Counter-maps to Counter Harassment

One person or another uses maps every single day; from using Google Maps to find your way from A to B or just observing where a particular country or suburb is. Maps have been around for hundreds and hundreds of years, and recently the use of maps are expanding resulting in a discovery of new opportunities and ways to map things. This is recognised as counter-mapping.

Counter-mapping is a mapping process that challenges the dominant perspective of a place, space, or people. Counter-mapping is often created through collaborative community processes, characterised by a bottom-up approach, and is also another method of protest. It emerged as a response and resistance to traditional forms of mapping that are seen as being hierarchical, authoritarian, produced only by professionals, technocrats, or those with access to technology, funding or other resources.

tumblr_ne6dr5kabb1t0jtguo1_500In 2005, seven New York City residents (four women and three men) founded an organisation called ‘Hollaback’ after a well-publicised occurrence of street harassment prompted them to discuss their own encounters. Hollaback is a movement to end street harassment powers by a network of local activists around the world. Their mission is to work together to gain a better understanding of street harassment, spark public conversations and to develop innovative strategies to ensure equal access to public spaces. This movement reinvented the use of maps by allowing every day citizens to expose their harassers via photos and posts by documenting them on a map of where the incident occurred.

This counter-mapping style has been extremely successful in creating awareness and aiming to reduce the level of street harassment. On the maps, different coloured tags are used to symbolise areas that is known to have a high rate of street harassment. This has been so advantageous, that android and IPhone apps have been developed, which allows individuals to access live updates of information in regards to street harassment and has a live view of the maps where the harassment has taken place geographically.

Since 2011, Hollaback has trained over 300 leaders in 79 cities, 26 countries and 14 different languages to be leaders in their communities, and in the global movement to combat street harassment. This movement has highlighted the new geographical ways of counter-mapping and how it can create awareness at a global level.

tumblr_mzckxjJPFP1s22ldko1_1280Another counter-mapping example is Harassmap, which is similar to Hollaback, but based in Egypt. Harassmap has been created with the objective to end the social acceptability of sexual harassment. The Harassmap works in a similar way to Hollaback, where an individual who has been sexually harassed can document it on a map, it is then revealed as a number in a red dot regarding to how many people have been harassed in that location, and then if the red dot is clicked, a full report of harassments is revealed.


Counter-mapping is extremely important in today’s society. As demonstrated in the two case studies of Hollaback and Harassmap, it can be seen clearly how counter-mapping has expanded the idea of mapping and has provided it with new direction and opportunities.

References:, (2015). خريطة التحرش | معأ ﻹنهاء القبول المجتمعي لجريمة التحرش واﻹعتداء الجنسي في مصر. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015]., (2015). Counter-Mapping – History of Thought. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015]., (2015). Hollaback! You have the power to end street harassment. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].

YouTube, (2015). Game Changer: Emily May, Harassment Avenger. [online] Available at: [Accessed 15 Apr. 2015].


One thought on “Counter-maps to Counter Harassment

  1. Hey Emma! I really enjoyed this post, especially as i never really knew about countermapping. It was interesting to see the academic side of understanding what counter mapping is, and at the same time relating it to real-world scenarios to create a clearer picture. Well done!

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