Assessing the Safety of San Diego’s Comic Con International 2014

Cross-posted from GeeksForCONsent.

It’s officially a week away from Comic-Con International 2015. After over a year of pressure for a more detailed policy, or any sort of promise for the convention to publicize or effectively enforce its harassment policy: SDCC has still not complied. Below is the gender-based safety audit conducted by GeeksForCONsent of the 2014 convention. Join us in demanding better from Comic-Con International!


RELEASE: An Exhibition and Program Series on Gender Justice and Mass Incarceration

Leeway Foundation and Bread & Roses Community Fund present
RELEASE: An Exhibition and Program Series on Gender Justice and Mass Incarceration

       On View February 26 – June 30, 2015
       At the Leeway Foundation
       1315 Walnut Street, Suite 832, Philadelphia, PA 19107
       (Venue is wheelchair accessible)

brr elewayRELEASE is an exhibition and program series that explores the intersection of gender justice and mass incarceration. RELEASE aims to provide shared spaces for women, transgender, and gender non-conforming survivors of the prison industrial complex, local artists, cultural producers, and activists to critically reflect and build power for change.

The exhibit features No Selves to Defend, curated by Mariame Kaba and Rachel Caidor, and Lifers by Mary DeWitt (LTA ’10, ACG ’09, WOO ’03, ’00).

Exhibit Hours: By appointment only. MondayFriday, 10:00am – 5:00pm. Please call 215.545.4078 to schedule a viewing. 

About No Selves to Defend
No Selves to Defend features the stories of women of color who have been criminalized for self-defense. The exhibition also addresses the campaigns and mobilizations that emerged to resist their criminalization and demand their freedom.

About Lifers
For almost 40 years, Mary DeWitt has painted portraits and recorded the stories of women sentenced to life without parole in Pennsylvania. The selected pieces shown in this exhibit tell their stories and expose the injustices they have suffered before and after their sentencing.

HollabackPHILLY Officially Transitions to Feminist Public Works. Join them!

Cross Posted from HollabackPHILLY.

The members of the HollabackPHILLY team are separating from the main Hollaback! organization. We will continue to post street harassment stories at as it is a valuable story-sharing resource that contributes to the rich international network of activism, but all of our ongoing local and national activism will now take place through Feminist Public Works, an organization we launched in Spring 2014.

Our decision to leave the Hollaback! organization was catalyzed by the recent release of the “10 Hours Walking in NYC as a Woman” video. We were just as surprised by the content of the video (which had serious representation issues) as everyone else. Some important details:

  • The main Hollaback! organization, based in New York City, released the video independently.
  • None of the 79+ international branches were involved in or aware of the project.
  • While we all share a brand, each local Hollaback! branch operates independently and receives no funding or significant operational support from the paid Hollaback! staff at the main branch in New York City.

Feminist efforts are not successful unless they simultaneously address other forms of structural and institutionalized prejudices, like racism, ableism, and classism, alongside gender. A movement must have this kind of thinking at its heart to successfully promote the kinds of nuanced conversations necessary to create change that is as expansive, varied, and complex as the people the movement represents.

Despite the inspiration and growth we have enjoyed from our involvement with this international network of passionate activists, when our brand affiliations begin to call our intentions and integrity into question, and start to contradict our actions, we know we have a responsibility to act.

When our concerns were raised with the Hollaback! leadership in New York, they were not addressed sufficiently enough for us to continue the affiliation. We choose to release a statement publicly distancing ourselves instead of transitioning more quietly because part of being intersectional feminists means we cannot leave all the hard work for others. As we regularly discuss in our workshops, calling out those closest to you is oftentimes the most difficult, but also the most important, stand you can take.


The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden describes her role in Colombian sex trafficking sting

The Walking Dead’s Laurie Holden describes her role in Colombian sex trafficking sting

Laurie Holden became famous playing the brave civil rights lawyer, Andrea, on the hit TV series The Walking Dead. But offscreen, the Canadian-raised actress recently took on the role of a lifetime.

Earlier this year, she took part in an undercover operation that resulted in the rescue of 55 sex slaves in Colombia, some as young as 12.

