HOLLAWho? Meet South Africa.

Meet Melissa, the savvy social media activist with lots of ideas, fighting street harassment in South Africa.

Why do you HOLLA?  Why do I HOLLA? Why didn’t I holla back in the past?! I HOLLA because I experience street harassment on a nearly daily basis, because I live in a country that is dragging its feet in the past. I want to be part of the change, and I want to educate men and women about harassment because I find many of them don’t really know the difference between abuse and being polite (true story!).

What’s your signature Hollaback?  “Will you say that to your mother/daughter?”

What’s your craft?  I’m a social media manager, I specialise in social media policy and strategy and manage the online reputation of other brands and companies. I have a sneaky wine lover streak.

HOLLAfact about your city:  According to a Human Rights Watch report, 68% of women in South Africa have been subjected to some form of sexual harassment.

What was your first experience with street harassment?  I can’t remember my first experience, but I remember one of my earliest. I just got my hair done and was walking out of the shopping mall when a delivery man yelled “Hello girl!” in the most slimy tone of voice. It shattered my confidence at that moment, instead of feeling pampered and happy after a trip to the hair dresser, I felt violated and helpless in such a public space. People were standing around, nobody said a word, not even me. I just walked away, angry that I had no clever comeback, nothing to say, all the time feeling his eyes boring into my soul as I pretended not to hear.

Define your style:  Laid back and inconsistent. I drift between fashion trends and classic pieces. I’m outspoken AND shy.

My superheroine power is…Flight.

What do you collect?  I collect various things, wine, fighter-jet books, and specs and small model plane kits, badges.

Say you’re Queen for the day.  What would you do to end street harassment? I’d order every school to have mandatory gender-neutral ‘Good Manners’ classes for juniors and seniors and for their parents. This won’t be about what to say at the dinner table (ok maybe that to!), but how to properly speak to people, how to pay a compliment to another person, how to RESPECT a person, how to defend a person, how to say “That’s not ok”, how to ask for help. My mom always said this stuff should be taught at home, but I think parents should be included in these classes too so that everyone learns.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?  Treat others the way you would like to be treated, it’s all about respect.

What inspires you?  Change inspires me, I see things changing all around me, especially in this country. We’ve gone through massive, urgent changes and I’ve seen the positive side of this. It inspires me to take action.

In the year 2020, street harassment…Will be an embarrassing phenomenon that people experienced in the dark ages and looked back on in disgust like racism.

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Ryan Gosling Has Your Back


Ryan Gosling knows what bystander intervention is all about. Earlier this week, the actor much celebrated for his mind and acting talents stepped in when he saw a woman about to get hit by a taxi cab. In New York City, it can be all too easy to dismiss strangers in need of help, but this story serves as a nice reminder and example of how to behave like a decent human being from time to time.

The woman Gosling stopped right before she stepped into oncoming traffic, just so happened to be British journalist, Laurie Penny, who made a fantastic point on the celebrity-obsessed frenzy that followed:

“What’s more, I really do object to being framed as the ditzy damsel in distress in this story. I do not mean any disrespect to Ryan Gosling, who is an excellent actor and, by all accounts, a personable and decent chap. I thought he was marvelous in The Ides of March, and will feel weird about objectifying him in future now that I have encountered him briefly as an actual human.

But as a feminist, a writer, and a gentlewoman of fortune, I refuse to be cast in any sort of boring supporting female role, even though I have occasional trouble crossing the road, and even though I did swoon the teeniest tiniest bit when I realized it was him. I think that’s lazy storytelling, and I’m sure Ryan Gosling would agree with me.”

For this, we fully support Laurie Penny’s point on not portraying women as damsels in distress; the dangers of objectifying anyone (though we still enjoy the occasional Ryan Gosling meme); and the realization that it should not be a major headline anytime a person helps out a stranger. Bystander intervention is for everyone, if you see someone who looks like they are being harassed by a stranger, or about to get hit by a taxi, don’t just stand there!


Attention All Visionaries!

