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It’s finally April! We are promoting Anti-Street Harassment Awareness this month! All around the world, men and women will raise their voices against street harassment! Check out some great anti-harassment messages here, and get i
nvolved! Be a part of this movement by joining the international Hollaback! Tumblr campaign; write down your message, take a picture of it and send it to Istanbul@ihollaback.org.
Did you know that we are in a network with 51 other Hollabacks around the world? HollabackPHILLY is doing an exciting ad campaign on both Philadelphia subway lines this spring. Vote for their project and help them win $1,000 to back this ad campaign. They are 17 out of 116 projects, and the one with the most votes wins! Vote here.
Last week, the global Hollaback network expanded t0 8 new cities which makes our total Hollaback network more global than ever. We are fighting strong in 52 cities, in 17 different countries, speaking 9 different languages. Meet the Leaders from our new Branches
Kacie Lyn Kocher is the Founder and Director of Canimiz Sokakta: Hollaback! Istanbul.
Just the other day I presented to a group about Hollaback! Istanbul; what we are, who we are, and where we’re going. An overall success, it was one of those intimate and interactive atmospheres where people felt open, interested, and actively listening. Going into this presentation, my personal motives were to network, collaborate, connect—you know, the practical stuff. That’s the experience I was looking for; that feedback was what I felt I needed in this stage of a new movement growing and branching out.
But those concrete and practical connections were rarer than I had hoped, and were sprinkled throughout the moving and unfocused conversation, which was actually much more about people’s experiences either personally or second-hand regarding street harassment. As I sat there listening to these stories being shared in this group which became a safe space for disclosure very quickly, I wondered how many different stories I would hear in my time as founder and director of Canimiz Sokakta: Hollaback! Istanbul. Mind you, I’ve already read dozens, heard dozens more and we’ve only just launched. I realized after listening to account after account by audience members that many at that meeting were partaking in an exchange fostering equality, respect, thoughtfulness, tolerance, and empowerment—where they had a voice and receptive supporters. It was a place where others wouldn’t immediately insinuate that the storytellers did something wrong, were wearing something inappropriate, or were unmindful of the time and place. My presentation became a medium for their sometimes seemingly minor events (which often could not be forgotten years later) to be shared out in the open, in a place where they could finally receive the empathy that would comfort. even if it never took those events away. Sure, we’ve all talked about how it feels to be harassed on the streets with our friends, families, coworkers, romantic partners, but I was sitting at this meeting and thinking about how we, Hollaback! Istanbul, were creating this exact medium — virtually. This safe space, this atmosphere of empowerment would not be just 15 women sitting in a room, but would encompass one of the largest cities in the world.
Bogged down by details and organizational concerns before the meeting, I exited the meeting feeling revived and energized. I’d been consumed with Hollaback! and fighting street harassment for five months now. Dedicating hours every day to learning about street harassment and finding a way to categorically change the way we as a society deal with street harassment in Istanbul, HB! Istanbul has become much of my life. I was and am still concerned with pragmatic, organizational issues, brainstorming sessions, and platform production, all of which can be extremely exhausting. But the stories like the ones I heard in that meeting are fundamental to Hollaback! and my job—no, my duty is to produce that medium of empowerment and agency throughout Istanbul, giving everyone a voice against harassers.
On the dolmuş ride home, fueled by the response the meeting had drawn, I thought about my own life and experience with harassment. Thinking back to specific events, and wondering at what age I noticed I was being targeted on the streets and wondering at what age it will end, one question really struck me: when did I realize harassment had lessened for me? I can pinpoint the change. At the age of 21, I remember noticing a simple difference in myself, subtle but lasting. I realized that when I looked in the mirror, I saw a frown starring back at me, a face of stone. When I walk out of my apartment every day, I stiffen my posture, harden my emotions, avoid all eye contact, and even scowl at those I pass who might threaten me in some way. And it’s worked, largely. I get less trouble, less shit, less attention from others.
I didn’t really become conscious of that fact until my reflections after the presentation, and it instantly brought me down. Why do I have to be sullen? Why do I have to be inhuman when I leave in order to be just slightly safer? Why can’t I smile in the street? Laugh even? My answer: for fear of being approached. Why do I have to look and act angry to be safe?
No laughing. No smiling. No relaxing. And my body is mine for another day.
This is why I continue to devote my time and energy into Hollaback. Because one day, I hope to just be myself on my own terms, even when I’m by myself, on the street, bus, or sidewalk.
Thank you everyone for your support, and together we can make a community where you, me, anyone can be themselves, can be human again.