Sick of Catcalls and Ogles on the Street? Hollaback!

photo of gwen stefani doing hollaback girl video

Street harassment of women in cities has been a problem for a long time. Now, a group called Hollaback is bringing the issue to the forefront and trying to do something to do something about it.

From Linda Lowen’s Women’s Issues Blog:

If you’re a woman living in an urban area, chances are you’ve been the victim of street harassment. It may take the form of verbal assault like catcalls or physical harassment such as groping; frequently the predator exposes himself or masturbates in front of you.

Typically women have learned to ignore these behaviors, since a reaction or response is what the perpetrator wants. But why should we put up with it? What did we do to provoke these sexual offenders? Is being female and walking down the street or riding the subway “asking for it”?

Emily May (no relationship to the trailblazing microbiologist Dr. Meghan May) and Oraia Reid, founded Hollaback in 2005 to use technological advances, most notably mobile technology allowing women to share their experiences in specific and inarguable ways. I mean, it’s hard to argue with a cell phone camera or a recording done via voice notes.

From Hollaback’s NYC website (there are also sites for Australia, Savannah, Chicago, and Toronto, among others):


Let me tell you, this site is so cool (in a disturbing way)! You cannot imagine the crazy stories on here … I honestly lost track of a fair amount of time perusing them. And what a concept … technology being used to fight crime. Perhaps it’s time for a new superhero or something—The Kamera Kid, maybe, or The Blue BlackBerry.

According to May:

We commiserated over being whistled at, cat-called, and propositioned. The trouble was that we felt there was nothing we could do. If we walked on, we felt victimized. If we yelled, we felt angry, and street harassment was more or less protected under laws of free speech. Then we realized – why not take pictures of these street harassers and post them on a blog? And so, with the clink of our cocktail glasses, we launched HollabackNYC.

That is just freaking genius! So, yeah, if you want to be a Hollaback girl and take a picture of any b-a-n-a-n-a-s that might be wagged in your direction (I’m sorry, Gwen Stefani, but I just couldn’t resist), submit your pictures to this wicked cool group right here.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you think it will solve some of the street harassment problems? Do you have any other ideas that might work better?

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22 thoughts on “Sick of Catcalls and Ogles on the Street? Hollaback!

  1. If harassment goes anywhere physical, it’s a crime, and should be reported as such. If someone yells something, it’s certainly crass, but people in a free society have the right to be crass.
    But others have the right to publicize said crassness, so I have no problem with it. Though I’m sure there’s already a photo up there of at least one guy who did nothing worse than breaking up with a girl..

    The name really turns me off though.

  2. I hate the name too, Kai.

    I don’t understand this need to bastardize the English language, then try to make it mainstream.

    I don’t know where all of these people are from, but I’ve never had to “endure” anything more than whistles or catcalls. These are easily dealt with using a straight face and a cool, level stare.

    If anyone ever attempted to grope me, they would be dealing with a minimum of a sharp heel to the instep.

    I honestly don’t see this as truly being a problem, then again, the biggest city near my home (Pittsburgh, PA) is notorious for friendly, polite people – this would never be tolerated.

  3. Ha, this is awesome. I’ll remember to have my video camera recording next time I’m out and about. Summer brings many more cat-callers out. It’s annoying, especially because they’re not even creative. Yelling “Hey sexy!” from your rusty, busted ’76 pickup truck is not what I want to hear when I’m just trying to cross the freaking street.

  4. Catcalls are a bit of an undecided area for me.
    Walking to and from work in a large city, I often have to deal with people catcalling, or ‘accidentally’ bumping into me on the subway, etc.
    My initial reaction is to blush, because I don’t want to be drawing people’s attention, and my second reaction is anger, because I don’t any asshole feeling like he got the upper hand on me.
    But then I think- well, one day I will be old and fat and I will miss the days when men would catcall at me. Then I dwell on how one day I will inevitably be old and fat, and will miss the body I have now. Then I think, I could be a little less lucky than I am now, and be fat and unattractive. Then I wonder, well, am I really even attractive, or are men just whores who will whistle and yell at anything in a skirt. And then it all just turns into a huge self reflecting process, which is probably pretty close to the opposite effect of what the cat caller had intended.
    So perhaps I appreciate the compliment, but not the delivery.
    Regardless, sharing these experiences online could prove to be an effective means of ensuring if men are willing to open their mouths, they are willing to give an actual compliment instead of something offensive and uncreative.

    • “But then I think- well, one day I will be old and fat and I will miss the days when men would catcall at me. Then I dwell on how one day I will inevitably be old and fat, and will miss the body I have now. Then I think, I could be a little less lucky than I am now, and be fat and unattractive. Then I wonder, well, am I really even attractive, or are men just whores who will whistle and yell at anything in a skirt. And then it all just turns into a huge self reflecting process, which is probably pretty close to the opposite effect of what the cat caller had intended.”

      ….But why on EARTH would you want “compliments” from someone who only values women for their attractiveness? How valuable is the assessment of a person whose entire thought process about women is “woo! she’s got boobs and a cooch and therefore she is worthwhile!”

      Fuck that. Guys who say good things about my brain and my personality are the only ones who are really “complimenting” me. Guys who catcall me only see me as the life support system for a pussy and nothing more, and you can fuck that kind of concept of women RIGHT IN THE EAR.

