Hollaback! Co-Founder Emily May: ‘You Can Get Harassed In A Burlap Sack, A Puffy Coat, It Doesn’t Matter’
10:30 am, November 13th | by Laura Donovan
Earlier this year, I praised Hollaback! co-founder Emily May for starting the anti-street harassment group, so it was with great pleasure that I watched her and five other trailblazing women get sworn in as the Next MAKERS, the extension of the MAKERS movement.
“What an honor to be here during the year of the woman,” said Kathrine Switzer, who passed the award onto May at the Gramercy Park Hotel on Monday evening and became a feminist icon during the 1967 Boston Marathon for challenging a man who tried to kick her off the track. “As I introduce our next and last MAKER, I’ll just say the world has come a long way since I got beer cans thrown at me…for daring to be a woman runner, but we still do live in a world where women can be harassed just for walking down the street.”
Switzer went on to explain what inspired May to start Hollaback! Upon moving to New York City from Richmond, Virginia, May started getting cat called on the sidewalk. For a decade, May has been fighting against street harassment, which is a source of major humiliation for women simply trying to get to work or grab a coffee down the block.
“I was so excited, it’s such an honor,” May told The Jane Dough of becoming part of the Next MAKERS, which includes 19-year-old Olivia Stinson, Reshma Saujani, Jill Chambers, Lydia Cincore-Templeton, and Anna Rodriguez. On the “explosive” growth of Hollaback!, May said:
“We started in 2005, it was just in New York City, and when I took over as executive director in 2010, it was with the idea of figuring out how to scale the work, and now we’re in over fifty cities and twenty countries. We’re launching another ten sites next Monday, so it’s just been an explosive growth in the movement. I think people were just sick of street harassment and wanted a response…People aren’t in public space as much [during winter] as they are in summer, but a lot of people think it doesn’t happen in winter because you’re wearing more clothes, but the truth is you can get harassed in a burlap sack, a puffy coat, it doesn’t matter what you’re wearing.”
May was proud to accept the Next MAKERS title among five other accomplished women: Saujani, founder of Girls Who Code, Olivia Stinson, a teenager who started the Pen Pals Book Club, Col. Jill Chambers, CEO of This Able Vet, Lydia Cincore-Templeton, owner of Childrens Youth and Family Collaborative, and Anna Rodriguez, founder of Florida Coalition Against Human Trafficking. Out of 1,200 entries for Next MAKERS, the six women mentioned above were selected. Each Next MAKER received a $10,000 grant from Simple to continue to pursuing their goals and serving their communities.
“Col. Chambers is doing some good work with post-traumatic stress disorder…and that’s a cause that’s near and dear to my heart because we’re still dealing with PTSD from the aftereffects of 9/11,” Brenda Berkman, a pioneer female firefighter and one of the introductory speakers at the event, told TJD. “People cycle through this stuff at different times, you know, kids can snap out of this, but some people are just now coming to terms with 9/11…It’s important work [Chambers] is doing.”
On being asked to represent the MAKERS, Berkman said, “Honestly, I think I got picked because I was blue collar. My occupation, my calling in life was a little different than what you might expect initially from the MAKERS. Now they have women in all areas of occupation and endeavor but when they first started out, it was the usual suspects, you know, Gloria [Steinem], fantastic women who have accomplished so much for women all over the world, so obviously I was very honored when Gloria suggested they talk to me about becoming part of the project, which is something I believe in because I think it’s important for boys and girls to see the accomplishments of these women…You know, I think it’s a great project.”