What is Hollaback?
The real motive of street harassment is intimidation. To make its target scared or uncomfortable, and to make the harasser feel powerful. But what if there was a simple way to take that power away by exposing it? You can now use your smartphone to do just that by documenting, mapping, and sharing incidents of street harassment. Join an entire community ready to Hollaback!
Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces.
We envision a world where street harassment is not tolerated and where we all enjoy equal access to public spaces.
What is Street Harassment?
Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.
Street harassment can be sexist, racist, transphobic, homophobic, ableist, sizeist and/or classist. It is an expression of the interlocking and overlapping oppressions we face and it functions as a means to silence our voices and “keep us in our place.”
At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. If you’ve experienced street harassment, we’ve got your back!
Why Hollaback matters:
Dedicated to fighting street harassment, Hollaback! has empowered people in over 79 cities and 26 countries internationally to respond through a smartphone/web application. Users are encouraged to speak up when they see harassment by quickly documenting it in a short post (photo optional) and sharing it to a publicly viewable map. Anyone browsing the stories on the Hollaback! maps immediately understands 3 things:
1) If you’ve been harassed, you’re not alone,
2) Street harassment is used to exert control over others by making them feel scared or uncomfortable. It is much more than individuals just acting inappropriately.
3) There are street harassment “hotspots” in most cities often centered around high pedestrian traffic areas.
Why you should Hollaback:
There are two reasons to hollaback: for you, and for the world.
For you: Hollaback! is all about your right to be you: A person who never has to take it or just keep walking, but one who has a badass response when they are messed with. Someone who knows they have the right to define themselves instead of being defined by some creep’s point of view. Because none of us are as simple as a list of physical attributes. We have a right to be who we are, not who we are told to be. We have a right to define ourselves on our own terms when we walk out the door, whatever that means that day. That hour. That minute.
Street harassment teaches us to be silent, but we aren’t listening. We don’t put up with harassment in the home, at work, or at school. And now we aren’t putting up with it in the street, either. By holla’ing back you are transforming an experience that is lonely and isolating into one that is sharable. You change the power dynamic by flipping the lens off of you and onto the harasser. And you enter a worldwide community of people who’ve got your back.
For the world: Stories change the world. Don’t believe us? Think about Rodney King, Anita Hill, or Matthew Sheppard. These stories didn’t just change the world, they shaped policy.
The internet has given us a new campfire. Each time you hollaback, you are given a king-sized platform to tell your story. Thousands will read it and your story will shift their understanding of what harassment means. Some will walk away understanding what it feels like to be in your shoes, others will feel like they are not alone for the first time or that it’s not their fault. Your story will redefine safety in your community—it will inspire legislators, the police, and other authorities to take this issue seriously – to approach it with sensitivity, and to create policies that make everyone feel safe. Your story will build an irrefutable case as to why street harassment is not OK. A case strong enough to change the world.
But it all starts with the simplest of gestures: Your hollaback.
How Hollaback! works
Street harassment is one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against. Comments from “You’d look good on me” to groping, flashing and assault are a daily, global reality for women and LGBTQ individuals. But it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay. At Hollaback!, we don’t buy it.
We believe that everyone has a right to feel safe and confident without being objectified. Sexual harassment is a gateway crime that creates a cultural environment that makes gender-based violence OK. There exists a clear legal framework to reproach sexual harassment and abuse in the home and at work, but when it comes to the streets—all bets are off. This gap isn’t because street harassment hurts any less, it’s because there hasn’t been a solution. Until now. The explosion of mobile technology has given us an unprecedented opportunity to end street harassment—and with it, the opportunity to take on one of the final new frontiers for women’s rights around the world.
By collecting women and LGBTQ folks’ stories and pictures in a safe and share-able way with our very own mobile phone applications, Hollaback! is creating a crowd-sourced initiative to end street harassment. Hollaback! breaks the silence that has perpetuated sexual violence internationally, asserts that any and all gender-based violence is unacceptable, and creates a world where we have an option—and, more importantly—a response.
At the core of our model lies the belief that movements start with people telling their stories – and they succeed with people taking action. Before the Internet age, there was only one mic, one podium, one speaker. But now, thanks to the proliferation of blogging and social media, it is no longer the loudest, wealthiest and most powerful who rule the airwaves: anyone with access to their local library’s internet portal can have a voice. At Hollaback!, we leverage technology to bring voice to an issue that historically has been silenced, and to build leadership within this movement to break the silence.