If you have an idea for creating positive change, whether it be for solving a global human rights issue, something going on in your local community or creating lasting environmental or social change, then consider submitting your idea by May 1, 2012 to the first ever Global Project Fair by the Worldwide Visionaries community to receive support for turning your ideas into action! What have you got to lose? Even the simplest of ideas can have a big impact on the world.

Categories include:

Visionary Projects: Everyone who submits a project in the Global Project Fair
will receive a Worldwide Visionaries digital badge of endorsement to honor your participation. Proudly display your digital badge on your website, profile or portfolio to let others know about the positive contribution you are making to the world!

Individual Projects: Individuals or small groups who are not currently in a school setting, age 13+

Businesses, standing nonprofit organizations and political groups cannot be included.
$1,000 will be awarded to outstanding projects from this category

Student Projects: For all global, secondary and post-secondary (junior high through university) students, age 13+

The project can be from an individual or small group collaborating on the submission.
$1,000 will be awarded to outstanding projects from this category

Educational Collaborative Projects: Class projects coordinated and submitted by a teacher or faculty member ON BEHALF OF THEIR STUDENTS

This category is for educators from all global, primary through post-secondary classes
(elementary though university), to coordinate their students in completing a collaborative project that the educator will submit on the students’ behalf. Note that this category is equally focused on the collaborative efforts of the students, and the educator’s role as the project coordinator and submission liaison.
$1,000 will be awarded to outstanding projects from this category

Added bonus: All awardees will have the opportunity to ‘pay it forward’ by selecting a project from from the Fair (of their choosing) they would like to support with a matching $1,000 award.

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Ooooh! Boys Where Did You Get Those Shoes?


A Well Deserved Break

You never know what someone goes through till you walk a mile in their shoes and last week the men of Western Kentucky University proved they were willing to do exactly this to raise awareness of sexual assault. So the fellas donned their favorite stilettos and took to the streets in aid of Walk a Mile in Her Shoes as a part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month. The walk, sponsored by Hope Harbor and the WKU Counseling and Testing Center, was aimed at raising awareness of violent sex crimes.

The event raised $1,000 but more importantly was able to open up communication about sexual violence and encouraged guys to “better understand and appreciate women’s experiences, thus changing perspectives, helping improve gender relationships and decreasing the potential for violence.” It also gave participants a small insight into the true trauma of wearing and walking in a stiletto.

WKU freshman, Garrett Haugh, said that despite the foot pain he would definitely be interested in taking part next year. He said:

“(The heels) are a lot harder than I thought, but yeah, I’ll probably be back next year.”

According to walk organizers the support for the event has increased since last year, which is awesome news. It is so important that men are willing to stand in solidarity with women to end violence against women and make the world a safer place. Well done boys!

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Article, demonstration

Rachel’s story: ‘hey, you need some help?’ #bystanderSUCCESS

i often think about this event, and i love sharing the story. there aren’t enough stories of people being helped by a stranger, so i’m glad to share the story of the time someone helped me.

it was in 2005, and i was waiting for a subway train to take me to a party at like 8:30 pm on a friday. i was sitting on a bench, when a man came up and sat at the other end of the bench. he started by just staring and smiling. i was pretty sure he was drunk, so i figured he was just being a drunk guy and would get bored. then he started saying things to me, though i don’t know what he said because he said them in spanish. he said them in a low voice, and he made some kissing and sucking noises to punctuate them.
the station was pretty empty, and i thought if i sat there and didn’t do anything, it wouldn’t escalate.
it did. the bench was long, and he started scooting toward me.
about this time, a teenaged boy came down the escalator to wait for the train. he was on a path to walk by us, but he turned his head and when he saw what was happening, he stopped. he was a very tall young man, and quite physically imposing. i generally do not have a positive opinion of teenaged boys, so for a moment, i thought i was going to gain another harasser.
but he smiled at me. it was one of the kindest smiles i can ever recall receiving. he said, ‘hey, you need some help?’ i just shrugged, somehow too embarrassed to admit being bothered by the drunk guy down the bench. he smiled again, and sat down in between me and the drunk guy.

