Holla Back That Ass Up!

April 29, 2008

Handy illustration of hot feminist activism? Or just more sex-sells advertising? I can never tell…

Some of you may be aware of the much-lauded feminist self-defense project, Holla Back. The project started with Holla Back NYC, and has spread to an uncountable number of world-wide locations.

Personally, I’ve always had some concerns.

First, some of these cretinous Dudes are probably proud to have their grinning mugs and exposed penises posted on the internet.

Second, many of the comments on Holla Back trade in heavy doses of classism to put pervvy assholes in their place–including on post in which the poster called the harassers’ “nice,” “polite” boss. This is unsurprising, but strikes me as a strategy likely to reproduce, rather than eradicate, a cycle of shame, resentment, misogyny and harassment.

But my main concern is that there is nothing particularly feminist about the technology of the camera phone-plus-internet combo, or strategic about this kind of individual resistance to street harassment. In the context of a sexist, porn-sick society I fear that defending our right to take pictures of whomever we want in public and do whatever we want with them on the internet will be more than likely to bite us in the ass, than solve the problem.

The Camera phone expose is a neutral technology on a power-infused field; who’s going to be more humiliated to find their picture posted on the internet against their will (given that a main function of the internet is collection and delivery of pornographic images)–me or some asshole street harasser?

I don’t know quite yet, because I haven’t located my picture on the internet as of this morning. But that doesn’t mean it couldn’t happen. My feeling is that 80’s night should be a sacred space of cheese where I’m allowed to dance in peace without some shitbag taking pictures of myself and my companions to giggle (or worse) over with his friends, but, alas, it isn’t.

Which leads me to my final point. Regardless of what recent 20/20 “journalism” might suggest to the average viewer, straight men getting turned on by live girl-on-girl action and then hitting on said girls or taking their picture or laughing and pointing or following them home really doesn’t count as social “approval” of gay public displays of affection.

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