In honor of One Student’s partnership with International Anti-Street Harassment Week, we are featuring an interview with the organizer, Holly Kearl. We’re excited to introduce the One Student community to Holly, an activist, feminist, author and all around bad ass who we respect and applaud.
What is International Anti-Street Harassment Week?
Amazing activists and ordinary individuals around the world work hard year-round to make public places safer for everyone by addressing gender-based street harassment…but there is strength in numbers. During the third week of March, thousands of people worldwide will join forces to collectively raise awareness that street harassment is a global problem and work toward solutions. Action can be as simple as talking to a friend about the issue or changing one’s Facebook profile photo to the logo of the week, or it can be as involved as organizing an event or rally, writing sidewalk chalk messages, and organizing an art exhibit. March 24 will be the biggest day of activism.
Why is this project important to you?
I receive stories from women all over the world every week who experience unwanted sexual comments, leering, stalking, and touching from men they don’t know when they’re in public places. This behavior is seen as the way things are, a joke, a compliment, or the women’s fault. The stories and the callous attitudes to the problem of street harassment never cease to enrage me. Street harassment has got to end and the first step is to bring awareness to how often this happens to so many women all over the world. One way to try to raise this awareness is through a week of collective action!
What do you hope the outcome following this event will be?
I hope thousands of people from at least 15 countries will be involved in speaking out about street harassment in their communities and help raise awareness about the issue all over the world. There are 70 participating co-sponsoring organizations on board for the week and my goal is 100. Not only does having these groups on board help involve more people in the week of action but it also makes those organizations more aware of street harassment and how it relates to the work they do so they can integrate the issue going forward. I also hope to get media coverage to bring mainstream public attention to the issue.
How can the One Student community support the efforts of International Anti-Street Harassment Week?
There are many ways members of the One Student community can participate, including by simply agreeing to talk about the issue that week, sharing stories or tweet (#NoSHWeek), and changing their Facebook photo that week. If anyone wants to organize action in their community, submit it to the map so others can find out about it. No action is too small to make a difference.
What’s your favorite breakfast food?
Oooh I love so many breakfast foods, but cereal wins out. I love pretty much any kind. I really like mixing several types to eat at once.
What song would be the perfect backdrop to a documentary film about your life?
Hmm. I would love to have the soundtrack to Anne of Green Gables playing in the background. The movies were among my favorites growing up and I think Anne is a great role model!
What inspires you?
Learning about people who make a difference in the world, including Irena Sendler, who was a Polish woman who helped save 2, 500 Jewish children during the Holocaust, and Noorjahan Akbar, an Afghani college student who co-founded Young Women for Change to address issues like street harassment, low literacy, and the continued practice of stoning women.
What advice would you give to a student who is interested in pursuing your line of work?
As an activist, I’ve found that the most important thing you can do is to let your passion guide you. When you are excited or feel inspired about something, pursue it because with that energy you can produce your best, most effective work. And that feeling of excitement won’t last forever, so follow it when it’s there!
Find people you trust with whom you can brainstorm ideas, test messaging, and get support.
The internet is your friend. Use it to research ideas, talking points, find like-minded people or organizations. Keep on top of your topic by using google alerts, RSS readers, and the twitter search tool.
Be creative and persistent. If one idea doesn’t work, doesn’t grab people’s attention, try something new or adapt your idea and try again.
About Ms. Kearl
Since finishing graduate school nearly 5 years ago, Holly Kearl has been working for the Washington, DC-based non-profit American Association of University Women, managing programs that address issues like sexual harassment in schools and workplace discrimination. Last fall she co-authored a national report on sexual harassment in grades 7-12, Crossing the Line: Sexual Harassment at School, and Kearl gives talks and media interviews on the topic.
Holly does a lot of activism around gender-based street harassment. In 2008 she founded the website/blog Stop Street Harassment, in 2010 wrote the book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women (Praeger) and this year she’s organizing International Anti-Street Harassment Week.
Holly attended Santa Clara University in CA where she received degrees in history and women’s studies and then received a master’s degree in public policy and women’s studies from George Washington University.