The Movement, User Submissions

Manda’s Story: Street harassed since she was ten, she’s fearful of strange men

This happened to me about 5 or 6 years ago, but it still haunts me to this day. I was probably about 15 or 16 when my parents left for a vacation and I was left home alone. I had no problem with this but I had to be dropped off and picked up from work by a family friend. One night after work around 9:30 I told my friend to drop me at the wawa near my home so I could get some dinner, and that I would walk back myself. I’ve never been afraid to walk around my neighborhood before this.
While in line I noticed a man further up going out of his way to look at me, even though I was dressed in rather conservative and baggy work clothing. I had a bad feeling about him from the moment I saw him, so even though he was in line a couple people ahead,I decided to stay in the wawa and look around for a while to make sure he was gone when I left. I had dealt with creepy people like this for years at this point and figured he’d just go on his way.
When I finally left I was glad to see he wasn’t in the parking lot waiting for me, so I started out. I decided to call a friend for the 2 blocks I had to walk, just in case. As soon as my friend answered I got distracted by a car pulling up close, and was shocked to see it was the same guy. He followed me and pulled up next to me, rolling his window down. He motioned for me to come over and said something like “wana come with me?”. Before he could finished I screamed as loudly as I could muster, “FUCK OFF!” and took off across the street. I ran into my house and locked the door, I was so afraid he had seen where I lived and was going to try to follow me, but he didn’t. I never saw the man again, but I’m happy that instead of freezing up I was able to respond and get myself away from him.
Thinking about this really makes me mad, I have had to endure this kind of thing from such a young age. The awful part is that it was probably worse when I was younger, from when I was as young as 10. What grown man has to make lewd gestures from his car at such a young girl? It made me feel awful. Why did I have to be groped on the subway at age 16? Why couldn’t they just treat me like a human being instead of making me feel like garbage.
Now that I am in my 20s I don’t experience this stuff as often. I chock some of that up to being able to sense when it can happen after all these years and avoiding it. But it truly saddens me that other young women have to deal with this, children so young they don’t know what these awful gestures and words mean. Why do they have to be subjected to this torture from men who treat women and girls like objects? It makes me fume with anger. How would that 40 something man feel if some guy stuck his head out of his car and stuck his tongue between his fingers at his daughter?? Experiences like these have truly made me fearful of and even hateful towards strange men…

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Events, Resources, The Movement

Panel on Fighting Back Against Street Harassment and Gender-Based Violence

This past Thursday, July 21, we shared the Philadelphia Weekly featured events spotlight with the Pizzalympics. Rest assured, even free pizza didn’t deter 40 Philadelphia locals from attending and helping us accomplish a successful event with a great, over two hour discussion about street harassment.

As part of her Hey Shorty, on the road book tour, Van Deven invited Holly Kearl, Nuala Cabral, and HollabackPhilly’s Rochelle Keyhan to speak on a panel with her here in Philadelphia. Van Deven’s tour is for the book she co-authored with Girls for Gender Equity that aims to end gender-based violence in schools and on the streets.

Van Deven opened the event with a description of how she came to be involved in the street harassment movement as a result of her interactions with school aged girls in New York City. In discussing with these girls about what sort of after school programs would benefit them the most, she learned that they needed guidance in a number of areas, one of which was dealing with street harassment. She has since co-authored the book Hey Shorty: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in School and on the Streets, and is now on a book tour promoting the message.

Holly Kearl spoke next about her book, Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Spaces Safe and Welcoming for Women, about a daily experience she hadn’t thought to name until she stumbled across the HollabackNYC website back when it was just an informal blog run by a group of friends. The daily experience had no name because, as she learned, there was little to no research done on Street Harassment – something she decided to change. Kearl’s research culminated in publishing her book and launching to bolster the anti-street harassment movement. This year, Kearl created International Anti-Street Harassment Day on the first day of Spring, March 20. Next year, it will be International Anti-Street Harassment week, so stay tuned on how you can participate!