Break the silence: We work with women, girls, and LGBTQ individuals to document in words and pictures, and to literally indicate on a map, where they experienced harassment in public spaces. Doing this provides a forum for individuals to share their experiences and brings attention to this long-ignored issue.
Inspire international leadership: Much of Hollaback!’s power lies in its scalability. To scale effectively, we train young women and LGBTQ leaders throughout the world to use their skills to build a grassroots movement focused on ending street harassment. We train in the application of technology as we also work to ensure that their actions are strategic and high-impact.
Shift public opinion: Our broad-based campaign is designed to reach the public at large by inspiring individuals to take action. We provide educational workshops to schools, universities, and community groups, and engage citizens through traditional and social media.
Engage elected officials: We present collected and mapped data to elected officials and policymakers in areas experiencing high incidences of street harassment and will engage legislators to work with our trained leaders to address street harassment in their communities.
The Growth of the Movement
Since January 2011 Hollaback! has trained over 300 leaders in 79 cities, 26 countries, and 14 different languages to be leaders in their communities, and in the global movement to end street harassment. All of these site leaders approached us (none were recruited) and we were pleased to find that people who traditionally have the least access to traditional power were the most eager to bring Hollaback! home. Our site leaders are:
- 75% under the age of 30;
- 50% under the age of 25;
- 41% LGBTQ; and,
- 33% people of color.
Before Hollaback! became a nonprofit we scaled the model using only a 25 page start up packet. In May of 2010 when Hollaback! transitioned to a nonprofit we identified that since 2005, 20 Hollaback! sites had launched, but only three remained active. Based on interviews with site leaders of both active and inactive sites, we found that by only providing a start up packet we missed key opportunities to build a cohesive community, provide necessary training and technical assistance, and show the world that we were a united global front against street harassment.
As a result of our findings, we developed a new model that maintained the major strength of our original model — local leadership and autonomy — while filling the gaps left by the old model. Starting in January 2011, new Hollaback! leaders take part in an extended launch process, which incorporates shared planning and training activities over a period of three months. As they prepare to launch a Hollaback! blog hosted on ihollaback.org, new local leaders have the opportunity to interact with each other and the Hollaback! team, host in-person launch events and identify, and reach out to potential community partners and media outlets in their communities.
Once launched, site leaders remain active participants in the Hollaback! community, taking part in ongoing efforts to shape the organization’s direction and to develop shared resources as they work to establish their blogs into meaningful resources in their communities. In recent months, international Hollaback! leaders have: collaborated to translate Hollaback!’s website into eighteen languages; developed a shared anti-discrimination policy and values statement; taken part in several shared news stories, including a feature in The Guardian (UK); and used both blogs and social media, such as Twitter and Facebook to cross-promote numerous events, media coverage, and blog posts. In addition, our site leaders receive monthly trainings in everything from rape culture to blogging, managing volunteers, and holding events.
Our leadership training does more than simply tell youth how to lead – it gives them a real platform from which to do it. It is a unique opportunity for youth to practice their leadership skills in a forum where the opportunities for success are tremendous and include things like obtaining international media attention, leading public discussions, and working with community members and legislators to develop responses to street harassment. Our site leaders bring Hollaback! to life in their own communities through grassroots organizing, and bring hope to women and LGBTQ individuals who experience street harassment daily.
“Hollaback! has reignited and redefined the public conversation on sexual harassment for a new generation. Hollaback! has created a strong international community founded on the assertion that sexual assault exists, is a problem, and is a problem we can solve–together.”
–Jamia Wilson, Women’s Media Center
“Hollaback! is the future of online feminist organizing. It demonstrates how one simple idea–fighting street harassment using technology–can turn into a global movement when the right leadership, innovation, and support comes together.”
–Jessica Valenti, Founder of Feministing
“I was tired of being harassed every time I left my house; I was tired of the normalcy. The Hollaback! movement has helped me grow as an assertive individual who is passionate about sharing Hollaback! with her community.”
–Jane M. Carper, Hollaback! Boston
“I personally feel I walk differently on the streets now. There’s a strength that wasn’t there before, and that’s all thanks to Hollaback!”
–Ingrid Vanderhoeven, Hollaback! Brussels
“I realized there were no organizations or groups addressing street harassment particularly and that this was an issue that many people would talk about but had no clear way of responding to. Working for Hollaback! means that I can help provide a safe space for people who feel uncomfortable in public spaces due to harassment, a space that was not available before.”
–Gabriela Duhart, AtréveteDF