I know the looks, of course I do. They normally come from the front of a van or a truck, or possibly from a car or any vehicle fast enough to escape unnoticed or in which the driver is shielded enough to feel superior. They’re harmless, in a way. Some might even say they come from a good place.
Sometimes the car horn works as attention-grabbing feature, and other times it’s a whistle; occasionally a glaring look speaks for itself. Most of the time it’s the “Oi! Sweetheart!” that pushes it across the harmless line and into dodgy territory, or the encouraging hollering of the lads at the back of the van. A compliment becomes a power struggle, and everybody knows who’s losing. Most likely it’ll stop here – but the fear just doesn’t go away that easily.
I was going to write about Hollaback LDN, and those were going to be my opening paragraphs. I was going to argue that these ladies, though they have a point, are attacking the problem at the wrong end, and that hollering is a symptom and not a cause. I was going to say that I don’t want to live in a society where we’re all walking around staring into the ground out of fear of looking at something beautiful or smiling at a stranger, and that Hollaback LDN makes the problem worse by creating an irritation where there shouldn’t be one. But I can’t.
I’d read about them as an organisation that hopes to end commenting, shouting and staring in the street, but when I visited their website I discovered a much more multi-faceted picture. “We are here to abolish the cultural acceptance of sexual harrassment,” says the about page, and continues to explain how our social situation conserves the idea of a woman’s body as public property, an idea so widely accepted that most people aren’t even aware that they subscribe to it.
It turns out Hollaback LDN isn’t at all just about shouting back at those who shout at you; it’s not just yet another forum for complaining. I may have a problem with their choice of name and in part with their brand identity, but the truth is that they’re attacking the problem exactly where it should be attacked: bang at the core of it. They march and hold workshops and run a magazine. And if I can’t admit that that’s brilliant, then I’m just another one of those feminists I wrote about who do more harm than good by attacking other feminists instead of supporting them, because of tiny, almost irrelevant details. And fuck it, I don’t want to be that girl. So holla at Hollaback LDN!