On Why We are Not Out Here Going Hard for Brothers over that Hollaback Video

Image courtesy of @stopstreetharassment, board member Lani Shotlow-Rincon

Three years ago, at the height of the SlutWalk movement, we told y’all about the movement being led by women of color to fight the street harassment women and girls of color face on their way to work and school. Folks weren’t even checking for Girl for Gender Equity’s video. I mean is everyone only paying attention because there’s a white woman in Hollaback’s video. Maybe if you’re on the Daily Show,  folk will pay a sister some attention but otherwise…

We have famously called out white women for their participation in Slutwalks.

And we have gone hard in the paint for brothers over various forms of state-sanctioned violence.

But on this botched Hollaback video we will not do it. Time does not permit a full explication of all the problems with all these liberal white folks and all these well meaning Black feminist sistren out here caping for this unfair criminalizing of Black men in this video. At the same time, I don’t think it’s an un-Black feminist move to say that I’m bothered by the street harassment of any woman, white women included. That is in part because I know that for brothers brazen enough to harass white women and their protected femininities on the street, my God what won’t they do to cis and trans women of color, whose womanhood is structurally devalued?


So I’m just going to share my FB status update on this matter (because I do way too much on FB anyway, and ought to go ahead and make it count in the cause of feminism some of the time.)


“Soooo…I been waiting since last week for that copious procession of thinkpieces (and status updates and tweets) from Black men taking the opportunity presented by that botched Hollaback video to go hard at the problematic racial politics of the video. Yes, I have been waiting for those pieces that talk about how the video obscures all the women and girls of color, who are harassed daily on their walks to and from work. I mean surely all those brothers didn’t just harass that one white girl walking down the street. Surely, the white dudes who catcalled and were edited out of the video didn’t just reserve their “compliments” for the “white meat.” I been waiting on brothers to use this moment, this moment where sisters are now outnumbering them in the Ferguson street activism for instance, to build coalition with black women around the ways that we, too, are not allowed to occupy public space unharrassed. I have been waiting on the thinkpieces where brothers acknowledge that a lot of dudes who look like them were complicit in the criminalizing of Black men because they followed and catcalled this woman. I was waiting for the thinkpieces where those progressive enlightened brothers said some shit like, “Yeah, we won’t allow the obvious racism of this video to excuse the problematic sexism and misogyny that it highlights. While we find it problematic, egregious even, that Black men are still represented as being more violent and criminal and scary to white women and thus to the American public than all other men, surely this does not excuse the entitlement we feel to gawk at and comment upon all women’s bodies, both the white woman you saw in the video and all the countless sisters of color you didn’t see.” And then I was waiting on those brothers to point us to Girls for Gender Equity’s video and Hey Shorty Campaign from 2011 that talked about the disproportionate harassment our black and brown teenage girls experience on their way to school in the morning, to call out brothers for that. Had I seen these pieces I might have felt better about all these sisters being on their Ida B. Wells going hard in the paint against these white women at Hollaback and their carceral feminisms and unfair criminalizing of Black men. But alas, haven’t seen these pieces, so instead, liberal white folks looking to be anti-racist, and Black women wanting at all costs to maintain our solidarity with our always embattled brothers have circled the wagons to call out white racism, making only gestures towards acknowledging the pervasive problem of street harassment. So ask me again why I refuse to be out in these streets going hard for brothers on this one? Who is going hard for us? Who do we have to be to get some reciprocity? Got intersectionality? ‪#‎thatisall‬

Consider this my response to all the brothers who had a problem with me choosing not to use my one other public comment on this matter to represent for Black men rather than choosing to represent for sisters. And consider also that what I’m calling for is not an excusing of racism and criminalizing of Black men. That shit is absolutely egregious especially in these times. But in the name of Mary Spears,  I am calling for brothers to look out for us, ride for us, call out problematic behaviors, and not sit idly by while sisters roll up our sleeves to go in on white women yet again, while y’all refuse the due diligence of attending to the other side of this issue, namely violence against us.

Crunkadelic told me that street harassment is one of the ways men of color get to participate in patriarchy, even as they are foreclosed of many other opportunities to do so. We ain’t fighting for a world in which brothers get to be patriarchs. That is not what my anti-racist analysis will be used in service of. So I’ll be damned if we sit by while white liberals co-opt an antiracist analysis and use it in ways that fail to hold men accountable for patriarchy and misogyny. And for all the Black feminist sisters out here writing these beautiful nuanced think pieces critiquing the carceral and violent logics of the video, I’ll just say to you on the matter of your labor of love, that Ida B. Wells found throughout her life that many of the brothers she rode for couldn’t be bothered to do the same.

We will still stand up for brothers being killed by the police in these streets. We will do that even when they feel no compunction to ride equally as hard for our right to be safe while doing it. But please excuse us while we sit this particular monthly cape-session for the endangered Black man out.


Further reading: Jamilah Lemieux, What You Need to Know About Street Harassment



18 thoughts on “On Why We are Not Out Here Going Hard for Brothers over that Hollaback Video

  1. Thank you for this! I have been having very similar feelings during the back and forth on this botched viral video. Yes absolutely the video once again drives home the tired and unhelpful trope of the “dangerous” man of color threatening innocent white women and I was pleased to see feminists talk back to the simplification and co-option of anti street harassment work for white liberal feminist purposes, thus marginalizing women of color who face harassment (often more violently) on a regular basis. HOWEVER many of the pieces (only talking to my fellow feminists of color here obviously) did not call out at all, men of color for their participation in the patriarchy. The men of color in my life are not harassing sisters on the street. Why this obsession with reversing so far back as to say that men of color shouldn’t be held accountable for street harassment? Why this assumption that all working class men of color need to and participate in the objectification of women? Newsflash: they don’t! Rather than highlighting that we need men to stand with women of color, and trans community members of color, doing the hard work for all of our survival, we feel this need to go on the defense solely against white feminists but I’m not here for them to begin with. We CAN have loving struggle conversations with brothers that holds them accountable and informs of them of the hardships of women and gender fluid folks without buying into white supremacist “feminism” that dehumanizes them.

