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Meet Ingrid from Hollaback! Brussels (she is wearing the long flowery dress in the photo)
Interview by Lauren Bedosky
When did you start your holla?
Our Hollaback! started right after the Brussels’ Slutwalk in September 2011, launched unintentionally in March 2012 and officially in April 2012.
Why did you start a HOLLA and what does Hollaback mean to you?
I was living for a while in Stockholm, and there was this moment when I was walking alone, in a slow pace, at night, around 2 am, just enjoying the gentle breeze, being amazed by how lovely the night was, when I stopped all of a sudden and wondered ‘what is this amazing, extraordinary feeling that I’m feeling?’ and I realized, it was FREE-dom. Fear seemed to have left my body. Why? Because ever since I got here [in Stockholm] I never once got harassed, never once leered at in the street, there were never whistles, never vulgar stares, not at night, not during the day. Slowly, all my well-built defense-, protection- & ‘what to do when you go out’ mechanisms of years and years of experiencing street harassment had begun to crumble until I was finally out and about alone at night on the street, fearless. Once you experience a freedom (human right) like that, there’s NO going back, and going back was exactly what it felt like when I returned to Brussels. Hollaback! for me is a way to reclaim that right again, to reclaim it for EVERYONE.
(Important to note here: I’m not saying Stockholm is some sort of utopia for women, I just felt safe there cause I never experienced harassment or violence. This is a personal experience. Other Swedish women did tell me stories of the violence they experienced there. This proves what is so for one person, is not so for another.)
HOLLAfact about your city:
Surrealism your name is Brussels. Weird, ugly and beautiful are synonyms here. You can see the world’s most daring contemporary dance piece in a venue nobody knows about, stand in line for 1 hour at the ticket hall in Central Station wondering why the bloody vending machines never work, discover the most brilliant piece of architecture standing next to a ‘who the hell built this crap’ building, speak 5 different languages, get lost in translation, and run into a night shop where the owner invites you to the ‘Bollywood’ party down the street… ALL in one day.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment?
Easy. That would be the global DAY where NO ONE experiences street harassment or sexual violence, a day of total peace, freedom, respect and bliss. It would let loose such a profound ENERGY into the world that it would be IMPOSSIBLE to return to how things were. To take away that sense of freedom would be simply unheard of, people would be outraged. BUT just to make double-sure, that day I would cast an ANTI-street-harassment-violence spell upon the world for which there is no counter-spell. Problem solved.
What was your first experience with street harassment?
I feel harassment in one way or the other has always been part of my life as I was bullied heavily as a child, but I guess the 1st time (better said, the 1st time I remember) the harassment was of sexual nature or on the street was when I was 14, on a holiday with my parents, brother and a friend in a small village in Spain. A guy with a motorcycle was following my friend and me home, after we had sneaked out to go to the sea after dinner. He was circling around us, speaking in half Spanish and English, making vulgar comments, horrible hissing noises, being extremely threatening, roaring the engine of the motorcycle, riding fast away only to turn around and ride towards us. My friend and I walked super fast, holding on to each other for dear life, staring at the ground, and ran for it when we saw the house appear. He kept on screaming at us…
What’s your signature Hollaback?
It all depends on the situation, how threatening it is and how many harassers there are. If I feel safe to Hollaback, I do it with a return stare that says ‘O don’t you mess with me. I have a superwoman power and it’s going to bite you’, it’s quite strong and effective. If they call me something nasty (in Brussels sometimes harassers call you ‘sale pute’ or ‘salope’ = ‘dirty whore’ or ‘slut’), I reply with a word that makes no sense at all like ‘fourgette’ (fork) or ‘dentifrice’ (toothpaste). This mostly throws them off balance cause they don’t know how to react to that, wondering ‘what the hell did she say?’ One great comeback I did recently; I said in a super kind, sweet (almost fake) way: “O, I wouldn’t do that, if I were you… This is Brussels, you know. You get a fine for that sort of stuff here. And by the way, you’re being filmed. Just saying…” And walked away.