While Kearl’s book was in its final stages of publication, HollabackNYC was becoming an international movement, rebranded as Hollaback!. In 2010, Rochelle Keyhan, a member of Hollaback!’s Board of Directors and Founder and Director of HollabackPhilly, stepped in to help incorporate the organization as a national 501(c)(3) non profit and the single blog for New York City has since become an International movement spanning 38 cities in 14 countries with 100 site leaders who speak 8 different languages. Keyhan discussed the importance of reporting incidences of Street Harassment to Hollaback! both to increase data around the issue and to provide solidarity to fellow harassment survivors while telling harassers the behavior is unnacceptable. (You can report either directly through the website, through email, through text-to-email, or through our free smartphone applications.)

Nuala Cabral organized the 2010 Philadelphia International Street Harassment Day, and invited HollabackPhilly to participate. Nuala Cabral is a local educator and activist who works with middle school and high school aged girls with self esteem and coping with urban city life. At the event, Cabral described how her activism developed through film making. She shared her film, Walking Home, with the audience as an illustration and then opened up the conversation to questions from the audience.




For more detailed coverage, check out our research assistant, Elizabeth Welsh‘s, live-tweet of the discussion and the Q&A session that followed.

Introductions! @mandyvandeve@nualacabral @hollabackphilly and @hkearl are all here with us.

@mandyvandeven is telling us about getting involved with Girls for Gender Equity in Brooklyn: 

It quickly became clear to Mandy and to that sexual harassment is rampant in kids’ lives – and seldom gets talked about.

Moving on to @hkearl talking about her street harassment experiences, starting as a 14-year-old runner

Many women end up altering the activities they choose to participate in in an effort to avoid street harassment

This is why Holly frames it as a quality of life issue. Discovering the term “street harassment” led her to begin speaking out.

32% of women choose outfits that will attract less attention on a monthly basis – planning for street harassment before leaving the house!

45% of women avoid being out after dark on a monthly basis – what does this mean we’re missing out on? Classes, socializing, campaigning…

1 in 5 women have moved to a different neighborhood; 1 in 10 have changed jobs/commute in an effort to avoid street harassment.

Street harassment negatively affects men who are not harassers – women are often wary of interacting with them.

Holly’s tips for helping to stop street harassment: Share your story, end the silence!

Sharing our stories breaks down stereotypes about who gets harassed and helps increase solidarity with other women (and men!).

Some women have had success asking harassers to repeat themselves, or repeating harassers’ words back to them, loudly, if in a crowded place

Turning it around like this often embarrasses harassers by emphasizing how stupid they sound.

If someone is harassing on the job, complaining to the parent company can lead to great results!

Bystanders can also reach out to victims, asking “Are you okay?”

The Young Women’s Action Team fought neighborhood street harassment by alerting business owners where groups of men were loitering outside.

Neighborhood business owners banded together to create respect zones and not tolerate loiterers (who were also bad for business!)

More on the Young Women’s Action Network in Chicago: They harnessed the power of data, no matter how informal.

You can see more from Holly at her website:

We’re up now! Hollaback! is everywhere! Because, unfortunately, street harassment is everywhere.

We encourage you to report street harassment: Young Women’s Action Network showed what a difference data can make.

Don’t forget, all reports submitted to our website are anonymous. Build solidarity between people who want to walk the street unharassed.

We’re also working for LGBTQ people, who also unfortunately get harassed.

Next up: Local filmmaker and activist @nualacabral. While living in Brooklyn she bumped up against street harassment on a daily basis.

Check out Nuala’s Walking Home: 

When Nuala put her film on YouTube, it connected her with a movement that was even more empowering than creating the film.

Nuala: “Those moments of being street harassed feel really lonely and disempowering.”

Now we are opening up for questions. Please @ us with any questions you’d like to ask!

Question about addressing street harassment with school kids. Nuala: Too much victim-blaming from both boys and girls. Also: Responsibility.

Nuala: “If we care enough to want change, we need to think about responsibility and what we’re going to do to make change.”

International Stop Street Harassment day is the first day of spring – March 20th.

This year it will be Anti-Street Harassment Week, by popular demand!

Mandy: “Girls for Gender Equity wrote Hey Shorty! as a way for other organizations to see our growth thru failures as well as successes!”

GGE grew over 9 years. This is NOT a rule-book, but suggestions for other organizations.

A question now from the Anti-Violence Partnership of Philadelphia

We’re saying: Queer and trans folks tend to get harassed not only sexually, but also with words involving more violence.

Holly: Street harassment of trans women tends to often be about gender policing, and is threatening to men who think they’re very masculine.

