Extra Tidbits of Important Information!

Q & A

Are you going to edit my submission? What’s that about?

Answer: Hollaback! Brussels publishes every post we receive, and does not pass judgment on the circumstance – if a person feels they have been harassed, regardless of the context, we believe it is important to offer a forum to share that story. Encouraging discourse about street harassment as it is experienced in the city is our goal. HOWEVER, we review each submission first, before we publish it and we reserve the right to edit your submission for clarity, and to remove potentially offensive language that addresses race, class or other defining characteristics that perpetuate stereotypes about street harassment and marginalized people. We will not publish your submission if it doesn’t agree with our values and policies, so please read them first before sending us your story.


Some of the other Hollaback sites include images of harassers. Why not yours?

Answer: HollabackNYC and many other Hollaback sites make brilliant use of ‘caught out there’ pics of harassers. However, the law on taking pictures of people in public is different and every country, in Belgium it is not allowed and Hollaback!Brussels feels that culturally encouraging women (who might already be in a vulnerable position after an incident) to take a picture of the culprit might put her in further danger.


How related are all the sites?
Answer: We work as ‘sisters’ on the same platform (ihollaback.org) but are still autonomous.


What exactly is street harassment?
Answer: Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core, harassment is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically marginalized groups of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. It can lead and contribute to violent altercations, other forms of sexual violence, and hate crimes. It reinforces the sexual objectification of already subordinated groups in everyday life. Along with other forms of sexual assault, what “counts” as street harassment is never a simple or single answer. Hollaback! Brussels believes that specific and diverse definitions of street harassment are determined by those who experience it, and that’s what we want to capture by sharing Brussels’ stories of harassment on our site. If you feel that you have been harassed, share your story, HOLLABACK!


What do you mean when you say “Hollaback”?
Answer: We like using “hollaback” because it is a slippery term with many meanings and possibilities. It is most popularly coined in the Gwen Stefani song “Holla Back Girl,” in which she says she “ain’t no holla back girl,” making a cheerleading reference to paying lip service to someone or allowing someone to walk all over you. (see Urban Dictionary’s definitions here) We’ve reclaimed “Hollaback” for the purpose of fighting street harassment, much the way other misappropriated terms (like “queer,” for example) have been reclaimed by marginalized groups to take back and redefine the power dynamic implicit in language.


Confronting street harassers could be dangerous. What about safety?
Answer: Studies have indicated that people who are aware of their surroundings, walk confidently and, if harassed, respond assertively, play an important role in combating street harassment. Direct confrontation with street harassers may be extremely dangerous, particularly when alone or in unoccupied spaces. While it is each individual’s right to decide when, how and if to hollaback, Hollaback! Brussels believes you should prioritize safety. Hollaback! Brussels serves as a forum in which a victim can publicly hollaback after safely exiting the situation. Should you choose to photograph or videotape a harasser, you may consider doing so from a safe distance, ensuring the harasser is unaware of your actions.


What’s Hollaback! Brussels’ position on women who harass men?
Answer: We do not approve of any form of harassment of any population.


So let’s say a man sees a woman he thinks is attractive and tells her so. Are you saying that makes him a harasser?

Answer: Hollaback! Brussels does not define for others what constitutes harassment. Some find unsolicited comments like, “Hey sweetheart,” made in public to be downright annoying, intimidating or intrusive. Some do not. Keep in mind that women experience unsolicited comments, as well as violent verbal assault, from men in public spaces on a regular basis. Rather than deliberating the “grey areas” of street harassment, Hollaback! Brussels encourages you to treat everyone you encounter with respect. Check our Male Allies section if you are interested in some tips.


But if you wear a miniskirt or tight pants, shouldn’t you expect some compliments?
Answer: Compliments are very different from harassment. A compliment doesn’t make a woman feel badly or unsafe about what she’s wearing. While you should be able to wear whatever you want, to feel sexy and confident without reactions from the general public, this is not the current case. You may expect to be harassed, but any unwanted advances from another do not have to be accepted or tolerated.


Street harassment sucks, but it’s only a small part of the world in which we live. Doesn’t focusing on this specific issue detract from everything else we’re up against?
Answer: The violence and disrespect experienced daily by countless people in public spaces is a serious problem with real, material consequences. While Hollaback! Brussels is a project dedicated to this particular issue, it is committed to a coalitional approach and indexes street harassment within a larger social and economic framework of resistance. This project collaborates with a diverse range of anti-racist, LGBTQI & Women groups, and anti-violence initiatives.


 Still curious about something? Get in touch! or read our Myths Section!




- Street Harassment has nothing to do with sex and everything to do with power. Whether it’s “Hey baby girl” or “You’d look good on me,” groping, public masturbation, or worse, these “compliments” aren’t about flirting or about chivalry either.

- If it makes you feel uncomfortable, it’s not okay.

- If you feel intimidated, you DON’T need to ‘take it as a compliment.’

- Street harassment is a gateway crime that makes other forms of gender-based violence OK.

- Studies conducted show that between 80-90% of women have been harassed in public.

- Street harassment may be the social and cultural norm, but it is far from OK. Street harassment teaches us to be silent, that taking action will only escalate the situation. While this isn’t bad advice, it has led us down a dangerous road. Ultimately, perpetrators realize they won’t be held accountable and continue to harass.

- Hollaback! was designed by a group of young people who were tired of being silenced and sought a simple, non-violent response. What has emerged is a platform where thousands of stories of street harassment have been told.

- We believe that by continuing to tell and map these stories, our voices will chip away at a culture that makes gender-based violence OK. Together we have the power to end street harassment, one Hollaback at a time.


Although compiled by the Hollaback!’ team, this page is an informational resource, not legal advice. If you are considering legal action, contact an attorney who specializes in harassment law and who can advise you on the particulars of your case.
The law has historically failed to take seriously numerous issues affecting women’s lives, and street harassment is no exception. Although several legal remedies could potentially be employed to combat street harassment, the current state of the legal system makes success highly unlikely.
Judges, legislators, and other decision-makers have generally understood street harassment as a trivial occurrence and thus not within the proper scope of the law. In turn, even laws already on the books that prohibit intimidation and harassment are rarely interpreted to address the harms of street harassment experienced by women. The application of existing legal remedies to street harassment experienced by LGBTQ individuals is an even more remote possibility, although legislation prohibiting hate crimes and hate speech may provide additional recourse in these cases.
For more information about legal issues, brows the website of the Centre for Equal Opportunities and Opposition to Racism.
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