Hollaback!

One of my favorite organizations is at a pivotal moment in its growth today and I wanted to share something about them here. The group is called Hollaback and it has chapters all over the country.

I first became a fan at the age of 19 when on my first ever trip to NYC I was verbally harassed on the street outside Grand Central Station by a couple of guys. They whistled at me to get my attention and then one of them told me that he would “sure like to tap that.” As they started walking towards me, I froze. Being young and out of my element, I had no idea what to do. A woman in her late twenties walked up beside me and snapped a picture of the two men with her camera before telling them to back off in a loud clear voice. They called her a bitch and walked away.

I turned to thank her. She handed me a piece of paper with a web address on it and said, “no problem, check out the site.” What I found was an online community where women posted photos of street harassers and spoke out about their feelings after being catcalled. I checked the site a week later and sure enough, there was the photo of the two men who had harrassed me. The site has since grown into a nationwide movement.

Today, Hollaback is on the verge of getting an iPhone app, but they need money to get it. They have 1 day and about $1700 left to raise. If you are able, consider donating to them here: www.ihollaback.org

And if you want to learn more, check out this link for an interview with the amazing Miss DC, Jen Corey. You can watch a video of her on NBC discussing her experiences with street harassment.

Bullying in Schools, Phoebe’s Story

I feel like this blog topic is a little late coming, but I think it is an incredibly important topic. I came across this topic while reading an old people magazine . . . Don’t judge me and let’s not pretend you don’t love People magazine.  Anyway, I read an article about bullying. Bullying in schools exists and recent events show that the results of bullying can devastate students, communities, and families. Take the story of Phoebe Price. Phoebe was a Massachusetts teen who was basically bullied to death. Phoebe was a recent Irish immigrant and her friends said that she became the focus of a jealous classmate, Kayla Narey, and friends for dating a football player who was also dating Kayla.

That is when the bullying really started. Kayla and her friends called Phoebe derogatory names involving her heritage and threw cans of soda at her. At some point, it became too much. Phoebe was depressed, despondent and took her own life. This all begs the question, who do we hold accountable? Well, on March 29, that question was answered. Nine teens were indicted and are facing charges, including statutory rape and criminal harassment.

The indictments are a very clear statement that bullying will not be tolerated and when mean spirited behavior brings such devastating consequences, accountability will be there. But I think the real question is this: How do we, even as teenagers, let our behavior get to that point? More importantly, how do we fix it? Stories like Phoebe’s crystallize the need for anti-bullying and bystander intervention in high school and even before. The people who drove Phoebe to the point she reached are being held accountable but we will not fix the problem until we fix the way we relate to each other.

Bullying expert, Barbara Coloroso, made a statement that I find particularly compelling in light of these circumstances. She said, “You don’t have to like every kid in school, but you have to honor their humanity.” Ms. Coloroso is absolutely right. We don’t have to like everyone but we need to respect each other’s dignity as human beings. We need to treat people fairly ourselves and intervene when we see behavior that doesn’t rise to that standard.

Anyone who has been through high school knows that it is like a battlefield with different factions competing for control. Who says it has to be like that? Imagine what would happen if it wasn’t like that, if nobody was terrified to step through the doors to their classrooms, and people didn’t spend time thinking of ways to cut each other down. If we change the environment and our behavior, maybe we can prevent more tragedies like what happened to Phoebe.

Bystander Intervention in Maine!

“It was really scary, but I’m glad we got involved”  Check out this link for an awesome story about five women who subdued an attacker in Maine.  You go girls!