Harassment translations

Virtual spaces and real lives got very creepy this week in two totally unrelated - but to us, equally disturbing - incidents.

First, well-known female tech blogger and educator Kathy Sierra decided to take leave of our virtual spaces after being the victim of misogynist cyberbullying. Anyone who has experienced online threats knows the fear that one feels for putting themselves out there - in Kathy's case, in nothing but positive ways - and despite the community with which you have surrounded yourself online, you're ultimately opening the execrable emails alone. Our best wishes are with anyone who experiences such attacks and hope people will participate in and support Friday's Stop Cyberbullying Day.

We also found out about an incident of street harassment gone too far. Not sure if this is the first of its kind, we're also posting this in no way to diminish the legitimate quandaries in how to handle online harassment and in fact to only illustrate the complexity and wide range of problems we currently face.

Last week, a pedestrian woman trying to avoid a man's advances was run down when he decided that instead of accept her dismissal, he'd drive his truck onto the sidewalk and hit her. While some bloggers make snarky remarks about the incident, we're pretty much speechless.

Look for the ladies of HollaBackBoston at the WAM! conference this weekend.

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The Blank Noise Project - Action Heroes

In alliance with the Blank Noise Project, aimed at combating street harassment - "Eve Teasing" - in India, March 8 marks the date for bloggers worldwide to blog their stories.

This year for International Women's Day, Blank Noise is asking you to share experiences of times when you were an ACTION HERO and fought back against harassment.

"When did you flip a situation so you could resist, when did you give back as hard as you got? How did you choose to confront the situation? When did you become an Action Hero?

Blank Noise hopes that the written accounts and responses will help us understand the different strategies women (across age groups, cultures, and countries) have instinctively created to deal with street sexual harassment.

(If you're a male blogger, ask your female friends and relatives about their experiences.)

Here's how to participate:

1. blog your story (as soon as possible, and definitely before March 8!)

2. email the link to your blog post to blurtblanknoise@gmail.com with a subject titled "Action Heroes Online"

3. they will link to you right away!

And don't forget your non-blogging friends and family members - they'd love to hear stories from your mothers, aunties and grandmothers!

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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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