Blending the age-old art of storytelling with cutting-edge mobile technology, Emily May is out to defend the streets from harassment. By documenting assault details, her crowd-sourced initiative Hollaback! aims to ensure that any one, at any time, can take a walk around the block, without harassment or fear.
“With thousands of folks being street-harassed each day, I knew we didn't have time to wait. At a certain point, it stopped feeling like an option, and started feeling like a calling. So I jumped off the cliff and built wings on the way down. ”
Emily May is demanding a radical shift in how we treat street harassment, moving society from complacency towards resistance. Any woman or LGBTQ individual that has ever walked down a street has endured the stares, comments, and whistles of street harassment; not to mention the flashing, groping, and physical assault. Yet victims are led to believe that this behavior is a normal part of public life, and that they have no recourse.
Street harrassment is a form of power, and Emily’s story-driven initiative is about taking it back. “Street harassment is at epidemic proportions but has been silenced until now,” says Emily. “We're breaking open that conversation, and with it, changing the culture that makes it OK.” There’s a clear legal framework to address sexual harassment and abuse at home and at work, but the streets are the final frontier. Emily’s solution is to go word-for-word, and beat harassment by talking about it. Her approach draws on the power of crowd-sourcing, using the internet as a campfire around which anyone can tell their story. Victims are encouraged to anonymously document their assault through Hollaback!'s mobile-based applications and upload details of the event, along photos of location and perpetrator, putting both the harassment and the harasser on the map.
Their collective voices speak a resounding "no," and they've got the pictures to prove it. Hollaback! is a call for potential victims to be vigilant. It tells violators that they’re being watched and put on notice, and with crowd sourced data, it will hopefully convince legislators to act . Hollaback! is training a network of local activists around the world to ignite public conversations that bring voice to a historically silenced issue, and make public spaces safe for all.