It’s Launch Day!

Today we become an official Hollaback! site!

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Photo credit: Dawn Aiello of Saving Dawn Photography

April 15, 2013

Contact: Sarah Peck
April 15, 2013 (ATHENS, GA) – Hollaback!, an international organization dedicated to ending street harassment, launches in Athens today. According to the CDC, non-contact unwanted sexual experiences, including street harassment, are the most common form of sexual violence experienced by both women and men in the United States. Hollaback! is now in 64 cities in 22 countries, with leaders speaking more than 11 different languages.
“Street harassment occurs every day in Athens. As a defense attorney, I do not want to see individuals criminalized for this behavior. However, I believe that Hollaback! can increase awareness and education about this problem so that our streets can be more friendly, welcoming, and considerate to all persons, regardless of gender. I have no doubt that this initiative will benefit our city given the dedicated people who’ve made it a reality,” said Sherrie Hines, Assistant Public Defender with the Western Judicial Circuit Public Defender’s Office.
“It’s important to see street harassment for what it is: part of the problem of gender-based violence. Street harassment is about power. Failing to address it means that not everyone has equal access to public spaces, and this is particularly true for women and individuals who are perceived to be lesbian, gay, transgender, or who the harasser feels do not conform to gender expectations,” explained Dr. Blaise Parker, instructor in the University of Georgia’s Women’s Studies Department.
Hollaback! Athens is run by a team of local community leaders who are deeply committed to working online and offline to end street harassment in their community. The Athens site leader, Sarah Peck, has lived in Athens since 1999. A former instructor at the University of Georgia, she currently instructs women’s self-defense courses. In both settings, students routinely disclosed histories of sexual violence to her.
“Over time, I realized that although empowering victimized groups and teaching individuals how to defend themselves is important, the problem cannot be fixed without addressing how our communities allow and even encourage gender-based violence. I wanted to do something to change that culture here in Athens, to make our town safer for everyone,” Peck said.
“Because street harassment is considered normal, it’s become invisible. Calling attention to the problem and realizing there are things we can do to stop it has been enormously empowering and energizing for everyone I’ve talked with. I’ve been overwhelmed by the positive response and desire to take action,” Peck added.
Hollaback! Athens will run their local blog and organize their communities through advocacy, community partnerships, and direct action. The leaders of Hollaback! Athens are as diverse in their backgrounds as they are in their experiences of harassment. The Hollaback! movement reports that 41% of site leaders are lesbian, gay, bisexual, or queer; 33% identify as people of color; 76% are under the age of 30, and 90% are women.
“We only have 8 or 9 years before the babies in strollers today start experiencing street harassment, too. Our children deserve better, we deserve better, and Hollaback! Athens is going to get us there. Share your story and join the movement today,” said Hollaback! Executive Director Emily May.
In addition to Athens, Georgia, new locations include: Antwerp, Belgium *Appalachian Ohio, USA * Belfast, Northern Ireland * Bosnia and Herzegovina *Chemnitz, Germany * Hamilton, Canada * Los Angeles, California, USA * Toronto,Canada
About Hollaback! – Hollaback! (ihollaback.org) is a movement to end street harassment powered by a network of local activists around the world. We work together to better understand street harassment, to ignite public conversations, and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces.

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Launch Week!

time This week is International Anti-Street Harassment Week (April 7-13), and it’s also the week before our official launch as a Hollaback! site!
We’ve got some great FREE events lined up for the launch:

Women’s Self-Defense Class
Wednesday, April 10, 7:30 – 9:30pm
AKF Athens Martial Arts, 175A Old Epps Bridge Road

Ordinarily offered as a five-week course covering the social, environmental, psychological, and physical aspects of safety, this special one-night class will provide a condensed overview of basic self-defense techniques. Instructed by Sarah Peck, 2nd degree black belt in Kyuki-Do.

WAR ZONE, a Documentary (Ages 21+)
Friday, April 12, 5:30 – 7:00pm
Flicker Theatre and Bar, 263 W.Washington Street

“WAR ZONE is 76 minutes of explosive footage as the filmmaker places herself in very real danger by daring to ask the men on the streets why they are treating a complete stranger in a sexual way. In the process, she has been hit, yelled at, apologized to and engaged in mesmerizing conversations with the men that have harassed her. Through these conversations, Hadleigh-West reveals the anger, fear and frustration as well as the affection, admiration and humor that characterizes relationships between men and women. This movie is guaranteed to get men and women talking about their often very different experiences in public!”
After the films ends, there will be an opportunity to discuss reactions to the film and to share how it reflects or fails to reflect experiences of street harassment in Athens. We hope you’ll stick around afterward and join us for a drink, too!
Come out and meet us! For more information, email athensga@ihollaback.org.
Photo credit: Dawn Aiello of Saving Dawn Photography

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Grocery Store Slur

My boyfriend and I were walking into a grocery store on the Eastside holding hands when the people in the car shown below thought it would be a good idea to shout “fag.”
When we both realized where it came from and who had said it, I decided to try and confront the to two guys sitting in the backseat. However, my boyfriend was against the idea and the two men (boys) refused to respond to me. So I took this picture instead.
My boyfriend and I should be able to hold hands wherever we like! This is Athens!

