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Dion’s Blog Post: “I always wanted to be the progressive man…”

I always wanted to be the progressive man— strong enough to open all of the pickle jars yet sensitive enough to cry during Toy’s Story 3. I joined the Men against Patriarchy group on my college campus, attended panels about the experiences of women, was one of two men in my Feminist Psychology of Women class, and wrote my senior thesis on the destructive properties of Black heterosexual masculinity in American society. By any definition, I was on track to become an ally, or at least a man that feminists love.

However, social change cannot occur without action. Even though I have attended panel and read books, I have not consistently used my power to support the equity of women. I have sat silently while witnessing sexual assault in public in the name of sustaining the code of heterosexual men. Where do I even start? Before chaining myself to abortion clinics or fighting suspected aggressors on the street, I needed to identify how I contribute to our patriarchy.

Around this time of introspection, the infamous “10 hours walking around NYC as a woman” captured the attention of millions. Women effectively carved space for productive dialogue by sharing their personal encounters with street harassment. Although the video has its flaws—it ignored the racial and socioeconomic implications of framing white women as the victim and lower class men of color as the perpetrator—it illuminated a stark contrast between my experience and those of millions of women interacting with public space in New York City [NYC]. It further proved that headphones, novels, cellphones, “bitch faces”, and even significant others are no match for the male need to express admiration for physical beauty. I am guilty of this as well, constantly thinking of clever ways to interrupt the morning commute of attractive women across NYC.

Recognizing my participation, I wanted to reverse my Pavlovian response to seeing a “beautiful” woman; how could I stop salivating long enough to notice that women are more than their beauty? Brainstorming with a close friend about this problem, I suggested doing a social experiment, in which I would document how often I referenced or thought about the physical appearance of women for seven days. She pushed back, suggesting that I make it public and attach a financial stipulation. Together, we transformed this desire to change into a tangible goal.

For one month, I would track any thoughts or references about a woman’s physical appearance, donating $1 to an organization fighting against the effects of street harassment and violence. For accountability, I created a mobile spreadsheet for consistent tracking, enlisted several friends to check on me, and announced the challenge to my Facebook friends. Instead of growing my mustache for Movember, I decided to spend my month examining a large part of my masculine identity and checking my male privilege. November felt like the longest month of my life. From post-Halloween photos, cologne advertisements, alcohol commercials, food commercials, music videos, book covers, bartenders, cashiers, mothers, daughters; I found myself throwing money away. I second-guessed every word to make sure I created genderless conversations. Although difficult, it made me realize the importance of preserving another person’s humanity. Everyone is fighting for acceptance based on his/her character rather than physical appearance. It made me work harder to connect with and learn about the values of others. It made me seek out the experiences and personal stories about harassment and the concept of beauty. At the end of the month, I had made 95 references or thoughts. I decided to round up to 100 and split the money between Safe Horizon, Collective Action for Safe Spaces, and Hollaback!, given each organization’s role in supporting survivors of sexual harassment and assault.

Even though the month is over and the financial stipulations are gone, this work is not done. Although my eyes have been opened recently, I know that women have been grappling with these concepts for centuries. As a man, it is time for me to start listening and to stand behind those who have been on the front line all along.

As you finish reading this post, know that this challenge is for you. It is everyone’s duty to assess his/her participation in the system. This challenge may not be as trendy as ice water buckets, but know that the consequences are just as jarring. If we do not call for change, the rights and safety of women will continue to depend on the benevolence of a man.

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Suzannah’s Story: Realizing the harm of street harassment

So glad to find out that an organization like Hollaback now exists. When I lived in New York, I was followed by men, got cat calls from men in cars and generally harassed on a daily basis. It never occurred to me at the time that it was a form of sexual harassment and in fact, could be dangerous. It is a form of power that some men use over single women. A woman walking alone is an easy target.

After awhile, it makes women afraid to be women. Just going to the grocery store becomes a drama filled occasion. It’s not even about dressing sexy. Women get harassed in just a t-shirt and jeans.

The worse would be when I was groped in a crowd. It’s hard because you really learn not to trust men. Then, you finally meet a good one, like my husband. I’ve always missed my time in New York, but now I remember how hard it can be.

It’s hard to be a single woman in New York. Harassment is never cool. hollaback!

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HOLLA ON THE GO: “I told them to fuck off”

I was walking to the cinema at around 8pm when I passed a group of 6-8 young men that were bouncing a basketball. They started staring at me and yelling “hey, you” “hey, girl” so I told them to fuck off. They then threw a basketball at me, which hit the wall behind me and started telling me to get over there and fuck them. When they started walking closer I yelled “I have pepper spray and I will spray all of you” to which they replied by calling me a “spicy mama” and then rambling in spanish.

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HOLLA ON THE GO: “Lady”

A guy singing lady in red at me loudly.

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Reflections on Facing Race Conference from Baltimore Site Leader Mel

“Try to make it safe for people to be wrong [when talking about racism]. Part of that is including myself in the wrong-ness.” – Sally Kohn


Facing Race 2014, a national conference about racial justice, was held in Dallas, TX this year and I had the privilege of attending as a representative of Hollaback.  It was the largest Facing Race ever with 1,600 attendees and its accompanying hashtag #FacingRace2014 trended nationally as people documented conference highlights on social media.  It’s been a few days since the last plenary session and I’m still trying to soak it all in.  What weighs heavy on my mind as I make sense of everything is the consistent messaging for us, racial justice activists, mel with key and peeleto be kind.


