Saturday, October 21, 2006

SPOTLIGHT: Holla Back NYC

This summer I listened to a really interesting interview Brian Lehrer did for WNYC, New York Public Radio with the two founders of the website Holla Back NYC.

In short, a year or so ago a group of four women and three men got together and started a website called Holla Back Nyc, with the mission that "Holla Back NYC empowers New Yorkers to Holla Back at street harassers. Whether you're commuting, lunching, partying, dancing, walking, chilling, drinking, or sunning, you have the right to feel safe, confident, and sexy, without being the object of some turd's fantasy. So stop walkin' on and Holla Back: Send us pics of street harassers!" The website was inspired by a young woman who took a photograph of a famous local restauranteur exposing himself on a subway, which was reprinted in local newspapers.

Holla Back NYC offers local New Yorkers the opportuntity to post photos of people who harass them on the street or in other public places, such as subways, buses, parks, etc. and tell their story. Recently, they have expanded to websites that offer the same space for sharing stories of street harassment in DC, Texas, Boston, Canada and Europe. They also offer their email address and encourage people to send photos of perpetrators directly from their cell phones to the website. Additionally, the website tracks pending criminal cases of people charged with public lewdness. It also offers browsers links to tons of legal, activist and social service resources, and links to women friendly organizations all over the five boroughs.

What I found particularly impressive about this project was that the founders of Holla Back NYC are also very conscious of how race plays into sexual politics. Their website includes a great section outlining their policy about how race be discussed. In a nutshell, in light of how often men of color are stigmatized as being sexual predators, Holla Back NYC forbids people who write in from referencing the race of their predator, unless it is overwhelming relevant to the story. As they say, "Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper holla back. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, HollaBackNYC asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary." They then link to "Further Reading" on anti-racism, including (my all-time favorite), Peggy Macintosh's "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack." (Which you should all read.)

The awesomeness of this project, coupled with how amazing the two founders (a man and a woman) who spoke on Brian Lehrer's show were, has inspired me to establish a special section of this blog that will highlight amazing feminists doing amazingly feminist things--especially those projects that are a little off the beaten path. For now we will start by highlighting people outside of Yale, but hopefully we will include some awesome past and present Yalies to the ranks.

1 comment:

maggie said...

This project sounds great. It amazes me how much being harrassed when I'm walking around bothers me. Really, I'm not asking for much: I just want to be able to get from point A to point B without having to respond to cat-calls and the like. People have told me to take it as a compliment, but I don't think I can. I hate that men, usually older men, feel that they can comment on my height, my legs, any aspect of my physcial appearance - things that I can't change and can't really hide. I hate that they feel that they can talk me up while oggling me in this manner, and that I should somehow be flattered by their attention. I'm not; I feel like I exist only for their pleasure or their entertainment, and I feel uncomfortable and frustrated because I don't feel like I can respond without appearing to overreact. Holla Back seems to provide a great outlet for these feelings of helplessness.