Back It Up Blog, Resources

Back It Up: Hey you guys…

Almost 10 years ago, I spent about a day thinking about (and noticing) how often I used the phrase “you guys,” even to refer to other women. Weird, huh? Calling a group of women “guys”? After that day, I pretty much forgot all about it.

How did that happen? You would think I would have been unable to stop noticing it, once I realized it was such a bizarre thing to say. I guess the answer is that I just decided I couldn’t deal with it.

My awareness of the “you guys” issue happened when I stumbled across this article back in 2002, by Audrey Bilger: “One Seemingly Benign Phrase Makes a Man Out of All of Us” (,
originally published in Transformation & Reinvention).

In it, Bilger says that “calling women ‘guys’ makes femaleness invisible.” She also quotes Alice Walker, who says, “I see in its use some women’s obsequious need to be accepted, at any cost, even at the cost of erasing their own femaleness, and that of other women. Isn’t it at least ironic that after so many years of struggle for women’s liberation, women should end up calling themselves this?”

It’s true: we would never do the reverse and say “hey gals” to a group of men, or mixed group. But really, who says “hey gals”? I also especially dislike “hey ladies.” Somehow, in my brain, “gals” implies polka dots and “ladies” implies pearls, and I can’t deal with either. Ugh. So since “you guys” is far from gender-neutral, does a usable female version exist? Or even a neutral version? I don’t think so.

Ever since I started thinking about this again recently, I’ve been talking to women about it. So far I haven’t met anyone who does not use the phrase. It’s really difficult to get around. The thought of trying just makes me tired. I can’t get away with saying “y’all,” since that would be pretty comical with my Minnesota accent. I really don’t like “folks,” and “yous guys” has its own set of issues. In her article, Bilger compares the phrase “you guys” to a computer virus, insidiously worming its way into all levels of dialogue, including the media. I think that’s about right. I’m infected.

The worst thing about “you guys” is that it has become the most casual, nonthreatening, invisible way to approach a group of people in a social situation. Anything else sounds markedly different, to the point of drawing attention to the speaker or the group in the way that “you guys” does not (Except in the y’all parts of the country. Lucky.).

When I bring up the subject, people seem a little bit shocked. I like to point to the difference between saying “hey you guys” to a group of women, and saying something like, “yeah, my mom is a really great guy, and my grandma’s a great guy too.” Right? “Guys” doesn’t make any sense here; it doesn’t have anything to do with women.

I think that I’ll probably keep saying “you guys” and then feeling weird afterwards. For a while. I might even forget all about it again. Or maybe move to the South? If anyone has any good ideas on this, I’d love to hear them (did I mention I also frequently begin sentences with “Maaan…”?).


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Campaigns, Events, Pop Culture, Resources, The Movement

Introduction: Lindsay and Lexie Kite: Beauty Redefined

In July of this year, I stumbled upon a set of body positive billboards that were put up in Northern Utah, and it brought me back to the day in 2006 or 2007 when I was driving back to campus on the 405 in Southern California and first saw the Dove Real Beauty billboards, and had to pullover on the side of the freeway because the billboard moved me to tears.

The twins behind Beauty Redefined, Lindsay and Lexie Kite, launched a body positive billboard campaign in Northern Utah with a similar, empowering, and moving message. Seven billboards were up for two months across Northern Utah this July and August 2011, some of which are pictured below.

Here at HollabackPHILLY, a large part of our mission is to combat the hyper-visibility and sexualization of women and LGBTQ in public spaces. Part of the mindset behind street harassment is the all too accepted idea that women exist for the male gaze, and when we dare to walk alone in public, we are sexual objects to be observed and projected upon. While Beauty Redefined isn’t an anti-street harassment organization, there work is so important to the overall anti-street harassment movement, and to making the world a more equitable, safe place for women and LGBTQ folks.

As you can imagine, when Lindsay and Lexie agreed to an interview for HollabackPHILLY’s interview series, I was a little starstruck, and really excited! Checkout their billboards, their movement, and our interview about Halloween. Then get excited, and buy some of their merchandise to help them fund more of these billboards all over the country and hopefully the world!

