Think Before You Catcall

While walking into the BARCC offices for rape crisis counselor training, I was telling a fellow volunteer about the launching of Hollaback! Boston and how excited I was for it.

As we approached the building, a construction worker that was standing in a dumpster started yelling, “Hey, mami! You lookin’ good!”

I looked at my fellow volunteer and raised my eyebrows. She replied, “Oh, believe me, the irony is not lost on me.”

This is one of the first stories posted on the website of the newly launched Boston chapter of international anti-street harassment movement Hollaback! The point of the group is to give women and members of the LGBT community a platform (several platforms, actually: Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter) to share stories about groping, whistling, suggestive or threatening comments, and other forms of harassment, or post photos of the culprits. There’s even an iPhone app for reporting incidents. In other words: Proposition a woman on the T and — snap! — your mug could end up online.

(Sound familiar? A previous Hollaback! Boston blog modeled after the Hollaback! NYC blog launched in 2006 and shuttered in 2009. The website is still up.)

There’s no denying that Boston, like other densely populated areas, has issues with street harassment. (I remember one particular incident when a guy slowly drove alongside my friend and me for several blocks on Commonwealth Avenue late at night, trying to lure us into his van.) And, although talking about it might be cathartic to the victim, I hope that Hollaback! Boston becomes more than a place to vent — that it spurs productive conversations about city safety and gender politics on the street level.

Here’s more on Hollaback! from executive director, Emily May: