By Helen Grebe
You’re walking down the street on a warm Atlanta day, clad in your white capri’s and an enviable summer top when an offensive slur from a passer-by stops you dead in your tracks. One Atlanta organization is putting an end to what can be a traditional affair for women and other minorities: street harassment.
HollabackAtlanta, (Atlanta.ihollaback.org) is part of an international movement dedicated to ending street harassment, a rarely reported and culturally accepted phenomenon targeting women, gay or transgender individuals with offensive slurs, gestures and lewd public exposures. Utilizing the explosion of mobile technology, Hollaback documents street harassment through stories and pictures posted on the web, exposing perpetrators by invoking their motto,“ There are two reasons to Hollaback: for you, and for the world.”
We discussed this growing movement with co-director Lauren Zink.
How has Hollaback made a difference in your life?
Hollaback gave me a platform to voice my own experiences with street harassment. I was inspired to co-found HollabackAtlanta after an unfortunate run-in with a pants-down creeper in Midtown. Disappointed that there were few ways I could fight back, I took to Facebook to share my experience.
A friend posted on my wall about the awesome Hollaback! website in Washington D.C. and how it was revolutionizing the way women and LGBTQ folks reacted to street harassment. I was so relieved to see that other people were standing up to street harassers and that there was a whole movement dedicated to it.
Why Atlanta and why now?
Street harassment is so pervasive, and yet, there aren’t many discussions happening about it. Our group of co-founders knew that if we all felt frustrated by the lewd comments, there must be other community members who were feeling the same way.
The streets belong to us, too; we pay our taxes just like everyone else. We should be allowed to leave our homes without feeling scared that someone is going to assault us. We should have the right to walk down the street and feel safe, confident, and yes, even sexy.
How can Atlanta help or support Hollaback?
Hollaback is seeking bloggers, promotions gurus, tech-savvy developers, and community collaborators to help us kick street harassment to the curb. The best way to support Hollaback is to share your story. “Holla’ing back” provides data on and helps pinpoint the places in Atlanta where the highest number of street harassment instances are occurring.
Each time you hollaback, your story will shift people’s understanding of what harassment means. Some will walk away understanding what it feels like to be in your shoes, others will feel like they are not alone for the first time or that it’s not their fault. Your story can redefine safety in Atlanta – inspiring legislators, the police, and other authorities and create policies that make everyone feel safe.
Where do you see Hollaback growing in the future?
Right now, on our blog we’re conducting a MARTA research study to better understand the kinds of behavior occurring on the public transportation system in Atlanta. In New York, the transit system recently recognized that harassment occurs regularly on the subway, despite few people reporting their experiences.
Not only are transit authorities encouraging commuters to report instances of street harassment they experience on the subway, but they’re also encouraging riders to report street harassment they witness as well. We will present our data to the MARTA authorities to convince them to implement anti-street harassment policies on Atlanta’s trains and buses.