Interview conducted by Chloe Safier
In the photo from left to right: Britni Clark, Kate Ziegler, Angela Della Porta, Devon Audie, Jane Carper.
When did you start your holla?
Devon: After a summer and fall full of planning and Hollaback! webinars, Hollaback! Boston launched in December, 2011.
Why did you start a HOLLA and what does Hollaback mean to you?
Britni: I wanted to start a HOLLA because I couldn’t believe that Boston, a big city with busy public transportation, didn’t have one. I knew that if I experienced a lot of harassment on a daily basis that chances were that other women did, too. Hollaback means that I don’t have to take it and that we can start to change this pervasive idea that receiving street harassment is just this thing that you have to deal with when you’re female and in public spaces. It means that I have the power to help change the conversation.
Jane: For personal reasons, I started Hollaback! Boston to create a space where I could fight against harassment with likeminded individuals who know what it is like to be unsafe publically in one’s own body. To me, to hollaback means to take back a slice of power in a situation of imbalanced power. Even if the individual feels that their holla didn’t have an impact, on a larger scale, every individual holla makes the movement stronger.
Angela: Hollaback not only meant being part of a movement to make Boston and other cities safer, but it was a tool through which I could let other women, LGB & T* folks, and straight male bystanders know that they do have a way to fight back against this constant harassment, and I didn’t even have a complete dictionary of language to convey that before Hollaback.
Devon: I joined the start up team after Jane reached out and was asking if others she knew would like to help her fight street harassment in a more organized way. To be honest, the concept of it was novel to me at the time because I had always just lived with street harassment and had thought it was something I had to learn to “live with” so joining Hollaback! was an amazing wake up call!
Kate: I was no stranger to street harassment, but had grown to accept it mostly as an unfortunate fact of life. I found myself particularly upset about catcalls I received while running – not at my best, not sexy, just sweaty and smelly. Maybe it was the extra time I had as I ran to work myself up over harassment and what I wished I had said in the moment, but I began to consider the power dynamic that underlies harassment, and the irrelevance of my appearance or behavior. My being powerless to prevent harassment really began to get to me, and starting Hollaback! Boston to help other victims of street harassment to realize that their experiences and sense of vulnerability are not isolated or their fault helped me to feel less powerless myself. Hollaback, to me, is all about conversations – removing shame and blame and helping others, victims, bystanders and harassers alike, to understand the context of our behaviors and the damage that the normalization of harassment can do.
HOLLAfact about your city:
Britni: That Boston is awesome? Oh, you mean something you didn’t already know?
Jane: Our public transit buses (and trains) still run during snow storms. Isn’t that awesome? (Well, until 1am. We have a bedtime.)
Angela: Like everywhere in New England, temperatures in Boston can range from -30 degrees to 110 degrees; no matter what the temperature, what women are wearing, or how covered up they are, streets harassment never cools down.
Devon: Well, even though Boston is awesome, we still experience lots of street harassment, just like everywhere else in the world. :\
Kate: All of the Back Bay is built on landfill! At the Trinity Church in Copley Square, visitors can see the foundation and the stilts that support the building. When Boston ran out of room, they filled in part of the harbor and the Charles River (the “back bay”) to make more.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment?
Britni: Give all harassers the sentence of having to experience street harassment on a daily basis for a week so that they know what it feels like to live that way.
Jane: I would first pack a culmination of all of the street harassment a woman experienced over her whole life and all of the messy feelings and hurt it brought up. Then, I would place that into the mind of a harasser so he knows the exact negative chain of reactions he is causing.
Angela: Install street-harassment sensing cameras. Then, call the perpetrators in and sentence them to watching themselves harass women until they promise to never do it again, and because I’m such a benevolent queen, they stop!
Devon: I guess if I were Queen for a day then I would simply enlighten street harassers around the world of their disrespectful wrong doings, all with the wave of a wand. I’m confusing Queen with Fairy God Mother, but that’s okay.
Kate: So long as my Queen-dom includes a bit of magic, I turn patriarchal rape culture rape culture on its head for the day so that everyone can have some small sense of what years of “normal” harassment can do to change a victim’s sense of vulnerability and the ways they move through public space.
What was your first experience with street harassment?
Britni: Oh, god. I don’t even remember! But I know that I was probably flattered by it because I thought I was supposed to be. It wasn’t until I got a little older and the harassment got creepier that I started to question whether or not this was really complimentary behavior.
Jane: The first time was probably when I was a young teen, taking a city bus to school. I’m sure I was flattered because, like Britni said, I was taught to feel that way.
Angela: I honestly can’t remember. They sort of all blur together.
Devon: I wrote about my first experience with street harassment in my introduction post on the Hollaback! Boston blog.
Kate: When I was 13, a guard at the Sistine Chapel grabbed my butt as I filed through staring at the ceiling. I was embarrassed, scared and, at the same time, felt I should be flattered. I still wish I had hollered back.
