Interview conducted by Chloe Safier
In the photo from left to right: Britni Clark, Kate Ziegler, Angela Della Porta, Devon Audie, Jane Carper.
When did you start your holla?
Devon: After a summer and fall full of planning and Hollaback! webinars, Hollaback! Boston launched in December, 2011.
Why did you start a HOLLA and what does Hollaback mean to you?
Britni: I wanted to start a HOLLA because I couldn’t believe that Boston, a big city with busy public transportation, didn’t have one. I knew that if I experienced a lot of harassment on a daily basis that chances were that other women did, too. Hollaback means that I don’t have to take it and that we can start to change this pervasive idea that receiving street harassment is just this thing that you have to deal with when you’re female and in public spaces. It means that I have the power to help change the conversation.
Jane: For personal reasons, I started Hollaback! Boston to create a space where I could fight against harassment with likeminded individuals who know what it is like to be unsafe publically in one’s own body. To me, to hollaback means to take back a slice of power in a situation of imbalanced power. Even if the individual feels that their holla didn’t have an impact, on a larger scale, every individual holla makes the movement stronger.
Angela: Hollaback not only meant being part of a movement to make Boston and other cities safer, but it was a tool through which I could let other women, LGB & T* folks, and straight male bystanders know that they do have a way to fight back against this constant harassment, and I didn’t even have a complete dictionary of language to convey that before Hollaback.
Devon: I joined the start up team after Jane reached out and was asking if others she knew would like to help her fight street harassment in a more organized way. To be honest, the concept of it was novel to me at the time because I had always just lived with street harassment and had thought it was something I had to learn to “live with” so joining Hollaback! was an amazing wake up call!
Kate: I was no stranger to street harassment, but had grown to accept it mostly as an unfortunate fact of life. I found myself particularly upset about catcalls I received while running – not at my best, not sexy, just sweaty and smelly. Maybe it was the extra time I had as I ran to work myself up over harassment and what I wished I had said in the moment, but I began to consider the power dynamic that underlies harassment, and the irrelevance of my appearance or behavior. My being powerless to prevent harassment really began to get to me, and starting Hollaback! Boston to help other victims of street harassment to realize that their experiences and sense of vulnerability are not isolated or their fault helped me to feel less powerless myself. Hollaback, to me, is all about conversations – removing shame and blame and helping others, victims, bystanders and harassers alike, to understand the context of our behaviors and the damage that the normalization of harassment can do.
HOLLAfact about your city:
Britni: That Boston is awesome? Oh, you mean something you didn’t already know?
Jane: Our public transit buses (and trains) still run during snow storms. Isn’t that awesome? (Well, until 1am. We have a bedtime.)
Angela: Like everywhere in New England, temperatures in Boston can range from -30 degrees to 110 degrees; no matter what the temperature, what women are wearing, or how covered up they are, streets harassment never cools down.
Devon: Well, even though Boston is awesome, we still experience lots of street harassment, just like everywhere else in the world. :\
Kate: All of the Back Bay is built on landfill! At the Trinity Church in Copley Square, visitors can see the foundation and the stilts that support the building. When Boston ran out of room, they filled in part of the harbor and the Charles River (the “back bay”) to make more.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment?
Britni: Give all harassers the sentence of having to experience street harassment on a daily basis for a week so that they know what it feels like to live that way.
Jane: I would first pack a culmination of all of the street harassment a woman experienced over her whole life and all of the messy feelings and hurt it brought up. Then, I would place that into the mind of a harasser so he knows the exact negative chain of reactions he is causing.
Angela: Install street-harassment sensing cameras. Then, call the perpetrators in and sentence them to watching themselves harass women until they promise to never do it again, and because I’m such a benevolent queen, they stop!
Devon: I guess if I were Queen for a day then I would simply enlighten street harassers around the world of their disrespectful wrong doings, all with the wave of a wand. I’m confusing Queen with Fairy God Mother, but that’s okay.
Kate: So long as my Queen-dom includes a bit of magic, I turn patriarchal rape culture rape culture on its head for the day so that everyone can have some small sense of what years of “normal” harassment can do to change a victim’s sense of vulnerability and the ways they move through public space.
What was your first experience with street harassment?
