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.