Hollaback! Boston, Local News, Noteworthy

Global Street Harassment Survey: We Need YOU!

We are SO excited to announce that Hollaback! sites the world over have partnered with researchers at Cornell to conduct a global survey on street harassment: we’ve got two months from today to collect data and get the word out, and we need your help!

global street harassment survey: we need you! // hollaback! boston

Last August, when we conducted our first informal survey in Boston, we received more than 500 responses! The information we collected allowed us to focus our programs based on demand: it catalyzed our MBTA ad campaign, broadened our work to include policy initiatives and helped us better serve other marginalized communities. Our State of the Streets survey was far from scientific, but it was a starting point; now we have the opportunity to go further with the help of a team at Cornell.

When you take this survey, you’ll be helping us to better understand the needs of our communities and the public spaces which deserve our attention. When you share the survey link with your networks, you help to broaden the responses and the sample size and to give researchers even more to work with. Data collected from New England will be added to global responses, but will also be analyzed and shared with us separate from the whole so that we can better prioritize our areas of focus locally.

We can’t do it without you! Please take a few minutes to complete the anonymous survey, and then pass along the link. The survey is intended for EVERYONE, regardless of their identity, experience with street harassment or even knowledge of the movement, and is geared specifically towards those 18 years and up. A Spanish-language link will be available in the next few days.

Thank you for all that you do,

–Kate

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Hollaback! Boston, Local News, Noteworthy

Our MBTA Campaign Is Finally Here!

HOLLA friends, we are so excited that our transit ads are finally a reality. It has been a two-year labor of love and frustration to bring these ads to the MBTA, but it’s all paid off. These ads are the result of grant money from both Mass NOW and the Pollination Project, and would not have been possible without the hard work of former intern Kayla Hogan. Also, a huge shoutout to HollabackPHILLY, who paved the way for us with their own ads and shared their designs with us.

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Our press release from last week is below, followed by images of the three different ads that are currently on buses and Red Line trains. If you see an ad on your commute, snap a photo and send it our way! You can tweet it at @HollabackBoston and @MassNOW and tag it with #endSH and #MBTA. Let’s show the city and the MBTA how crucial these ads are and how much we’d love to have even more of them!

Hollaback! Boston and Mass. NOW ads featured in MBTA Red Line Trains (September 8, 2014)

Boston– Appearing in MBTA buses and Red Line trains today, a series of ads is highlighting the issue of street harassment in Boston. The ads are the work of Hollaback! Boston and Mass. NOW, funded through a Mass. NOW Feminism in Action Grant awarded to former Hollaback! Boston intern Kayla Hogan, and a Pollination Project Seed The Change grant.

“This anti-street harassment ad campaign is a collective labor of love between Mass. NOW, Hollaback! Boston and myself. We chose to display the ads on MBTA busses and trains because we believe that public transportation, and all public space, should be safe for everyone. Busses and trains are often sites of harassment, but we can change that,” said Kayla Hogan. “My hope is that these ads instill a sense of community and support in Bostonians, dismantling the mindsets of harassers and transforming passengers into active bystanders. The messages in the ads are both informational and motivational, hopefully helping to shift our culture from one that asks, “Can we stop street harassment?” to one that asks, “How can we stop street harassment?” It’s certainly something worth thinking about during our daily commutes.”

“We’re excited to bring Hollaback! Philly’s transit ad model to the Boston area through this partnership with Mass. NOW, and are so grateful for Kayla’s hard work over the past year to make the ads a reality,” said Kate Ziegler, Co-Director of Hollaback! Boston.

Hollaback! Boston works to combat street harassment in Boston through workshops, support groups, advocacy and education, as well as collecting and mapping individual stories of street harassment on their site.

“One in five stories submitted through Hollaback! Boston’s site or mobile app are experiences of harassment on the T, or while waiting for the T; we look to our story submissions to identify hot spots of harassment and focus our work, and it has been very clear that transit harassment, and an ad campaign highlighting the behavior, were priorities for us. When we conducted our State of the Streets report last fall, we found that 63% of respondents that had been harassed had experienced harassment on the MBTA,” Ziegler said. “Many people still don’t know that there is a term for this behavior, or that it makes people feel vulnerable and unsafe and is a problem. We hope that the transit ads will help change that.”