he turned and gave the man a very menacing look, and shook his head slowly. then he pulled out his ipod and headphones. as he was putting on his headphones, i said, ‘thank you so much.’ but i had been so nervous and kinda holding my breath, that it came out in a relieved exhale.

he smiled again and said, ‘don’t worry about it’ before putting on his headphones.

i’d never been so grateful for a stranger’s assistance before in my life. i suddenly felt safe, simply because another person decided to be nice. and i hate to say it, but it was that much more helpful that he was a tall young man.

nice dudes out there who don’t like to harass women and think it’s wrong to do so, help a lady out if she needs it!


Join the Movement Against Bullying: See “Bully” in Theaters Today

Today, compelling documentary ‘Bully’ will open nationwide, telling the true story of the appalling bullying epidemic that is blighting the U.S. Directed by Lee Hirsch, Huffington Post writer Marlo Thomas has called it “the year’s most important film” but the Motion Picture Association of America has rated the film as “Unrated” meaning that theater owners can choose not to screen it.

So find a theater that is showing it and take your children and other people’s children to see this harrowing and significant movie. Although it may not be an easy watch, viewing the film will be worth every moment if we are to have any chance of eliminating bullying for good.

Watch the trailer here.

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A Week In Our Shoes: March 30, 2012

Hello Hollabackers!

We’re in the press! Our site leader in Mexico City, Gabi Duhart, was in Marie Claire! Our NYC site leader, Kalema Botang, was on Bronx Net, I was interviewed for PIX 11 in response to wednesday’s lack of conviction on rape charges against former NYPD officer Michael Peña. We also got a mention on feminist blog Butchieblog.

We’re in the community! Veronica went to Encuentro for Immigrant Women, organized by Adelante Alliance, a small immigrant advocacy group that works with the Spanish-speaking community in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. Veronica attended a meeting with New Yorkers for Safe Transit (NYFST), a coalition we are part of here in New York City. NYFST is doing a community safety survey, and four Hollabackers have already volunteered!

We’re making policy progress! Natalie and I met with staffers from Councilmembers Koslowitz, Garodnick, and Ferreras’s offices this week, and scheduled a community safety audit with Ferraras in Jackson Heights and Elmhurst, Queens, for May 5th!

We’re moving and shaking around the world! Hollaback! Instanbul were featured in Today’s Zaman after organizing a special screening of short film Miss Representation last Tuesday. Hollaback! London appeared on BBC London Radio and on LBC AND check out all the activism that Hollaback! Philly got up to during Anti-Street Harassment Awareness Week. Awesome!

I’m off to the Sex::tech Conference in San Francisco next week, and I’ll be speaking at the University of California at Berkeley and the City College of San Francisco, so stay tuned for next week’s west coast edition!

HOLLA and out!


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HOLLAWho? Meet Brussels.

Meet Anna, the thoughtful mover and shaker fighting street harassment in Brussels.

Why do you HOLLA?  I Holla to show myself, my harassers and those around me that harassment is unacceptable. I Holla because it inspires me to be the strong person I can be. I Holla because it reinforces the fact that any large-scale oppressive treatment of a specific population simply can not be tolerated.

What’s your signature Hollaback?  The one I’ve been sticking with lately is saying: ‘’Don’t talk to me like that’’ in a serious and authoritative tone. Although, I tend to flip the bird if I am caught off guard.

What’s your craft? I am infinitely intrigued by the human body and mind. Almost everything I do with my time involves the exploration of those things through various mediums and thought processes.

What was your first experience with street harassment?  Witnessing: I remember being in Brooklyn and walking near McCarren Park. I saw a woman walking her dog and she had her cell phone out as well.  There was a car slowly driving by and the guy said something to her. She immediately responded with something about how she was there to have a walk. Before she responded, I didn’t know if they knew one another or if the male driver was harassing her.  I was so proud and in total admiration of this woman who responded, and I was so scared at the same time because I realized how a bystander like myself could let harassment happen because of fear and not knowing. Sometimes I can tell and I know I can do something. Sometimes I am unsure and then I am too slow to react or not brave enough. Now that Hollaback has the Bystander/Green Dot campaign, I feel well equipped to respond.