“I had a pretty good disguise — I had a wig and glasses,” said Holden in an interview with CBC News.

Her role in the sting was to keep the young girls distracted as armed authorities closed in on their traffickers.

Watch her interview here, describing the sting and how they busted the traffickers in Colombia.


GeeksForCONsent (a project of Feminist Public Works) Takes on San Diego Comic Con International.

GeeksForCONsent (a project of Feminist Public Works) Takes on San Diego Comic Con International.

After receiving no response to multiple attempts to contact the conventions, our project, GeeksForCONsent petitioned San Diego Comic Con International this past spring asking for a more thorough and effective approach to the Convention’s harassment issue at the July 2014 event. San Diego Comic Con did not respond to the petition, but in interviews stated that harassment was not a problem at the convention, and to put more energy into an anti-harassment effort would make it look like a bigger problem than it is. Their concern with bad press outweighed their consideration for the safety and enjoyment of the women and LGBTQ attendees of the convention.

So, the team flew out to San Diego (thanks to generous crowdfunding for their comic book campaign to send them to the convention). While at the convention, GeeksForCONsent posted “COSPLAY =/= CONSENT” flyers throughout the convention and the events downtown but outside the convention hall. Staff tore the signs down and threatened to kick them out if they continued to post them. The next day, the team decided to post “official” anti-harassment posters, to show the convention how easy a solution would be to implement.

cosplay posters sdcc sdcc policy poster

Throughout the convention they also gave interviews to NBC, CBS, The LA Times, TMZ, and even the Associated Press. They transformed the conversation from a handful of geeks shouting about harassment at the convention, into hundreds of thousands of people across the globe talking about harassment at conventions.

sdcc press montage


A few weeks later, New York Comic Con (another convention that had ignored GeeksForCONsent’s emails seeking collaboration to improve their anti-harassment efforts) convened a panel to revamp their entire approach to harassment. And New York Comic Con’s improvements to their anti-harassment policy is setting an incredibly example. The policy outlines unacceptable conduct in detail, provides clear mechanisms for reporting the harassment, and, via the addition to their convention app, allows for real time reporting for prompt response by convention staff at the location of the harassment.

nycc sdcc

GeeksForCONsent (a project of Feminist Public Works) modifies the gender-based safety audit for use in convention spaces

GeeksForCONsent (a project of Feminist Public Works) modifies the gender-based safety audit for use in convention spaces


GeeksForCONsent modified the United Nations best practice gender-based safety audits for more streamlined use and relevance in comic-convention settings. The United Nations recommended gender-based safety audit is a tool used by community groups and municipalities to audit public spaces for gender-based feelings of insecurity, incorporating objective observations of the spaces as well as subjective interviews of the people who interact with those spaces on a regular basis. The objective and subjective data is then compiled into an audit report and used to make recommendations for improved policy and suggestions for making the spaces feel safer. Safety audits incorporate desires of the people using the spaces, validating women and LGBTQ folks as experts of their own experiences, and minimizing the risk of new policies that could make the space feel less safe by incorporating subjective experiences into the decision-making calculus.

GeeksForCONsent changed the questions to be relevant to convention spaces and updated the objective inquiries for relevance. The first test run of their modified audit style was used this past weekend at San Diego Comic Con International. The GeeksForCONsent team audited the convention hall, the convention policies, and the overall mechanisms for gender-based safety in the convention space. The audit report is expected to be published late 2014, including data collected at the convention and recommendations for improvements for San Diego’s 2015 convention.

If you’re interested in auditing a convention near you, stay tuned in early 2015 for opportunities to use their streamlined model at your convention!

New bus shelter ad aims to undo VisitPhilly damage

Have you seen the new bus shelter at 16th and JFK? With a welcoming message, it lets visitors to Philly know that our city takes pride in its streets and that street harassing behaviors are not tolerated here.



HollabackPHILLY, a project of Feminist Public Works, designed this ad in response to a large billboard that GPTMC, Philadelphia’s tourist marketing company, ran as part of its VisitPhilly campaign in 2012. That summer, HollabackPHILLY protested the placement of GPTMC’s enormous street-harassing billboard on the side of a parking garage in a prominent location in Center City.