Ads will run on MBTA buses and on Red Line trains, and highlight common harassment faced by both women and LGBTQ riders. They are also a call to action for potential bystanders; many victims of street harassment on transit express embarrassment and frustration when witnesses say nothing during or after the incident, despite their proximity.

“Even simply asking a victim if they’re okay can be a huge relief, an acknowledgment that the harassment wasn’t imagined and that the community has their back,” Ziegler said, but notes that safety should be the top priority when facing harassers.

“Mass. NOW is so proud of Kayla’s vision and hard work that made this project a reality. The purpose of the Feminism in Action Grant is to empower young feminists to educate the public on one of our six issue areas. We believe this project will be immensely powerful in bringing awareness to the violence and harassment women face every day in public spaces,” said Katie Hayden, Policy and Operations Manager of Mass. NOW. “We are so grateful to have had the opportunity to collaborate with Hollaback Boston to bring awareness to the issue of Street Harassment and are eager to continue the legacy of young activism by awarding this year’s grant on September 20.”

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Britni, Noteworthy

Things That Are Fun: Riding A Bike, Going To The Beach, Dancing. Things That Are Never Fun: Responding To Street Harassment.

Director’s Note: This post was originally published on Britni’s personal blog, but it’s a perspective we want to include here as well. The conversation about our individual blind spots as we work to make public space safer for everyone is an important one, and the response – including that of the Cards Against Harassment creator – has been open-minded, constructive and positive. Share your thoughts in the comments! And, see Lindsay’s response to Britni’s original piece at the end of this cross-post – we want to recognize her for being open to learning and criticisms, and for her thoughtful response. –Kate

Unless you’ve been living under a rock somewhere, you’ve probably seen something about Cards Against Harassment. The cards, and their creator, Lindsay, have gone viral on the internet in the last few weeks. The premise behind them is a simple one– when a man harasses you on the street, you hand them one of the downloadable cards with snappy comebacks on them. In general, I’m not against this kind of response to street harassment. In fact, Hollaback! Boston makes our own creeper cards that can be handed out to people should the victim of harassment feel safe enough to do so.

This last point is an important one. Responding to street harassment is a tricky thing and it is different for every person. We all carry different identities with us, and some of those identities make speaking up more difficult. Which is why I was horrified when @feministajones tweeted about the drop page last night, pointing out that this is what you see when you visit the homepage of Cards Against Harassment:

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*deep breath*, you guys. Because WHOA, do I have a lot to say about why this is incredibly misguided. I think that it is ignorant and dangerous to paint responding to street harassment as something “fun.” Even if you feel safe enough to respond in some way, this isn’t something fun. Responding to street harassment always carries a risk of escalation. It can be a very dangerous thing to do, and it is not for everyone. You never know how the harasser is going to respond and if they are going to get angry and lash out. Don’t believe me? I can cite example after example of women who were attacked or killed for standing up to harassers. Do you think responding to street harassment was “fun” for CeCe McDonald? Was it “fun” for Islan Nettles? What about for the 14-year-old girl who was run over by a car for refusing her harasser? I’m willing to bet that none of those women would tell you that responding to street harassment is fun.

Feeling safe enough to respond to street harassment requires some kind of privilege. The more marginalized identities you carry with you, the less safe you are to speak up when someone harasses you because the harassers know that people are less likely to care about you if something happens. All women are not created equal in the eyes of society. It’s important to acknowledge that a white woman carries more privilege with her than a woman of color. Cisgender women carry more privilege than transwomen. Women of color and transwomen run higher risk of their confrontations escalating than white cisgender women do. This is not to say that white cisgender women will never face escalation, because we all know that is untrue. I’ve experienced it myself. But what I am saying is that statistics show that women of color and transwomen experience violence at disproportionately higher rates.