What’s your signature Hollaback?
Britni: I usually just say, “Please don’t talk to me like that. It’s not okay.” But sometimes I can’t help it and I unleash some pent up anger and curse them out!
Jane:“STOP HARASSING WOMEN!”
Angela: “Don’t speak to me like that. Don’t speak to women like that.”
Devon: I stick with firm, closed-ended responses like, “Don’t talk to me like that.” Or, “Don’t harass women.”
Kate: On foot, a simple, “…eew,” combined with a general appearance of disgust and dismissal. By bike, a very loud “respect women!” If I’ve been running for anything over 10 miles, I’m not very polite, nor quotable.
Define your style:
Britni: Quirky, colorful, sparkly. Super feminine, manic pixie dream girl-esque. Like Punky Brewster fell in a pit of sequins and glitter.
Jane: Lots of fall colors… at all times of the year. A mix of thrifted clothes and Target essentials. Comfortable shoes!
Angela: Some combination of really basic, boring things, jeans, giant glasses, and various animal prints and pink items mixed in.
Devon: I’ve been trying to become more “””professional””” so I’ve felt pretty boring lately.
Kate: Pearls meets Pennsylvania Dutch. Classic Boston with a contemporary art habit.
My superheroine power is…
Britni: Confidence and a big mouth!
Jane: Intersecting social issues so I can see the multiple entry points of a problem. Then lots of talking and brainstorming action steps to cultivate change!
Angela: A super ability to turn from “beautiful” or “cute” to a “bitch” to harassers in the blink of an eye!
What is your proudest holla moment so far?
Britni: When we got our first submission.
Jane: When our picture and start-up story was in the Metro!
Angela: When I was explaining Hollaback! to an older woman with whom I was interviewing, she told me she never thought about street harassment, it was always just the way it was, and she’s glad someone is finally trying to make a difference. Honestly, every time it clicks for someone, I’m proud again.
Devon: I’m just proud of every single person we reach on Facebook, the blog, twitter, etc. I’m proud that we are able to make a difference in people’s lives, even if it’s slight, and to help them realize they’re not alone when dealing with street harassment.
Kate: While chalking anti-harassment taglines around Boston one morning last summer, an older woman stopped to watch our progress. We finished a, “Hey Baby is no way to say hello!” and she approached to tell us how glad she was that we were out, explaining that she still can’t believe that at her age, men still harass her, and in fact had just that morning a few blocks away. Our conversation wasn’t a particularly happy one, but the connection made a big impression on me and I look back on it fondly.
What do you do when your not holla’ng?
Britni: I’m a social worker by day, spiritual gangster by night.
Jane: Finishing up my undergraduate degree at Clark University with a double-major in Psychology and Race, Class, and Gender Studies. I also watch a lot of sci-fi and TV dramas.
Angela: Finishing my last semester and graduating (class of 2013, woo!) from Clark University, working with 1 in 3’s campaign to end abortion stigma and increase access to reproductive care, social networking, and hanging out!
Devon: I’m usually busying myself with school, work, and of course Netflix.
Kate: I have a day job in Operations. On the side, I run a design firm (Union Jack Creative) with my partner, Jack. I run, and bike, and ski, and spend a lot of time nursing bruises from those things. I have a soft spot for fashion magazines, I cook often but seldom measure, and I love a good episode of Mythbusters.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be?
Britni: Treat others like you would want to be treated. The world is a lot nicer that way and my days are much better when I live that way.
Jane: Be kind to others, because you never know what the other person is going through.
Angela: Be confident in everything you do and everything you are.
Kate: Take a deep breath and sleep on it.
What are you excited about in 2013?
Britni: Speaking to a women studies class at UMass Boston! Getting married.
Jane: I am excited about all of the elected women who have taken office after the last election and the impact it will have worldwide.
Angela: Graduating, Teaching in Detroit, MI (as much as I’ll miss Massachusetts!)
Devon: I’m excited about graduating and entering the Real World! And of course for all the new and exciting work Hollaback! volunteers will accomplish.
Kate: Elizabeth Warren’s election in MA, and the potential for progress everywhere!
What inspires you?
Britni: Women kicking ass. Margaret Cho.
Jane: The whole Hollaback! movement! The fact that we’re international and that women and allies across all spectrums are coming together to take a stand against gender-based violence.
Angela: Being part of something bigger.
Devon: Women in politics!
Kate: Strength, bravery and kindness.
In the year 2020, street harassment…
Britni: …will be a foreign concept to everyone and something we never ever talk about because we don’t have to.
Jane: …will be a shameful embarrassment of the men who still practice it and active bystanders will tell those harassers to cut it out!
Angela: … is seen as harassment and gender-based violence, something that doesn’t “just happen.”
Devon: …will be so obviously not okay! Just like it is in the workplace!
Kate:… is just silly. Everyone moves through public space respectfully and feels safe doing so.