Define your style:
My friends call it Ingrid-style ;-), it’s basically a translation of how I feel with a lot of icing on top. Colors represent emotions for me. I don’t care what’s fashionable, acceptable, and what’s not. I can easily leave the house in a vintage 20ties ball gown for no particular reason, be in a bohemian hippie-style all week, discover a working girl 80s look, or just mix everything up.
What do you do when your not holla’ng?
I’m sort of a full-time holla’er cause I’m a storyteller. And those stories I’m trying to tell are with words (writing, translating), images (film), and movement (performance). I’m also a traveler, nature-trekker, cake-maker, and knitter on the side.
What inspires you?
Everything! To name only a few: My mom. My brother. My friends. My fellow Hollabackers. My heroines… People who history seems to have forgotten (or worse, were burned on the stakes). People who live ordinary lives in respect for each other and nature. Who stand up against injustice, for others and for themselves. Who were bullied into silence, but kept finding ways to express themselves. Solidarity. Acts of kindness. Love…
Comic by Shakesville contributor Aphra Behn
I live in a town that discriminates against women. Without knowing this, I moved up here to pursue my B.A. I can’t afford a car, it’s insurance, or gas money so I take the bus. I have a lot of classes, so my book bag gets some weight on it. The other day a man was waiting with me at the bus stop in the middle of town. I am taking a lot of classes this semester and my bookbag has some heavy weight on it. This guy starts laughing at me and telling me that he has never seen a woman carry a bookbag this heavy before. He gets out his phone, takes a picture of it against my permission and says “Im gonna tweet this shit!” still laughing. I kind of brush it off, we get on the bus and he happens to sit in a seat adjacent to mine. He is going on and on about this bookbag. At this point, I’m getting angry. He starts saying things like I’m a robot and the bookbag is my battery pack and that the amount of makeup I was wearing made me look like a hooker so I must be one. He then starts ranting on about how women shouldn’t be in college and that they’re only good for “making babies”. He turned to a guy who happened to go to my school and asked if it was common for women to carry heavy bookbags let alone be in college. The guy said “Uh, yeah” and shook his head in disbelief. All this and all I was doing was minding my own business.
I was at the store when a guy walking towards me stared at me and said, “DAY’UMMM!”. He then began to theatrically look me up and down and stare at my backside. I looked him right in the eyes and said, “No! You’re being rude and I don’t like it. It isn’t flattering and you’re a creep”.
He left the store immediately. Tell your harasser they aren’t being complimentary and they don’t have power over you.
Guess what. VAWA passed yesterday! We had a little dance party in our office to celebrate (above). It passed just in time for Women’s History Month which begins tomorrow March 1. International Womens Day is next friday, March 8. Whether you’re hosting or attending events this month, this is a great opportunity to get the word out about street harassment and what Hollaback! is all about. Here are some ideas for what you can do in your community!
Also, Hollaback’s story happens to be in the spotlight on The Story Exchange!
Hollaback! is partnering with Eileen Fisher! On Saturday, March 23rd, Eileen Fisher will donate 10% of their total sales throughout all 9 of their New York stores to Hollaback! BUT we need need 7 more volunteers for the event. EVERYONE, if you or any holla-involved folks you know are able to help out that day, please send an email to email@example.com.
Hollaback! NYC tabled at Hunter College’s annual VDay Fair alongside several awesome NYC women’s organizations this thursday. New York hollas collected stories, did some harassment mapping, and spoke to students about street harassment and violence.
Hollaback! Edinburgh is getting some media attention this week for the great work they are doing with their street harassment questionnaire! If you or anyone you know lives in the Edinburgh area, have them fill it out!
Hollaback! Philly’s comic book campaign has officially launched! Philly is creating a very awesome anti-street-harassment comic book in partnership with Philly artist Erin Filson! AND they need your help to make it happen. Visit the project page and help get the word out and get some funding!