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My problem is not with the cards themselves. It’s with the fact that there is no disclaimer or seeming recognition that they may not be a safe solution for everyone to use. There seems to be no recognition of Lindsay’s own privilege or understanding that others may lack it. Yes, she links to Stop Street Harassment and Hollaback! as resources, but not everyone is going to click through to them. And this is not the first time that a woman of color has found issue with Cards Against Harassment’s intersectionality. Over at Autostraddle, Hannah Hodson writes:

…it is hard to ignore the plainly evident: the majority of the people Lindsey embarrasses are men of color. Despite protestations that she has approached both white men and women about street harassment, Lindsey’s videos clearly illustrate the disproportionate prevalence of street harassment in communities of color (read: poor and working class urban communities).

You can call it “pulling the race card.” You can call it “white-splaining.” However, it is clear there is a racial and cultural element that Lindsey is anxious to avoid by literally cutting Jared off. When a Black person says to a white person, something racist is happening, it is said white person’s responsibility to respond by saying, you might be right, please explain. Lindsey has been quoted saying, “Though I’m filming as I’m encountering experiences, I’m in no way attempting to target a specific demographic…Sexism is sexism.” Sure, Lindsey isn’t seeking to approach men of color (though, her daily commute involves public transportation, mostly used by people of color), but in the end these are the men who end up lambasted on her website. “Sexism is sexism” is exactly the kind of language used to deny any kind of intersectionality within the feminist movement. It is the kind of language that sparked #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen. It is the kind of language that denies Black women the agency to approach problems that are prevalent in their own communities.

It’s important to understand that my experience of sexism does not erase a man of color’s experience of racism. These are both completely valid understandings of our own lived experiences. Does a black man’s experience of racism excuse his harassing behavior? Of course not. But to ignore the reality of his lived experience is racist. Oppressions overlap. Shit gets complicated. But it’s not okay for me to tell a man of color that he’s not experiencing racism because of course he is. Society is racist. He experiences racism every day, in the same way that I experience sexism every day.

And this language of erasure that is used in the videos and website of Cards Against Harassment, this language that “denies black women the agency to approach problems that are prevalent in their own communities” is why Feminista Jones started #YouOKSis. She says:

…the movement still continues to be focused on white women, often opposite men of color or black men. Sometimes it gets into, These savage black men are preying on precious white women. That narrative in the United States has gotten many black men jailed and killed. I wanted to focus on black women’s experiences with [harassment] from anyone. It could be white men, Asian men, women—I’ve talked about being harassed by two lesbian women. But I wanted to center our voices, because I feel like black women’s voices are not always amplified.

As a white, cisgender woman, here’s what I want to say: we deserve to have a voice and we get to own our own experiences of street harassment. But we do not get to own a universal experience of street harassment. Because even though I experience harassment on a near-daily basis and even though I fear for my safety when that happens, I also have to recognize that my lived experience is not the same as a woman of color’s experience or a transwoman’s experience of a TWoC’s experience or a visibly queer person’s experience. And it is therefore not on me to pretend to know what that’s like. And when I create a movement that ignores the differences that we all have, one that does not acknowledge that those differences exist, I’m pretending to speak for everyone by omitting the fact that I don’t.

When I make cards that look like this, I’m missing an intersectional lens on my work:

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It’s not just “poorly behaved children” who blurt out everything that pops into their head. That’s an ableist assumption. People with Tourette’s, dementia, or autism may behave this way. And children that *do* blurt out everything that pops into their head are not necessarily “poorly behaved.” They’re children. They’re learning. They’re using their voice. And that’s perfectly okay.

When I make cards that look like this, I’m missing an intersectional lens on my work:

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Because as Feminista Jones points out:

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I seriously hope that Lindsday has never handed that card about how someone’s mother failed to raise him properly to a man of color, when we know that black women have the highest rates of single motherhood. Not only that, not everyone has a mother and even if they do, I don’t like the idea of somehow blaming another woman for her son’s misogynist behavior.

So yes, maybe Cards Against Harassment are empowering to some people. And that’s AWESOME. But they are not empowering to all people, and they may not even be an option for some people. And that’s okay, but we need to acknowledge that. Responding to street harassment gets people killed. That is a very real reality for some people. They live with that fear every day. And making this sound like a game, one where you get to hand out cheeky cards to harassers to see how they respond, is dangerous. Because street harassment is not a game. It’s very much a matter of life and death for some people.

