders. It was just creepy. I don’t like to grocery shop often anymore.
Welcome to our weekly update! Let’s get started.
The mothership got some nice press this week — we were mentioned in this MS Magazine’s article, How Some Men Harass Women Online and What Other Men Can Do to Stop It, profiled in The Story Exchange, and interviewed for Vice Magazine! When Vice starts to care about street harassment — you know change is in the air.
And now, without further ado, our sites have had quite a week:
Hollaback! Des Moines published their very awesome 5 Things You Can Do Right Now To End Street Harassment on the Hollaback Des Moines website! They are continuing to bring in stories for their Story Drive. The goal is to collect 50 stories by March 1st, so share your story if you haven’t already! We are also very excited to announce Hollaback! Des Moines’ newest team member: welcome, Alysa Mozak to our Hollaback! family! Alysa currently works as a Sexual Assault Response Coordinator and Healthy Relationship Promoter at Drake University. Very Cool.
Hollaback! Alberta did a screening this past Wednesday of the documentary The Invisible War at local theatre in Edmonton. The site posted an important lesson on the harmful effects of the improper use of the word “rape.” View the post here.
Hollaback! Istanbul got some big press this week. After friend of our site leader and acclaimed journalist Alyson Neel published widely-read article in the Washington Post, In Istanbul, street harassment is a constant, both Alyson Neel and our Hollaback! Istanbul Programs Director, Ezgi Cincin, were interviewed on Television! Watch them talk about the effects of street harassment HERE! (note: it’s in Turkish).
Hollaback! Philly’s site leader Rochelle Keyhan was featured in a groundbreaking 20-minute documentary titled Trigger Warning. The documentary explores the harmful effects of rape jokes and violent discourse in comedy as we have grown accustomed to it. Definitely a must-watch.
COMING SOON: One Billion Rising is quickly approaching, and a whole bunch of incredible programs are in the works at Hollaback! sites all over the world. Get involved with you local Hollaback! site, it’s going to be the best V-Day yet.
Our Hollaback! community is making street harassment a known issue and a paramount international conversation. THANK YOU to our incredible site leaders and supporters worldwide. Let’s keep it going!
Holla and out–