Interview Date: 1 March 2015
Name and Bio:
Becky Burns, 25, works for the government in Canada. She first heard of Hollaback! through an online article via a feminist site such as Twitter, and has been involved with it for a couple of months as a volunteer. Before this, she has done volunteer work in ‘non- feminist spaces’ and after realising there was a Hollaback! Montreal she decided to get involved with the movement. She is often surprised that they don't get more submissions at Hollaback! Montreal from where she stands there is a huge problem of street harassment in Montreal.
Involvement with Campaigns:
Becky Burns started as a volunteer, but soon took over the website from the previous administrators, being unsure of who exactly started it. She ended up being a director for Hollaback! Montreal aspiring to ‘broaden what Hollaback! Montreal traditionally has done.’ More specifically, she talks about connecting with the activist network in Montreal, other than feminist spaces, to go beyond only street harassment. She more thinks of Hollaback! as interfering for safe public spaces more generally.
When asked how much time her work with Hollaback! takes, she estimates that general maintenance such as social media posts and emails, takes about half an hour per day. At the moment, she finds her commitment to Hollaback! manageable and enjoyable and she sees herself being involved with it for a couple of years.
When asked about the effectiveness of the campaign, Becky notes that the visibility of Hollaback! Montreal is not that high and so she feels that Montrealers do not yet know what street harassment is exactly. This means that the work done in Hollaback! Montreal is still quite preliminary in terms of its impact to the city.
Trolling and Strategies:
Hollaback! Montreal as Becky Burns suggests has not experienced ‘a whole lot’ of trolling because, she explains, does not have as much visibility as Hollaback! New York, for example. Her name has only recently been linked to Hollaback! Montreal and she has thought about what that might mean in terms of her own visibility but she doesn’t see Hollaback! Montreal as being high on the list for trollers or attacks.
In terms of strategies to deal with potential trolling, she thinks that ‘if it’s not aggressive and it’s not really explicit, I think I could maybe engage’. At the same time, she says she generally has ‘a quick block finger […] so I would not shy away from…as soon as it gets aggressive or explicit or angry, or anything like that, I would just block it and report it.’ All in all, she doesn't see blocking and reporting as an act against freedom of speech as she says, ‘I mean you can't just go in and specifically target people and say whatever you want and then yell freedom of speech.’
She identifies as a feminist and describes the process of her accepting it as ‘a slow burn’. As she says: ‘it was just sort of slowly learning about it and then identifying with it, and then kind of still learning. And then after a while it was like, okay, I guess I am.’ She describes her involvement at Hollaback! as her ‘first sort of entry into feminist activist work’.
Speaking about the importance of the site:
‘So, I think by posting, it helps validate it within ourselves, first of all, like this was something that bothered me and it scared me or disturbed me, or it was gross or whatever. And then to have it on a legitimate forum, you know, not just your own Facebook status where a handful of people, like, it’s on an actual forum where someone, they don’t know how Hollaback! works but somebody is on the other end and they see that post and they go, yeah, this is an instance of street harassment and we’re going to post it on our site and they see it published. I think there is a huge step to validation that they go through themselves. And then having it on our site, it just makes it like, yeah, I deserve to be disturbed by this, like, that's okay, this is something that bothered me and I don't like it, and I don’t want it to happen again. So yeah, I think it’s mostly…I mean, I'm sure there's many other aspects to it, but I think the primary thing is validation.’
Speaking about her views on bystander intervention:
‘I am personally not a very big believer in bystander intervention. Hollaback! as an organisation does provide training and it is, I guess, a proponent of bystander intervention. I’m not. Personally, I think that there are too many risks that we can’t actually assess properly as bystanders.’
Analysis: Although trolling is a common experience amongst participants for this study, and others sharing feminist views in online spaces, Becky is one example of the ways that trolling is not a universal experience. This, we hope, will be used positively, and deter women from getting involved out of fear of repercussions. That being said, Becky believes they have avoided trolling because the issue of street harassment is not yet highly visible in Montreal, and because Hollaback! Montreal has a relatively low profile.
The interview with Becky was also interesting because it reveals different views on the issue of bystander intervention. While some Hollaback! chapters supported this, others were wary, and cautious about recommending such action.
Overall, Becky sees Hollaback! as performing and important consciousness-raising work on an issue which is largely neglected, even though she sees street harassment as a big problem in Montreal.