Britni

From Cards Against Harassment creator, Lindsay:

Thank you for the valuable feedback. Although there were in fact already several disclaimers on the site (see, e.g., the About page, which has not been edited) the unanticipated viral sharing of the project absolutely carries with it a heightened responsibility for more appropriate messaging than what I initially designed for myself. The originally playful tone of the site was adopted because my male colleagues, relatives, and friends have been very quick to label objections to street harassment as “humorless angry feminist” rantings; my hope was that by maintaining a playful tone in my site (which was designed for myself, the men I handed cards to, and my immediate peer group who didn’t quite get why this was an issue), men visiting the site would be able to focus on the underlying messaging rather than immediately write it off as unpalatable feminist ire. However, I too share a great deal of concern that this personal project has gotten the attention that it has when other established campaigns which are healthier and more universally appropriate have not gone as viral, transforming the original message (here’s something I did when I had had enough) into a more dangerous message (i.e. here is something other women should do.) (You may ask, why not pull the site altogether if I share that concern, and the answer is I’ve received thousands of emails from other women who do think the cards might be right for them, so I am trying to strike a balance.) I have updated the site with several more prominent disclaimers and to remove some of the language you noted as more problematic when viewed in a larger context. I am also going to be pulling the ableist card.

I certainly don’t expect you to update your post because all of the criticism you note remains valid and an appropriate part of the conversation, but wanted to reach out and thank you for the feedback.

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Hollaback! Boston, Kate, Local News, Noteworthy, Shared Stories

“I was called a nazi bitch for refusing to tell a stranger on the sidewalk what medical care I sought.” | Kate’s Testimony

Last week, I was asked to share my story at a hearing on the recently filed bill to provide narrow protections of (and repercussions for impeding access to) reproductive healthcare clinics in the wake of the Supreme Court ruling striking down Massachusetts’ former buffer zone law.

As I sat waiting to give testimony, I noticed that the audience members sitting behind me were whispering furiously, and not terribly discretely, through any pro-choice testimony. As Megan Amundson of NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts explained to the committee that her written testimony also included the stories of several victims of harassment who wished to remain anonymous, I heard a clear snort of derision. “How convenient!” my neighbors sneered. “Anonymous testimony.”

In that moment, my reasons for testifying, for sharing my story publicly and for the record, were reaffirmed: talking about one’s own most vulnerable moments, those moments which left such a mark on the memory that they cannot be shaken even as we move beyond them, is uncomfortable. It is to reopen that vulnerability, to experience the fear and the fury once more, and it is – frankly – unpleasant. And yet, my clinic harassment tale was not one in which I was physically assaulted, nor which caught me at a particularly trying time in my life; at first, I laughed it off, only shared the odd experience with my partner, and moved on. But sharing our stories, just like the shared stories of street harassment submitted to Hollaback! Boston, begins to change the conversation; shared stories show the breadth and diversity of experience, and shared stories from those who feel safe enough to attach their real name lend a credibility and an individuality that strengthens the testimony.

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I am, fortunately, in a position to share. I am thankful to feel safe at home and at work, both physically and emotionally, and to have a strong support system; the repercussions and consequences I fear from speaking out, publicly and loudly, are not unfounded, but the risk is less than others may face. As a site leader for Hollaback! Boston, I regularly encourage victims and bystanders to speak up, to start the conversation, to testify; how could I, in good conscience, remain silent – especially faced with those whispered accusations of falsehood? “How convenient. Anonymous testimony.”

Here is my testimony from the hearing. It is not anonymous. It happened, to me, in 2008, and it was very real and very terrifying and very much NOT counseling, but harassment. Experiences like these are why protestors around clinics are a public safety concern. Experiences like these are why clinic patients and visitors and staff fear for their safety in public space. Experiences like these are why Hollaback! Boston has partnered with coalitions working to pass a replacement to the buffer zone law, and soon – because EVERYONE has a right to feel safe on our streets.