Us: Our official stance is not to differentiate between race or class – everyone harasses.

Holly: Most harassment is same-race, especially the more severe forms. There needs to be education around what constitutes harassment.

Mandy: The emphasis has been put on perception and not intent, and that’s wrong. Intent does matter – it’s racist/classist to say otherwise

Mandy has written extensively on street harassment for Bitch Magazine:

Mandy advocates for street harassment to be addressed on a community level rather than by criminalizing it.

Question: A favorite activity of K-2nd graders at the recess program I ran was standing by the fence and yelling at women on the street.

Us: A lot of the time it’s about impressing other dudes more than interacting with women.

Questioner: It started with the 2nd graders, and after a couple of weeks trickled down to the kindergartners.

Mandy: In schools, a big problem is institutional support for addressing these things – Figuring out what the policies are, if they exist.

Mandy: We talk about socialization as adults, but it’s process that starts as young people. An 8-year-old boy hollering at women on the street doesn’t even know what he’s looking at.

@hkearl: I’ve actually started getting more questions from parents’ of 9- 10-year-olds. Anyone know any good resources?

Questioner: This is a cultural problem, and people should be boycotting sexist/misogynist music I’d classify as hate speech.

Questioner: I can’t understand how other males aren’t seeing this and don’t have empathy for this situation.

Questioner: We need to teach men how to talk to women. I don’t want to hear about how my outfit makes me look sexy.

Questioner 2: I think there are a lot of men out there who think that’s the way you talk to a women.

Holly: Sexualization from a young age makes this seem normal.

There’s a whole section on Holly’s website for and by 

Nuala: Guys say things like, 2 out of 25 women will respond, so I’ll still yell at the other 23.

Nuala: In order to reach men, I’ll also talk to women. We need to be clear about the distinction between a complement and harassment.

Nuala: No women wants to get harassed, but some women and girls like getting attention. Those are the girls these guys are trying to reach.

A lot of @nualacabral’s work with young girls involves building self-esteem when talking about street harassment.

Nuala: For some girls, their body is the only thing they get complemented on. We need to address that.

Nuala has gotten a lot of pushback from her video because it shows men of color. As a woman of color, she wanted to break the silence.

Nuala: We have to acknowledge that there are some complexities there. You have to be sensitive, but it’s a fine line to be neutral.

Nuala: If you look at the media, the bodies of women of color are more consistently exploited.

Nuala’s recent blog post about a NYC newsstand that illustrates the problem “All black booties, all white faces.”

Nuala: “It’s just more acceptable for certain women to be degraded.” Questioner: “It’s not acceptable, it’s normal.” Nuala: “Normalized.”

Nuala: “I like that you also brought up the self-esteem of a man, especially for men of color. We know that oppression breeds oppression.”

Holly: “For some men it’s about oppression, for others it’s because some men feel so entitled.”

Holly: “My research has shown that black women are more likely to be approached as prostitutes. It’s this history of exploitation.”

Questioner: Men and women are taught that the only relationships we can have are sexual or more, that we can’t have friendships.

Questioner: A lot of men can’t relate to women as another human being, a person with morals and goals and a future.

Mandy: For any kind of change to happen, there has to be an education piece on the larger framework of sexual violence in our culture.

Mandy: We have this impression in our minds of how violence happens and who the victims are, but it’s completely separate from reality.

Us: If you don’t have a smartphone, you can submit via email, or by texting to our email address, or manually uploading on the website.

Questioner: Why are women okay on the streets of certain international large cities, but not here?

Holly: My theory is that street harassment is less likely in countries with more gender equality.

Questioner: I thought in those other countries women are treated with more respect. Us: More, but it’s not perfect.

Questioner: There were a number of women in the black revolution movement who acted out strongly against sexual harassers.

Questioner: Women are getting hurt because of harassment. Are you aware of any men who have been hurt as a result of being harassers?

Mandy: I know there are a lot of women who are in prison for killing domestic abusers and rapists…

Mandy: There’s very little documentation of violence in response to street harassment, but that would be interesting.

Questioner: I struggle with the polarity between public accountability and shaming. I dreamed of putting up flyers about the same man who was harassing me all the time, but could never go through with it.

Questioner: Do you think public shaming has a place in this movement, or is that counterproductive?

