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An App to Help Women Avoid Street Harassment (theatlantic.com)
13 points by rosser 1112 days ago | hide | past | web | 16 comments | favorite



The original hollaback website encouraged anonymous reporting and allowed anonymous photographs to be displayed of men that were alleged to be engaged in street harassment.

But there was no verification any of the alleged activity occurred.

And there was no way for a wrongly targeted person to have their photograph removed.

That doesn't seem like a tool meant for the US, though it seemed as though it would fit in quite nicely in East Germany.

Regardless, hollaback always received lots of good press and this article shows it still does.

But how did that original hollaback app with its anonymous reporting, no verification, and no appeal differ dramatically from reddit's /r/creepshots, or from the deservedly lambasted titstare app?

Topologically, they seem like identical apps.

Has the new launch addressed these problems?


Agh. Time to be an insensitive East Coaster for a minute...

At what point do we start expecting members of society to toughen up or start considering their sensitivity/anxieties symptoms of psychological issues requiring clinical treatment?

An iPhone app for catcalling?!?!?!

Let me lead this debate right off with: yes, I understand there are instances of street harassment that occur which are tragic, illegal, senseless, violent and I firmly agree all of those should be stopped.

But for the sub-tragedy-level issues of 'street harassment': really?!

Here's a solution: Empower yourself!

If you're worried about physical harassment, carry a taser/pepper spray/knife/gun. Start working out. Take a self-defense class.

If you're worried about psychological harassment, take a good hard look at yourself and your life and work on your self-esteem, see a therapist, work out (two birds, one stone, with that). Figure out how to look in the mirror and be confident in what you see, no matter what others say (it may be hard, I know, but no one can do this for you but you).

Do all of those things, and you'll surely walk around with far less fear of 'street harassment'. In fact, I'm fairly confident the majority of people with such anxieties who employ the above tactics will find much help for their problems.

Encouraging people to use an iPhone app to remedy this will only perpetuate the cycle of helplessness in society.

Put bluntly: do you think some drunk idiot on the street who's catcalling you cares that you're writing him a bad Yelp review on your iPhone app? No.

Does an iPhone app fortify your psyche or physical security? No.

I'm totally sympathetic to unchangeable things people suffer from in life (physical disease, psychiatric disabilities). But to the extent that is possible, you should always seek to empower yourself. And an iPhone app does nothing (long-term) to empower your psyche or physical security. (And promoting it as a solution does nothing but further weaken society, as whole.)


Speaking as another insensitive east coaster[1], I kind of disagree. As a guy, I still remember specific times in my youth when I realized that women simply aren't allowed access to many places, situations, or neighborhoods that I can walk through without problems. They face harassment, if not real, physical threats to safety in many situations which routinely seem mundane to me, and I catch myself taking for granted all the time. Coming to terms with this is already a bit of a head-trip as a guy, but now that I have a baby daughter it is all the more relevant. So, if someone wants to write an app, I'm not going to knock them.

[1] In fairness maybe I've gone soft for living out west in the last 5 years, though I continue to have my share of cultural clashes with people who can't take a joke or just take the whole world too seriously.


Hey, another one!

Right. Well, I don't want to open a can of worms but:

a.) biologically, men simply are predisposed for greater physical strength than women. So, with that, comes the consequent precautions one would have to take in life, as a less physically powerful being (in short: you can't walk through scary neighborhoods with scary creatures, as easily).

That said, it's NOT banishment to a lifetime of powerlessness. Anyone can get a taser/pepper spray/knife/gun and quickly gain the upper-hand in almost any situation.

So there's that..

b.) I don't doubt they face harassment. Catcalling has been going on forever, seeing as the primal urge to have attention of another whom you desire is fairly deeply rooted. That said if you are psychologically unable to cope with it, my feelings are that you'd benefit from treating your psyche, a bit.

Improve your self-esteem, confidence, see a therapist. The tools exist.

All of this said, I'm not envious of this aspect of the female existence. But I refuse to believe an iPhone app is the solution.


First off let me say that I do not condone the street harassment of women nor the physical attacks and crimes of rape and assault and other stuff. If there is a danger of any of that violent stuff a woman should call 911 if threatened with it.

Secondly on the streets even men are hassled by other men. I agree a stop should be put to it by educating people not to do stuff like that.

Thirdly I doubt an 'app' can make a difference. It is ripe for abuse, if a man just stares at a woman chances are she will call him a creep and then snap his picture and report it. He might be staring at her because he is trying to recognize her face and see if he knows her from somewhere and never goes up to her and hassles her. I can see some women just taking random photos of men they don't like and reporting them, and there is no appeal process. Also some men who look like other men will get a bad reputation. If a man wants to do something violent to a woman, this app won't prevent it. I'd suggest self defense classes, if walking find someone to walk with and walk in groups, carry pepper spray and other stuff to defend yourself, and if threatened call 911 and report it.

Fourth this 'app' use might have some of the criminal men on the street decide to start attacking any woman they see with an iPhone because a woman had snapped their picture and sent it in to some creep database.


