At Last, SoCal Women Can Holla Back

It happens to at least 90 percent of women in their lifetime. It happens everywhere. It happens every day.

The catcall. The “hey baby,” the car honk, the low whistle, the kissy noise.

Though it is dismissed as an inevitable part of urban living for women, it slowly chips away at the cocoon of safety and confidence women weave around themselves as they leave their houses each day.

It’s patriarchy flexing its muscles, but now, women are fighting back.

Hollaback, an East Coast movement gone global that aims to end street harassment, has finally hit the West Coast with the Hollaback SoCal blog, a space that allows victims of street harassment to vent their frustrations and post cell phone snapshots of harassers.

“From high-femme to gender-queer, this is a space for all of us. We are multilingual and multicultural, and we take no shit,” says the Hollaback SoCal founder, gender studies professor and Ms. blogger Shira Tarrant. Tarrant believes everyone should feel confident and safe when they walk down and street. “It’s your right to be your badass self.”

To judge by the dozen or so Los Angeles-area stories of street harassment already up on the site, it launched not a moment too soon.

With strides made in ending sexual harassment in school and in the workplace, Tarrant says, the streets have become the frontier where men can once again assert their masculinity by invading the personal space of women.

“Street harassment is about power […] the effect is that we start to self-police where we go and how we walk. We go on chronic high alert.” says Tarrant. “That’s a control issue. And for perpetrators, street harassment is a gateway crime that makes other forms of gender-based violence okay.”

Thousands of personal stories have been told since activist Emily May started the very first Hollaback site in 2005, and street harassment, an often overlooked issue, is finally turning into something people can vocalize and mobilize against. Activists like May and Tarrant hope these countless voices will help shift the public consciousness and lead to positive change.

“Sixty years ago, we had separate water fountains for white people. Today we would find that outrageous.” says Tarrant. “We believe that one day the idea of catcalls and groping strangers will seem just as outrageous.”

Photo courtesy of the Riot Mag.

Comments

  1. I just experienced street harassment a few weeks ago that was worse than usual. It's normal for a guy to "holla" or jump right out in front of you, but a few weeks ago, a drunk guy in his early 20s was hanging out of a cab screaming that he was going to "crack open my legs and eat my pussy good all night long." This lasted for about 2 whole minutes as traffic was backed up. I was of course horrified, but I just kept walking like I had head phones on and couldn't hear him. It was a terrible feeling though. I was fine on the outside, but I remember my insides felt like they were freezing over. I remember feeling lucky that I wore a hood and could easily hide my face.

  2. Get out now says:

    Beramay, stop being so sex-negative. Maybe if you weren't such a prude, you would be more open to the compliments that man was giving you.

  3. beramay wtf says:

    Beramay, so for 2 whole minutes, traffic was backed up so badly that the cab was driving the same direction as you at walking speed? You were wearing a hoodie and What? Bootie shorts?

  4. confused... says:

    I’m confused. Why does it matter what she was wearing? She could walk down the street naked and men should be able too keep there mouths shut! I’m hoping the comment that this type of verbal abuse is a compliment was a joke…you are part of the problem!

    • I was working on a group project with this guy once in college, and when we were walking to my dorm I caught him "hollering" at some girl. The girl rolled her eyes, and I felt humiliated to be with him. I told him that women didn't like that, and he ended up thinking that I was jealous and had a crush on him, lmao. I didn't, especially not after I saw him do that. He is one of those people that DO actually think hollering is a compliment. No matter how much us women tell them, they don't believe it's insulting. Why? What is so hard to understand?

  5. The 2 persons that commented after Beramay Awnday I have a message for you. YOU ARE NOT WELCOME HERE! You are both misogynists that obviously are not in solidarity with womyn and guess what? We are not in solidarity with you. Get educated, try to grow some sensitive, and and while at it grow some common sense (it will do you two some good.) You are not welcome here because you support the abuse of female identified beings. Really you look like idiots. So please either do what is suggested above or join the many other patriarchal and sexist blogs. There are plenty of those.
    @ Beramay Awnday I am sorry you had to go through that. I understand what it's like for I experience street harassment constantly. Please ignore the comments of those two other idiots. YOU DO have a safe space where your thoughts and feelings are welcome with your sisters. There is a SISTERHOOD that backs you up. Also, whenever you feel threaten, sometimes it helps to say something back. I am finding out that I feel 10 times better when I flip them off and call them rapists.
    In solidarity,
    tepilli uelia

  6. Danielle says:

    Beramay is not a prude. It's demoralizing to just be considered as "meat." If a man really wanted to pay a compliment to her, he wouldn't harass her with such disgusting comments.

    I'm so sorry Beramay that you experienced that.

    And I stand strong with tepilli uelia.

    –Danielle <3

  7. Is there a polite way to tell these harrassing diots to “fuck off?”.Most of these neanderthals do this unintentionally..,but I feel so demeaned,I just think it would make me feel better to express in some way that I don’t appreciate the remarks.I’ve been really comsidering the “bad finger”,but I don’t really know about that.What do you suggest??

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