Why You Wanna Go and Ask That Now, Huh?

Pretty regularly, we receive a similar question from reporters and other members of the media inquiring about the work of HollaBack. While we know and respect that most journalism seeks to preempt the general questions of the public, we're always surprised when the following continuously pops up:
"Couldn't an angry girl send you a photo of her ex-boyfriend saying that he was a street harasser?"
When asked this question we respond with the usual - as you can see, the pictures on the site don't exactly depict discernible individuals; each story clearly describes an encounter with a stranger; and most importantly, it has never been our experience - nor that of any other HollaBack site that we know of - to receive such a submission.

What's bothering us lately about this issue, though, is the presumption that women would "use" the site for this purpose. What evidence do we have that when given a forum to empower themselves and respond to systematic subordination of themselves in the public space, women will abuse that forum for their own revenge? Why is it so hard for us to trust the experiences of women who have been harassed - or raped - or people of color, or members of other marginalized groups as truth?

It seems quite clear to us that this sort of presumption is exactly in line with a patriarchal society that prioritizes men's experience, contributions, and existence over that of a woman's or a person of any other gender; a society where men, on the whole, are given the benefit of the doubt, and women, for the most part, are suspect.

We look forward to the day that journalists remove this presumptuous inquiry from their questioning and simply see HollaBack as a safe space to build solidarity with others and seek refuge from an increasingly threatening society.

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At 17:39, Blogger Jeff Deutsch said...


I'm sorry, but this post is way off course.

One is supposed to be presumed innocent until proven guilty. That means that an accusation just might be false. Yes, even an accusation made by a woman about a man's alleged sexual harassment, assault or rape.

If people do indeed commit crimes, if men do indeed sexually harass, assault and even rape women, why are all women presumed to be above making false accusations?

And if photos did not identify particular, discernible alleged offenders, why post them?

If you never question the background of any particular accusation, how can you even know you've never gotten a false one? I'm sure you don't notify each suspect that his picture is on your site and that he stands accused, so it's unlikely any suspects even know their faces are up there.

Not to mention that if this post is any indication of your attitude, even a falsely accused person who knew his picture was up there would think twice and probably three times before speaking up, figuring how you would likely react.

(Doesn't it matter to you how receptive the police and other authorities are to your complaints of harassment and other things, since if they act dismissively people are less likely to complain? The same dynamic applies here.)

Last but not least, suppose someone set up a blog for posting pictures of known sex workers or prostitutes. How would you react if there was a question about the possibility of someone posting a false accusation (say a guy does it out of revenge on a girl for breaking up with him, or a woman does it to another woman for stealing her man, or whatever), and the blog owners asked why we couldn't trust the voices of solid citizens who just want to clean up their community and maybe stop the spread of AIDS/HIV/STDs?


Jeff Deutsch


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