If you, too, would like to share your story of harassment and intimidation, at a reproductive health care clinic or anywhere else, Hollaback! Boston is here as a resource and a platformand anonymous stories are always welcome! We are honored to publish the experiences that Bostonians have entrusted to us, and we intend to continue offering a space to safely share, to learn, to testify, and to spark conversation and prompt change.

Kate

Chairman Brownsberger, Vice Chairman Markey, Members of the Committee – thank you for the opportunity to address you today.

I urge you to support the Safe Access Bill so people can access health care without feeling unsafe. Even when simply accessing birth control, protestors outside clinics are intimidating and threatening, and we need to ensure safe access to health care in the wake of the Supreme Court decision striking down the buffer zone law.

I’ve been on hormonal birth control, in various forms, since I was 18. From my first period at 13, my cycles were abnormal, irregular and wholly unpredictable; to regulate them, I was prescribed Yasmin, a dual-hormone daily birth control pill, and it worked wonders.

For a time in 2006 and 2007, my birth control costs, no longer covered by insurance while I was a student in Boston, rose above $70 per month. The increased price was a burden. In late 2007, in an effort to be more responsible with my money, I decided to seek out a less expensive alternative. Without a local OB/GYN, I headed to Planned Parenthood. I was prescribed a different dual-hormone generic at a much more reasonable price point, but I had to go to PPLM every month to pick up my pills.

And so, I did.

One month, on a weekday morning, I arrived at Planned Parenthood in Boston to pick up pills on my way to work as a Northeastern co-op. There were just a handful of protestors outside the clinic, lining the yellow buffer zone painted on the sidewalk, and I locked my bike a bit away from the entrance. As I approached, someone asked why I was there – I assured him it was a private question I didn’t intend to answer, certainly not on the street.

Before I could duck inside the clinic, this counselor escalated his rhetoric: “You nazi bitch, you should be ashamed!”

I turned, shocked, and asked him to repeat himself. He did, and added other vitriol. I asked, from the perceived safety of the doorway far within the yellow line, what he had against a woman seeking medical care, before ducking inside, shaking as I passed through the requisite metal detectors.

That protestor was still there when I left. I was terrified that he would follow me to where I had locked my bike, and furious that I felt ashamed and frightened leaving the clinic with the birth control pills that my doctors prescribed. All of this, on a weekday morning.

Let me reiterate:

I was called a nazi bitch for refusing to tell a stranger on the sidewalk what medical care I sought.

I was told to be ashamed for consulting with doctors about my own health care.

Though it would have been simpler, I never had the courage to stop by the Boston clinic on a Saturday to pick up my pills; the fear of a protestor singling me out, engaging me beyond the clinic vicinity, following me as I left, seemed too great, the possibility of confrontation too real, and I was only seeking medication. I was terrified to face harassment on my way out, or to spend time unlocking my bike or waiting for the T to finish my commute. Ultimately, I was driven to find a different provider to avoid the stress of the clinic; I am fortunate now to afford to make that decision.

What is at stake here is the ability of people, women and trans men and queer folks who might rely on clinic services for any number of reasons, having their options limited because someone else made them feel unsafe in public, and unsafe accessing their doctors. Please lend your support to the Safe Access Bill so that others can feel safer accessing health care than I have.

image credit: NARAL Pro-Choice Massachusetts

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Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

Happy Pride Friday (Priday?), Boston!

boston pride 2014 // hollaback! boston

It’s almost time! We’ve received our lineup location for the parade tomorrow, we’ve made our posters and printed our handouts, and we’re waiting for YOU to join us to march in celebration of safe public spaces for everyone to be themselves. Meet us at 704 Boylston Street (in front of the Lindt store) tomorrow by 10:00am to join the marching group – we’ll see you there!

Until then, while the rain (hopefully) moves right along, here’s a few of our favorite links this week:

See you tomorrow,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

There is so much internet this week.

holla worthy link round-up // hollaback! boston

If you read one link in this round-up, make it this – words matter, stories matter, and so does the full spectrum of gender-based violence.

