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First and foremost, thank you for your continued support of Hollaback!. As some of you now may be aware, we have been the object of some negative press and comments on social media regarding the recent street harassment video by Rob Bliss Creative. When the video was released, we doubted more than 10,000 people would watch it. We never imagined that it would be viewed more than 32 million times.
Given your passionate and dedicated support of Hollaback!, we wanted to inform you how we are directly responding to the accusations of racial and class bias.
Last Thursday, we issued a statement that makes our position clear: Hollaback! understands that harassment is a broad problem committed by a broad spectrum of individuals across lines of race, location and class. We know from the 8,000 stories we’ve collected on ihollaback.org that there is no single profile for a harasser, and harassment comes in many different forms. We are deeply invested in a movement that is multiracial, gender inclusive and incorporates place-based leadership specific to each locale. Racial, gender, and class politics is a core part of our work. While we did not create this video, we did allow our name to be used at the end of it. We agree wholeheartedly that the video should have done a better job of representing our understanding of street harassment and we take full responsibility for that. I’m deeply sorry.
What we also want to say is: We’re listening. Hollaback! is a small but determined and diverse organization, and we’ve been overwhelmed with the amount of feedback we’ve gotten. This video, created and edited pro-bono by Rob Bliss Creative, has taught us an important lesson. Although we appreciate Rob’s support, which has helped garner over $10k in donations from new donors, we are committed to continuing to show the complete, overall picture.
We are using the door opened by this conversation to expose the harassment faced by women of color and LGBTQ folks that too often is ignored by the mainstream media. That’s why we’re using the money raised to create our own video series — with the first one currently under development and scheduled to release within the next two weeks. We’re also working to create clearer messaging, respond to specific news articles, work with partners to write an Op-Ed, showcase thousands more stories through our global research study with Cornell University, and start an open and transparent dialogue with the public to voice opinions and concerns.
We are leveraging this opportunity to bring greater attention to our driving mission: giving you the power to end street harassment.
Again, thank you for believing in us, being a part of this vital dialogue, and supporting Hollaback! as we continue and extend our mission. We welcome your thoughts and suggestions as we move forward.
Executive Director, Hollaback!
Night time in the Mission, I’m leaving dinner to meet up with a friend at a bar 8 blocks north. It was later in the evening, most businesses were closed, and the amount of people walking on the streets were fading with each passing block. I was near my destination, and after spending the entire day in Mission, I felt comfortable enough walking to my next destination alone. In San Francisco. I thought, I’m from Detroit and feel safe back home, how sketch can SF be?
It got to the point to where I needed up put my hood up. The only people left roaming the streets were those severely intoxicated to the point of not being able to hold themselves up, groups of men, and the occasional cooky stung out homeless character. Having my hood up and hands in my pockets you think would indicate I am not walking around to have a chat. This man walks up to me and starts walking the same pace as me. Comments on the weather and continues to try to make small talk. I do what Detroiter’s do: look him in the eye, give him a civil head nod, and continue on my way. Apparently this isn’t enough of an indication to this man that I am NOT trying to have a chat.
He asks me if I’m going home, and tells me how beautiful I am (I’m wearing a freaking hood, you can barely see my face). I pick up my pace, so does he. I slow down, so does he. We are the only ones on the street and there are barely any cars driving by.
Finally I look at him and put my hands in front of me to suggest “halt” and say look, I’m not trying to talk. He makes a couple more comments about my hair and my legs and continues to follow me (mind you, I am wearing jeans, sneaks and a baggy coat).
Suddenly he is gone, as if to duck behind an alley. I put my hood down to ensure my peripheral vision is clear. Then luckily see a cab across the street dropping someone off. In a bit of a panic I run across the street to catch the cab, and went back to where I was staying. There went my comfort zone, my plans with a friend I hadn’t seen in over 2 years, and my ability to feel safe in this beautiful city I was visiting.
My story is not specific, because it happens too many times a day to count. I currently live in Medellin, Colombia, currently one of the most notorious hubs for sex tourism, street trafficking, and child prostitution. Before I decided to come here to start a vegetarian food project with a friend, I traveled mostly solo or with one female friend throughout Colombia and Ecuador. Traveling on your own has its challenges, but traveling as an independent female is another story. You are always on the streets, and thus, are in a constant state of harassment. Before you set foot out of your own city, you are constantly reminded of ‘how dangerous’ it is for you, how you ‘should travel with a group, a boyfriend, or a male companion’, how you should ‘never walk alone’ because ‘you never know what horrible things could happen to you… as a woman’. Sometimes men (and women alike) like to take additional steps in making sure you don’t venture out to foreign streets. They say ‘you are being naive’ (thank you for completely undermining my intelligence), they say ‘there are safer ways to do it’, they say you could ‘just save up more money, and go someplace else’. Before I left on my trip, I had many people do everything they could to strip me of my confidence, condescend my abilities, and essentially tell me that I was setting myself up for a horrible demise. Me. It would be MY fault, if something terrible happened to me somewhere in which ‘wasn’t my place’.
