Hollaback! Philly Making Comic Book About Street Harassment

Rose’s Team Pick

The issue of victim-blaming and how we should and shouldn’t respond to rape or sexual harassment is in the news again, in the wake of the media’s often-horrific response to the Steubenville case. Our entire culture has had to face the fact that we don’t know what is the effective way to respond to and educate people about how to stop violence against women. Maybe it’s time for some more creative ideas on that front. If so, the women behind Hollaback! Philly have got your back.

Planned comic page via Bitch

Hollaback!, as many of you likely know, is an international organization designed to bring attention to the street harassment faced by women and LGBT people by giving them a chance to take pictures of or make verbal accounts of their harassers as a way to regain their power. It’s been on the forefront of a lot of recent anti-harassment activism. And now, the Philadelphia chapter is looking for a new, fresh, original way to take on the problem of street harassment: making a comic book about it.

According to an article about the project in Bitch magazine, the story follows three characters, two women and a man, “each of whom has their own color that’s used only on their pages of the story. Two girls who get harassed are red and yellow, and the comic also follows a boy in blue who learns how to be a proactive bystander.” So, clearly, the work isn’t just aimed at women, but also at helping men to learn how to not engage in harassment and stop it when they see it – similar to campaigns like Men Can Stop Rape. You can hear more about Hollaback! Philly’s plans for the book with their fundraising video here:

The Hollaback! Philly team is planning to print 2,000 copies of the work. They plan to make the completed work available at comic book stores and to sell it at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con. The latter causes one to wonder if their work will ever address some of the specific issues of sexual harassment that come up at conventions and other geek spaces, where female cosplayers are frequently harassed for being either “too sexy” or “not sexy enough.” Last year, during summer and fall – when most of the large cons happen – con harassment was a popular topic on the feminist Internet, as female cosplayers told their stories of being ogled, getting asked gross questions, having explicit photos taken without their permission and so on. And the controversy surrounding Anita Sarkeesian and her planned “Tropes vs. Women in Video Games” series sparked more discussion on how geek spaces are often unfriendly places for women. The Bitch article points out that “issues of harassment at cons” were at least part of the inspiration for the book.

Will putting the issues surrounding street harassment into comic book form – not just in terms of how it affects women, but how bystander men can respond and put a stop to it – get geeks to pay more attention? The Hollaback! Philly team points out in the video that comic books have been used by the UN to educate children, but what is the potential for a familiar medium being used to educate men in a subculture where this issue is particularly fraught? Even aside from the fact that the comic is specifically addressing harassment, the very fact that it’s women-created means it helps to make geek culture more welcoming for women; as media coordinator Anna Kregler puts it: “The significance of an all-female crew creating a comic book featuring women’s issues and realities is magnified when the comic is then used to break down the glass ceiling of the boys’ club of the comic and gaming worlds.”

Planned comic page via Bitch

Whatever happens with it, Hollaback! Philly’s comic sounds pretty interesting – and definitely worth funding. You can check out their GoFundMe page here and see what you can do to make this project happen!

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Rose is a 25-year-old Detroit native currently living in Austin, TX, where she is working on her Ph.D. in musicology. Besides Autostraddle, she works as a streaming reviewer for Anime News Network.

Rose has written 69 articles for us.


  1. Hi Rose!

    Thank you so much for the great article!! We definitely plan to use the comic book at the conventions as a tool for discussing harassment at cons and within gaming culture. We are hoping that it will get people to think before harassing in those contexts, while also serving as a great entry point to the conversation about street harassment.

    Thanks for the support! Though we met our fundraising goal, the GoFundMe page is still open, and is the only way to get a pre release signed copy of the comic, or one of the limited edition prints!

    Thanks again for the support!!

  2. These kind of campaigns are exactly what’s required. Sometimes a problem needs to be tackled from the perps perspective so to speak.If we can get through to some street harassers, humanize them, it might help to reduce the problem. Street harassment can have a profound effect on people even though it tends to be ignored. At the end of the day it’s bullying. If other forms of bullying are addressed why not this one ?

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