      • I certainly value compliments on my intellect and character, and hold them to a higher esteem than ones about my appearance.
        But everyone wants to feel attractive. And although crass and often inappropriate, these catcalls do, in a way, make me think I am attractive to other people. After all, no one is shouting this to incredibly unattractive people (they probably have a a different pile of insults hurled at them).
        As I said, I certainly don’t look forward or try to initiate such responses from men. But I do feel a conflict between my own desire to be seen as attractive by other people, and the way that others may express their attraction. If I had my way, I would have men shout things such as “You look lovely today!”, but they don’t. And my anger towards their rude comments and my own desire to be seen as desirable create a confusion for me.
        I didn’t say that men should catcall, or that it is a proper thing to do. I was merely expression the emotions I experience when such things do occur- which I suppose is my own fault for sharing emotions in place of forming a solid opinion on the matter.

        • If what you’re describing as “catcalling” makes you feel attractive, then we may have two very different working definitions of “catcalling”. Because what I’m talking about is total strangers telling me “I’d love to suck on your pussy” on the street during broad daylight. I’m not talking about “that’s a lovely shirt you have on” or anything of that nature.

          BOTH of those quotes above are taken verbatim from things that guys actually said to me, by the way. I can tell you that hearing “I’d love to suck on your pussy” certainly did NOT make me feel “attractive” in any way, shape, or form.

      • Well, if I wanted a compliment on my intellect, I would want it to come from someone with the brains to recognise a good one, and appreciate mine. If my 3 year old niece told me I was really smart, it wouldn’t mean much.

        Similarly, a compliment on my appearance should come from someone in a position to judge. If my mom tells me I look good, it doesn’t mean much. If some random guy does, he’s probably right.
        Does that mean I want to date a guy who just thinks I look good? Hell no. But I don’t think it is offensive to be considered attractive either.

        Now I fully agree with Wicked – the delivery sucks, and can often cross the line into serious crass. I have no desire to be whistled at when I’m walking down the street. (luckily?) this isn’t a big issue for me.

        I know, I’ll come walk down one of your streets a block behind you, Wicked. The ones that yell at me too, you can discount as the ‘anything in a skirt’ type (well, shorts). The ones that only whistle at you, you can take as a compliment. :D

  5. I’m sorry, but “frequently the predator exposes himself or masturbates in front of you.” ? REALLY?
    Can’t say that has ever happened / ever heard of that happening – even to my most scantily clad friends. I can accept that occasionally it may occur, but usually it’s just that drunk, toothless guy at the back of the bus and he doesn’t even know what planet he’s on let alone if anyone is witnessing his happy fun time.

    The whole thing feels like an over-exaggeration, but good on the girls if they feel that harassed, I guess.

  6. I poked around the site for a bit; not a whole lot of catcalling in Montana, but if it happened I’d sure as hell want to commiserate with other people.

  7. I’m kind of amazed that the commenters so far don’t see this as a big problem. I live in SoCal right now and trying to walk pretty much anywhere by myself can be hell. It’s worse here than anywhere I’ve ever lived but I’ve never lived anywhere that it wasn’t a problem at all. I’ve had both come-ons and insults yelled at me from passing cars, been followed by men in cars and offered rides (apparently if you’re female around here and you like to go for walks, the assumption is you’re a prostitute). I’ve had a guy make his little kid yell pick up lines at me (he was also one of the ones that followed me in his car, even after I told him to leave me alone). I live in a residential neighborhood by the way, and this happens in broad daylight, I’m not walking around some dark seedy corner of a big city by myself late at night, and I don’t dress provocatively. I drive pretty much everywhere now, even if it’s just a few blocks, because I don’t feel particularly safe walking where I live and I freaking hate it.

    • I wasn’t belittling your experiences, S.

      I have to tell you that I really thought that this posting was about a site that exaggerated the issue. I’m honestly surprised that people openly behave this way.

      I guess that I have lived a somewhat sheltered existence, but I am telling you – this crap would never fly here.


      • I live in Costa Mesa, and I lived in Irvine for a while too and it even happened there (and Irvine is about as square a place as you can imagine). It was a problem, though less so, when I lived in small midwestern towns too. Maybe you notice it more if you spend a lot of time walking, I don’t know, but it’s been an issue I’ve had to live with pretty much since I hit puberty.

    • It’s not that big a deal where I come from either. And I have no trouble with the ‘do it in front of the whole world’ idea.
      But anything more than vocals I’d be taking my photo to the police, not a website.

    • It’s way worse in some areas of the country then in others, in AZ it happened all the time from when I was 13-14 (catcalls not physical harassment) but since I moved to Oregon not once has it happened and I mean not even once. So unless I became an utter troll when I moved it’s an area problem.

  8. I know exactly what you mean. I grew up in So. Cal and got harassed almost everyday on my way home from school. Middle school, mind you. My mom and I were at the movies once and my mother quickly grabbed my arm and scurried me over to the other side of the theater – turns out the guy behind us was masturbating. Lovely.

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  10. I went through and read some of the posts on the Hollaback blogs, and I’m actually quite disgusted by some of the women. A lot of these women post things like “this guy touched me inappropriately but I didn’t stop him because I was uncomfortable”, and that really bothers me because, well yes you’ve been victimized, but you could have stood up for yourself a bit more. It really bothers me when people (men or women) don’t stand up for themselves and then complain about it, but then again, this behavior of inappropriate touching is totally unacceptable, but society has allowed it to continue occurring because no one is doing anything to stop it, right?

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