To show support for this person, click the “I’ve got your back!” button below to let them know their story was heard.

I've got your back!


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Why Do You Hollaback?

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Thanks to all who came out for the photo shoot, and especially to our rock star photographer, Dawn Aiello of Saving Dawn Photography. We can’t wait to see how the pics turn out!

If you weren’t able to make it to the shoot but still want to show your support, it’s not too late. Just take a picture of yourself telling the world why you hollaback and post it on our Facebook page!

Some reasons you might hollaback:

  • because everyone deserves respect
  • because that’s how we change the world
  • because you’re doing your part to keep the Classic City classy
  • because your body isn’t public property
  • because catcalling isn’t a compliment; it’s harassment
  • because you love Athens and want everyone to feel safe here

There are some other great ideas here and in the images at the bottom of this post.

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Bulldog Bully

Maybe some of you remember the bulldog statues that used to dot downtown Athens. There are still some around town, but there once were more–one on almost every streetcorner, it seemed. At one point several years ago, I was sitting atop one that was located across from the Arch on the corner of East Broad and College Avenue, talking to my boyfriend, a friend of his, and a friend of mine. (It’s relevant here to mention that I’m a big girl–overweight, fat, call it what you will.) Suddenly, out of nowhere, my speaking was interrupted by a young man screaming out of his car window: “Get off that statue! You’ll break it!!” I felt my face get hot as my companions looked shocked, staring at the passing car as it drove away. I wanted to sink into the ground, I was so mortified.
I share this so that people will realize that street harassment is not just about cat-calling conventionally attractive women. It’s also about shaming women you think are unattractive. Basically, there is no reason you should ever comment on another person’s body–particularly a stranger’s, particularly in public.
I’m a self-confident woman and I recovered from the experience fine, but I will never forget the humiliation of that moment. It is wrong to treat your fellow human beings as if they don’t deserve the same access to public space as you, regardless of the reason.
To show support for this person, click the “I’ve got your back!” button below to let them know their story was heard.

I've got your back!


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A Bus Stop Shouldn’t Feel Like a Bullseye for Harassment

For several years, my primary mode of transportation in Athens was the city bus. Every morning, I would stand on Barnett Shoals Road and wait for the bus. There was no bus shelter there and I was usually the lone figure waiting at the stop, which made me a convenient target for jerks driving and walking by to yell, honk, make sexual comments, and leer at.

You try to make yourself inconspicuous. You try to look busy. “Don’t notice me. There’s nothing of interest here. Just keep driving. Just keep walking. I don’t see you. Please don’t see me.”

But you’re trapped. You have to stay there, alone and exposed on the street. It doesn’t matter what you wear – how baggy or tight your clothes are – or if you keep your eyes glued to a book or the sidewalk. That you’re there is enough to draw the hoots, hollers, and honks.

Every day for years, I started my day either having been harassed or having had the threat of harassment looming over me. I know I’m not the only who has to start the day that way (and end it, and experience that threat and humiliation at various points in between) and then be expected to just shake it off and continue on with work or school, as if that were okay or normal. It’s not okay, and it shouldn’t be normal.

To show support for this person, click the “I’ve got your back!” button below to let them know their story was heard.

I've got your back!

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Racism and Mashed Potatoes: Why I Hollaback

One of the moments I cherished most as a child were those days when my mother and I would eat at the Kress department store lunch counter. Just to see it made my heart race with anticipation.

The lunch counter area was located on the left side of the building and was set off from the rest of the store by a chrome-railed four foot high fence with a gated entrance which reminded me of saloon doors from a cowboy picture.

All along the rail were a number of orange booths with white Formica tables, but to me the real stars of the lunch counter were the eight chrome stools covered in orange naugahyde all planted straight and deep along the lunch counter like so many live oak trees in the Laurel city park. Behind the counter lay delights the likes of which young boys dare not dream. It was a place where ice cream sundaes, chocolate malts, hamburgers and a menagerie of other pleasures were all magically conjured using machines that aroused the eyes the ears and all the others senses.

Every time we shopped there I carefully crafted an argument for mother that we should treat ourselves to lunch seated at the counter even if it was still a little early in the day for lunch. We were kind of poor so we didn’t order a large meal usually the Blue Plate Special. My mother would eat the meatloaf and I would eat the mashed potatoes and gravy which came with her meal and we would split the yeast roll. As far as I was concerned the whole thing was a meal fit for kings all served at a real lunch counter like on TV. It was all really quite wonderful and I would have been content to take every meal there for the rest of my life until one day when I asked my mother about the signs posted over the counter. She was always so very patient with me and my sister when we asked her questions, so she read them all out loud to me and the explained what they meant. One read “Blue Plate Special,” another read “Chocolate Malts,” still another read “Fountain Drinks” then she stopped reading leaving out one sign. For some reason I had to ask her what that sign read.
I pointed to the neglected sign and asked, “Mama what does that sign say?”

