On July 11th, the ladies of HollaBackBoston.com were invited to host our *first event* with the local Boston chapter of the National Organization for Men Against Sexism - NOMAS. The discussion was lively and informative. Thank you guys for being totally HOT AND SAFE with us! And thanks for being so supportive as we "role-played" diverse instances of street harassment for you. In contrast to women who consistently confirm that they "know it when they see it," we recognize that it is not nearly as common for men to know what street harassment looks like, how seriously frightening and oppressive it can be, and how pervasive this kind of sexual harassment is for women all over the world.

While HollaBackBoston.com provides an online opportunity for women to reclaim public space, we are also working diligently with local organizations to create a coalition of allies that can help us in the international fight against verbal and physical assaults against women. This event launched our ongoing outreach strategy for men who are interested in learning what they can do to fight street harassment.

HollaBackers created over 100 feet of caution tape that we then installed at 9:30pm on July 11th in Harvard Square. Our installation remained on the street for more than a week, woven sneakily among pre-existing orange construction cones demarcating a public walkway on Mt. Auburn St. We inscribed the caution tape with WARNINGS to harassers and EXPERIENCES from our posts about how street harassment damages everyone's daily lives and inspires women and men to Holla Back!! See FilmLoop at the bottom of the page for photos from the event.

And - Coming Soon: Video Clip of Art Installation

Flyer from our event:
HollaBackBoston.com presents
For National Organization of Men Against Sexism.
Info inspired by: HollaBackBoston website: www.hollabackboston.com,
Men Can Stop Rape, A Call to Men, and NYC Alliance Against Sexual Assault.

Use your camera phone to document street harassers. HollaBack is a community blog committed to ending street harassment by encouraging everyone to *SNAP* a picture of street harassers with their cell phone cameras or digital cameras and post them online for the world to see. We encourage posts from men and from women, since men are often those who indirectly witness the harassment in public places. This method REALLY works to fight street harassment because it empowers everyone to do something fast, discrete, and easy - in the moment that the harassment occurs. It provides a ready alternative to the more time consuming, possibly traumatizing, and often ineffective procedure of trying to report the incident to the police.

SEND POSTS TO: hollabackboston@gmail.com

When you post on our site, street harassment is captured so that it cannot fade or disappear after the incident. What starts as something small, personal, and seemingly singular gets magnified creatively and globally online. A simple click of a cell phone camera simultaneously constructs: a witness, a subversive agent, a public document, an educational resource, and a diverse member of an international coalition and conversation.

If you feel safe enough to do so, say something to the harasser that lets him know how it makes YOU uncomfortable: anything from "That's not cool" to "Show some respect" to "That's street harassment." Whatever you feel like saying. Part of the reason why most people, especially men, are unaware of the frequency and severity of street harassment is because it happens on such a daily basis and NO ONE TALKS ABOUT IT.

Ever read a news story that exploited the survivor's behavior or clothing option, or blamed her for the sexual assault? Tired of newspapers that reveal the survivor's identity against his or her will, and don't address public attitudes that condone sexual violence? Write a letter to the editor of the newspaper! If the paper won't publish it, you can still speak out: send your response to our website. Tell your friends, family and others about the site, to let them know that you don't condone irresponsible reporting or sexual violence, and you hope they won't either.

Talk about how it feels to be seen as a potential street harasser and/or rapist; how does this damage the overall safety of public space? How does it impair the relationships and interactions that you may or may not be able to have with women? Talk about the fact that ten to twenty percent of all males will be sexually abused in their lifetimes. Talk about the consequences of perpetuating a public sense of fear: for example, in Japan, they have segregated subway cars as "Women Only" during rush hour due to the rampant cases of street harassment there. Can you imagine this kind of segregation in Boston?!!

Street harassment is often encouraged and escalated in group dynamics of men. Take a stand around other men that your masculinity does not have to be affirmed or defined by sexual violence. In other words, take advantage of every opportunity to tell the world: Real Men Holla Back!

Learn about how the risk of being street harassed affects women's daily lives: where they choose to live, what restaurants they go to, their means of public transportation, where they feel they can walk, what they feel they can wear, how they feel limited in the ways they can interact with men in stores, businesses, and schools.

Ask women about what has been said to them or done to them in public that has made them feel violated. All women experience street harassment despite race, creed, nationality, religion, age, sexuality, size, or style. Of the thousands of women the HollaBack project has spoken to about different types of street harassment, we have yet to find one who doesn't "know it when she sees it." The posts run the gamut in tone and context, while signaling the trademark emotions of frustration, anger, anxiety, annoyance, shock, and fear. While the typical "Hey Baby, nice tits" seems pretty obvious, there are many other forms of street harassment that go by unnoticed except by those who experience it. Learn about these variations, including "undressing someone with your eyes," approaching someone alone late at night on the street, or paying supposed "compliments" or using "pet names" when referring to unknown women in public. Part of our site's mission is to continually redefine what street harassment means and looks like for diverse women. Read our posts and posts from other HollaBack sites around the world to learn how to recognize street harassment.

The difference between "flirting" and "harassing" is very clear: one is consensual, one makes a woman feel violated. If you're confused about something being ok or not, ASK HER. Accept her answer. Consent is totally sweet. Use common sense. The everyday words, "Hey Baby," are not contaminated in and of themselves; they become so only when they are used like graffiti to abusively tag sexualized bodies. Suddenly the problem with "Hey Baby," is that in a given moment, it marks women's bodies with deep yet invisible ink. Imagine if women were walking around covered with all these degrading VISIBLE tattoos, marking every time she'd been harassed in public!!