Define your style:  Funky, comfortable, utilitarian and a little bit hippy. Nothing too fancy… and a bit of athletic gear mixed in b/c of heading to or from one activity or another.

…Since I’ve moved to Brussels though, I wear a lot of black and a lot of pants to try to blend in– to avoid street harassment.

My superheroine/hero power is…Starting things: gathering people together, getting excited, supporting.

…Although I’m working on fire breathing and flying.

What do you collect?  Scents and sensations of experiences.

If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?  Follow your intuition. Stand up for what you know deep down to be right. Support one another. Breathe. Keep going.

What inspires you?  Seeing other people stand up for themselves or someone else. Seeing people work on issues they care about. Passion. Engagement. Care for oneself and others.


Tips For Improved Catcalling

While in a perfect world, people wouldn’t take it upon themselves to tell complete strangers what they thought of them at all, we appreciate the sentiments behind this hilarious video.

Street harassers: bored with the same old, tired routine? If you actually believe unsolicited comments on a woman’s appearance make her feel good, imagine how treating her like she has thoughts and feelings will make her feel!

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StreetSafe Doesn’t Want You To Have To Fear Walking Alone

This is cross-posted from Hollaback! Boston.

A new app called StreetSafe is available for people who feel threatened or unsafe when they’re walking alone. As Jezebel explains,

Women who sign up for Streetsafe, which starts at $19.99 a month, can call the company’s trained security advisers 24/7, no questions asked. Streetsafe offers two services: “Walk With Me,” billed as a personal safety escort service, and “Silent Alarm.” The latter is self explanatory — if you’re not able to call 911 yourself, slide a red button and StreetSafe will do it for you, using your GPS data to contact your local police station — but the former feature is really what makes the app stand out. “Imagine walking alone, or in an uncomfortable environment, but nothing has happened, so you can’t call 911. Walk with Me connects the user to a live Safety Advisor who will stay on the phone with you and keep you alert until you get to your destination safely,” says their website. If the situation becomes more dangerous, Streetsafe will contact 911, but the officials I spoke with said that hasn’t actually happened since they launched last August. Instead, most StreetSafe customers use the service on a regular basis, as a precaution.

I think we can all agree that the fact that we even have to fear walking alone on the street is a sad reality (one that we’re trying to change with your help!). The Jezebel article describes the app as being for “proactive and paranoid women,” the latter half of which I have to take issue with. Is it really paranoid to be afraid of being approached, threatened, or asasulted when experience and statistics prove that certain demographics (women, people of color, members of the LGBTQ community) are more likely to have these things happen to them? I would call that being realistic and having geniune concern for your safely, not being “paranoid,” which is a symptom of psychotic mental illness.

I see pros and cons to this app. Many people already do this kind of thing already. I know that I often call my mother when I’m walking alone. This Hollaback Girl called her brother. It’s very common to say to people “if you don’t hear from me by this time, make sure that nothing has happened to me,” or “please stay on the phone with me until I get home/to work/to my appointment.” Not everyone has someone that they can call, which would make this app a good resource for them. It would also be a good resource for people that work hours not conducive to calling a friend for a chat on their walk home– I know that I don’t have many friends that would appreciate a 2 AM phone call “just until I get home.” I also really like the 911 feature of this app. Though the company says that they haven’t had to use it yet, I like knowing that it’s an option.

On the otherhand, being on the phone can help lower your guard and make you a better target for being attacked since you are less aware of your surroundings while you’re distracted. The prices are also kind of high, so there is definitely a specific demographic that would be using this app. On the whole, though, the pros seem to outweigh the cons. There is also an app available for Android called “Guard My Angel” that is similar in nature (but utilizes texts moreso than calls) and costs less money.

What are your thoughts on this app? Would you use it? What do you do when you feel unsafe on the streets?

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