Hollaback! Brussels spoke in front of the EU Parliament! On February 22, Brussels Hollas presented on the subject of street harassment. Site leader Angelika sat on the panel in Parliament’s discussion titled, Is it a man’s world? The Sexism Debate in Germany and Beyond. Amazing!
Hollaback! Halifax had a very important meeting this past Monday with the Halifax police department communication team, the deputy chief, an Avalon representative, and an advocate from Stepping Stone to discuss the police department’s new crime mapping method and its limited usability and exclusion of sexual assault as a public safety risk. Way to be on top of things, Halifax!
Hollaback! Buenos Aires is shedding light on another upsetting aspect of sexual abuse and harassment. It is called “frotismo” and although we don’t have a we don’t have a word for it in english (we really should), it is important to know about. Frotismo is the act of rubbing one’s genitals against someone else without the other person’s consent. This happens A LOT–in clubs, crowded subways, concerts. Check out Buenos Aires’ post for more information on it. The site is also collecting stories from people who have been the target of this behavior. If you or anyone you know has a story to tell, tell it here.
Hollaback! Melbourne is planning away for this upcoming year! Melbourne is revving their engines for a year of events, political action, story collecting, and awareness raising about street harassment in local high schools. Next Tuesday, March 5, Melbourne is starting a new weekly tradition called Takedown Tuesday where every Tuesday Melbourne will hollaback at cruel or misogynist comments and articles right on their blog. So, if you come across articles, comments, opinion pieces or blog posts related to street harassment that come from a misogynist perspective that really makes your blood boil, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org and they might be featured in the next Takedown Tuesday! Way to break the silence, Melbourne!
Hollaback! Ottawa got invited to St Francis Xavier High School as part of their educational ‘Mental Health Awareness Day’! Hollaback! Ottawa spent the day discussing street harassment with students and the way in which systemic violence affects the whole of our lives, including our mental health. Way to go!
Hollaback! Chandigarh is getting the word out about the Chandigarh Police’s new initiatives to increase accessibility. This is very good news. Chandigarh is also engaging in the debate now arising in India, “Do women have too much power?” So, hollas…what do you think? Finally, in a post this thursday, Chandigarh highlights for us how the India’s 2013 Budget will directly impact women.
Hollaback! Dublin covered a paramount issue of violence against women and its connection to poverty around the world. The site summarizes the powerful words of Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women, after her visit to Dublin last week for her announcement that Dublin is signed on to the UN Global Safe Cities Initiative.
Hollaback! Boston is helping get the word out about the similarities between rape and racism via the fact sheet produced by Men Can Stop Rape. Boston also put together a pretty awesome compilation of people’s worst catcalls. Check it out!
HOLLA and out –
With the movement to end street harassment stronger than ever, here’s some a quick recap of our progress this February:
Our apps won the “Top three safety apps of 2013!” A big thank you and congratulations to Jill Dimond, our Hollaback! developer, as well as volunteers and site leaders Josephine Hall and Amy Palamountain for their hard work.
Thirteen of our sites took action for ONE BILLION RISING, and 18 sites held separate events in their community. Hollaback! Alberta screened “Invisible War” at the local theatre, Hollaback Bmore held a “Terrible Two birthday bash,” Hollaback! London spoke at the Reclaim the Night anti-Rape march in Cambridge, Hollaback! Brussels participated in a day of solidarity with LGBTQ organizations to contest the Russian Federation’s potential passing of discriminatory legislation that would limit the rights of the Russian LGBTQ community.
Site leaders advocated to get street harassment on the legislative agenda in the EU and in the Capital of Canada. Hollaback! Ottawa met with City Councillor Diane Deans and the Chief Constable of OC Transportation to talk about sexual harassment on public transit and Hollaback! Brussels spoke at the European Parliament and met with a representative of the European Women’s Lobby. We’ll keep you posted on their progress.
