Appalachian Ohio, Athens GA, Atlanta, Berkeley, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Columbia MO, Des Moines, Durham & Chapel Hill, Fredericksburgh VA, Houston, Los Angeles, Muncie IN, New York City, NYU, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond VA, San Francisco, Tucson, Twin Cities
Cross-posted from ihollaback.org, originally published on January 11,2012 at 12:00 pm.
Meet Rochelle Keyhan, the unrelentingly fierce activist fighting street harassment in Philadelphia, PA.
Why do you HOLLA? I Holla because I’m a full human being, not a toy to be played with, or a punching bag for male insecurities.
What’s your craft? I’m a lawyer.
What’s your signature Hollaback? I give them a dirty look or I take their picture.
What was your first experience with street harassment? There were numerous experiences that helped prime me to know my place in public as a young girl, but the first most memorable experience was when I was 14 walking home from high school. It was about a mile walk, and about halfway home I walked down a long stretch of a semi-major street (as major as you really get in a small suburban area). A pickup truck full of men slowed down and drove at a walking pace next to me, shouting out to me “hey beautiful”, “hey talk to me”, and various similar comments trying to get me to respond. Some added kissing sounds to the humiliation. This went on for a few minutes until I turned into a residential neighborhood via sidewalk where they couldn’t follow me. It was embarrassing, stressful, and scary.
Say you’re Queen for the day. What would you do to end street harassment? I’m not sure that any sort of dictates can change a deeply rooted disrespect for women as public beings, so I would dedicate media and public service attention to the issue of street harassment, funds to implement studies and encourage research, with the end goal being to shift the culture of disrespect.
In the year 2020, street harassment… will finally be respected as a mainstream issue, but far from resolved.
What do you collect? Books! My apartment is overflowing with them.
My superheroine power is… that I’m unrelentingly fierce when i’m passionate about something.
If you could leave the world one piece of advice, what would it be? To find something that you’re willing to fight to the death for, and to then spend your life fighting for it, reminding yourself that your perseverance is what makes the world a place worth protecting. My personal mantra is from Eleanor Roosevelt (many of my mottos and comments to live by are from her) – “When you have decided what you believe, what you feel must be done, have the courage to stand alone and be counted.” THAT is something to live by – because if you know in your gut that something is not right, but you aren’t willing to stand up and fight for it, you can’t expect anyone else to fight for it either. However scary it may be, have the courage to endure the judgment you will inevitably face for having the audacity to “stand alone and be counted” — it is infinitely more glorious than inaction when you give others the courage to join you in righting wrongs, eliminating injustice, and changing the world.
What inspires you? Fearless women inspire me. Feminist men inspire me. But mostly what inspires me to act is the horrific news that I read every day that reminds me why it’s so important to forego sleep and a social life to maintain my involvement in feminist activism.
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