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…