Men of Philadelphia, listen up.
Can anyone think of even one instance in which whistling, barking, or making a lewd comment at a woman in public has actually been effective? A select handful of Hollywood movies may tell a tale to the contrary, but the reality is that no woman going about her day is going to fall madly in love–or lust–with you simply because you emit some sort of Neanderthal noises in her general direction.
In fact, catcalling goes beyond simply being a mere ineffective tool: it is actually a form of harassment.
Dubbed “street harassment,” such behavior has historically been effective at only one thing: making targets feel every emotion from embarrassment to anger to apprehension. When you are attempting to enjoy a leisurely stroll or walking to work, being more or less forced to elicit such emotions puts a damper on your day. And over time, those daily dampers can fester and pile up into long-term emotional scarring and an overall negative outlook on human nature.
Fortunately, several local activists have united to fight back. Or, more appropriately, “Hollaback.”
HollabackPHILLY is a campaign aimed at reducing street harassment and educating people on its effects. While the organization has many tools in its arsenal, including testimonials and a place for donations, perhaps its most prolific tool is a comic entitled Hollaback: Red, Yellow, and Blue. Containing input from Hollaback activists Rochelle Keyhan and Anna Kegler, the comic is largely the brainchild of local Philadelphia artist Erin Filson.
Filson, whose work also includes the webcomic The Adventures of Ranger Elf, saw the comic from conception to an actual living and breathing entity. A gofundme campaign started by the three women aimed to raise $5,016 for production costs. The project wound up raising over $8,200 in two months, well above the desired total.
As a result of the fundraising effort, Hollaback: Red, Yellow, and Blue was able to be put into production and will be introduced to the public at a May 25 launch party to be held at Locust Moon Comics. Additionally, Filson, Keyhan, and Kegler will appear at Wizard World Philly to further promote both the book and the campaign.
Geekadelphia recently sat down with Erin Filson to discuss her work with the campaign, her own history in art and comics, and, of course, whether she prefers Star Trek or Star Wars.
What led to the HollabackPHILLY comic project? How did you and the other creators all come together on this? And what has the experience been like so far, from inception through the fundraising campaign to now the book’s release? What kind of feedback have you been getting?
Erin Filson: Well, I was unemployed and sick of job searching so, one day, I decided to try and drum up some attention for my webcomic,The Adventures of Ranger Elf. I was thinking of doing an arc about some ridiculous catcalling situations my friends and I had recently faced so I emailed HollabackPhilly, hoping they would want to share links.
Rochelle Keyhan, the director, got back to me, saying they were in need of an artist to mock up ads for their SEPTA campaign (which is running from April to June in cars on both the Broad Street and MFL trains). So we got coffee and started hashing out all these ideas for the ads and for HollabackPhilly, in general, and, at some point during the conversation, she mentioned it would be cool if we made a comic book. And I, immediately, was like, “Yes, I will do this” because I’ve always and forever been passionate about two things: gender equality and superheroes. So this made complete sense to me and I was overjoyed to finally have an opportunity to do something that mattered and to do it with a comic book.
Meanwhile, Rochelle had been searching for a way to make the group’s message more accessible, especially to a male audience, and needed a vehicle that would be both fun and educational. And she realized comic books are all these things!
Rochelle introduced me to Anna Kegler, who helps out with a lot of HollabackPhilly’s projects, and the three of us started brainstorming. Rochelle and Anna did tons of researching, they’d inform me, I’d doodle some things and write outlines, present that to them, and then we’d tighten and edit. We went back and forth like that for about two months and I had a few pages complete by the time we got to February, which was our fundraiser month. It was pretty nerve-wracking. We had no idea what was going to happen or what kind of response we were going to get.
But we started out strong, raising something like 40% of our goal in the first week. And then things kinda died off the next two weeks, which I hear is typical fundraiser behavior but was still kinda stressful. However, the fourth and final week, we exploded. We ended up raising about $3,000 above our original goal, which is just amazing! Rochelle, Anna, and I were completely floored by everyone’s generosity and also by the excitement we were met with!