Additionally, we were lucky enough to partner with Beauty Redefined, and SPARK, to launch a body positive Halloween contest for Halloween 2011. If you plan to dress up in a creative costume that doesn’t strictly emphasize your body (but of course, we encourage a healthy sexuality, so feel free to submit costumes where you look and, most importantly, feel attractive!) – then submit a photo of your costume! The winners will be selected from a judging panel of costume designers across the country to receive awesome swag. Grand prize is an iPad and swag bag filled with goodies, with swag bags for second and third place, too!


“You are capable of much more than being looked at.”

“Your reflection does not define your worth.”

“There is more to be than eye candy.”


“If beauty hurts we’re doing it wrong.”


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Campaigns, Events, Pop Culture, Resources, The Movement

Checkout why Melissa is Taking Back Halloween!

“Build your own, win a prize! Happy Halloween!”

If you need costume ideas checkout our post with DIY suggestions. And don’t forget to enter your costume in the contest to win some awesome prizes!!

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Campaigns, Events, Pop Culture

Halloween 2011 Costume (DIY) Ideas

If you’re still thinking of your costume for HollabackPHILLY, SPARK, and Beauty Redefined’s HOLLAween costume contest, look no further! We’ve listed a number of ideas below with some DIY suggestions if you don’t want yours to be like anyone else’s at the party!



  • Scooby Doo Gang
Velma Dinkley: An orange turtle neck and red pleated skirt with orange knee highs and a pair of maryjanes, topped off with thick rimmed glasses and a short wig/hairdo.
Fred: A white button down over jeans and brown shoes with an orange scarf tied around the neck and a blonde mane.
Daphne: Purple long sleeved dress over pink or purple (or even blue, which may be easier to find) tights, light shoes, a ribbon tied like a handband over red hair/wig, and a green scarf around your neck.
Shaggy: green t-shirt, brown pants and shoes, and a red shaggy wig.
  • Bridesmaids
This doesn’t even have to be identical to the movie dresses. One girl in the group dons the wedding dress, while the rest of you wear those hideous bridesmaids dresses you’ll never have a use for (or scope out thrift stores for the dresses other girls decided they’d never have a use for). The gaudier the better!
  • Toy Story
DIY is easiest for Woody, Jessie, Barbie, Ken and the Mr. and Mrs. Potato head costumes, but the rest will surely be in store if you have a large enough group to need more characters!
Woody: Jeans, button down plaid shirt, cowboy boots and hat, and a belt with a large buckle. For the vest, buy a yard of cow or dalmatian print fabric, measure it against your body, cut out arm holes and then shape the vest to your liking. Pin to shirt to keep in place.
Jessie: It might be tough to find the cow print pants, but you can imitate the Woody costume, but buy a western style button down shirt instead of the plaid shirt (usually have a pocket over each breast and different styling on the shoulders…and usually available at thrift shops). Wear your hair in a braid tied off with a ribbon (or buy a red wig).
Mr. and Mrs. Potato Head: You might have to get crafty with the body of the costume, but however you decide to make it — top it off with the following. Make a pouch over the portion of the costume that would cover your butt. Inside that pouch, insert various items from the dollar store or your local craft store (ie: oversized costume glasses, oversized fake ears and noses, glasses with attached nose and mustache, etc). For Mrs., wear white gloves, pearls and oversized clip on earrings.
Edit: this costume is quite the crowd pleaser, but brace yourself for people wanting to reach into your but pouch and modify their own costumes with your fun props!
  • Gnomeo and Juliet
These costumes can probably be made from dresses you already have, by just adding a white apron over the skirt and buying a gnome hat from a costume shop.



