Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Guest Post: Hollaback Wellington launches this week!

A guest post from Josephine at the Wellington Young Feminists’ Collective, cross posted on the WYFC blog. Many thanks to WYFC for submitting this.

 The WYFC is launching Hollaback Wellington this week and we’re really excited!

Hollaback was started by a group of people in New York as a website and mobile application to raise awareness of the street harassment many women and LGBTQ folk were experiencing on a daily basis. The idea was so simple but effective that soon Hollaback chapters were being launched across the world, and now we are bringing it to Wellington.

The idea behind Hollaback is that people who experience street harassment need a voice. Hollaback’s aim is to do this through harnessing mobile and web technology, creating a global network of blogs and a mobile apps relating to different countries and cities. All chapters are unique but linked by a common goal - to reduce the amount of street harassment that happens in their city.

Harassment in the home, workplace or at school is widely considered unacceptable but it seems that in our public spaces all bets are off. Street harassment is a form of gender and sexuality based violence that a huge number of people all over the world experience everyday.

Street harassment includes touching, groping, lewd comments, following, flashing, assault and other violent acts. The logistics of reporting these events involves users filling out a form on the Hollaback website, which is then posted by a site administrator to a map of Wellington, showing a red marker where the incident occurred and outlining the story in full. We’re primarily targeting women and LGBTQ people, but anyone who experiences street harassment is welcome to post.

We’re setting this up in Wellington because we felt the need for a service of this kind. My own motivation came from some awful experiences I had at university, where a guy from my maths class decided to start following me around campus, and when he saw me out in public, following me on the street. Not knowing this guy’s name, I couldn’t report him to anyone. What I really wanted to do was tell someone about how his behaviour made me feel: unsafe, alone and disgusting. Hopefully Hollaback Wellington can be some sort of outlet for people who have similar experiences to mine - we want them to know that this is not something you have to brush off or that you have to deal with by yourself.

As we continue to get set up we will promote other organisations that deal with gender based violence, such as HELP Sexual Abuse and Wellington Rape Crisis. We’re also interested in holding self defence workshops, bystander intervention workshops and working with the Council, Students Associations, and engaging with our lawmakers on these issues.

Longer term, we want contribute to making this kind of behaviour socially unacceptable. One of the ways to achieve this is by encouraging people who witness street harassment to speak up. Hollaback International’s most recent fundraising campaign - “I’ve got your back” - raised money so that we can redevelop our blog and mobile app platform to include stories from bystanders who have intervened in street harassment situations. They will be mapped with green marker, and each story will have a button similar to the Facebook ‘Like’ button so that readers can show their solidarity.

Please share this site with your family and friends in Wellington, and contact Hollaback International if you are interested in launching one in your town or city. We’re also having a launch gig at Happy on the 13th, so if you’re in town you should come along.




Anonymous said...

While I appreciate what you're trying to achieve, as a heterosexual male I also experience harassment.

Harassment can come from anywhere and be directed at anyone, isolating a large section of the community will do nothing to help your cause.

You may wish to reconsider your opening statement to be more inclusive.

stargazer said...

anon, can you please respect our commenting policy which is stated quite clearly above the comment box and use a consistent handle. further anon comments are likely to be deleted.

i'm personally not particularly interested in seeing the discussion on this focus on "what about the menz". you'll note that the post is about sexual harassment, not just harassment per se. no doubt the hollaback site is for anyone who experiences sexual harassment, but it's pretty tiring to have any attempt to discuss the gendered nature of this kind of violence shut off as soon as possible.

to josephine & the YWFC, thanx for working on this initiative. i think it's very necessary and a useful tool in the fight back against this kind of thing.

Giovanni Tiso said...

For once, "what about the menz" is actually entirely justified here.

Try replacing "women and LGBTQ people" with the more standard English phrase "everyone but heterosexual men" in this piece, and tell me if you see a problem at all.

Anonymous said...

I find the implication that by having a well reasoned target audience and not shying away from stating who the main victims of street harassment (and indeed, most harassment) are, we are deliberately excluding straight men, both derailing and unreasonable. Especially we clearly state that others are welcome to post.

If we are unable to talk openly about the sexist and homophobic/transphobic nature of a huge proportion of street harassment and aim an imitative at helping women and LGBTQ folk to find power in breaking the silence around street harassment then we’re never going to adequately combat it.

Giovanni Tiso said...

"I find the implication..."

It's not an implication. I'm stating it outright.