Of course, this whole time, I had been drawing the comic book and, after the fundraiser wrapped, I still had a whole lot of work to do. So I was elated because this creation was fully funded and going to be printed but, simultaneously, I was terrified because, suddenly, everything rested on me and my ability to get this finished. I don’t think I’ve ever really dealt with that kind of pressure. I had a nervous breakdown or two. Hahaha. But happy ending! I didn’t screw it up! (knock on wood) We received the hard copy proof from the printer on May 14 and it is super sharp and I love it and am so freaking excited!!!!!!!!!
So I would say that, overall, this experience has been awesome. There were definitely stressful moments or times when we doubted what we were doing or were just flat out overwhelmed but so far, so good!
We’re doing all the fun, easy stuff now like figuring out the details of our launch party and preparing for Wizard World and beyond! It really helps that, every step of the way, the response has been extremely positive. It’s easy to get burnt out on your own projects but the enthusiasm of other people always buoys me and to hear my friends and family and total strangers tell me that they can’t wait to receive my comic is awesome.
During the campaign, we sent out emails to people and organizations who we felt might be interested in what we were doing and I had reached out to Kelly Sue Deconnick, the writer of Captain Marvel. And she responded, saying that she thought it was wonderful! That blew my mind. I screamed and danced and then got back to work cause I was like, “I can’t disappoint Kelly Sue!”. So yeah, like all things, there were ups and downs throughout this journey but THAT moment was definitely a highlight!
How long have you been creating comics?
Erin Filson: I started my webcomic about two years ago. Growing up, I would spend my free time making up superheroes and writing out their origin stories. In school, I’d make comic strips for art class or to entertain my friends. I feel my artwork has always incorporated comic book aesthetics and sensibilities.
Can you describe The Adventures of Ranger Elf?
Erin Filson: The Adventures of Ranger Elf is about Karen Wilson. She’s on this noble quest to become a superhero but that’s sort of just a way for her to avoid real life and the fact that she’s meandering through her twenties.
It’s basically a comedic retelling of the past three years of my life. I was 26, living at home, and had no idea what I was doing or where I was going. I was telling my mom about something that had happened to me that day and she said, “Erin, your life is weird. You should make a comic.” So I did. Haha.
The main characters (Ranger Elf, Clive, George, and Mookie) were all from animation projects I did in college. I play around with the art style but have this sketchy thing going now which I really enjoy. And I’m slowly building up and populating Karen Wilson’s world and developing the story.
I put it to the side for the Hollaback project but I’m really looking forward to working on it again and taking it further. It is very cathartic and helps me have a more positive outlook. Because if, say, I totally bomb a job interview, instead of getting upset, I can say to myself, “Wow, this will make a hilarious comic!”
What can we expect you and the other creators to offer at Wizard World?
Erin Filson: Rochelle, Anna, and I are THRILLED to be a part of Wizard World. I love comic conventions! Geeks are the best people because they are so openly enthusiastic about what they love and you can be the biggest weirdo and still be accepted. So I’m looking forward to spending four days in that atmosphere and seeing all the creative costumes!
Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of hubbub about sexual harassment at comic conventions lately and so HollabackPhilly’s involvement in this arena is very timely. I think, at events like this, there’s this sort of confusion about how we’re all supposed to behave. You have people in costumes, people in risque costumes, people out of costume, models in bikinis being used to make sales, celebrities, everyone is taking pictures of you, you’re taking pictures of everyone else, you want to look cool and you want attention but you don’t want the wrong kind of attention and that means different things to different people and the whole thing just creates this stew of “how the heck do I operate in this environment?”.
We’re really hoping to engage people who visit our table, we’re hoping for conversation and curiosity. We’ve been invited by 16bitSirens to continue their Cosplay =/= Consent crusade and will be encouraging Wizard World cosplayers to write similar messages on white boards. I think it’s going to be a great opportunity to educate people, to make a bunch of male allies, and strengthen the movement towards making comic conventions a safer place. Because, again, they are awesome. I hope that Wizard World loves us back!
Is there anything else you would like to add?
Erin Filson: I really want to thank Rochelle and Anna for believing in my ability to pull this off! They are both brilliant, passionate, and inspiring women and it has been an honor working with them!
Finally: Star Trek or Star Wars?
Erin Filson: Star Wars!!!!!!!!!!!!