  • Jessie from Toy Story (see above)
  • Juliet from Gnomeo and Juliet (see above)
  • Hunger Games’ Katniss Everdeen
Braid your hair to the side in a loose, long braid, and pull out a few pieces to make it look messy. For the outfit, wear all black, combat boots, and top it off with a black leather-style jacket if you have one handy. For props you’ll want a bow and a quiver of arrows to sling over your shoulders.
  • Disney’s Rapunzel
Punch holes up the front of a purple tank top and lace ribbons through it to imitate a corset top – if you can find a purple shirt with cap sleeves, that would be even better. A pair of pink arm warmers, or a long sleeved pink/purple shirt worn under the tank top would imitate the mesh sleeves of her dress. Wear this top over a purple skirt. If you have a petticoat, wear it to peak out under the skirt. For the  hair – investing in a wig would make the costume the most authentic. Alternatively, you could buy extensions (or even make a yarn braid) and braid them into your hair with a variety of colored fake flowers to imitate her gorgeous braid at one point in the movie.
  • Flo, Progressive Insurance
Progressive has the DIY details, and even printables for the name tag, button, and logo
  • Queen of Hearts – Tim Burton version
This is easier than it looks – your costume just won’t be as ornate and elaborate as Helena Bonham Carter’s.  Start with any red dress, preferably one with a full skirt (or one you can wear a tutu/petticoat under). Cut out hearts from yellow or gold fabric/felt, and pin them to the skirt of the dress. Next, get playing card tights (the pair in the picture can be tough to find, but you don’t need to be exact). Spray your head unnatural red (the costume store colored hairspray is perfect for this). The crown can be as simple as those folded paper crowns that come in things like traditional christmas crackers, or easily cut out of a sheet of gold foil paper from the craft store. The makeup for this costume is the funnest part! Don’t forget to outline the red heart lips with black eyeliner!
  • Hermione
Aside from the cape and a red and gold tie, this costume is from staples you likely have in your closet: a black skirt over black tights and flat boots, with a white button down shirt. You can wear a vest, sweater, or cardigan over the shirt if you’re in a cooler climate. The more Potter props you have the better, but this one is pretty low maintenance (even your hair – the frizzier the better)!
  • Raggedy Ann
This one involves some fun makeup! The costume is a blue dress, or blue long sleeved shirt and skirt. Wear an apron over the dress. If you need the overall style but only have a regular apron, you can pin ribbon from the front of the apron, over your shoulders, to the back of your apron. For accessories, buy the candy striper leggings/tights (or draw red lines on a pair of white tights with a ruler and sharpie). Finish off the costume with white gloves, a red yarn wig and your favorite pair of black shoes.
  • Alice in Wonderland
A slight variation on the above Raggedy Ann costume and you have Alice in Wonderland! Start with a blue dress, and tie a white apron around your waist. If you have a tutu or petticoat, wear it under the dress for the fuller effect. Accessories are white tights, a black ribbon headband, and black MaryJanes.

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Back It Up Blog, Pop Culture, Resources

Back It Up: The Kardashian Conundrum

We all have our guilty pleasures. For some its cookies in bed, romance novels, or Saturday morning cartoons. For me, its “Keeping Up With the Kardashians.” I have seen Khloe and Lamar’s wedding multiple times over, know exactly what episodes are currently streaming on Netflicks, and have searched the shelves of many beauty supply stores for just a smell of the latest Kardashian perfume. When I tell anyone that knows me about my now not-so secret secret interest in the show and the Kardashian family, generally there is some confusion. I am not the slightest bit trendy or interested in fashion, I have little to no interest in celebrity gossip, and I could talk for hours on end about how I find shows like “Real Housewives” or “The Bachelor” to be nothing more than offensive dribble that only serves to regress the status of women.

Don’t get me wrong, “Keeping Up With the Kardashians” is by no means without its problematic elements (I mean lets think about how exactly the family even became so famous and why they are still famous). I frequently find myself wincing at comments the sisters make about marriage, beauty, and body image. I think what draws me to the show is not what it is but what it could be. Not what the Kardashian sisters did, but what they can do. Think about it—the Kardashian sisters and their mother Kris have not only built a multi-million dollar business, but they run that business together. The Kardashians are women that have strong bonds to each other (something rarely seen or valued in main stream media) and are savvy business women (again, something rarely seen or valued in main stream media). While I am not so found of the products they push, or the emphasis that they put on their sexuality over their intelligence, I think there is something to be said about women that manage their own businesses and create their own success.

