hollaback again: the holla-ing

well, i guess i have some more stuff to say about hollaback. & critique, & feminist education, & some other stuff. this is my preface so people know what topics they are going to encounter if they keep reading. if you don’t want to hear it, stop now, but i ask you to refrain from informing me that you have chosen not to read further. i’m not giving points for attendance, & am not under any illusions that everyone on the internet reads everything that i post on the internet. just carry on & save any passive-aggressive comments about choosing not to read further for a rainy day.

so, in order for hollaback lawrence to participate in the next round of official web launches, we had to start the round of four mandatory webinars this past weekend. i was reluctant to volunteer for this job, since i was feeling pretty iffy about actually being a part of hollaback lawrence. but no one else was stepping up to the plate, so…i wound up doing the webinar. i didn’t see the point in sabotaging a summer launch for people that are excited about getting this thing off the ground sooner rather than later. it wasn’t an arduous experience, but i also didn’t walk away feeling like my early critiques of hollaback were completely unfounded. emily (the woman who started hollaback) started with a history of the organization, which included a suggestion that she & her friends coined the term “street harassment” back in 2005. a quick google search will inform anyone with computer access that that term has actually been circulating in print for over thirty years, but emily was quick to concede that she doesn’t know much about feminist history. you don’t say.

she then moved on to a five-minute explanation of how to use the new hollaback iphone app. there have been many rumblings of discontent over this app, both from a surveillance state perspective (these critiques have also been applied to the fact that hollaback encourages women to photograph the people that harass them & post their photos online…& we could also talk about how most of the women who are featured on the hollaback website as site leaders or merch models are white, while most of them men featured as harassers are of color, & then we could ask questions about what this says about who gets harassed & who they perceive as threatening, etc etc, but i digress) & from a class oppression perspective. i could digress again about the intersections between the demographics most likely to actually be physically victimized by sexualized street violence & the demographic population most likely to own an app-ready cell phone, but…draw your own conclusions.

the webinar was pretty basic. we were given homework assignments (mostly basic information gathering & website agreements so our starter sites can be prepared & so we could demonstrate our commitment to the launch class timeline) & walked through the core values. there was a weird bit about how it’s a core value to “be nice” in the forums. surprise surprise that i automatically chafe at condemnations to “be nice” when no concrete info is given about what “be nice” actually means in practice. i’m down with not calling people names, but so often, this is code for “don’t be critical”. “be critical” is one of my personal core values, so i can’t really roll with an organization that stands against that. but it was unclear what emily actually meant, so i didn’t stress too much.

there was one weird bit where she said we would have to submit info about our groups “race & class make-up” in order to “ensure diversity”. which is code for “make sure you have some poor people & some people of color so our website won’t be condemned for being a bunch of white girls being scared of black men”. not that i think they would refuse to launch a hollaback team that was made up of only white girls or anything. but my token-o-meter went off, for sure. i could also start asking thorny questions about the efficacy of building an iphone app & then trying to pretend that you actually care about people marginalized by poverty. but hey.

so i took notes on everything, including deadlines & the dates of future mandatory webinars & all that good stuff, & the lawrence group decided to have a breakfast meeting this morning so i could debrief everyone & we could figure out how to move forward. or if we even wanted to move forward. at least a couple of people had expressed some hesitations about hollaback as a group, & at least a couple of people just wanted to be part of a feminist group doing something around street harassment issues, regardless of what the group was called. (i was in both those groups.) a couple of other people seemed to be really pumped for hollaback specifically. so i figured the meeting would function to bring everyone up to speed about how to make hollaback specifically happen, & also to air any concerns or questions or critiques or anything else.

unfortunately, the meeting didn’t really function at all. one would-be attendee decided at the zero hour that her critiques of hollaback were too serious for her to feel comfortable using what limited time she has for feminist activism on a local hollaback group, so she didn’t go. i had to go because i was the one with the report-back to give, & two other ladies showed up as well (albeit, one of them managed to be half an hour late…to a meeting that wound up taking less than an hour…& she didn’t call or anything to let us know; i’m always a big fan of having my time wasted that way). to be continued…

Published by Ciara

Ciara Xyerra wrote zines for the better part of two decades. She has a brilliant & adorable preschooler named Ramona & sews as much as she possibly can. She lives in Lawrence, Kansas with her boyfriend. She enjoys catching up on "The New Yorker", meatball subs, keeping it cranky, intersectional post-third wave feminism, dinosaurs, & monsters. If you have nothing nice to say, she recommends that you come sit here by her, so you can say not-nice things together.

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