She leaned over close to my ear and told me that she would tell me about it later, but I was not content with her answer so I asked even more insistently . . . and more loudly.

“Why can’t you tell me what that sign says right now?”

My question, tone and insistence had gotten the attention of the man behind the lunch counter who was not pleased with my curiosity and was giving my mother looks that inferred I should be quieted.

She whispered again.
“Charles . . . that sign reads ‘Whites Only.’ It means that only white people can eat here.”

Whites Only.

Whites Only.

I looked at the sign for a few seconds and observed that it appeared markedly different from the other signs posted above me. The other signs used colorful scripts with whimsical drawings that might just tantalize a sick person right out of a coma, but the “Whites Only” sign was printed in cold block letters printed with black ink on white paper.

It looked very official.

It looked like it was the law.

The law written among the lunch specials and it wasn’t meant for me to read or notice. The system was designed for me to want the lunch special and chocolate malts and they invited me to consume fountain drinks until I almost burst, because I was qualified.
I was . . .“Whites Only.”

I was incredulous with regard to the matter of this “Whites Only” thing. When you are six years old, mothers hold all of the wisdom of the universe. So I asked questions about the matter as if I was making a legal argument the likes of which Clarence Darrow would have been proud.
“But Mama . . . I see black people right across the store shopping for soap, but they can’t sit here and eat with us?”
It just didn’t make any sense.

“Yes Charles, that’s right.” Then I asked the perennial kid question.

“But Why Not?”

My attention to the question at hand was interrupted by the counter man angrily slapping my mother’s check in front of her and telling her he would take the payment for it right away. He looked at me as though he was very angry at me. Mother paid the bill and we left the lunch counter and the store without completing the shopping we had planned on doing following our meal. She held my hand as we briskly walk out of the store and down the sidewalk in silence. My mother was probably worried if there might be a burning cross in our front yard that night. I wasn’t sorry that I asked the question, but I was sorry that my mother looked so worried.
No one really ever has to tell a six year old when he has crossed a line that adults fear to cross.

He knows.
I knew.

As we walked to our car I didn’t ask mother any more questions about the sign or the man behind the lunch counter or the reasons why black people could not eat seated alongside white people and I never asked mother to eat at the lunch counter ever again.
Not because I had embarrassed my mother with my questions and;

Not because I feared the lunch counter man and;

Not because the food wasn’t good.

I never again asked to eat at the lunch counter because I never wanted the privilege of being “Whites Only” ever again. From that moment forward until today I became a watcher of signs.

Moments like these shaped my life and made me the person… the advocate for victims of human trafficking I am today. The life I lived before my daughter made her a very outspoken advocate for Gay rights. I love Hollaback… great idea, great name and cause. I really am a Hollaback kind of person. I been “Hollering Back” since 1967 and I still Hollaback today whenever and where ever needed.

NOTE: Failing to speak out against society’s ills defines who you really are just as much as speaking out does.

Charles Powell

To show support for this person, click the “I’ve got your back!” button below to let them know their story was heard.

I've got your back!


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Hollaback! Athens Photo Shoot Fri., 3/29 & Sat., 3/30

Hollaback! Athens, GA and Saving Dawn Photography are partnering for an awesome photo shoot this weekend! The amazing Dawn Aiello will be capturing images of individuals in the Athens community who support Hollaback! Athens and our mission to end street harassment and other forms of gender-based violence.
If you want to show your support and have your picture snapped downtown this Friday (3/29) or Saturday (3/30), send us a message on Facebook or email us.
We’ll be meeting at 6:00pm at the Jittery Joe’s Roaster both days and then walking to get some shots at several iconic Athens locations. If you have mobility impairments, we can meet up with you closer to 7pm at the Arch (the terrain near the Roaster is a little rough).
If you would like to join us, please think of a quote you would like attributed to you that addresses why ending street harassment is important to you, why you support Hollaback!, or why you choose to holla back (for example, “I Hollaback because…” or “I have the power to end street harassment,” or “My story matters”). You can see some examples here, here, or at the bottom of this post.
***You should either make a LEGIBLE sign of your quote to hold while you get your picture taken, or write down what you want your quote to be and we’ll super-impose it on your picture afterward.***

The pictures will then be posted on Facebook as a lead-up to our official launch in April. People of all genders and ages welcome and needed!
Please print and sign a copy of the photo release form/portrait contract. If you are under the age of 18, you will need to have a parent or guardian sign.

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