Britni: Oh, god. I don’t even remember! But I know that I was probably flattered by it because I thought I was supposed to be. It wasn’t until I got a little older and the harassment got creepier that I started to question whether or not this was really complimentary behavior.
Jane: The first time was probably when I was a young teen, taking a city bus to school. I’m sure I was flattered because, like Britni said, I was taught to feel that way.
Angela: I honestly can’t remember. They sort of all blur together.
Devon: I wrote about my first experience with street harassment in my introduction post on the Hollaback! Boston blog.
Kate: When I was 13, a guard at the Sistine Chapel grabbed my butt as I filed through staring at the ceiling. I was embarrassed, scared and, at the same time, felt I should be flattered. I still wish I had hollered back.
What’s your signature Hollaback?
Britni: I usually just say, “Please don’t talk to me like that. It’s not okay.” But sometimes I can’t help it and I unleash some pent up anger and curse them out!
Jane:“STOP HARASSING WOMEN!”
Angela: “Don’t speak to me like that. Don’t speak to women like that.”
Devon: I stick with firm, closed-ended responses like, “Don’t talk to me like that.” Or, “Don’t harass women.”
Kate: On foot, a simple, “…eew,” combined with a general appearance of disgust and dismissal. By bike, a very loud “respect women!” If I’ve been running for anything over 10 miles, I’m not very polite, nor quotable.
Define your style:
Britni: Quirky, colorful, sparkly. Super feminine, manic pixie dream girl-esque. Like Punky Brewster fell in a pit of sequins and glitter.
Jane: Lots of fall colors… at all times of the year. A mix of thrifted clothes and Target essentials. Comfortable shoes!
Angela: Some combination of really basic, boring things, jeans, giant glasses, and various animal prints and pink items mixed in.
Devon: I’ve been trying to become more “””professional””” so I’ve felt pretty boring lately.
Kate: Pearls meets Pennsylvania Dutch. Classic Boston with a contemporary art habit.
My superheroine power is…
Britni: Confidence and a big mouth!
Jane: Intersecting social issues so I can see the multiple entry points of a problem. Then lots of talking and brainstorming action steps to cultivate change!
Angela: A super ability to turn from “beautiful” or “cute” to a “bitch” to harassers in the blink of an eye!
What is your proudest holla moment so far?
Britni: When we got our first submission.
Jane: When our picture and start-up story was in the Metro!
Angela: When I was explaining Hollaback! to an older woman with whom I was interviewing, she told me she never thought about street harassment, it was always just the way it was, and she’s glad someone is finally trying to make a difference. Honestly, every time it clicks for someone, I’m proud again.
Devon: I’m just proud of every single person we reach on Facebook, the blog, twitter, etc. I’m proud that we are able to make a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s slight, and to help them realize they’re not alone when dealing with street harassment.
Kate: While chalking anti-harassment taglines around Boston one morning last summer, an older woman stopped to watch our progress. We finished a, “Hey Baby is no way to say hello!” and she approached to tell us how glad she was that we were out, explaining that she still can’t believe that at her age, men still harass her, and in fact had just that morning a few blocks away. Our conversation wasn’t a particularly happy one, but the connection made a big impression on me and I look back on it fondly.
What do you do when your not holla’ng?
Britni: I’m a social worker by day, spiritual gangster by night.
Jane: Finishing up my undergraduate degree at Clark University with a double-major in Psychology and Race, Class, and Gender Studies. I also watch a lot of sci-fi and TV dramas.
Angela: Finishing my last semester and graduating (class of 2013, woo!) from Clark University, working with 1 in 3’s campaign to end abortion stigma and increase access to reproductive care, social networking, and hanging out!
Devon: I’m usually busying myself with school, work, and of course Netflix.
Kate: I have a day job in Operations. On the side, I run a design firm (Union Jack Creative) with my partner, Jack. I run, and bike, and ski, and spend a lot of time nursing bruises from those things. I have a soft spot for fashion magazines, I cook often but seldom measure, and I love a good episode of Mythbusters.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?
Britni: Treat others like you would want to be treated. The world is a lot nicer that way and my days are much better when I live that way.
Jane: Be kind to others, because you never know what the other person is going through.
Angela: Be confident in everything you do and everything you are.
Kate: Take a deep breath and sleep on it.
What are you excited about in 2013?