Meet Colombia and Ecuador, two of the loveliest countries on Earth. Meet Colombia and Ecuador, where I didn’t manage to escape unscathed. I cannot make less than a 5 minute walk without being catcalled, hissed at, or looked up and down in any city I have been in. 5 minutes. That’s about 3 blocks. And I’m a fast walker. I have been called (translated from Spanish): my love, my heaven, my life, my sky, my little thing, my princess, my queen, my sweet, baby, girl, white girl, beautiful, pretty, delicious, and ‘wow’. While those might sound like more than compliments to some, I am not a fan of the comments. I did not ask for them. I do not want them. I do not have a choice. These men disgust me.
That’s the cakewalk. Then comes the hissing. You know that sound you make to call your dog? Well they use the same one for women. Hissing. Don’t worry, they still call their animals the same way. There’s not much of a difference. And there won’t be later either. It is symptomatic, and no one does anything about it. Women are dogs here.
What do the comments turn into? The hisses? Oh it doesn’t stop there.
I’ve been followed for blocks multiple times. I’ve had to hide. I’ve had to turn around and yell at men stalking me. They smile. Or laugh it off. Or ignore me. Or point at me and say how much they’d like to fuck me. Or ask if I have a boyfriend. Or if I will marry them. But it still doesn’t stop.
I’ve been groped in the metros. I’ve had my hips, my arms, and my ass squeezed. I’ve had every inch of my body purposefully pressed upon. I’ve had stiff dicks and sweaty hands invade my space too many times during rush hour. It never stops.
The winks, the catcalls, the hissing, the squeezing, the stalking, the sexual comments, they are everything that signifies the complete lack of respect for women where I currently reside, and that is on all levels.
At one point at a festival, I was drunk… like almost everyone else. I was talking to a guy whom I had never met. I do not know him still. I do not remember his name. I don’t know what we talked about, and I don’t know how any of it happened. I remember flashes. I remember walking into a filthy bathroom with him. Horrible things happened. One flash I have was of him pulling his pants down. No condom. My feeling of fear, disgust, entrapment, helplessness, isolation. I could do nothing. The friend I was with had no idea… I never had the heart to tell him. I was crushed. My soul was gone. I was dead for a long time.
I was so traumatized, I couldn’t feel anything for awhile. I didn’t want to exist, or move, or speak. I was a changed person. I went from vivacious, funny, friendly, and wild, to a shell in moments. No one knew what happened, but the friends I was staying with knew it was something terrible. I didn’t know if I would find any part of my old spirit again. That was the worst part. But a different me is back.
I refused to be defeated. Before, I almost always reacted to street harassment. I would yell, I would silently put up my middle finger, I would fight back. I was strong. I was vigilant, careful, and conscious. No one thought I would be the one, but 1 out of 5 is pretty staggering.
For women, going out into the street is a gamble. I lost just one time. But honestly, I’m glad it was me, and not someone else. I still react, but in different ways. I harness all of my intensity to shock men, to scare them, to let them know without a doubt, that what they are doing is wrong. Often, I am successful. But It doesn’t stop. You can’t get everyone. Street harassment is a gateway to vicious assault, denigration, and decimation of female integrity and safety. If there is anything that I have learned, it is this: IT IS ALWAYS YOUR PLACE TO SAY SOMETHING. YOUR BODY, YOUR VOICE, YOUR DIGNITY. It belongs to you. Be strong, fight back. This is your world as much as it is anyone else’s. You might not be next, but someone you love will find their time… it’s always when you least expect it.
A man (who had harassed me once before) started following me and asking many personal questions – do I have a boyfriend? well ok you have a boyfriend but you’re not married right? etc.
Guy on a bike grabbed my ass as he was cycling by.
As I’m walking home a man pulls up to the sidewalk with his car and in russian asks me to get in. He then drives off but I see him turn so he drives past me again.
As I’m walking through an underground tunnel I see 2 men walking towards me. One of them reaches out towards my boobs and says “iedod pupu pačamdīt” (meaning let me feel your tits), sneers and walks on.
I am not a native Oregonian and most locals are surprised to hear me say that I am excited for the dreary wet winters. Its true that I do enjoy the rainy weather, but the weather comes with an added bonus: the park where I walk my dog multiple times a day is finally deserted of the men who typically hang out there and harass women. It is a daily occurrence during the fair weather months and was something that I had not experienced with such frequency before. I have been followed and had my personal space invaded, a man screamed in my face about “how good I would get it” from him… all in broad daylight since there is no way I will set foot outside my apartment alone after dark. I always ignore the harassment but it always makes me so angry and frustrated and it is not an emotional state that I can simply “let go of” once I had moved away from the incident. I began wearing my headphones with my music turned up as high as I could stand and wearing sunglasses. If a man passes me on the street I keep my head down and do not make eye contact. This behavior served to discourage verbal assaults and my sunglasses make me more intimidating and unapproachable. Having my headphones in gives me the added bonus of not being in an emotional funk for the rest of the day since I cant hear an assault if it does happen. At first I was proud of myself for coming up with these tactics to make myself “impervious” to verbal assault, but now I have realized that I am not empowering myself, I am hiding. And I should not have to hide from anyone in broad daylight two blocks from my apartment.
(19) I was waiting at a bus stop and a truck with two males (who looked mid twenties) was at a red light as this is on a busy street . They cat calling and whistling at me . Staring at me like I was some piece of meat . I gave them an evil glare and they simply laughed at me . I was going to talk back but they sped off before I had the chance .