From the first event, the biggest names in the racial justice world dropped bombs of knowledge followed by encouragement for us all to call people in and not call people out, as Jaime-Jin Lewis of the organization Border Crossers said.  Lewis told us to look towards a future movement that is based on healing.  Rinku Sen, President of Race Forward, then told us to, “lower our litmus tests for friends and allies, and trust that people become anti-racist by doing racial justice work”.  These notions aren’t new nor are they bad, but I was surprised at this consistent messaging and the honesty of the speakers.


As a woman of color, I value being in majority people of color spaces because they’re so rare.  I feel safe to vent about racism without a filter and there’s solidarity in our struggles.  This conference was speaking to a majority audience of color and the repetitive suggestions for us to “lower our litmus test” were blunt requests to do better that I hadn’t heard in that setting before.  The esteemed speakers and presenters weren’t asking us to shut up or stop getting angry, which is what sometimes can happen when asked to be kind; they were calling for us to have empathy and compassion.


Six community organizers from the Ferguson, MO protests spoke about their work on day 2 of the conference bright and early at 8:00am.  They were asked what the best thing is that we, as racial justice activists, can do to support them.  The resounding answer was to go home to our communities and talk to people about racism; create a dialogue about what life is like for people of color.  Having those difficult conversations is needed work and a first step in making sure people remember the names of young men like Mike Brown because every community has a Mike Brown.anti-imperial ballroom
I found myself thinking about all of this and feeling, for the first time, like venting or a safe space is not the priority.  This people of color-focused space that I hold so sacred was not meant for emotional release this weekend.  Hip Hop Legend and activist Jay Smooth described it best as balancing self-care and the needed catharsis of telling someone off who’s being racist while not always resorting to those reactions as a default.  I’ve been contemplating since then: what is my default — righteous anger?  Is that all it is or do I couple it with some compassion?


Just when I thought there was nothing else anyone could possibly say that I hadn’t already heard, the final plenary blew me away.  Ian Haney Lopez, Van Jones and Rinku Sen together were a trifecta of nuance on the next 50 years of the racial justice movement.  Ian Haney Lopez pushed us to fight the concept of non-Whiteness within communities of color and complicated the popular belief that White folks will be in the minority in 2042.  This prediction depends on whether or not the definition of Whiteness expands and with many White Latinos self-identifying as White, the percentage of White facing race bus tourfolks in the USA could actually increase in 50 years.  Van Jones came on stage and told us all to expand our hustle by leveraging technology to make our own money, not depending on the mostly White male technocracy of Silicon Valley to dictate the gadgets and apps we use.  And finally, Rinku Sen brought it all home as she actually told us not to place people on our “shit list” (yes, her word choice! so perfect) for making mistakes and reiterated the need to have difficult conversations about race.  She did not hold back in telling the movement that we need to be more compassionate than we are right now.  My favorite moment was when she voiced her dislike of critiquing one another on Twitter and urged us to hold each other accountable for mistakes both in person and in private.


Facing race is difficult not just because the oppression we’re confronting is at a larger structural level, but it hits people of color at the personal level, too.  Resulting trauma makes it difficult to see through the righteous anger we have; but this year’s conference was a wake-up call for our compassion.  The wisdom from this year’s conference is settling in with me now and I’m taking a closer look at how I define a friend and racial justice ally.  Social media has made us all especially easy subjects of scrutiny and it’s also easier to scrutinize one another than ever before.  It’s time to create a better balance of self-care and reexamine what our defaults are so we can be in a place to discuss racism with many others, and ultimately grow the movement to end it.


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HOLLA ON THE GO: Harassment in Venezuela

I live in Caracas Venezuela, i see and experienced this type of verbal herrasment every day in the street, the first time was on the subway that some ramdom guy told me to smile, i was so mad

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HOLLA ON THE GO: Harassed in a sloth shirt?!?

Get whistled and yelled at aggressively while wearing my large sloth t-shirt…. men are objectifying/ sexualizing sloths? NOW It’s gone too far because they surely couldn’t have been catcalling at me, I wasn’t asking for it at 10am on my way to class, not wearing makeup and wearing a simple sloth t-shirt.

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HOLLA ON THE GO: “I was forced into panic mode”

In Spain, walking at 11pm by myself through the city of Santander to meet up my friends for a pregame when I see a man in the middle of the sidewalk just standing there. I start getting a strange feeling until he turns to the side and I see his erect genitals. I stop in the tracks, horrified and turn down the closest street I can as fast as I can before he can see me. The fear I felt was intense, I was forced into panic mode to try and get away. It was a scarring, horrible experience.

I've got your back!
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HOLLA ON THE GO: It Needs To Stop

Buffalo, especially the west side, is a breeding ground for sexual predators. I go to a local college in this area called D’youville and all the young women who go here are subjected to harassment daily. It’s so regular for us that it’s becoming harder and harder to ignore. Every day when walking home or around campus men openly stop their cars to stare at us, whistle at us to get our attention, stop in their tracks to turn around and stare, and yell “compliments” it needs to stop.

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Letter to Our Supporters on the Recent Street Harassment Video

Dear Supporter,

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.

Sincerely,

Emily May
Executive Director, Hollaback!
www.ihollaback.org
@iHollaback

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