iHollaback Is the New Rape Whistle: Shaming Street Harassers with Cellphone Pics

Posted by Nona Willis Aronowitz

Back in the day, the best defense a woman had against street harassment was her own mouth. She could scream, curse, or if things got serious, blow on that retro symbol of female empowerment: the rape whistle. Even if her screams caused her harasser to run away, he would still get off scot-free.

Enter iHollaback!, a movement, a blog, and now an iPhone app that not only fights street harassment on the spot, but crowdsources an indelible "Holla Shame" on the Internet. The movement was started in 2005 by Emily May, who launched a Brooklyn blog collecting stories and photos women had snapped of men who harassed them on the street, in reaction to anything from a sleazy "Will you marry me?" to a stranger ejaculating on a woman's leg. 

Since then, the movement has gone global, spreading to other cities and then to one central online hub. The accompanying app, which allows users to report harassment in real time and map out where it occurred, not only provides some post-harassment satisfaction, but aids police in identifying hot spots. (iHollaback is likely also the inspiration for the government's own attempt at harnessing mobile technology.) YouTube has created endless possibilities for public comeuppance. The photos are grainy, but the message to cat-callers is clear: If you have the gall to holler at a stranger on the street, be prepared for her to Hollaback.

Photo courtesy of Swipegood