I am by no means saying that the Kardashians are feminists or even remotely progressive, and I don’t expect the Kardashian sisters to be champions of gender equality anytime soon. What I am saying is that there is something exciting and kind of refreshing about women coming together, running a business, and making their own success. I suppose I would like to see the Kardashian model be replicated for women in different arenas and for different causes and purposes. A female political version of the Kennedy and Bush political dynasties, women Rockafellers or Rothschild. In my dream world I would be able to have a meeting with the Kardashian sisters, and get them to see how they could use their power, influence, and strong bonds with each other to be women that are catalysts for social change. Until then though, I will continue to watch the Kardashians with the faint hope they will figure it out on their own.


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Events, Resources, The Movement

“Taking Back Halloween” Body Positive Costume Contest


Are you spooked out by all the **sex-ified** Halloween costumes haunting the windows in every costume shop and Halloween display? We thought the “sexy nurse” and “sexy police officer” outfits were offensive enough, but this year promises “sexy astronaut” and “sexy take out Chinese” costumes! Hollaback, SPARK and Beauty Redefined challenge you to create an alternative to the sexification of our favorite holiday! We dare you to create bold, unique, creative costumes that celebrate women’s strength and courage, not just our cleavage and curves.
                                                                             Don’t be just a “trick” OR a “treat!”
                                                                             Bring spooky back!
                                                                             Redefine beauty!
                                                                             SPARK a change!

GRAND PRIZE: iPod, 8 CDs of top hit albums of 2011, Hollaback! Tote Bag, Hollaback! Travel Mug, Starbucks Gift Certificates, Post-It notes featuring BeautyRedefined Billboards, SPARK stickers & fake tattoos
Second Place: Hollaback! Tote Bag, Hollaback! Travel Mug, Starbucks coffee beans and Starbucks Gift Certificates, SPARK stickers & fake tattoos
Third Place: Hollaback! Travel Mug, Starbucks Gift Certificates, Post-It notes featuring BeautyRedefined Billboards, SPARK stickers & fake tattoos


  • Whitney Adams, A professional costume designer, currently with Bazmark Pictures III as Costume Design Assistant on the film The Great Gatsby.
  • Andrea Owen, A life coach and founder and owner of, who has facilitated workshops for girls hosted by Dove’s Campaign for Real Beauty.
  • Sunny Haines, An assistant stage manager and dresser for various theaters in San Diego including Cygnet, The Old Globe and The San Diego Opera.
  • Allison Crutchfield, An artist, illustrator and costume designer based out of New York City, and adjunct professor of theater at CUNY.

