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March 21, 2007

"Holla"-ing Back

Last night I read about this site in Bust magazine. Holla Back is a website that allows victims of street harassment to publicly shame their harassers and, really, in a world where the police aren't interested in protecting us from being catcalled, flashed, and masturbated at, this is about the best we can do. Holla Back encourages victims to take photos of their harassers (with their cell phones, of course) and post them to the site, along with stories about what happened. New York was the first city to have a Holla Back website, but now several cities have sister sites. I was at first surprised to find that there is no Holla Back LA (though their are sites for San Francisco and for California as a whole), given that Los Angeles is the only city in which I have been flashed and masturbated at (though I have never been catcalled anywhere as much as I was during a week in Danbury, CT of all places), but then I remembered that very few people actually walk or use public transit in LA, and street harassment just isn't much of an issue when you are ensconced in your own car. I guess I was just one of those unlucky few.

What struck me most about Holla Back was its very existence. Obviously street harassment is very prevalent if it can fuel fifteen websites dedicated to shaming its perpetrators. I was especially shocked to learn how common it is for sleazy men to masturbate on public transit. I had no idea. When I was fifteen years old and saw a guy masturbating in the seat across the aisle from me on the Big Blue Bus, I couldn't imagine that there were men doing the same thing on buses and subways all over the country (and, perhaps, the world). But then a friend told me that the same thing happened to her on a subway in Boston, and two weeks later I discovered Holla Back, which was founded by a woman who had been masturbated at on a New York subway. Of course, camera phones didn't exist back when I was riding buses around Los Angeles, but I'm glad I at least had the presence of mind to tell the driver what was going on so he could kick the guy off the bus. Next time, I'll Holla Back.

Posted by eklanche at March 21, 2007 07:28 AM


I used to get the occasional harrassment in Ann Arbor, and twice was I followed while walking--once by a guy in a van and once by a drunk guy on foot, whose eyeballs I was prepared to demolish with my keys. Since I moved to LA, I totally get hooted at, more even than when I lived in NYC! (But I always read books on the subway, so I might not have noticed. Gotta love those books!) In LA I've been stared down countless times by men in cars during my 2-block walk home from the gym. Several times, they even followed me. One asked whether I had a boyfriend and if I wanted a ride. (ummmm...for realz?) And I've even been hit on while driving 70 mph on the freeway.

I didn't know something like Holla Back existed. It's great to start something like that, but who reads it? And to be honest, I don't know if I'd have time to take my phone out and snap a photo in any other context than public transit.

Posted by: isaq at March 21, 2007 04:55 PM

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