You can do something about street harassment

When I sold my car and started walking and using public transit, I discovered a whole new wonderful world of sexual harassment. In general, I can’t travel more than a mile without at least one incident of a guy pinching his nipples while shouting at me to “Take it off!” or the like. The worst part is that you feel absolutely powerless to do anything about it. Men who enjoy harassing women also enjoy any kind of attention whatsoever, and getting angry, yelling at them, or shaming them only makes them happier.

A couple of years ago, I kept a Google map of location, time, and description of each incident of sexual harassment, simply because so many people refused to believe me when I told them about the kind of harassment I got. Then I just got used to it – sort of, if you can call feeling fear, shame, and rage for a couple of hours “used to it.”

But now! Hollaback is raising money (via Kickstarter) for an iPhone app that will let you take a photo and post it to an online map and database. You can already post to the Stop Street Harassment Global map. Street harassment depends on anonymity – most of these guys only do it when there are not many people around, or so quietly that no one else can hear. The more men get their photos up on the Internet when they harass women, the less harassment there will be.

The way Kickstarter works is that they have to raise a certain amount of money before they get any of the money. The deadline for this fundraiser is May 28, 2010, and they currently have $5,705 out of a goal of $12,500.

I gave them $25. Yay! I can do something! If you’ve ever been harassed on the street, or know someone who has, or just think that women should be able to go out in public without fear, please donate. You can give as little as $5. I’d love to see someone donate $1000.

14 thoughts on “You can do something about street harassment

  1. In no way trying to trivialize your harassment, but just genuinely curious…

    Your google map has an incident named “gutter”, where you describe guys walking on either side of you.

    I never knew this was a harassing act. I’ve definitely been on both sides of that coin — either had groups on a sidewalk split around me, or have been part of a group and split around an oncoming pedestrian.

    Can you explain why you consider that harassment? Is there some other pretext/context that I’m not understanding? Maybe I’ve been harassing other pedestrians without realizing it…


    1. Hi, Alex. I understand your curiosity. However, perhaps you can try understanding the incident on your own instead of asking me to put in time explaining it? For example, I specified that there were 6 men and 1 of me, which is different from the generic case you describe in your post.

  2. Hi Valerie,
    Thx for linking to my Global Street Harassment Map. I love the map you created. A woman I follow on twitter created one too in Iowa City, IA, and I’d love to feature you both on my blog b/c I think it’s such a powerful tool we can use to illustrate this problem. If you’re interested, could you email me at the email address included in my reply? I have a few questions I want to ask. thanks!

  3. Wow. I know this kind of thing happens, but the frequency you describe astonishes me. Do you think this frequency of harassment occurs everywhere, or do you think your area has a higher than normal incidence of it?

    1. Your question about frequency versus location is difficult to answer. It varies widely. For example, one woman in the back of the bus far from the driver in the Tenderloin is far more likely to be harassed than a man and woman walking together on the street in Nob Hill. But I can answer your question one way: if you are woman walking alone, you will probably get harassed in any metropolitan area in the world.

        1. Another of my friends just told me she got harassed walking home from school every day in suburban LA – as an eleven year old. I think I’m underestimating how frequently it happens!

      1. I would respectfully suggest that there are factors that are more relevant than the specific location within a larger metropolitan area. (Of course, there needs to be sufficient density of people that do that kind of thing. My impression, though, is that are sufficient people that do that sort of thing anywhere that a person would reasonably walk.)

  4. Wow, Val, you are one of my idols. Thanks for doing this, thank you for your strength in all related matters, you are amazing. Never stop.

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