All federal, state and local laws and regulations apply; void where prohibited.
DISCLAIMER: This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. All entries and information accompanying the entries is being submitted to HollabackPHILLY, SPARK Movement, and BeautyRedefined, not to Facebook.
ELIGIBILITY: The Contest is open only to women and LGBTQ individuals who are legal residents of the United States. Entrants between the ages of 13 and 18 must submit with their entry the parental approval form for their entry into the contest, attached to these contest terms.
TO ENTER: Submit a photo of your body positive Halloween costume to the official contest via email, website submission, or postal mail. To enter electronically, visit our Facebookpage or email To enter via post, mail your photograph , name, date of birth and address to HollabackPHILLY, P.O. Box 2032, Philadelphia, PA 19103. All information provided by entrant must be complete, true and correct. Submissions to the Contest must be submitted, or postmarked, by NOVEMBER 4, 2011 in order to be eligible; entries received after that date will be deemed ineligible to win. All submitted entries become the property of Sponsor and will not be acknowledged or returned; Sponsor is not responsible for lost, late, inaccurate, incomplete, damaged, illegible, or misdirected entries. All entries may be published on the various Hollaback! websites,, and, whether selected for a prize or not. Nothing in these Contest rules obligate Sponsor to publish or otherwise use any photos submitted in connection with the Contest. Group entries are permissible, but the prize will remain the same for any winning group entries. Only non-commercial work may be submitted. Entries may not contain profanity, nudity, pornographic images, violent images, anti-competition messages, illegal material, or material that violates the rights of third parties. Entries may not include confidential information, trade secrets, trademarks or copyrighted material belonging to any person or entity other than the participant absent a suitable license or permission agreement (proof of which is required). Entries containing any forbidden matter or material otherwise deemed by Organizer to be inappropriate will be disqualified. Online entries will be deemed submitted by the authorized account holder of the e-mail address submitted at time of entry.
BODY-POSITIVE DEFINED: Costume submissions should not emphasize physical attributes, but instead will be scored on creativity in costume design and originality in costume subject.
JUDGING: A panel of judges will select the winning entry based equally upon the criteria of originality and ingenuity. Costumes that do not promote the body image mission will not be considered. By entering, you agree to be bound by these Official Rules, and that the decisions of the judges are final and binding in all respects. Judging will be completed by NOVEMBER 25, 2011, and potential winners will be notified by e-mail on or before DECEMBER 1, 2011. Based upon the content of submissions, Sponsor reserves the right not to select any winning submissions. Potential winners will be required to sign and return a sworn Affidavit of Eligibility and Liability and Publicity Release. If required documentation is not returned within seven (7) business days of notification, or if notification is returned as undeliverable, any prize will be forfeited and an alternate winner will be selected.
PRIZE AWARDS: Prizes will be awarded within sixty (60) days after winner verification. No prize substitution or transfer is permitted, except that Sponsor reserves the right to substitute a prize of equal or greater value for any reason. All taxes and any other incidental expenses on Prizes are the sole responsibility of each winner.




Parental Approval:


Body-Positive Halloween Contest

October 31, 2011

United States


By signing this parental permission slip, I ____________________________________________ (name of parent or legal guardian), the undersigned, give permission to my child _________________________________________________ (name of student IN BLOCK LETTERS) to participate in the Halloween contest via photograph submission via email to SPARK Movement, or via postal mail to HollabackPHILLY.


Contest Rules attached.


Media Waiver

I give permission to the contest organizers to highlight photographs of the costumes, and I understand that some of these photographs may be published by the media, and/or may be uploaded on official websites of the involved program organizers.


_________________________________________ (Signature of parent or legal guardian)

__________________________________________ (Name of parent or legal guardian in CAPITAL LETTERS)

Date: Month _____________ Day ___________ Year ___________

Back It Up Blog, Resources

Back It Up: Cleaning Up

Now that the holidays are approaching, I wanted to write a blog post about how in many families, if women decided to take the year off, Thanksgiving just wouldn’t happen. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized I really just wanted to write about doing the dishes. I have a special, frustrated little corner in my heart for this subject.

Getting back to the original theme of holidays, let me first clarify where I’m coming from. My large, extended, Midwestern family celebrates both Thanksgiving and Christmas, and the whole thing is just about as stereotypically gendered as it could possibly be. It irks me at a very deep level, to the point that I feel my inner grinch snarl at the mention of the holidays.

For Thanksgiving, the women plan and organize, shop, and cook. For Christmas, the women plan and organize, shop and cook, bake and decorate. They buy presents for their husbands to give their mothers. They buy presents for their children to give their teachers, friends, grandparents. They spend a lot of time trying not to forget anything or anybody, and making sure everybody else looks good, too. I’m not trying to say that there’s no joy or delight in any of this holiday work. I like baking pies (uh . . . helping), and there’s nothing like the soft glow of holiday lights at night. The world is full of people who live for shopping, and getting together with family and friends can be wonderful (at best . . . at worst, at least you have good stories to tell afterwards).

Now, about those dishes. The thing that really gets me is, after all this work, in my family it is always a woman who gets up first to start cleaning up. I would be shocked if, after a Thanksgiving football game, suddenly one of my male relatives tapped another on the shoulder and said, “Hey, guess it’s time to start cleaning up this mess. You want to wash or dry?” Sometimes I wonder what would happen if the women just never initiated the cleaning. It would get late, everyone would want to go home . . . but mysteriously the house would still be a mess, and people might start feeling a little uncomfortable. Would a male guest say to the host/hostess, “Hey, let me give you a hand with those dishes” and then insist on it? Hmm.