  2. Thank you! I was just having this discussion on my FB page yesterday and the struggle to get Black men to acknowledge this sense of entitlement and Black women to understand that they are not obligated to uphold this privileging in the name of solidarity is simply amazing. I embrace the time when Black women realize that our lives are not community property, we have a right to occupy public spaces without being harassed and speaking up against Black male entitlement and privilege is not an expression of anti-blackness.

    1. You preached real good right here: “I embrace the time when Black women realize that our lives are not community property, we have a right to occupy public spaces without being harassed and speaking up against Black male entitlement and privilege is not an expression of anti-blackness.”

    2. Chivalry is not dead Ladies. But Black feminists have put it on life support among Black men. There was a time in the Traditional Black communities that when a Black female came home and said that she was mocked or harassed, may it be wife, daughter, daughter-in-law or neighbor, the men would go down on the corner and make it known that this behavior was going to cease. And that would be enforced by any means necessary. We used to call it (bull shitting). I’ve seen Black men get shot and killed for disrespecting Black women with catcalls. Black men would hang out on the corner to make sure that their women were treated with respect when out on the streets. Your anti-blackness shows when you say that you are a Feminist. Black women cannot be Feminists and maintain their Blackness. WHY? The Black man is not your Oppressor. The Black man does not run Corporate America. Thus the contentiousness between Black men and Black women is reduced to the personal arena. I would love to see the response the woman would get from Black men on the other side of town. Like Park Ave. or 5th Ave. in NYC. Or the Miracle Mile in Chicago. But still, some men do not know how to flirt. They haven’t been taught.

      1. Oppression doesn’t begin and end with what happens to black women under the boot of Corporate America. Oppression is weaved through our existence and it comes in many forms. Black men who harass Black women are one of those forms. When Black women cross the street to avoid a group of Black men for fear of harassment, when they choose what they are going to wear to make harassment less likely, when they alter their routes to and from destinations to avoid harassment, or bear the burden of cab fare to avoid it then you are looking at oppression. She is living her life in response to oppression. Black men can choose to see it and change their behavior or continue as they are, but they cannot absolve themselves from the oppression they exact on Black women or turn a blind eye to by blaming feminism for any shortcomings in our personal relationships.

      2. How are being feminist and pro-black a collision here? As a black woman, if a black man is exerting his power upon me and reducing me to an object then he is my oppressor. He may not be my only oppressor but if he does not love and protect me instead makes me a piece a meat and object of his pleasure, how is he doing anything different than what slave masters did? More importantly this is a form of “monkey see, monkey do” behavior. If other people see its ok for a black man to treat me as such they’ll think its ok too. Strengthening the black community means respecting each other because we are human and simply acting out of love towards each other. How can we strengthen the black community if one sex has all the power and rights? At that point we’re not a community anymore. We’re a dysfunctional group where half of us are still oppressed which is the very thing we’re fighting against. Oppression doesn’t have to be Corporate America or controlling your money. Oppression is defined as continuous unjust treatment. Please tell me where there is just treatment in me not being able to walk down the street without being harassed by my own race? Yes racism is oppression but where do simply acknowledge that our behaviors are out of order too?

    3. I agree that Black women have the right to occupy public spaces without being harassed and called all kinds of names. I was raised by a single mother with three younger sisters and I don’t want them to have to endure street harassment. But what saddens me is that all I see in the media are Black males, made into the posterboy for street harassment by organizations (i.e. Hollaback).

      Nobody needs to “cape for brothas,” but I would appreciate if black women also targeted the kind of street harassment that happened to Women of Color in Connecticut, and called out organizations like Hollaback to not just try to bring police to police black men but to also police this egregious street harassment of white men calling black women out their name. Please see the link for more.


  3. White man speaking here. The terrible truth of this statement shocked me – “street harassment is one of the ways men of color get to participate in patriarchy, even as they are foreclosed of many other opportunities to do so.”

  4. Who are the “black feminists” caping for the brothers? And why are you mad at them? The venom and vitriol in which black men and black women talk to one another about issues is just saddening. Its impossible to unite when certain black men say “Street Harassment is manufactured victimhood,” but its equally as impossible to unite when black women say “Pointing out egregious racial politics = caping for brothas…” That makes no sense. Illl tell you what I see when I see black feminist point out the egregious racial politics that would lead a white feminist organization like Hollaback to EDIT out white men to make black men the poster boy for street harassment…I see true black feminists who know they wont be used by white organizations who piggyback off of issues to gain money without even showing women of color being victimized. These black feminists wont let Hollaback bring this campaign to make it about bringing more police to black neighborhoods to police and maybe even unjustly kill black people by policing the “black brute.” This is about fighting true street harassment that is not limited to one race of man..but that targets all men. If you want progress act like you want progress and stop bickering black man and woman. Its disgusting.

  5. Bomani Jones talked about this on The Combat Jack podcast. Basically he said that the racism part of this discussion is important, but that it’s something that can be handled another time.he also said that black men has to take a long look at themselves regarding this video. An interesting take on the situation that I personally agrre with.

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