Britni: Speaking to a women studies class at UMass Boston! Getting married.
Jane: I am excited about all of the elected women who have taken office after the last election and the impact it will have worldwide.
Angela: Graduating, Teaching in Detroit, MI (as much as I’ll miss Massachusetts!)
Devon: I’m excited about graduating and entering the Real World! And of course for all the new and exciting work Hollaback! volunteers will accomplish.
Kate: Elizabeth Warren’s election in MA, and the potential for progress everywhere!
What inspires you?
Britni: Women kicking ass. Margaret Cho.
Jane: The whole Hollaback! movement! The fact that we’re international and that women and allies across all spectrums are coming together to take a stand against gender-based violence.
Angela: Being part of something bigger.
Devon: Women in politics!
Kate: Strength, bravery and kindness.
In the year 2020, street harassment…
Britni: …will be a foreign concept to everyone and something we never ever talk about because we don’t have to.
Jane: …will be a shameful embarrassment of the men who still practice it and active bystanders will tell those harassers to cut it out!
Angela: … is seen as harassment and gender-based violence, something that doesn’t “just happen.”
Devon: …will be so obviously not okay! Just like it is in the workplace!
Kate:… is just silly. Everyone moves through public space respectfully and feels safe doing so.
This week was full of excitement with Hollabackers all over the world planning up a storm for One Billion Rising and, in countless creative ways, continuing to get the word out about Hollaback! and our continuing fight to end street harassment. Here in New York, after reading Wednesday’s Gawker article highlighting New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s habit of regularly degrading women, we decided to holla-back with this public statement. If you haven’t already, please read it and share. This is an example of how harassment is NOT a cultural issue or a class issue; it’s a global issue that arises at all levels of society. Now is as good a time as ever to fight back and speak out.
Now, lets hear what our amazing sites around the world have been up to:
Hollaback! Berlin has been active in recent online discussions on harassment in Berlin. In recent weeks, the city of berlin has seen an amazing upsurge of women reporting their daily encounters with street harassment throughout social media. In the midst of all this inspiring speaking out, Hollaback! Berlin has done a great job getting the word out about Hollaback! in German blogs such as Femgeeks and Antiprodukt. Check them out!
Hollaback! RVA has had quite a week! The site held a successful meeting this past Wednesday, collecting stories about harassment that they will be posting on their blog. Keep your eyes peeled for accounts of street harassment coming from Richmond next week. Hollaback! RVA is also revving its engine for One Billion Rising in Richmond. They are doing some great collaborative work with OBR RVA and are in the middle of preparations for a big Hollaback! RVA benefit. Super exciting stuff.
Hollaback! Istanbul is getting the word out on their site about some disturbing new research on the self-silencing of many women when they feel they are outnumbered. Harassment is very much woven into this story of this silence. Hollaback! pushes against violence at all levels, including the violence of of being silent, especially when in the face of to gender-based harassment. Yes, there is much work to be done!
Hollaback! Baltimore is in their final preparations for their birthday bash next Friday, January 9. There will be birthday games, music, dancing, live performances, and pizza donated from our friends at Johnny Rad’s!
Hollaback! Brussels has been standing in solidarity with LGBTQ organizations against the Russian Federation’s potential passing of discriminatory legislation that would limit the rights of the Russian LGBTQ community. Read the account of their incredible day of solidarity. Hollaback! Brussels is also getting ready for One Billion Rising. Plans for a V-Day filled with discussion, a chalk walk, and dancing are well underway. Brussels Hollabackers are doing some great coordinating with other organizations in the area, assembling a flash mob and a V-Day after party.
Hollaback! Alberta is attending the U of A International-Week 2013 theatre production that depicts real-life stories from individuals who experienced gender-based harassment. Also, Hollaback! Alberta’s very own Lauren Alston did a big interview this week. Read it and find out the story of Hollaback! Alberta from beginning to now and where these Hollabackers plan to go from here.
Hollaback! Winnipeg‘s director, Jodie Layne, speaks out about policies in schools that try to control women’s bodies and choice of clothing in Thursday’s article, “Leggings Off Limits” in the Winnipeg Free Press. Read Jodie’s powerful response to recent restrictions on everyday choices of young women.
Awesome work this week everyone! Keep it truckin’!
HOLLA and Out-
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.