“We tend to treat violence and the abuse of power as though they fit into airtight categories: harassment, intimidation, threat, battery, rape, murder…we need to address that slope, rather than compartmentalizing the varieties of misogyny and dealing with each separately. Doing so has meant fragmenting the picture, seeing the parts, not the whole.”

–The Feminist Battle After The Isla Vista Massacre

Plus, Stop Street Harassment released the findings of their national survey of street harassment in the US earlier this week. Please don’t stop there, though – there’s so much worth your time! Here are some of our favorites:

What’s resonating with you? Let us know in the comments!

Have a great weekend,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Events, Hollaback! Boston, Local News, Noteworthy

HOLLA With Us: Boston Pride!

For the second year, Hollaback! Boston is supporting a marching group in the Boston Pride parade – and we are SO excited. The 2014 Pride theme – “Be Yourself, Change the World” – is a perfect match for our work! Hollaback! is, worldwide, all about making our streets safe for everyone to be themselves.

march with us! boston pride 2014 // hollaback! boston

We know that it’s not just women who experience harassment and gender-based violence in public spaces: LGBQ, trans* and non-conforming folks are at risk, too. Stop Street Harassment’s national report (released yesterday!) demonstrates this, as did our 2013 survey in Boston; the risks of existing as oneself in public are reflected in lived experience. When identities overlap, people can find themselves at an even greater risk of harassment from strangers in public, both sexualized and non-sexual in nature. All of this combines to make our public spaces seem unwelcoming at best, and worse, potentially dangerous – but we believe it doesn’t have to be this way.

Hollaback! Boston is not just for straight, white, cis-gendered women: our goal is to provide a platform to amplify ALL stories of street harassment in Boston, and to give you a space to make your side of the experience heard. We want to know how your identities are intersecting to impact the way you navigate Boston’s streets, and sharing your stories ensures that our team, our communities and our leaders can listen, learn and do more.

But most importantly today, head to Facebook and join our marching group for the parade on June 14!

There will be beads. There will be ribbons. There will be signs and banners and plenty of Gwen Stefani shouted our way. Our marching group, just like our work, is not just for women – allies and friends and victims and bystanders are all welcome! We’ll be hosting a sign-making and parade planning meeting in Jamaica Plain on June 12; be sure to join the Facebook event for details.

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA Faves: May’s Top Five

Where did last month go?

holla faves: may's top five // hollaback! boston

We’re moving full-steam ahead into June (and Boston Pride!), but before you join us have a look back at the five most popular posts from last month:

1. What It’s Like To Be Pregnant In Public

2. If Saying “I Have A Boyfriend” Keeps You Safe, I Support Your Right To Yell It From The Rooftops

3. #bikeSH: Round Two

4. What Makes A City “Safe” For Pedestrians?

5. HOLLA On the Go: Bless That Ass

What’s on your radar for June? Let us know in the comments!

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Hollaback! Boston, Noteworthy

HOLLA Worthy Link Round-Up

holla worthy link round-up // hollaback! boston

We’re winding down at HOLLA::Rev and shipping up to Boston – but we haven’t had a chance to catch up on the internet this week! For a link round-up, check out some coverage of the UCSB shootings posted earlier this week; then, share your must-reads with us in the comments!

TGIF,

Kate

image credit: Hollaback! Boston

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Noteworthy

Yes, All Women

Since Elliot Rodger went on a misogyny-fueled shooting spree and #YesAllWomen was started in response to the popular “Not All Men” defense, friends and colleagues from around the world have been sharing links and sending articles my way. I’m grateful, both that my networks associate me with this work, and that they are tuned in and willing to share (weekly link roundups don’t write themselves, after all) – but especially in this case because, honestly, I missed it.

My parents were visiting Boston this weekend and our hours were spent outside, at Home Depot, tearing apart the kitchen, and on the roof; by the time I tuned back in after hopping on a bus to New York for HOLLA::Rev, I was way behind. If you might also be feeling a little overwhelmed, here’s a handful of articles I’ve read since this weekend:

If you want to talk or to share your own story, please don’t hesitate to reach out at boston@ihollaback.org, or on facebook or twitter; as always, we’re here as a resource, and we’ve got your back.

Wishing you safety and peace,

Kate

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