Poland, NYC, and Brussels called out sexist politicians. When NYC Mayor Bloomberg said, “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,” Hollaback quickly released a public statement demanding an apology. When Assemblymember Vito Lopez was outed for repeatedly harassing his staff, HollabackNYC responded with a firm public statement demanding that he step down. Similarly, Hollaback Poland struck back against politician Janusz Palikot’s sexist language, and Hollaback! Brussels stood up against a sexist German politician.
13 sites received press from 18 media outlets. Hollaback! New York City was in MS Magazine’s article “How Some Men Harass Women Online and What Other Men Can Do to Stop It”, The Story Exchange, Vice Magazine, and on the Pure Imagination radio show, listen in, Hollaback! Istanbul was in the Washington Post and site leader Ezgi Cincin was on Turkish national television, Hollaback! Philly’s site leader Rochelle Keyhan was featured in a documentary titled Trigger Warning, Hollaback! San Francisco’s site director, Michelle Seivers, went ON THE AIR this past Monday on 91.7 KALW “Your Call” to discuss the recent attacks on women in the Bay Area, Hollaback! Winnipeg‘s director, Jodie Layne, spoke 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, Hollaback! Halifax was on CBC Maritime Noon, Hollaback! Brussels got an awesome shout out on the blog Brussels is Love, Hollaback! Gent’s Ilse wrote a great response to an article in De Standaard online publication, and Hollaback! Berlin was featured in the German blogs Femgeeks and Antiprodukt.
Thanks for all your support! You keep us moving,
Meet Julia Brilling, Hollaback! Berlin site leader.
Interview conducted by Lauren Bedosky
When did you start your holla?
I started my/our holla in 2011 with my friend Claudia after coming across the Hollaback! London site. We just knew “WE NEED THIS HERE” and so we did.
Why start a HOLLA and what does Hollaback mean to you?
“Why” is easy to answer: because I was tired! It was by going through Hollaback’s submission when I started I wasn’t alone. And it made me feel stronger. So, it means a lot. It means being empowered, it means feeling safer, it gives me confidence, it means community and it means, “WE are making a difference!” We are here, we are many, and we are not going to be silent anymore. I love being part of the worldwide Hollaback! community btw
What was your first experience with street harassment?
I cannot really recall the very first one, but one situation stuck in my mind. It was when I was about 13/14 years old and my friend M. came to school and told me what had happened to her last morning on the train we usually get on. She said there was man who would sit very close to her and she was already uncomfortable, and he started to wiggle around and touch her and she felt even worse. And the she saw he was sitting next to her, one of his hands on her thigh now and the other on his dick, getting off. She was terrified, she said, unable to move. She told me and I was horrified as well, afraid to get on that train again. And worst, I couldn’t tell anyone.
What’s your signature Hollaback?
I don’t have one. But I like to say that ignoring dickheads on the streets is always a good ‘response’. Giving them ‘the evil eye’ works too, sometimes.
What is your proudest holla moment so far?
I intervened once on a crowded train when nobody stepped up. I was scared as hell, but I did it. Bam.
What do you do when your not holla’ng?
Everyday I’m holla’ing! I work, I live, I encounter sexism 24/7 and I fight back.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?
Be proud of the changes you are making.
What are you excited about in 2013?
Nothing too specific, I am just happy to go with the flow, see how Hollaback! develops, and happy to be working with some super-inspiring people on this.
What inspires you?
My fellow Hollas!
A new mobile app called LGBToday will engage the LGBT community in their shared history and help isolated LGBT youth feel less alone. The creator of the project, Sarah Prager, says that LGBT history helped her through the darkest parts of her life: “Knowing that people like the Stonewall rioters put their lives on the line so that I could live more safely today inspired me. It not only helped me through some tough times, it is what made me become an activist.”
