Part II: The Solution: On Growing the Movement

[Rokafella performance]


Rokafella: I’ve had to fight for my space at the center of the dance circle, since the guys didn’t want to let me in.


Ryann Holmes: Thank you Hollaback!.


I’m representing Bklyn Boihood today. A boi is someone who self-identifies as a boy. We’re owning this word, and showing the fluidity of gender. Our collective is made up of all types, all different perspectives, so we can put all our skill sets into this work.


Our perspective as masculine bois of color is different. We see cis men harassing women, sometimes we harass ourselves, sometimes we are harassed. We don’t want to be perpetrators, though. Being of color makes street harassment look different to us than does to white folk, especially being a boi of color.


Street harassment is misogyny and violence. When I’m with someone who is a femme-presenter in my neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, she can get harassed 20x just walking to the subway. At all times, it’s violent. We wrongly value aggressiveness and other traits like that, so boys of color get the wrong image of masculinity to validate who they are. Our collective tries to promote healthy masculinity and challenge current views and flip them on head.


Street harassment is scary because it’s sanctioned by other men. Silence is worse, because it makes you feel alone in public.


As bois, even if we’re not male-identified, we have masculine privilege so we’re never checked. We have to use our space to oppose street harassment. The collective makes noise and we have to check ourselves and everyone. Our collective’s parties are a safe space.


We have to engage in conversation to end rape culture. We also have to stop blaming men of color and start examining white men. If we ensure the safety of women, the whole world will transform. The revolution will spark.


Beth Livingston: I’m honored to be here. As an academic, I’m not often around activists, but activism is important to me.


There was a lot of discussion about emotions today. My research studied these emotions. Usually, emotions are thought of as bad and negative, but they can be very motivating. Without emotions, we can’t make decisions.


My coworkers suggested applying sexual harassment to street harassment.


We took people’s words and analyzed 223 women’s stories about street harassment. It was a small sample size. We highlighted who was there and what did they do, and got the emotional tone from the stories of street harassment. Lots of similarities were found. There were so many emotions in every incident. The dominant emotion was “next time I’ll do or say something.” They felt paralyzed in the moment, but when they could reflect on the event they felt shame and guilt that they didn’t do anything at the time. Lots of the situations we read about were from years previous.


The next step is that we surveyed advocacy community organizations in NYC about how they deal with street harassment. 95% heard of it and dealt with it - 35% had 15+ complaints of street harassment. The majority said that they just listened to the woman’s complaints, did nothing, or called someone else to deal with it. They have no confidence on how to deal with street harassment. There’s a huge opportunity to provide resources to organizations in need who deal with this issue.


Advocacy matters. As an academic I generate knowledge. I don’t change things, but you do, you provide a service that quells emotions of victims of street harassment. Many women whose stories we read wanted to talk about it but had nobody to speak with. I hope this event can generate more info and turn what we have into change.


Samhita Mukhopadhyay: Telling stories can impact realities. We have to change the conversation and change the culture, and putting stories on the Internet can do that. I love tech and geeks and geek culture, I found it all by mistake. In 2005 I found Feministing online, and I started writing for it. Eight years later, it’s the most clicked-on feminist site, even though people said no one would care, that young women don’t care about feminism. I realized that we could reach different demographics. This led to social change. How?


At Purpose, an organization I work at, mass participation leads to a social movement. The Internet strengthens social movements, necessarily.


  1. Connectivity - the Internet brings communities together, people who care about the same issues. It allows you to meet people around the world who are fighting the same injustices.
  2. Experimentation - with our voices, message, tactics, content, ideas - the Internet lets us figure out what it takes to change people’s minds. A lot, basically.
  3. Scalability - the Internet lets people share stuff. Access to online spaces allows us to scale the movement, since we can connect small meetings to the whole world.
  4. Rapid - you can respond immediately to events that occur, not just a letter to the editor in tomorrow’s paper.
  5. Bridging - people and generations and online - grassroots and local-national-global.


The Internet isn’t final. Haters gonna hate. But the Internet is where the change is happening.


Julie Lalonde: It’s a universal truth that haters gonna hate. Being a feminist means that we’re surrounded by haters. I live in Canada and have worked in reproductive rights and sexual violence and women’s health for ten years, and I’ve found that feminism brings all the trolls to the yard. I’ve been able to cope for ten years because of the solidarity that feminists have to stop silencing. People who leave the movement leave, not because of trolls, but because of burnout by other activists. That’s messed up.


As a movement, we subscribe to two myths:


Myth: There can only be one winner.

It’s like a crab bucket. You put lots of crabs in one bucket, and all of them will step on each other to get to the top, tearing everyone else down in the process. We all do it sometimes. This means that no one ever gets out of the bucket and is mad at everyone else for stopping them, it makes no sense. This is a huge myth that there can be only one winner. It’s not helping. We attack each other and the patriarchy keeps on, it benefits when we’re not connected to each other. We have to take pride in each other’s victories. Instead of a crab bucket, we should lift as we climb and get ahead together.


