Interview Date: 25 February, 2015
Name and Bio:
Jenny Dunne, 24, is a journalism and French graduate working in the press office of a teachers’ trade union. Other than her involvement with “the usual kind of student protests” as a student she hasn’t had any “major activism experience” prior to her involvement with Hollaback! which describes as “kind of [her] first foray into activism”.
She thinks that Hollaback! has a very good branding and opens the conversation, while she sees as its main “strength […] the international aspect of it”. Personally, her involvement with Hollaback! has made her more “outspoken”, “less afraid to stand up for what [she believes] in” and supported her to develop “strategies for dealing with things like that” as a bystander for example.
She believes that having a space where stories can be shared is, for some people, “really cathartic and helpful”. Though, she thinks one of the most important advice to give to the community is to first “consider their own safety” and care for themselves before acting in a situation of street harassment.
Involvement with Campaigns:
Jenny first heard of Hollaback! London around 2011 through an article on street harassment and the Hollaback! movement. Hollaback! was in the back of her mind for a couple of months until, after experiencing and witnessing a couple of street harassment incidents she decided to contact the headquarters in New York about setting up a branch in Dublin. That was in November 2012.
For the most part, her Hollaback! experience is “positive” and has helped her connect with the community in Dublin although at the same time it can be “difficult” and heart breaking to read all these stories of street harassment.
Jenny works on Hollaback! Dublin with one other volunteer. She mostly does the website and the other person does social media, i.e. posts, responding to comments etc. They often consult each other if they are unsure about something. She thinks that “if there were more people involved, [they]’d probably get more done! But as it is at the minute, we don’t, but I think the two of us is ok for monitoring comments .. our website .. publishing stories and things like that”.
She attended the Hollaback! conference in New York in 2013, where she found the care and self- care workshops particularly helpful.
Trolling and strategies:
Jenny thinks that they haven’t had “as much [trolling] as [she] would have expected”. “I’m always kind of surprised that we don’t get more”, she says. As she points out it mostly happens when they get national coverage. To her surprise, she hasn’t been personally targeted despite her clear link to Hollaback! Dublin.
Dealing with trolling involves several strategies. On the website, offensive stories or comments never go live as “obviously you don’t approve the troll comments”. On Facebook or Twitter, “actually offensive as in racist or sexist or homophobic or belittling someone’s experience” comments are deleted but “the ones that are just, like people basically trying to just be intentionally missing the point” are left up. As Jenny Dune explains she wouldn’t want “to make things too kind of censored” as she thinks “a little bit of freedom to people […] [to] say what they want to if they’re willing to”. Usually, in Hollaback! Dublin she explains the community just “skips over” trolls which she comments are “not very good ones” apparently. They have once “thought about blocking” a guy, but they didn’t eventually as one of the members knew him personally and asked him to “stop doing this basically”
Jenny Dune identifies as a feminist and isn’t aware of having a feminist “ah ha moment specifically”. She remembers “finding feminist stuff on the internet, like Jezebel” in her late teens that probably “exposed [her] to that kind of way of thinking”. She also has “a vague memory of reading” an article on Sunday Times magazine “that was like Is Feminist still a Dirty Word?” and researching online in reaction to that. As she says it would be “a year or two later when I would have started identifying as a feminist”.
“What I think is really effective about Hollaback! - … story sharing kind of forum, I think it’s great – well from my perspective, when I think about reading that article in not magazines but being able to put a name on it. […] I think it’s good in that it gives the space to collect those stories and shows they’re not just isolated incidents and they’re part of a pattern, of larger kind of things that are happening.”
“[T]here’s people working in like the States or India or Australia or Europe and they all kind of have similar ideas and experience which I think is quite interesting, it goes across so many cultures. I think it’s good to be able to get different outputs from around the world.”
Given recent media attention about the way women (particularly those campaigning around women’s issues) are regularly trolled online. Jenny is just one of several of our participants who had yet to personally experience trolling. What is worth noting however is that Jenny, like the others, label themselves as ‘lucky’ for avoiding this abuse. Unlike other feminist activists, Jenny and her co-volunteer at Hollaback! Dublin have not yet identified specific strategies to manage trolls or unhelpful comments on their social media spaces. This is in part however due to the fact that these posts are few and far between.
Jenny is also attuned to the sophisticated branding practices of Hollaback! and notes the ways this has made the organisation more successful. Feminist activists are increasingly drawing upon marketing strategies such as ‘globalisation’ (think global, act local), and branding to help make their message more mainstream and attract attention.