DISCLAIMER: I am on Hollaback’s Board.
Street harassment. If you’re a woman, chances are likely that at some time someone somewhere (more than likely a man) proffered some sort of sketchy commentary in your direction. It could have been a whistle or a catcall. It may even have seemed a compliment. It’s not. Street harassment is perhaps one of the most insidious forms of degradation and abuse women face on a global scale.
You may say, “Cathy, since when is a catcall dangerous?” Well, maybe in and of itself it’s not, but it’s a gateway behavior. Those simple catcalls can and often do escalate and carry across a wide range from the aforementioned through various forms of groping or exposure to the most dangerous of physical harm. Regardless of where on the scale it falls, every one of these things serves the same purpose – to degrade women. Period. In doing so women are made to feel unsafe and in the more extreme cases that is taken very literally.
When I first heard about Hollaback! it was through an email group to which I belong. The founder, Emily May, told our group of her work and immediately I saw just how critical this work is. It fits very much into the same category for me as the work done by V-Day, another organization for which I’m proud to have done various volunteer projects over the years. (Just this past week I had the great honor to attend V-Day’s annual fund raiser in NY and was on Cloud 9 when I had a chance to speak with one of my true, personal heroes, Eve Ensler (photo below). Even more so, Hollaback!’s work has deep relevance and importance to the central cause for which my own activism was born – LGBT equality. While my particular existence in the world is such that unless I out myself, more often than not people don’t know I’m gay. So I am spared the verbally violent and sometimes physically violent vitriol of those who may play more into a stereotypical appearance of what a lesbian is. I have been with such friends and heard more than one “FUCKING DYKE” yelled from a passing car. Knowing that addressing this behavior on any level helps address it across the board, I couldn’t help but get involved.
When Emily asked the list if we had suggestions for people who might want to join the Board, I emailed her immediately and volunteered myself. A mutual admiration society set of emails followed, and when she asked me for some suggestions on other Board members, I quickly suggested Tara Hunt & Melissa Pierce – two other women on the same email group whose personal stories and personal work over the years I thought made them perfect fits.
From its humble beginnings as a blog/community where women could let their voices be heard, Hollaback! has blossomed into an international movement now spanning 24 cities in 10 countries … and we’re just getting started!
This week marked the launch of a new campaign: “I’ve Got Your Back.” It’s designed to get bystanders to intervene when they see someone being harassed. “I’ve Got Your Back” takes Hollaback! ’s work to the next level by providing a real-time response to those who are harassed. JOIN US!
Here’s how it works:
– Bystander stories will be mapped with green dots (in partnership with the Green Dot campaign) alongside stories of harassment – highlighting not only the problem. But also the solution.
– The free Hollaback! iPhone and Droid apps will be relaunched, so bystanders can report their stories on the go.
– For the times when you are alone, the campaign will launch a “We’ve got your back” button similar to Facebook “Like” button. At the end of the day the person who was harassed will get an email saying that hundreds people have their back. And they will know they aren’t alone.
And for those of you who prefer to listen to things … here’s a video overview of the campaign including my fellow Board Member, Peter Shankman of Help A Reporter Out (HARO).
In addition, Hollaback! is partnering with Nancy Schwartzman, director of The Line and xoxosms, to create a short documentary. Using the film the campaign will create conversations about how to intervene and interactive workshops to go with it.
Here’s the best part … The Board of Directors has committed to match donations 1:1 – so your donations will be doubled! Please help … there may be a time when you want someone to have your back … or your daughter’s back, or your sister’s back or…