Us: Even imagining what you would have said and done can be theraputic, even knowing that you never would have done it.

Us: Psychologically, it’s really helpful for women to know there are other people thinking about and struggling with the same thing.

Holly: People in DC banded together to say “Stop harassing women” to one man who was always in the same place. A lot of these harassers are repeat harassers who always stand in the same place. It’s not very many men.

Mandy: The anthology “The Revolution Starts at Home” has a lot of suggestions for community-based steps to take toward accountability without shame

Questioner : How does sexual harassment compare with harassment of other groups, like Muslims, especially right now.

Mandy: The way all groups are affected creates potential to reach across boundaries, but I don’t think they’re all the same.

Mandy: The manifestation, function, and social acceptability greatly vary. It’s dangerous to say that they’re the same.

Holly: Women of all backgrounds who took my survey felt harassed because they were female; men mentioned all the other factors first.

Questioner: The economic impact on women’s lives is amazing! Imagine if it were something men had to deal with. What areas are under-researched?

Holly: That’s why we need to capture that data, because then we have some idea of what we can do.

And it’s a wrap! Many thanks to @mandyvandeven @nualacabral @hkearl @hollabackphilly and of course to YOU for coming along with us!



Meet the Experts:



Mandy Van Deven is a writer and activist. She is the editor of “Polyphonic Feminisms: Acting in Concert,” Issue 8.3 of The Scholar & Feminist Online and her work can be found in AlterNetColorLinesCurveThe Huffington Postmake/shiftMarie ClaireRH Reality CheckSalon, and The Women’s International Perspective.

Holly Kearl is a national street harassment expert, writer, and nonprofit professional based in the Washington, D.C. area. Her work has been cited by the United Nations, NYC Council, BBC News, New York Times, CNN, Washington Post, Guardian, Ms. magazine, ABC News, Feministing, and Jezebel.

Nuala Cabral is an educator, filmmaker and activist currently teaching television production at Temple University, where she recently obtained her Master’s degree in Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media. Aside from higher ed, Nuala teaches video production and media literacy at local nonprofits in the Philadelphia Community.

Rochelle Keyhan is a charter member of Hollaback!’s Board of Directors and has been involved with Hollaback! since April 2010 when she stepped in as pro bono legal assistant during her last year of law school. She is bar certified to practice law in Pennsylvania, and is a practicing attorney in Philadelphia focusing on women’s issues and non profit legal assistance.


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The Movement, User Submissions

Anonymous’ Story: The harassment sticks with her after over a year.

This happended more than a year ago, but it still sticks with me and I find myself avoiding this part of the city if I can because of this and other experiences.

I was walking through the park on a crowded weekday evening in the summertime. The sun was shining–there were tons of people lounging around, playing acoustic guitars, and hanging out with their dogs and their friends. I was walking from the trolly and on my way to meet up with my dad for dinner or something like that. I took a path through the park and as I neared a bench where two men were sitting one of them looked me up and down in a way that made me a little uncomfortable, so I lifted my chin and looked right back at him. When I met his eyes he spoke, not yelling, but with venom and loudly enough for at least a few people around to hear what he said–“I’m gonna fuck you until you’re not a homo.”

I kept walking. No one said anything to him or to me. I was terrified that he would follow me but he never got up from the bench.

I have always been very visibly queer and I get a lot of shit on the street and elsewhere for the way I present my gender. This world is a scary place to walk in, but I walked back through the park that night and back to the trolly home because I’ll be damned if I’d let him control me and take away my freedom to move in this world as I want to. These are our streets and our parks and we will not be run out of them by hatred, violence and intimidation. Hollaback!

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The Movement, User Submissions

Story from SoCal: man taking pictures of young girls, one of the girls just takes his phone!

My little sister is a boss! she was doing a carwash with her friends and some perv took a picture of her friend bent down, so my sister straight up took the dudes phone from him!!

*Edit: She didn’t give the phone back. Once she took it the guy took off in his car. “He Was Shaking Soooo Bad :] iFeel Good Abt Myself :D”

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The Movement, User Submissions

Lauren’s Story: She Holla’d back and the man didn’t like it!