The billboard (pictured above), said “Dear Walking This Way: I like the way you move it move it. With Love, Philadelphia XOXO.” GPTMC justified this ad by saying that is is a play on a lyric from the song “I Like to Move It” from Madagascar 2. HollabackPHILLY, however, pointed out that there is a significant difference between “I like to move it move it” (a person having fun dancing) and “I like the way you move it move it” (unwanted commentary on passersby).

It also quickly became obvious that this was not GPTMC’s first ad to “accidentally” promote street harassing behaviors. Check out this example from 2010:


GPTMC refused to remove the “Walking This Way” billboard, stating that it was set to come down soon, but they did agree to meet with HollabackPHILLY to discuss the issue. The meeting resulted in an offer by GPTMC to work with HollabackPHILLY on the design and placement of a welcoming ad. However, despite multiple attempts by the HollabackPHILLY team to contact GPTMC following this meeting, they were unresponsive.

Disappointed but unfazed, the HollabackPHILLY team decided to incorporate a new spin on GPTMC’s offensive “Dear Walking This Way” ad into its April 2014 anti-street harassment ad campaign. The new ad (which had previously been proposed to GPTMC) reads: “Dear Walking This Way: Welcome to the city of brotherly love (and sisterly affection). Our streets are your streets. With love (and respect), Philadelphia XOXO. PS: #ENDSH.” This new ad was specifically designed to show – despite past mistakes by our city’s tourism marketing company – that Philadelphia is proud to be making steps in the right direction to make sure that all people walking its streets feel safe and comfortable.

HollabackPHILLY welcomes your thoughts on this ad, and its entire 2014 campaign.


Street Harassment: Getting the Message

Anna Kegler, Deputy Director of Feminist Public Works and HollabackPHILLY and founder of the Feminist Messaging Project, wrote an excellent piece for the Huffington Post about effective messaging for social change. This methodology and research were used to maximize the impact of our current public transit ad campaign.

An excerpt of the piece is below, but click through to read the whole article!

The following ads give examples of harassing statements, and pointedly shift the responsibility to respond from the victim to the bystander:





Some of the ads focus on calling out a stranger on their behavior or giving support to a victim after the fact, while others focus on how we can react when those closest to us — our friends — are engaging in harassing behaviors. All of these ways of intervening are powerful and important. If we want to see social change around street harassment, we need to start building up social pressure both out in public among strangers, and privately within our inner circles. This means it’s time to start stepping in when we see harassment happening, because simply being a person who doesn’t harass is not good enough. According to the principle of social proof, our silence when we see harassment happening to others is easily read as acceptance, and reinforces in the harasser’s mind (as well as others witnessing the behavior) that the harassment is socially acceptable.

The shift from individual responsibility to a community sense of responsibility is commonly known as a bystander intervention approach, which has become a gold standard for gender-based violence prevention. Viewing the problem of street harassment as a shared responsibility is a revolutionary shift, not only because our culture emphasizes individuality at every turn, but because this shift puts the focus squarely on the harasser. If we’re active bystanders, ready to intervene, it’s because we see someone (the harasser) doing something wrong. What the victim is doing or wearing is not even part of the equation.

The full post is available here.

Anti Street Harassment Week 2014


International Anti Street Harassment Week (#EndSHWeek) 2014 is March 30 – April 5th. For a list of actions planned by organizations all around the world, see Meet Us On the Street.

If you’re in Philadelphia, keep an eye out for our expanded SEPTA ad campaign, launching this week! Please also join us for an amazing Get Lucid! dance party on April 5th, to benefit HollabackPHILLY‘s anti street harassment efforts (facebook event).

And, not officially affiliated with HollabackPHILLY, but completely on-point for this feminist themed week, check out the South Philly “Daughters of Riot Grrrl” exhibit!

  • Alien She (exhibit): Vox Populi, 319 N. 11th St., noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday. 215-238-1236 or Through April 27

We have been joining with local activists, organizations, and community members in April for the past three years to bring attention to the problem of street harassment in Philadelphia. To see photos and videos from these events, click here.