Louise Livesey // 16 January 2008
Annoyingly this is a take two entry due to the system eating the last one, so forgive me if it’s shorter and terser than the defunct, disappered original!
I am sometimes behind the times (like I hadn’t read Lynne’s excellent blog entry in 2006 on the same topic!). I first heard the term Holla Back Girl in a video of someone’s leaving speech for an on campus women’s organisation in the US. Partly because it used the term “girl” and partly because “holla back” is harsh sounding term, I assumed it was derogatory. And indeed it kind of was, Gwen Stefani makes clear in her song of the same name “I ain’t a holla back girl”.
Apparently it originally derives from the cheer-leading term for the person who “hollas back” the lead’s chants in the call-and-response format. Urban Dictionary then says it moved on to mean any girl who responded whenever called – a dating no-no in the US where girls are supposed to play hard to get and aim for matrimony rather than booty calls.
Now the term is evolving again and refers to an anti-street harassment movement which asks women to take pictures or video of their harassers and publishes them on the web. Although at the moment it’s a network of sites, rather than a single organisation, the idea is simple – someone engages in street harassment, don’t accept it “Hollaback” and if you can take a picture. It has in at least one case helped catch a repeat harasser of school girls in Boston (see the Hollaback NYC site and Hollaback Boston for more details).
In the UK we currently have the Anti-Street Harassment site which takes stories but not, at the current time, pictures. Maybe Hollaback UK should be started (although hollaboack.co.uk has already been registered but the site doesn’t function and the same for unitedkingdom.hollaback.eu). Anyone knowing the site name owners and site managers give them a nudge!
Given the continued experience of street harassment flagged on The F Word (like here and most recently here and I know I’ve one other recent post but can’t find it!) perhaps the time is right to revisit the Hollaback idea and get the UK website working?