It took a long time to get there (after all, commuting from New Jersey makes anything in New York ten times harder) but I arrived, in sandals and my favorite dress. The Hollaback! launch in Brooklyn on Thursday, July 8 was an intense celebration, with over 100 hearts gathered for the same cause. There was a raffle, iPhone covers for sale- and I was doing my best to push them, thank you very much- and even booze.
Street harassment is described by Hollaback! as “one of the most pervasive forms of violence against women,” and not many people would argue: as the ladies of THE LINE joined me in what we dubbed a “VIP Lounge,” we were able to laugh about a worry we all had getting to Southpaw: would we be harassed on the way? But street harassment isn’t funny, or light. As Emily May said in her speech, those who are street harassed have few options: walk on and feel victimized, or speak up and risk the escalation of violence from verbal to physical. For many people- of all genders and backgrounds- street harassment is a real and worrisome element of our public lives. And, as Hollaback! correctly pinpoints: “if street harassment is okay, then violence against women is okay. And that simply isn’t okay.”
The connection between street harassment and violence against women is obvious: both are tools used to constrict women’s public space and make them feel lesser and endangered in the public sphere, both occur without consent and imply control, danger, and risk of harm, and both are performances of hegemonic gender paradigms that force women to be objectified, judged by their physicality, and publicly shamed out of control of their own environments.
It is very much so worth promoting the action of Hollaback! not only for street harassment, but for violence everywhere. Do not stand by. Do not stay quiet. Do not walk on. Take action and make everyone- including yourself and your loved ones- safer, more comfortable, and more empowered. Hollaback! is capitalizing on one of the most powerful forces, I believe, in history: voices. By collecting stories and showing our might in numbers, in data, in maps, and in attitude, Hollaback! is going to win the fight against street harassment the same way THE LINE aims to fundamentally change the way people think about sex.
Stand up for what you believe in, but most important, always stand up for yourself.