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Last week Hollaback! Melbourne launched a series of initiatives as part of our celebration of International Anti -Street Harassment Week, an undertaking of Meet Us On The Street.
Above is the photo wall – comprised of anti-street harassment messages from Melbournians. The messages are powerful. Get a closer look at the photo gallery here!
So why is it important that we engage in collective storytelling? The Hollaback! model of crowd sourcing anonymous stories of harassment, your posting to a photo wall, people participating in a Chalk Walk where messages are written on the pavement and left for others to see – what is the point of all that?
In the past when I have been harassed the experience has been an isolating one. And even though the harassment made me angry/uncomfortable/disgusted/upset I just accepted that these things happened, and that it was just going to be an occasional horrific intrusion in my day to day activities.
The message that harassment was normal was sent early – when I was a young teen men started to honk at me as I walked down the street, and a friend of mine told me that it meant I was hot and it was a compliment. Whoah, feelings of discomfort INVALIDATED.
The feelings I’ve described are part of the normalisation of street harassment – where you’re told or sent the message that it is ok, or alternatively that street harassment might not be ideal but just IS. And therefore you come to accept it (even while hating it!).
So when you engage in collective storytelling, when you engage as part of a city-wide movement like Hollaback! Melbourne, when you engage worldwide and take to the streets to protest street harassment in the same 48 hour period as others around the world you are helping create a new framework for people to think about their past experiences.
You’re helping others to problematize their everyday experiences (as well as all those things being cathartic!). People power is the only way we can end street harassment!
I’ll leave you all with some images form the Chalk Walk last Saturday on Sydney Road – by all accounts it was a wonderful experience. Passersby engaging, people stopping and chalking, and some seriously rad messages. Gallery of all images to come! Happy Friday everyone!
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