Outside of the holiday season, I see this all the time. When there is a group of males and females together and there are dishes, the men almost always assume that someone else (someone else who is female) will take care of it. And maybe hand them some garbage to take outside or something. Or at the very least, assign them a task to do. It’s the kitchen, and they do not feel responsible.
I know there are lots of women in similar situations who hate dishes and cleaning, and so they simply refuse to do it. I think about just ignoring the dishes sometimes at these events, but it only makes me feel guilty and even angrier. Also, as a younger member of my family, I don’t feel that I would have the authority to try to suggest any dramatic changes in these gender roles.
The funny thing is, I actually like doing dishes. I like the hot water, all the bubbles, and talking to the people around me. I have had a lot of nice conversations with the women in my family during these holiday cleanups, so I can see some positive aspects. The positive, however, does not overcome my resentment towards how we have been socialized to scurry to the kitchen in the first place.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and in conversations with friends, have discovered a wealth of diversity in how people handle holiday responsibilities that are completely different from my experience. I can see that my personal frustration makes me quick to jump to a stereotypical dichotomy that, for a lot of people, isn’t familiar or true at all. I love hearing these stories, and of course, being in the company of men and women who behave in very different ways. Somehow, though, despite this, when I hear people start talking about the holidays, my mind still goes straight to the kitchen sink.


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Resources, The Movement, User Submissions

Sarah’s Story: “When I told him about it he just laughed, but admitted they were losers.”

I was walking across the field at my local park ( in broad daylight ) to meet a friend when some boys who had just finished playing called out to me. You know, ‘hey mama my boy tryna tap that’ and ‘DAMN HONEY you got dat ass!’ ‘booty booty booty booty rockin everywhere’, shit like that. At first I brushed it off, but they continued shouting and I could see from the corner of my eye that they were gesturing and motioning. I kind of wanted to go over to them and ask them what their problem was, but I was extremely uncomfortable and nervous. There were people around so I wasn’t worried about anything physical, but I just felt terrible about myself. I wasn’t wearing a particularly formfitting or nice outfit, but they continuing shouting at me as I walked at the same pace across the entire length of the field, avoiding glancing in their direction. I felt like throwing up by the time I  reached my friend on the other side of the park. He was just far enough to not hear the necklace, and when I told him about it he just laughed, but admitted they were losers.

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Events, Resources, The Movement

Interview 10/02/2011: Nuala Cabral, Philadelphia Film-maker and Activist

Our interview this week is with filmmaker and educator Nuala Cabral. She is co-founder of FAAN Mail, a media literacy and media activism project based in Philadelphia. Nuala currently teaches media literacy and video/television production at community organizations and Temple University, where she recently obtained her Master’s degree in Broadcasting, Telecommunications, and Mass Media.

Nuala entered into anti-street harassment activism in 2009 with her short film Walking Home, which is a great illustration of street harassment from the perspective of the person harassed. The video is currently not publicly available – but will be available soon!

In the meantime, checkout the video of our discussion with Nuala about her film and her activism.

To contact Nuala:


Additionally, She organized Philly’s First Annual Anti-Street Harassment Day, of which she made a film documenting the day’s success (below).

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Resources, The Movement, User Submissions

Rochelle’s Story: man won’t stop staring, even after a picture with flash in a bar.

Thursday night I was out at a local bar with people from work when a man was sitting at the bar creepily staring at us. Twice I caught his eye, my friend caught his eye, and we talked about how creepy it was that he was staring. Once others in our group commented on him staring, I gave him a dirty look, and tried to stare him down but he would not look away. So, like a good HollabackGIRL I took out my phone, turned on the flash for maximum effect, pointed it at the still staring man’s face, and took a picture. As you can see, he still didn’t look away. He continued to stare for the five minutes it took for me to finish my food before my friend and I could relocate away from the creepster.

He then TOOK OUT HIS LAPTOP in the bar, and signed onto EHarmony, which he proceeded to browse for at least the next hour and a half before I left. At least he stopped staring at us.


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