I’ve always been frustrated by the fact that I cannot walk down the road, particularly during the summer days, without being shouted at. This isn’t to say that I am the hottest piece, but as we know it affects all women of all color and of all shapes. I’ve only ever fought back once to such verbal harassment and it was met with such indignation that it made me want to stop for awhile.

I was biking to a rehearsal two years ago during spring and I was a bit flustered because I was running extremely late. Literally within 3 minutes of being outside and barely beyond my corner, I had two guys yell something to the effect of “Hey baby, where are you running off to so quickly? Why don’t you come stay here with me”. Perhaps I would have let it slide because I was running late but immediately following that I was whistled at by a separate group of men who whistled and cat-called at me. My anger rose and I stopped my bike and yelled to both of them “Excuse me, who the HELL do you think you are? I don’t know you and I refuse to believe that being so disrespectful to someone has ever worked in your benefit”. I turned away to get back on my bike and as I had just started to peddle when I heard them yell back at me “Fuck you, stupid bitch. No one would hit that anyway”.

That situation has always stuck with me. The fact that so many men think that it is OK to say such awful things to strangers is appalling and it is only getting more rampant.

A month ago I was leaving West Philly and walking down 44th to the El stop. As I was walking a group a male teenagers with one teen girl walked by me and the girl commented “Damn, bitch has some nice ass titties”, to which the guys started hollering.

I said nothing. I regret that to this day because if this degrading practice is being used by women who should be sticking together to fight it then our fight is merely being hindered by a desire to fit in with the trend.

no comments 
Pop Culture, The Movement

Vision’s performance of “Thirsty” — “Wanna reach out and tell her that every man isn’t like this…don’t wanna be painted with the same brush…”

This is one of my pick me ups, along the same lines of Ani DiFranco’s “Talk to me now”. It’s a must watch/bookmark!


A preview (and I promise, it only gets better from there!)

“Hey yo shorty!” He yells.

She turns and smirks.

“Hey yo shorty!”

She turns and smirks.

“You look good in those tights, them heels.”

She turns and says “Thank you.”

“You got a man?

She turns says “Not interested.”

To save face he says, “Well fuck you then you ugly bitch.”

She turns and smirks.

Disappointed but she keeps moving.

So she picks up her pace before the face to face but you don’t pick up the hint.

It’s not that she’s being ignorant or ignoring you when you’re speaking, see, it’s just that your monotone mating calls don’t register on her frequency, so she couldn’t hear you.

She tried to be nice.

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Campaigns, Events, Resources, The Movement

Our Streets Too: Philly’s Anti-Street Harassment Day 2011 with Nuala Cabral

On March 20, 2011, Nuala Cabral organized the Philadelphia celebration of International Anti-Street Harassment Day, and HollabackPhilly was lucky enough to have participated with her. Cabral recently released footage of the day with commentary by the activists involved in the awareness raising event. The video (below) involves a discussion of street harassment, followed by footage of the Anti-Street Harassment Day events and commentary on the day’s successes and lessons. The event occurred in Rittenhouse Square and El Stops in West Philadelphia, and engaged men, young girls, parents, and various other women.


I contacted Cabral to get some insight into what inspired her to not only celebrate Anti-Street Harassment Day here in Philadelphia, but also what inspires her to use film as a means of advocacy. Cabral responded:
Creating Walking Home connected me with a community of folks who are addressing street harassment through writing, art, film, education and community action. When I heard about Holly Kearl’s book and the Anti Street Harassment Day she was spearheading, I knew I had to be involved. Screening Walking Home or viewing it online has been a great way to reach a wide audience and spark dialogue. However, a film, a book, an online magazine does not reach all audiences. Therefore  it is necessary to go beyond media and engage with people face to face about this issue.
She also describes many lessons the group learned throughout the day, about the community’s response and ourselves.
We learned that many women and men have a story to share about street harassment. Engaging in conversation was a way to validate those stories and voices. Experiencing push back from some people reminded us that we still have work to do, in terms of shifting norms and expectations around street harassment and simply taking a stand.
It felt good that we had numbers–solidarity. It was inspiring. Street harassment can make you feel alone and dis-empowered. When we were out there together, I felt empowered and supported.

Chalking on the streets drew people in and led to conversations about why were were there.

The drum also created an environment that was upbeat and energizing. For those of us who are shy, that pulsing beat helped us get out of our comfort zone.

