This is the last of a few posts I've done on 'web power' — ways in which the Web is helping to change the world around us for the better. This last one is a little bit more complicated in its implications than either Italians fighting Mafia or Kenyans developing democracy online.
MANHATTAN — Dan Hoyt is a 'raw food guru' and subway masturbator in New York who met his match in a Camera-phone wielded by a woman fighting back.
Thao Nguyen, a Web designer, uploaded the photo of Dan and his dick to the girl-power site Laundromatic.net, hoping someone would identify her flasher. After many women responded she brought the image in August 2006 to the Daily News after the NYPD dismissed her complaint.
It ran on the paper’s front page, Hoyt was caught and she inspired the grassroots group Holla Back NYC, which later launched a Web site encouraging women to post photos of men who make uninvited or inappropriate comments and gestures. There are now sites for other US and Canadian cities.
Holla Back's motto is "If you can't slap 'em, snap 'em!"
There are quite a few reports from London too. Including a few pics - like this young dickhead 'reading' porn on the 17.45 from Manchester Piccadilly all the way to London Euston.
There's another pic of a man openly masturbating on the London Underground.
The idea doesn't seem to have caught on outside North America, perhaps because of libel laws. It had a rave reception from British feminists when launched but there's nothing like it in the UK and I can only assume the law or fear of the law has stopped women from copying it.
It's also potentially open to abuse in more ways than one. The site, for example, has gone out of its way to ensure that the photos are not a parade of 'scary black men'.
As well, it fits an evolving American niche where sites exist to do allegedly useful social tasks like 'expose' nannies having a fag break. Sites which hit first and answer questions later, all in the name of 'free speech'.
The bottom line though is that HollaBack lives up to its name - women hollering back to men that they won't take this crap. Only through the web can this sort of daily dose served up to women in public space be literally shown for what it is.
This is Web Power and, on balance, it's brilliant. Far better to be aggressive like this than passively accepting with 'women-only' carriages on the Tube (Brian Paddick's solution, neither Ken or Boris have one).