News & Politics

Hollaback!’s Anti-Catcall App Gets 20K from City: Some Thoughts


Hollaback!, the Boerum Hill-based anti-street harassment campaign, will get $20,000 from New York for research and app development.

Right now, Hollaback! already offers iPhone and Android apps where women and men can upload pics of street creeps along with harassment stories. The basic idea is both for people to recognize these low lifes — and prep themselves accordingly — and to gather info for mapping initiatives in the Big Apple and 52 other cities worldwide, according to the Daily News.

What the city’s cash would do is help developers take the program to the next level — they want to come up with a way for users to report harassment to authorities.

This is all great stuff — catcalls are unconscionable, and have no place in any society — but there are a couple of big concerns that no chunk of change can address.

For starters, will authorities actually do anything?

In light of several notorious casesincluding this recent shitshow — a lot amount of women don’t trust the cops to help them if they’re the victims of harassment.

When I complained to cops that a subway platform masturbator chased after me, for example, they told me I couldn’t file a report because they “didn’t know whether anything happened” and sent me on my way — back to that same subway station 20 minutes after the incident. (I wound up springing for a cab.)

So many women I know have had similar experiences, so the question is: Does law enforcement take this seriously? If not, what will reporting do? We checked with the NYPD about this. We’ll update if we hear back.

Second, there are a couple of socioeconomic considerations that need to be addressed.

As mentioned by Nancy Leong, an attorney and educator who writes for the Feminist Law Professors blog among many other legal publications: “Many of the stories describe behavior by harassers that, while frightening and grossly inappropriate, also suggests mental illness.”

Obviously, this in no way excuses their behavior, but it suggests that the dynamics of street harassment might be nuanced and require a more complex response in some cases.

One of the biggest problems is that a lot of people don’t even think of street harassment as a problem. Like, at all.

Yes, we need to take pragmatic steps to protect ourselves — and Hollaback! does that really well and deserves major kudos and congratulations — but we also need to address why people think it’s OK to treat women and the LGBT community based upon their sex or sexual orientation rather than as people.


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