Do You Hollaback? An Interview with Emily May, Founder of Hollaback

Meet the founder of Hollaback, Emily May.  Learn how you can get involved in anti-street harassment activism and share your own stories to help others.

Can you describe the process of starting Hollaback! and how it’s turned into this awesome organization that is it today?

Emily May talks about founding the awesome anti-street harassment organization Hollaback!

Emily May talks about founding the awesome anti-street harassment organization Hollaback!

In 2005 woman named Thao Nguyen was riding the train into work when she saw a man masturbating in the train across from her. Thao took a picture and brought it to the police, but they didn’t do anything. She posted the picture on Flickr, and it quickly went viral and landed on the front cover of the Daily News. All of a sudden, the whole city was talking about public masturbation, and women everywhere were telling stories. After that, a group of friends (four woman and three men) were talking about street harassment, how pervasive it was, and how frustrating it is that we don’t have a response. We were inspired by Thao, and thought–what if we put pictures and stories of harassers up on a blog? Hollaback! was born, and Thao is one of our founding board members.

Once we realized the project was hitting a nerve, we realized that the power of Hollaback! wasn’t just in having a personal response–it was having a response that impacted the world. Today, our goal is to build a broad-based, international awareness to street harassment. This starts with people coming forward and telling their stories, but the issue gains traction when the people impacted by this issue most have the power and resources to lead the movement in their own communities.

How many chapters are there in the world?  How do folks connect with one/start one? (also, what are the details of the Chicago version so we can connect with them on this piece?)

Hollaback sites are now in 65 cites, 22 countries, and 12 languages globally — and we’re growing. For our fall class of site leaders, we have requests from folks in over 70 cities who want to bring Hollaback home. To learn more about the process and sign up for the Spring class, click here:

How did you come with the name Hollaback!?

We wanted something sassy. Something that was about responding.  At that point we were just naming a blog, and we thought about titles like “Say Cheese, Jerkface,” but ultimately we wanted something that was more positive, hopeful, and youthful. When we thought of Hollaback!, we knew it was perfect.

Do you Hollaback? Learn how to in this post.

Do you Hollaback? Learn how to in this post.

Can you describe the lasting impact of #HollaRev?  Will it be a yearly event?  Can you describe it for folks that were not present?

It was awesome! And yes, we’re hoping to make it an annual event. HOLLA::Revolution was first ever international conference on street harassment.  The event was emceed by Jamia Wilson and featured 18 speakers and performers representing organizations such as: Bklyn Boihood, Sassafrass Tech Collective, Women in Media News, Girls for Gender Equity, Cornell University, Feministing, the Man Up Campaign, the Novo foundation, and Hollaback!. It was sold out with 150 supporters in the audience and HOLLA::Revolution’s hashtag, #hollarev, generated over 2,800 discussions on twitter and facebook.  Online tweets and posts reached 1.8 million people world wide on the day of the event, and the discussion has continued since then, sparking press from Am New York, Bitch Magazine, The Source, Vitamin W, The Coast, and the Daily Beast.

How do you think social media can contribute to social justice?

In the social media world where everyone has followers, followers become the new leaders. This is dramatically changing the way that social movements are built — for the better.

What’s in store for Hollaback!?  What kinds of things are you working on?   How can readers get involved?

In August, we relaunched our free iPhone and Droid apps in New York City so that when you report your harassment to Hollaback! you can also opt into reporting into the New York City Council. Download the apps (which are also available outside NYC) and check out the FAQ.  We’ll also be launching at least 25 new Hollaback! sites globally over the next year (and if demand is an indicator, even more). And we’re looking to develop a guide for educators on how to address street harassment in the schools. To get involved, share you story, start a site, and keep up with us on facebook and twitter (@ihollaback) for more opportunities.

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