Myth: It’s always too early to celebrate. To acknowledge small victories is weakness.

NO!! It’s a really poor rally cry and doesn’t motivate people to come on board, we all become Debbie Downers and killjoys. It burns out the people we’re working with. We have to end this. We should recognize all our victories, since it rewards veterans and brings new people in. We have to acknowledge that it’s only one battle that we’ve won, and not the whole war. But we should party more often and celebrate.


We have to tip the crab bucket, lift as we climb, and celebrate so the haters won’t know what hit them.


Genevieve Berrick: There’s an expression in the derby that goes “roller derby saved my soul,” and it really does. Roller derby is about bodies in space and contact, and so is street harassment. I care about both. Both determine how I move in the world. Roller derby gives different slant.


Visuality is part of derby. Derby girls are often dismissed because of fishnets and booty shorts, but it’s so much more. It’s fun, but it’s also intense athleticism. Derby girls always say that they wish they had it as teenagers, since it builds confidence in your ability to negotiate space and dismiss passing comments. In derby, we don’t allow fat- and slut-shaming, it’s very diverse.


The Vagina Regime is a queer, all-welcoming derby group that wears vagina costumes. You just have to join and you’re accepted. It influences your relationship with public space.


Derby teaches women boundaries, that you can hit back and hard, and that size of your shorts says nothing. The respect and mutuality on the track influences the outside. It creates special relationships and alters how to negotiate spaces. Derby is run and owned by the skaters themselves, let us make our own decisions about our bodies. It counters living in a rape culture. We must take it to streets.


Pamela Shifman: This is an inspiring day, I’m grateful to be here.


We talk about philanthropy to end gender violence. Philanthropy means love of people, but nowadays, is it a love of all people or just male people? I’m involved with philanthropy for girls and women, and I struggle with how to help organizations looking for funding. The reality is that even though there’s still profound discrimination and oppression towards women and girls, philanthropy centers aren’t dedicating a fraction needed.


Only 7.5% of available funding over 15 years has gone to women. Anti-violence funding gets 1.8%, which as a huge increase from beforehand. Women’s health gets the most. It’s very important, but not the only barrier to equality. No women’s rights organization has the same expenses as other social justice organizations. All 100+ women’s rights organizations has a combined budget that’s a mere third of just Greenpeace’s budget.


Funding isn’t everything, since women have succeeded without backing, but until philanthropy wakes up, change will be slow.


  1. All social justice benefits when we invest in women’s leadership and an intersectional approach. This point was made by Liberian women who prayed to end the civil war in Liberia without arms. They were critical to the peace process.
  2. Grassroots feminist organizations are key to advancing women’s rights and ending violence. In the 1990s, I worked in South Africa and there was a highly-publicized rape and small grassroots women made democracy happen. This happens everywhere.
  3. We have an obligation to put our money where our mouth is. There’s more attention being given to women and girls and violence in public consciousness, but the spotlight has been of little help to funding progress. It doesn’t help pay rent for women’s organizations that are doing work.


Philanthropy means love of people. When we invest in women, then street harassment and violence will end. I can’t wait.


Kana Zink: Music therapy can help women feel empowered after experiencing violence. It empowers, educates, and supports them like Hollaback! does.


Lyric analysis can be a catalyst for dialogue. We analyze songs like “Born This Way” or “Survivor” and trash songs with negative messages. Then we can do original songwriting. This can help a trans person validate his or her identity, or help a group of teens learn respecting others. Then we do clinical song adaptation, where we adapt the song to help the client achieve his or her goals. With a group of girls, we took a One Direction song and made it self-validating rather than having the band validating them.


Anna Whaley: I’m the cofounder of Hollaback! Brussels. I’m originally from Baltimore.


The simple tool of inquiry can bring success. We can do better work and feel better if our focus is on what we’re spending our energy on.


How do we get there? We have to ask ourselves what’s the context, where am I coming from, what am I feeling now. Then we have ask why we’re involved to refresh our energy, where do we want to go, what do we want to accomplish. I want respect and to change people’s minds. How to achieve this? Through inquiry. It makes you realize it’s about personal experience.


It took four years out of my five in Brussels to work on solutions for street harassment. I did stuff to change myself and my habits. For four years it was very painful, but now when I look back I feel the power to move forward. I needed to ask for help, I realized, and I started Hollaback!. I got involved because I care and my experiences in life influenced me. I didn’t want to run a movement, I took a step to leadership because of my experiences. None of us are looking to lead. We’re all afraid to step up, we fear we’re not qualified. We start to want the best possible, so that leads to frustration and overwork. When we’re not working together, we’re in a bad place.


It’s a personal decision what to fill your tool of inquiry with. Be nice, so people feel they can approach you, and that they have a stake in what’s going on.