FAQs

We get a lot of questions about our site. Listed here are the most common, and our HOLLAresponses:

Are you a bunch of crazed feminazis who hate men?

Hollaback! is a collective comprised of people of all genders who believe in building communities where everyone feels comfortable, safe, and respected. Many people, particularly men, are unaware of the frequency and severity of disrespect and intimidation that numerous folks, especially women, experience in public spaces on a daily basis. Hollaback! aims to expose and combat street harassment and provide an empowering forum.

Also, there’s no such thing as a feminazi. It’s a slur used to insult people who think women are people. Trust us: you don’t need that word in your life.

OK, but what exactly is street harassment?

Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBTQ folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous sexual objectification of these groups in everyday life.

At Hollaback!, we believe that what specifically counts as street harassment is determined by those who experience it. While there is always the classic, “Hey baby, nice tits!”, there are many other forms that go unnoted. If you feel like you’ve been harassed, HOLLABACK!

So let’s say a man sees a woman he thinks is attractive and tells her so. Are you saying that makes him a harasser?

Some do not find comments such as “Hello, beautiful” or “Hey, gorgeous” offensive. Many do. Others may find them intimidating, intrusive, or just an annoying pain in the ass. Words that might seem harmless written down become more threatening when combined with violent tone, body language, or other behaviour.

Keep in mind that many women experience unsolicited comments, as well as violent verbal assault, from men in public spaces on a regular basis. As many as 25% of women are sexually assaulted before the age of 18. For them, street harassment can feel like ripping off a scab. Rather than deliberating the “gray areas” of street harassment, treat everyone you encounter with respect.

I heard something about your position on antiracism. What’s that about, and what does it have to do with street harassment?

Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper hollaback. Due in part to prevalent stereotypes of men of color as sexual predators or predisposed to violence, Hollaback! asks that contributors do not discuss the race of harassers or include other racialized commentary. If you feel that race is important to your story, please make sure its relevance is explained clearly and constructively in your post.

Initiatives combating various forms of sexual harassment and assault have continually struggled against the perpetuation of racist stereotypes, and in particular, the construction of men of color as sexual predators. There exist widespread fictions regarding who perpetrators are: the myth of racial minorities, particularly latino and black men, as prototypical rapists and as being more prone to violence is quite common. This stems in part from a tragic and violent history in which black men in the U.S. were commonly and unjustly accused of assaulting white women, and as such were lynched by mobs and “tried” in biased courts.

Canada has our own histories of suspicion and violence against Black, indigenous, and other racialized people. These patterns persist to this day.

Because of the complexity of institutional and socially ingrained prejudices, Hollaback! prioritizes resisting both direct as well as unconscious and unintentional reinforcement of social hierarchies. Simultaneously, Hollaback! aims to highlight the interrelations between sexism, racism, and other forms of bias and violence.

But isn’t street harassment a cultural thing?

Street harassers occupy the full spectrum of class, race, and nationality. Sexual harassment, and street harassment specifically, is resisted by people around the globe: Hollaback! receives e-mails of support and solidarity from numerous countries and from every continent. To condense another’s culture into vague assumptions about who and what they are is to generalize dangerously about a wide range of experiences and perspectives that exist within any one given culture.

I want to hollaback and I don’t have an iPhone or a Droid, help!

The iPhone and Droid apps are just one way to tell your story – but they aren’t the only way.

If you want to hollaback on the go from your cell phone without data, type the email address [email protected] in the field where the number usually goes. Tell us where you are, attach a photo if you like, and your text will go straight to our email. From there, we’ll post it.

Don’t have a cell phone? You can still tell us your story on-line.

Confronting street harassers can be dangerous. What about safety issues?

While everyone is vulnerable to stranger rape and sexual assault, studies show that those who are aware of their surroundings, walk with confidence and, if harassed, respond assertively, may be less vulnerable. Nevertheless, direct confrontations with street harassers may prove extremely risky, particularly if you are alone or in an unpopulated space.

While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how, and if to hollaback, do keep issues of safety in mind. You’re the best judge of what is best and safest for you in that moment. If you decide to photograph a harasser, you may consider doing so substantially after the initial encounter and from a distance, ensuring the harasser is unaware of your actions.

Do I really need to take a picture of the turd?

The picture isn’t mandatory. It’s about telling the story. We live in a world where the first public reaction to most reports of violence against women is doubt. A picture can help people see the world from your eyes. Over the years we’ve gotten pictures that range from the street sign nearby, to your shoes, to your own face or clenched fist, or to the skyline. For many folks, it’s not about catching the turd — it’s about having a badass response. That said, holla’ing back is not right for every situation. If you don’t feel safe, don’t do it.

What should I do if I recognize a person or business in one of the photographs?

We definitely appreciate your enthusiasm, but we’re on potentially shaky ground here. Hollabackers aren’t police officers and we are no court of law. Our site is premised on the idea that women tell the truth, and we’ve never had anyone contact us and say “that’s not me.” We want to keep this site a safe, empowering space.

If you think you know someone, email us at [email protected] and we’ll reach out to the person who sent in the submission and see what she would like to do with your information. After all, it’s her hollaback. Shouldn’t she be the one who gets to make the call?

I’m a man who was recently sexually objectified by a woman on the street. I think this is reverse harassment. Why won’t you post my story?

While a woman making unsolicited sexual remarks to a man is certainly conceivable, the power dynamics of such an encounter are very different in a society where women comprise a historically subordinated group. Hollaback! is a project dedicated to combating a particular form of violence that designates subordinated groups (such as women and LGBTQ folks of all genders, for example) as targets in public spaces or otherwise vulnerable to unsolicited, nonconsensual encounters with strangers. It is thus not a forum for reporting other unpleasantries.

Isn’t street harassment the price you pay for living in a city?

No, local taxes are the price you pay for living in a city. We would love to see some portion of our local taxes go towards preventing street harassment, but alas, they don’t. In fact, street harassment is not confined to urban areas. It occurs in shopping malls, cars, parking lots, public parks, airplanes, fast-food restaurants, gas stations, churches, and numerous other public spaces.

If you show off your boobage, shouldn’t you expect some compliments?

Sure, expect them, but you don’t have to accept them! Just because it happens doesn’t mean it’s okay. A compliment isn’t a compliment if it makes the recipient feel bad or unsafe.

Sure, but if “the harasser” were hot, wouldn’t you like it?

This has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power.

You’re just a bunch of prudes, then?

Like we said, this has nothing to do with sex, and everything to do with power.

doesn’t focusing on this specific issue distract from everything else we’re up against?

The violence and disrespect experienced daily by countless people in public spaces is a serious problem with real, material consequences. While Hollaback is a project dedicated to this particular issue, we are committed to a coalitional approach that situates street harassment within a larger framework of social and economic questions. Thus, the Holla collective actively collaborates with a diverse range of feminist, queer and antiracist initiatives, locally and globally.

Disclaimer: Hollaback! is not responsible for the accuracy of individual postings. All views and positions expressed in posted submissions are those of individual contributors only.