Local anti-street harassment group Hollaback! Oxford is celebrating its 1 year anniversary this week, and is preparing to launch a celebratory art exhibition on 5th August 2017 where Oxford East MP Anneliese Dodds will join a panel discussion on street harassment.
Hollaback! Oxford launched its website in summer 2016, to allow victims of street harassment to share their stories of street harassment online and pin them on a map. This process allows victims to share their story within a non-judgemental environment and support others who may have experienced something similar.
Since launching, the group’s website has received an influx of reports of catcalling, groping and verbal harassment in the city and wider county.
Statistics show that 64% of women of all ages, and 85% of women between the ages of 18 and 24 have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public spaces in the UK, while 35% of women in the UK have experienced unwanted sexual touching in public spaces.
The free exhibition will feature paintings, photography, sculpture, video and creative writing from local artists, makers and writers.
The 5th August launch event will include a panel discussion with Anneliese Dodds MP, Nikki Van Der Gaag, Director of Women’s Rights and Gender Justice, Oxfam GB, as well as sets from local musician Frances Salter and signing choir “Handy Voices”.
Local comedians Anna Dominey and Jo Darowska will also join the line-up, alongside poetry readings from Oxford-based writers.
The launch event and two-week exhibition hopes to shine a light on the issue of sexist, racist, xenophobic, transphobic, homophobic harassment on the streets of Oxfordshire.
Miranda Dobson, Site Leader for Hollaback! Oxford, commented: “We’re delighted to launch this event celebrating a year of our organisation in Oxford. This event is about reclaiming public spaces that are not equally accessible to all people because of harassment that occurs every day on our streets. I’m grateful to everyone who is coming together on 5th August to celebrate this reclamation.”
Amy O’Donnell, the event organiser who is also on the Board of Hollaback! globally said: “We all share space. Most people treat that space with respect, courtesy and tolerance. Hollaback! exists because that’s not always the case. This community event sets out to demonstrate how we can come together against harassment and injustice through a spectrum of expression in different forms.
“Our launch event will take the audience a journey through dark sides of how harassment makes people feel, discuss the role of politics and challenging gender norms, before finishing on a high of music accompanied by sign language and comedy in a powerful positive statement about reclaiming spaces on multiple levels.
“My personal highlights include a safety blanket people can wrap themselves in, a photo series called the ‘Ten Commandments of Cowley’ featuring statements overheard on the Cowley Road such as ‘Don’t be afraid to turn the corner’ and an image of cake icing written on someone’s body challenging some statements we might often treat as the norm.”
Alice Leigh, Site Leader for Hollaback! Oxford, added: “After a year of hearing awful stories of experiences of harassment in Oxford, we are more determined than ever to shine a light on this issue.
“With the help of the Oxford community, charities and politicians, we hope that victims of harassment will feel empowered to speak out and together we can reclaim public spaces!”