Holla, Hollaback: An Interview with Emily May
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.
Your turn: what are your thoughts and experiences RE street hollas? Is a holla always harassment?
Veralyn Williams is a Multimedia Freelance Journalist currently working in New York City. She has spent 4 years at WNYC Radio working with various departments including: Radio Rookies, Culture, News, and Freakonomincs. Also freelancing for Black Enterprise, BronxNet Television,Bedsider, and The Museum for African Art. Her independent work is featured on her website VeralynMedia.com. Through all of her endeavors she aims to give a voice to perspectives that are often forgotten in the media.