If you are out to map sexual harassment, then I think you need to have a pretty compelling reason not to map all of it. How does including straight male victims hinder you from breaking the silence around the harassment of women and LGBTQ folk, exactly? It does not. A victim is a victim. And male victims of sexual harassment are hardly more visible than those of other groups, or more likely to come forward if they've been raped, or better supported once they have. Any statement that implies that they are less worthy of being counted is incredibly damaging. And it begs the question of why they have been left out. The reason had better not because the vast majority of perpetrators of sexual harassment are males - that would be outrageous. And if it's not that, then what? Just that there's proportionately fewer of them? That would also be very problematic to say the least, given that Hollaback is a census and it's specifically aimed at giving visibility to victims.

"Especially we clearly state that others are welcome to post."

You can't call the only group you have left out "others" (or, as in the post, "anyone") and then tell me you haven't been exclusionary, surely? And you can't be so disingenuous as to suggest that being actively encouraged to participate in the project or being "welcome to" is the same thing.

LudditeJourno said...

Firstly, awesome initiative WYFC, thanks for bringing this to Wellie and while I hope not to have to use it, I love that it's here.

Secondly, commentators, this isn't an anti "sexual" harassment campaign, it's an anti "street" harassment campaign. The second includes and encompasses the first, as I think the original post is very clear on. As the recent Queer the Night march made clear, queer people in Wellington are too regularly targeted for vicious, violent abuse on the street. I personally love that as well as sexual harassment, this kind of hate is also being addressed by Hollaback.

And thirdly, and as usual (when dealing with complaints of oh why isn't what you're doing including straight men), Giovanni my suggestion to you if you're worried about street/sexual harassment of straight men that you start up your own campaign. It's pretty clear from the phrase from WYFC "anyone who experiences street harassment is welcome to post" that, well, anyone who experiences street harassment is welcome to post. But if street harassment of straight men is really an issue you think needs greater attention, get cracking on it.

LudditeJourno said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Giovanni Tiso said...

"And thirdly, and as usual (when dealing with complaints of oh why isn't what you're doing including straight men), Giovanni my suggestion to you if you're worried about street/sexual harassment of straight men that you start up your own campaign."

Wow, really - "go start your own campaign"? And you're still telling me that a group of victims aren't being excluded?

(Re: the subject of the campaign being "street harassment", the author has established that this consists of "touching, groping, lewd comments, following, flashing, assault and other violent acts" and it is gender and sexuality based. So really it's sexual harassment in the streets that we're talking about, no?)

Anonymous said...

Thanks Luddite (and also Stargazer!)

With respect Giovanni this will be my last response to you as it’s already been explained perfectIy by Luddite when she said:

‘It's pretty clear from the phrase from WYFC "anyone who experiences street harassment is welcome to post" that, well, anyone who experiences street harassment is welcome to post.’

We are aimed at women and LGBTQ folk given that they are disproportionately the victims of street harassment.

However men are (as stated) are absolutely welcome and (perhaps this is the kicker for you)*invited* to post. If that needed reinforcement, please consider my sincerest of apologies – you are invited to share your story, rather than just welcome. You will have to excuse me for not seeing earlier much of a distinction between these two words. However, please do not continue to find nuance which doesn’t exist – i.e. saying that we could be leaving men out because they are disproportionately the perpetrators of harassment.

Not only is it our prerogative to aim something at the group which is most affected, but it is also powerful and inherently radical to start raising awareness of the fact that street harassment mostly affects women and LGBTQ folk, and working to address the bigotry and sexism that enables that. Straight men are not left out or ignored, but their involvement is welcomed in the same sentence that explains we have a target group for a good reason.

If you are really passionate about addressing street harassment, I would hope that regardless of the fact that straight men are not the focus of this campaign, you will take on board that they have the ability to help us through their support. It would also be great for you to consider how your argument could be derailing and promote the idea that women and queer folk shouldn’t have specific campaigns for themselves which address the fact that they are the most affected peoples in something.

Julie said...

Hi all,
I think the point raised so far about harassment of straight men has been rather firmly explored and responded to so comments should discuss other aspects of this post/campaign now please. Readers can see both sides of the argument and make up their own minds, but further debate here could become derailing.
And a reminder - comments on moderation on this thread will be deleted, and you should email us instead.
Ta v much,

Scar said...

P.S. I'd love to come to the launch party, but as I'm banned from commenting on the WYFC Facebook page, it would be prudent not to attend if this is directly associated with WYFC (or if WYFC organisers/admins are there). Can I donate via paypal or something?

Julie said...

Ok when I say stop commenting on that topic I mean it. It's not a judgement on any comment's merit or otherwise, it's a call I've made as a moderator that this is not a path I want this thread to continue down because I don't think it's going to have a happy ending. There are plenty of other aspects to this campaign to discuss.