Holla, Hollaback: An Interview with Emily May

April 25th, 2012  |  by Veralyn Williams |  Published in Blog, My Two Cents, Videos

So you’re walking down the street, headed to work, or school, or the laundromat (because only the sweatpants and T-shirt you have on are clean) and you hear: “If no one has told you how beautiful you are today, please let me be the first.” What do you do?

a) Stop and give out your phone number immediately!
b) Keep your blinders up and start walking a little faster.
c) Smile and say thank you.

Personally, I’m an option “c” kind of girl. As I admitted in Street Hollas: When Is It NOT Harassment?, I enjoy the occasional compliment from a stranger in the street. But yes, the reality of how quickly a “You looking good, girl” could potentially turn into a “F*** you, B****” is always in the back of my mind. And when it happens, the experience can ruin more than just your day.

So what is the solution? Because as a single gal in NYC, eliminating the public sphere as a possible place to meet “Mr. Right” is just not realistic.

To get some answers on when a street “holla” crosses the line into “street harassment,” I spoke to Emily May, Executive Director of Hollaback!, an international movement dedicated to ending street harassment by empowering victims to share their personal stories. (FYI, according to Stop Street Harassment, street harassment means unwelcome words and actions from unknown persons in public, which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way.)

Emily talked to me about the difference she sees between a friendly street holla and street harassment and explained why she thinks Hollaback! is so important.

Originally posted over at Bedsider on 4/25/12.

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    My new essay explores how Beyonce’s feminist stance in pop culture helped frame my own feminist awakening:

    “I am in my 30s and was emboldened by Beyonce’s feminist stance on that stage, and can’t help but believe that that image will be equally as powerful to young people who witness that moment, whose first engagement with feminism will be that moment. Maybe, just maybe, Beyonce will serve as the bridgebetween pop culture and feminists like bell and Barbara and Audre, maybe some young woman bobbing her head to ‘Blow’ or ‘Partition’ or ‘Flawless’ will do so while reading Ain’t I A Woman? or Homegirls or Sister Outsider.”

    —FROM my new essay: My Feminist Awakening & the Influence of Beyonce’s Pop Culture Declaration

  • A friend who just graduated and going through the “I can’t find a job in my field” blues asked me for advice. I directed her to where I went for inspiration when I was going through the same thing. I still play this Will Smith video every time I doubt my purpose. Here is the full list I sent her.

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    Met two women from Toronto by the pool. After we exchanged pleasantries for a bit, they asked about #Ferguson– they’ve been watching news about it all week, they said. I told them about #EricGarner (they hadn’t heard about him). They informed me someone else was killed by police in St Louie last night (need to fact check that). We bonded in our frustration and helplessness as the Costa Rican sun hit our face. They said they hoped this moment was our generations civil rights movement. I agreed, then got up to get a drink.

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