A Response to ‘Dear Prudence’

A responce to a recent ‘Dear Prudence’ video:

Dearest Prudence,

While we appreciate your shout out over here at Hollaback! we’d like a chance to clarify a few things which seem to have confused you.  First, there is no right way to Hollaback; it’s totally up to the individual to decide what reaction is best suited for her.  If she is empowered by holla’ing back—awesome.  If not, that’s okay too.  What we do encourage is that she share her story on www.ihollaback.org where she will receive support and an “I’ve got your back” message.

 For a lot of people street harassment is an invasion of their private space—it’s a spotlight that wasn’t asked for, isn’t needed, and is usually insulting and/or degrading.  Hollaback! is about owning your space and supporting others around you in owning their space, effectively making the streets safe for all.  It’s about getting the conversation started that street harassment is harassment plain and simple and it’s not okay.

 You mentioned that holla-ing back is dangerous; we find what’s dangerous is the mentality that silence is the best answer for everyone and is the best way to deal with street harassment.  Studies have shown, women who directly respond to street harassment experience less traumatic effects from it.  We aren’t silent about harassment in the home, we aren’t silent about harassment in the workplace—why should we be silent about harassment in the street?  When trailblazers began conversations about harassment in the home and workplace shit got done.  We’re about making that same movement in the streets.

 Hollaback! is also focused on supporting individuals faced with street harassment as it’s largely a crappy situation that people just ignore—you know that whole “mind your own business” mind-set.  As stated on our website, “By holla’ing back you are transforming an experience that is lonely and isolating into one that is shareable.  You change the power dynamic by flipping the lens off you…and you enter a worldwide community of people who’ve got your back.”

 “Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented”




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“Say What You Mean, Be Who You Are”

If you haven’t heard about Omega’s new Women’s Leadership Center, which will launch in September 2012, you should definitely check it out.  Founded in 1977, “on the holistic worldview that the well-being of each of us is deeply connected to the well-being of all living things,” Omega has been a part of the non-profit landscape that cultivates and inspires personal and social change.  As such, their new Women’s Leadership Center is looking to break barriers and build connections for women both young and old.  A primary focus for this new center will be on how young girls and women use leadership to change how power operates the world.


Omega is conducting pre-launch activities, before the big event in September, which have focused on questions around girls, women, and the media involving a handful of organizations that are dedicated to helping young girls be stronger and be leaders of their own.  Hollaback! was fortunate enough to be included on these conversations.


Recently, Hollaback! NYC participated in the discussion “Say What You Mean, Be Who You Are: How Young Women Can Challenge Today’s Media Culture” hosted by Omega and Rachel Simmons who will be partnering up for the workshop “Say What You Mean, Be Who You Are” August 10-12.  The conversation was centered around the skills young women need today to empower themselves to say what they mean and be who they are.


Rachel Simmons, author of The Curse of the Good Girl, lead the conversation mentioning that while young women are doing well in school—holding significant leadership positions, outpacing boys in their grade point average and attending colleges in greater numbers—once they leave college young women begin to struggle.  Simmons stated, “while their [young women’s] outer resumes are fairly stellar, their inner resumes are flagging.  And by inner resume I mean the psychological skills that are required to advocate for yourself; to know what you really think and feel; to ask for a raise,…to face challenge and to deal with criticism.”


 Simmons went on to discuss a phenomenon which she calls the Super Girl Complex, which is a serious pressure, that girls experience from a young age, to be everything to all people.  Simmons states that girls are growing up feeling that they must constantly perform for others and by doing such they are losing touch with what they want for themselves. 


In order to identify what girls what for themselves and how to get what they want, Simmons discussed the focus needs to be on communicating directly mentioning that often times there is a difference between what we say/how we say it and what is really true for ourselves.  For example, if your roommate is playing music loudly and it’s bothering you and she asks you if it’s too loud and you say “not it’s okay,” not wanting to be rude; this is a direct example of you not saying what you mean. 


Simmons believes that by communicating directly in simple situations this will translate to communicating directly in serious situations later–  “If you can’t talk…about what you need [now], you will not suddenly develop this skill later.”


 This portion of the conversation seriously connects with Hollaback’s message to young women out there.  When you Hollaback! you are exerting your right to be you and you are communicating directly your thoughts and feelings.  You’re owning how you feel and how you define yourself instead of being defined by some creep’s point of view.  While traditionally we are told to walk on—to stay silent, Hollaback’s mission is to empower you to say what you feel.  When you say what you really feel you’re owning your thoughts and you’re exerting your power which is totally badass.


 But we’d like to know your thoughts on the matter—do you feel like you subscribe to Super Girl Complex?  Does this effect your ability to confront those who put you down or participate in behavior you don’t appreciate—specifically street harassers?  Speak out!  Your opinions are important to Hollaback!.

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Stress on the Streets

As a new blogger here at NYC Hollaback street harassment has been on my mind more so than normal.  As such I have been hyper aware of how street harassment impacts my life.  My intent focus on street harassment has lead me to this relatively simple conclusion: street harassment is a stressful situation.

Street harassment is typically thought to be a quick interaction, a woman walks down the street, a man whistles or yells her way, the woman keeps walking (or decides to Hollaback!)—end of story.  However this quick synopsis completely neglects a large part of the situation. 

 In my personal experience, when walking down the street alone approaching a man or group of men I automatically tense —anticipating harassment.  This tension proves to be a source of stress for me.  It’s not that I necessarily feel that I am in danger, it’s the uncertainty of the situation coupled with too many past experiences in having been street harassed. 

Street harassment is more than just the verbal exchange it’s also the anticipation of what is going to be said, the concern of ones safety, and the resulting impact of the harassment once it happens.  Add it all up and you’ve got yourself a recipe for a stressful walk home.

Bearing all this in mind, I wasn’t at all surprised by the recently released results of Carnegie Mellon University’s study on stress.  According to the study, 20-something women are more stressed out than their counterparts.  The survey does not mention the source of stress or why it has increased.  I am by no means saying that street harassment is a primary cause of stress among 20-something women, but I’m certain it’s part of it.

Street harassment sucks and stress sucks too.  Street harassment isn’t something that you should have to live with.  You  have a right to walk down the streets without getting harassed.  You have the right to feel like the safe, strong, badass woman you are, so Hollaback ya’ll!  Show the world you won’t tolerate street harrassment and inspire others to do the same.

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