Each day when a user opens the app, they will see an event from LGBT world history that occurred on that date. It could be that on this day the first openly gay world leader was elected or that sodomy was decriminalized in the UK. From Oscar Wilde being put on trial after being charged with homosexuality to Ellen coming out, the stories will come to life with images, video, newspaper clippings, and links. The historical events featured in the app will be fully inclusive of all communities, countries, and centuries. The mission of the app is to educate the world about the roots of the LGBT community, make LGBT history more engaging and relevant, let LGBT youth know that others have shared their struggle, and promote organizations that make LGBT history today and every day. As a partner, we will receive free ads in the mobile app and website www.lgbtoday.com.
Chip in what you can today at www.indiegogo.com/lgbtoday and then help spread the word. All donations above the funding goal will go towards keeping the app online once it has launched. The deadline to donate is this coming Tuesday, March 5!
You can connect with LGBToday at www.facebook.com/lgbtoday and www.twitter.com/lgbtodayapp.
This week here in New York City, a young gay man was approached and beaten by six strangers on the subway. The incident happened on a train car FULL of people who did nothing to help him. You can read Laura’s statement here about the tragic incident. The six-on-one public beating that began as “just” another episode of harassment, is a truly shaking reminder of the power and responsibility of bystanders. Whether the situation is street harassment or other kinds of violence, bystanders don’t have to get hurt to get involved. Usually all a situation needs is someone to speak up, even in just a few words, to stop the escalation of harassment. Find out how to be the best bystander ever through the I’ve Got Your Back campaign on our site.
Women’s History Month is March and starting just a few days! This is an awesome opportunity to let your imaginations run wild with ideas on programming, events, and all kinds of fun street harassment awareness-raising projects.
Also, just a heads up, Anti-Street Harassment week is April 7-13! Check out Meet Us On The Street to find out ways to participate.
This week, Hollaback! got a shout out in GOOD, in the amazing Courtney Martin’s recent article discussing data collecting and social trends. Very awesome!
More awesomely, check out what our hollas of the world are up to:
Hollaback! Berlin was interviewed on FSRN last week during One Billion Rising. The report covers V-Day all around the world and our hollas are the voice of Berlin! YAY! The site also made a pretty fantastic looking “No means no” (Nein bedeutet nein) poster. Check it out!
Hollaback! Poland just published their research in the University of Oslo Centre for Gender Research Academic Bulletin (check out the last page). The study was done by Hollaback! Poland site leaders Joanna Roszak and Greta Gober. The results clearly demonstrate that harassment in public spaces is a widespread phenomenon in Poland, and at the same time, largely unaddressed in Polish legislation and public debates. Awesome work, Hollaback! Poland.
Hollaback! Halifax’s site leader, Rebecca, wrote a public statement addressing Halifax police department’s new crime mapping method’s limited usability and its exclusion of sexual assault as a public safety risk. Hollaback has a critical role as an important viewpoint when it comes to issues of public safety. Way to hollaback, Halifax!
Hollaback! Buenos Aires was featured in The Occupied Times this week! The article, titled “Organising Ourselves to Beat Harassment” was written by our Buenos Aires site leader Inti Maria. The piece details the establishment and growth of ¡Atrévete! BA, or Hollaback! Buenos Aires. This week, the site also did a beautiful tribute to the esteemed feminist Audre Lorde. Check her out!
Hollaback! Ottawa is continuing their fight against harassment on public transit. After meeting with City Hall last thursday about the issue, the site wants to come up with a community plan addressing harassment on transit. If you have some ideas for Ottawa, holla at them via email@example.com
Hollaback! Des Moines’ site leader, Becca Lee, was honored as an official “Vagina Warrior” by Drake University’s Student Activists for Gender Equality. Site leaders also joined a group of community organizations to talk with attendees about anti-violence initiatives, healthy relationship dynamics, and safe, consensual sex. Great job!
HOLLA and out –