I grew up in a small town, with maybe four or five thousand people. It wasn’t the type of place where I felt particularly unsafe. However, even though it was a sleepy and unexceptional town, I remember having to deal with street harassment. Not a lot of it, but it wasn’t uncommon. It really doesn’t make you feel great.
According to statistics, street harassment is a significant part of the lives of many women all over the world. In the United States alone, 84 percent of women have considered changing their behavior to avoid street harassment. It’s not just a city problem, either; 90 percent of women in rural areas have experienced this kind of harassment, 88 percent of women in suburban areas and 87 percent in urban areas.
Now, thanks to the anti-street harassment nonprofit Hollaback!, you can report your street harassment with a touch of your smartphone.
Hollaback! has had an app since 2010, but the latest iteration takes it up a notch. The new app lets you report abuse and see a map of street harassment hot spots. According to The Atlantic:
[T]he newest version released last month for use in New York City functions as a street-harassment reporting tool…The home screen lets access “Resources” or “Know Your Rights,” and it also includes a map with balloons that reveal street harassment clusters. In addition to posting incidents, users can plot their location manually or via GPS, noting the area and type of location (borough, school, business); enter demographic information (race, gender); and attach a picture of an incident they witnessed or experienced. If users opt in to the feature, those reports then go to their district’s database and Councilstat.
There is a bit of controversy surrounding the app. Some people are worried that getting the government involved will displace the movement’s history of grassroots activism, while others are wary of giving the New York City government access to demographic data. However, Emily May, the co-founder of Hollaback!, says the app is actually an extension of the movement’s grassroots activism. The information gleaned can help local organizations to create tailored campaigns.
As a general matter, an app designed to document and educate about street harassment seems really empowering. Being harassed on the street plays off the power imbalance between men and women. Any attempt to correct that imbalance is worth a try.
This app is just another way that women are banding together to combat the misogyny we experience every day. We’ve been doing this on the Internet for years, often with copious amounts of snark and sass. Take this missed connections post from CraigsList. It was posted by a woman who was harassed by a man stopped a light who then drove away before she could respond. So she responded on the Internet.
The whole post is truth-bomb after truth-bomb. Now the entire world knows what kind of jerk this guy is, and it will hopefully act as a teaching moment for any guy out there who thinks shouting inquiries about someone’s underwear from a car window is ever appropriate.
We live in a world that doesn’t respect women’s personal autonomy, or even our personal space. When you become sensitive to it, you can’t help but see it in our politics and our culture. We do what we can to assert our right to exist in the world, whether that is documenting your harassment via an app, writing a scathing indictment of some bro on CraigsList or citing your boyfriend as a means of getting men who are too interested in you to leave you alone. Until the message finally gets through – that women are people who deserve your respect – it’s what we have to do.
Photo Credit: Hello Turkey Toe via Flickr