I agree with her that the drums energized the event, not only for the activists but also for the surrounding community. It also made us more approachable and less intimidating. The chalk had a similar effect while also making the discussion interactive and engaging.

I was part of the Rittenhouse portion of the event and many women shared stories with us about prior street harassment incidents, a few men pushed back and told us the line is too blurry between harassment and a compliment, and a few parents went on to explain street harassment to their daughters as their daughters drew pictures with the chalk.

All in all, it was an effective day of awareness raising in a city that needs the anti-street harassment discussion. We look forward to working with Cabral in the future to continue bringing the discussion to the streets!

The Movement

Rochelle’s Story: I don’t avert my eyes anymore.


In this city, self preservation is a full time occupation.
I’m determined to survive on this shore.

You know, I don’t avert my eyes anymore.
In a man’s world, I’m a woman by birth.
In a day to day, or the face to face,
I have to act just as strong as I can
just to preserve a place where I can be who I am.
Talk to me now.

For a while this was my personal theme song a la some embarrassing Ally McBeal unisex-bathroom scene. It’s now become my Hollaback theme song and replays for me when some jerk bothers, scares, or pisses me off on the street. Depending on the circumstances of the harassment, I’m either empowered to speak up to him, give him a cold look in the eyes as I walk on by,  or at the very least refuse to “avert my eyes” or hurry my step.

Holla’ing back is important for our own piece of mind, to provide support and community for others who are harassed, and to show that this really is a global epidemic. As we share our stories, and listen to stories like Ani DiFranco’s which dates back to 1990, or even stories from a century earlier when these men were called “Mashers” (with a Philly example!), we are reminded that we are not alone, that this has been going on for at least 130 years.  The difference now is we have an option through which to safely fight back – we don’t actually have to “avert our eyes anymore”.

If you are harassed report it through your local Hollaback! website or through the smartphone application. If you see harassment, join our “I’ve Got Your Back” bystander team and Hollaback!. Being aware of street harassment and forcing it to be noticed and talked about is the first step toward changing the behavior. So please, join Hollaback! in documenting it whenever you see it! It’s time we come full circle from what the women started against “the Mashers”, and follow through on a century’s worth of disempowerment by taking  back the streets!


no comments 
News, Resources, The Movement

Four page discussion about the PhillyWeekly street harassment article over at

A user found and posted the Philadelphia Weekly article about HollabackPhilly and anti-street harassment activism, and it sparked a good discussion!

The comments generally agree street harassment is unacceptable – but many users aren’t sure “holla’ing” is the best or safest response. Other women comment that we can trust women to assess the situation and respond accordingly, but that remaining silent is not always the right reaction. Let us know what you think in the comments!

Remember that Hollaback is much more than responding at the very moment of harassment – if you aren’t comfortable taking a picture, then Hollaback without a picture, once you are in a place you feel comfortable. You can even wait to Hollaback until you’re home! The point here is to announce to the world that this behavior is unacceptable and you won’t stand for it so you choose to Hollaback – whether it’s to the harasser at the moment of harassment, through a photo and a story without ever speaking to the harasser, or even through a photo and story when you’re in the safe, comfortable confines of your own home. A narrative collection of this epidemic from diverse groups of women is the first step in showing that we are all affected by street harassment and that we’re no longer willing to let it slide.

One of my favorite comments:

I was walking into the grocery store once after work, with both my sons and these men who were old enough to know better, too old, started doing that hooting and hollering. I stopped, turned around and said, “excuse me, even if you have no respect for me, at least have some respect for my sons.” they went silent.
when we walked out they kept apologizing and offering to help me with the grocery bags.

I know we should pick our battles but ignoring them also makes them think it’s ok. I guess you have to ‘gauge’ the situation.
I have sons to help raise, I would hate for them to see me being passive as their mother has such words hurled at her.

Also, one user tries to blame a certain race for being primary perpetrators, and another user puts them in their place – reminding us all that this is an issue that spans across all cultural, racial, class, and educational lines, and is no way limited to any one set group of men. As our anti-discrimination policy states,

Replacing sexism with racism is not a proper holla back. Ditto to classism, homophobia, transphobia, and the usage of any other identity signifier. In our experience, street harassment comes from people in every facet of our cultures and every strata of society.

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