Words are very powerful, especially when spoken by people with power over others. We live in a society in which words are often used to put people down who are already marginalized. When language is used to enforce a power dynamic during cases of street harassment, it sends a message to everyone in earshot that women are less than fully human. When men harass "because they can" - it becomes easier to treat women with less respect all the time, disregard their rights, and ignore their well-being. Resist this reality!

***This work is protected under a Creative Commons 2.5 License. Copying in full or in part is prohibited without permission.
Please contact us at hollabackboston@gmail.com if you would like permission for copying and distribution of this work as a flyer.

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Where Have I Heard That Before...?

Last Sunday, the Boston Globe ran an article about street harassment in Boston and highlighted groups - including HollaBackBoston - that are working to combat the issue.

Since then, responses to the article have cropped up in the Globe's Letters to the Editor (read HollaBackBoston’s here) as well as in the Weekly Dig's Media Farm. Sadly, they all obscure the point. What they do, however, make quite clear are the all too typical negligent responses from the general public about any attempt to address the systematic subordination of women in public space, as well as understanding the complexity of the task at hand.

Here’s our characterization of these responses -

First, and so often our favorite: the "JUST IGNORE IT" Response:
Unfortunately, women seem to be the biggest proponents of this one. We hear you ladies, and we've tried that one. But sadly, it's just not our experience that ignoring anything makes it go away or prevents it from happening the next time. Instead, silence and denial about sexual violence frequently serve as key players in repeat offenses. Fran Hutchinson clearly illustrates this one:
Sending a message August 13, 2006

I was born in Dorchester and after college lived in the neighborhood for 10 years, and walking and/or the T was my sole means of transportation.
If you want to let someone know what a speck on the landscape they are, ("Hey, Baby!", City Weekly, Aug. 6) simply roll your eyes and stifle an exaggerated yawn as you walk on.

Fran Hutchinson, Newfane, Vermont
Second, and a distant cousin to JUST IGNORE IT, is the "NAH Response":
Conversely, this seems to be a real winner among men. We suspect it might have to do with the fact that harassment is oftentimes outside of their experience, but it usually ranges from downplaying and/or ignorance of the rampant occurrence of street harassment to outright dismissal. We’d throw the Dig’s post into this one:
Media Farm - Unwanted = sexual harassment?

We're a little confused by "this City Weekly story" on sexual harassment, which appeared in yesterday’s Globe. According to fliers distributed by the Hyde Square Task Force, "If it's unwelcome, it's Sexual Harassment." [sic] Not to downplay how annoying it must be for a woman to not be able to walk down the street without some dickhead yelling shit at her, but isn’t this definition of harassment a little broad? For example, is the car insurance bill we just got in the mail sexual harassment--because that's about as unwelcome as it gets. Also: T schedule adjustments? Sexual harassment? You decide.
To be clear, we're all about the lighter side of life, and generally appreciate the efforts of the Dig's Media Farm, but what's with the incessant need to question, invalidate, and doubt a woman's experience? Yes, life's inconveniences are annoying but the threat of sexual assault is terrifying and disproportionately gender-specific, all over the world. The Dig's comments make it clear that they apparently missed other central messages on the flyer, including "please treat me with respect."

And last, but not least, the "HERE, LET ME HELP" Response
We all know this one. It's when a seemingly informed, priviledged person comes along to "suggest" how we could best do our work, while simultaneously displaying a blind spot towards one of the main points of our work: to safely reclaim public space for women.
Suggested solution August 13, 2006

Great article
("Hey baby!" Aug. 6, City Weekly).
In answer to your question, is there a way to amend the law from "accosting and annoying members of the opposite sex" to include everyone, regardless of gender?
Can we simply change "opposite sex" to "the public"?

Ryan Bennett Dorchester
Gender matters. And unfortunately, social change to reconcile gender inequality (not to mention legal amendment) is not as simple as Ryan Bennett may like it to be - which is why spaces like HollaBackBoston.com and the important work highlighted in the original Globe article are so critical.

On another level, if Mr. Bennett happened to be implying that the law is also participating in shoring up restrictive gender norms (and discrimination based on enforcing binary male/female gender differences), then by all means, we would appreciate such a nuanced interpretation of future harassment laws and their possible limitations. From this theoretical standpoint, we still advocate fighting for gender equality, while at the same time strategically employing terms such as "women" in our fight, in full recognition that such sexed/gendered terms are often wielded in our society as tricky and politically loaded identity constructions.

Ultimately, we’re glad the article generated such a reaction and we're looking forward to encountering new and unique responses to our work (which we can also characterize!).

Written by: Hilary Allen, Michelle Riblett, and Brittany Shoot. Protected by Creative Commons License 2.5. Any copying, redistribution, or replication in any form of this work is prohibited unless permission is obtained from the authors.

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Welcome to HollaBackTALK.


HollaBackTALK seeks to engage HollaBackBoston supporters, allies, and skeptics in the critical theory that backs our mission of safety in public spaces. Dedicated to ending sexual violence that exists on a wide spectrum, HollaBackBoston catalogs street harassment and gives women and marginalized groups a space for recourse, solidarity, and resources. In addition to a space on HollaBackBoston to vent about the everyday frustrations of being followed, cat-called, and groped in public, HollaBackTALK will focus on the wider implications of these unwanted advances and acts. We will discuss strategies for avoiding and ending harassment, explore misconceptions about harassment, and address skeptics who do not seek to understand the ramifications of verbal and physical assaults that women and marginalized people experience every day in public spaces.

For feedback, email hollabacktalk@gmail.com.

HollaBackTALK is a side project of HollaBackBoston and is in no way affiliated with any other site bearing a similar name or likeness. All works are held under a Creative Commons License 2.5 and are the sole property of their respective authors.

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