> It is ripe for abuse, if a man just stares at a woman chances are she will call him a creep and then snap his picture and report it

There are entire tumblrs devoted to sharing the least charitable interpretation possible of what other people are doing: http://www.buzzfeed.com/alisonvingiano/men-taking-up-too-muc...

That's the tip of the iceberg: http://www.reddit.com/r/TumblrInAction/


I picture this as an app that's meant more for areas of the world where harassment is much more prominent/aggressive and those that do it are condoned to the point it's considered "acceptable" at a deep-seated, culture-wide level. While harassment is still an issue in the United States, it's nowhere near the point or daily creep factor it is in some areas of the world. While you bring up some good points in the view of someone living in the United States, I don't believe women (and ethical men) in every part of the world would agree.

There was just a report on the BBC the other day where they interviewed women in India about the level of harassment they endure and if it has gotten better since last year when that poor medical student was raped and murdered on a bus. They all agreed that dealing with being regularly groped by men was just a part of "daily life," which is just sad. They also said that when they speak out about it, fallacies such as "women should not be out at X time of day" or "an upstanding woman that does not want that kind of 'attention' should not wear X." While there are reports of that happening in the US, no woman I know would claim it's just a part of daily life.


I agree, women should have to expect to be victims of violence and harassment and should stop complaining about it and just steel themselves for it instead. And it is totally only the women who can't look in the mirror and be confident in what they see that are harassed on the street. This isn't a problem strong, confident women face.


> I agree, women should have to expect to be victims of violence and harassment and should stop complaining about it.

Straw man. Didn't say that.

> And it is totally only the women who can't look in the mirror and be confident in what they see that are harassed on the street. This isn't a problem strong, confident women face.

That's over-simplifying things slightly, but let's play ball.

I'd put it like this:

Self-confidence and social graces are both 'soft' things. These are things you - and only you - can improve (classes, therapy, introspection, psychedelics, whatever floats your boat).

I reject that an iPhone app has any capacity to do that.

So, if the problem is 'street harassment' (to the non-tragic degree I've described it in my OP) is painful due to the effects it has on your self-esteem, you should fortify your self-esteem.

No, I don't think strong, confident women face this problem. It's probably an annoyance, like any undesirable social interaction is for anyone, but I don't think it has long-lasting impact, after the interaction.

We, as a society, should encourage self-empowerment. Identify the things that are causing problems for you, and work on them. Self-esteem and physical security can be greatly improved with focused work. Picking up an iPhone is not the right solution.


Maybe I'm dense, but I don't get how this helps to avoid "street harassment". It just seems like a way of reporting "someone made me uncomfortable" to people that can't really do anything about it. Yay.

I just don't get the point of it.


Sounds to me like a traffic map, avoid the red areas.


I've got a controversial point of view on this topic.

Premise 1. Sexual harassment, as a term, is a relatively modern one. The dominant position of males in most societies has been so for thousands of years, though the extent to what we would identify as abuse now varied(s) from society to society.

Premise 2. In modern Western society, and increasingly in other societies influenced by the West, sexual harassment is a sociological behavior that is now considered negative for the most part.

Based on these two premises, I argue several positions. First, the behavior identified as sexual harassment stems from some part of genetic influences on cultural behavior. Second, we are not mere genetic automatons and our culture has a huge influence over the expression of behavior in individuals. Third, changes in culture, over long periods of time (centuries) will cause sexual selection preferences that result in mild but significant modifications of genetic predispositions to certain behaviors in the members of a human society.

At a high level, the recognition of sexual harassment as a point of contention in modern society is important. It is a sociological phenomenon. If the idea has enough influence to influence the mating behaviors of enough people over a long enough period of time, we will the changes genetically towards individuals who are more biased towards being less aggressive towards women.

In the meantime, if this is something we want to see happen more permanently in our species, we must keep up the fight against this crap for a long time. Right now, we have to choose intellectually that its bad to discriminate and harass. And if that's a good evolutionary fit for our survival, then our future generations of offspring will be much kinder and gentler souls by default.


Unfortunately, this is not how it works. Two reasons:

- Firstly, our culture changes so rapidly that evolutionary timescales become entirely irrelevant to it. The various cultural changes since suffragetism, and the various civil rights marches, the legislation that comes after the leading wave of equality but comes before the general public social changes, all of these things have happened since then, at a rate of more than one significant change per generation. This, in evolutionary terms, is an eyeblink. Gender equality is, as a concept in the western world, less than a hundred years old. Four generations is nothing, even in labs that study mutations and evolution in an accelerated way.

- Humans have something like 90-95% infant survival now. Evolutionary pressures are substantially less than they are in any other species, and less than at any time in our past. Not only are cultural changes irrelevant to genetic changes at our timescales, but they have even less effect than they would have had if we mutated (and died) more often.

So, it's a nice argument, but it has absolutely no merit.


This is good stuff. Even better would be small cameras that can be worn around the body so the incidents can be recorded.

Yelp has already demonstrated why crowdsourcing is so important. The public often rails against the government, but most of the bad stuff is done by everyday people and they need to be held accountable.


"The candidate who supported stop and frisk (and racial profiling) for a decade launches your app... and that's a good thing?"


"Girl’s Suicide Points to Rise in Apps Used by Cyberbullies"




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