Hollaback! at the Roots of Change conference!

Chad Sniffen, Emily May, and Joe LeBlanc from Hollaback! PDX

















This week we had the honor of presenting at the Roots Of Change conference in Portland!  Emily gave the history of Hollaback! and talked about why street harassment matters.  Our board member Chad Sniffen presented on the history of bystander engagement and how Hollaback! is leveraging it in their “I’ve Got Your Back” campaign, and our site leader from Portland, Joe LeBlanc, presented on how their critical diverse partnerships are to making the revolution in Portland go down.  Our HOLLAfriends Jessica Valenti and Jaclyn Friedman were also there delivering the best. presentations. ever. If you ever get a change to see either of them speak — don’t walk. Run.  Their bold visions for a world without sexual violence make it all feel possible.

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As proud as proud can be

A note from Emily May, executive director: I’ve spent the past 18 years knowing that my younger sister was the coolest girl on the planet.  So when she reached out to me to start volunteering for Hollaback!, I shouldn’t have been surprised.  I mean of course — she’s awesome. But I couldn’t help to feel angry at whatever turd inspired her new volunteering gig.  I mean — how can someone street harass my little sister? The one whose diaper I changed when I was 12? I wanted to march down to North Carolina and give this turd a piece of my mind.  But my super-smart sister was one step ahead of me.  We would proudly join forces and fight street harassment together! Go, sis.  You never cease to amaze me. The following is her college essay.

Kimberly and Emily in 2005


Street harassment is not only a personal, local, national, or an international concern. It is all of them. Street harassment is any behavior that occurs between strangers that is unwanted, disrespectful, threatening, or harassing and is motivated by gender. Street harassment can range from strange looks and whistles to actual sexual assault or even murder. Statistics show that nearly 100% of females experience street harassment of some form, starting around age twelve and continuing into their 80s.

In 2005 my sister, Emily May, and a group of friends decided to try to put an end to street harassment. They started a blog called Hollaback! where women who are harassed share their story and sometimes a photograph on the website. This movement started in New York City, and now has chapters all over the world.

I have always supported Hollaback! because of Emily, but I did not really understand the full importance of ending street harassment. As I have gotten older and street harassment occurs to me, I have realized how important it is to create awareness of street harassment to try to abolish it. I now work as a volunteer for Hollaback! approving posts and comments that people send in. I edit the posts, give them a title, and then post them on the Hollaback! website.

I think it is terrible that women have to be afraid of going places alone because of the fear of being harassed. It is not fair that street harassment is just accepted as “the price you pay for being a woman.” Even in a small town like I am from women experience street harassment, and it is truly scary at times. I believe that we can work together to eradicate street harassment by being proactive, and I am very proud to be part of a movement that is attempting to accomplish this.

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Halloween with a Conscience: Honor Your Feminist Ancestors in Costume


Each year, both men and women have three basic choices for Halloween.

1.) Go costume-less, maybe with a nod to the day by wearing all black, or wear a t-shirt that says “Costume”:

“Halloween means nothing to me, and I’m sure-as-hell not going to make an ass out of myself….again.”

2.) Go all-out, and start hand-sewing the costume the day after last year’s Halloween, like you’re preparing to join a professional samba school for Carnival:

“Halloween, or Samhain, as it should be called, is the best day to honor the dissolving of the walls between the material world and the spiritual world. That is why I have brought dried sage to burn for all of you.”

(full disclosure: I’m allowed to make fun of this, because it was my Celtic ancestors who were probably dancing around naked in the woods…)

3.) Throw something together, either kick-ass or lame-ass, really doesn’t matter at this point, a scant two hours before the office party: “I worked 80 hours last week, not including overtime, and didn’t really have time to plan for this, but I’ll be damned if I’m the only one without a costume this year.”

I’d like to encourage you to go with options b) or c). All kidding aside, option b) might actually be the best (even if you’re too late for the obsessive planning-ahead component), because it speaks to the actual meaning of the day. Samhain, which predates All Hallow’s Eve, was traditionally a time for reflection and meditation on death, and a way to honor one’s actual or spiritual ancestors. It’s basically an opportunity to celebrate those who lived before you. Which makes it an ideal time to remember those many women and men who have made a significant difference to later generations of women, chiefly in the areas of race, class and gender equality and opportunity. I’m thinking of the great feminists from around the globe, not only the ones with whom we are familiar. Consider this: You can’t walk out of the door in costume on Halloween without somebody asking, “Who are you supposed to be?” Let’s give others something to think about, by going as (in no particular order):

  • Ida B. Wells-Barnett (1862-1931), African-American anti-lynching crusader, suffragist.
  • Dolores Jiménez y Muro (1848-1925), Socialist reformer of the Mexican Revolution.
  • John Stuart Mill (1806–1873), English philosopher, women’s rights advocate.
  • Lovisa Arberg (1801–1881), first woman doctor and surgeon in Sweden.
  • Concepcion Arenal (1820-1893), founder of the Feminist movement in Spain.
  • Mariama Bâ (1929–1981), Senegalese author and feminist against polygamy.
  • Christine de Pizan (1363–c.1430), late medieval author who challenged misogyny.
  • Tomáš Masaryk (1850–1937), leading Czechoslovakian proponent of women’s rights.
  • Hiratsuka Raichō (1886–1971), political activist and pioneering Japanese feminist.


I’ve purposely chosen individuals who may not be household names but who’ have certainly changed the world in which we live. If you “go” as one of them, or some other notable figure, you’ve got an opportunity to start a real conversation. So let’s have fun today, be true to one’s self and our spiritual ancestors.


Happy trick-or-treating!

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Margaret’s Story: Needs to stop

I’m only 15 and I look older than I am apparently I look about 20 because I am tall and mature for my age but I get beeped at all the time I hate it I get men shouting out there cars at me and whistling its not a compliment. I’ve also on 2 occasions had men leaning out there window beckoning me over but the worst one was in school but when he saw my outside of school it happened too.  He would shout at my “oi oi sexy” and put his arm round me and ask my for hugs and snogs and one incident was when he saw me walking to class and he started singing pretty women and once I got to my class room after him almost running to keep up with me he shouted at me “let me lick you up and down sexy babe.” Hated it every time someone tapped my shoulder or something I’d jump out my skin and always be looking around to make sure he wasn’t there thankfully he left school and I haven’t seen him since but it shouldn’t be happening that wasn’t so bad compared to what other people get but it affecting me a lot it need to stop.

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Devon’s Story: “I just didn’t know what else to do”

As I was walking to school around 9:30am yesterday morning (Thursday, October 28), I passed two men sitting in a car parked alongside the curb.(They looked to be in their 30’s.) As I passed them, they yelled “Hey!” from the parked car. I turned and looked behind me because I was startled, but realized I was just being cat-called as usual so I ignored them and continued walking.

Suddenly the two men pulled the car away from the curb and pulled up next to me me, driving slowly alongside me as I walked. They started shouting to me from the car “Excuse me, Miss! Can you please spare a moment of your time?”

I continued walking for a minute, trying to ignore them, but they were still following me, so I turned as I was walking and said in a clearly threatening tone, “What’s up?” The man who was driving asked me “What’s your name?”

“I don’t have time for this. Fuck off!” I replied.

“Fuck off?”

“Yes, FUCK OFF!” I yelled.

“Well fuck you, too, bitch!” They shouted. “I hope you have a SHITTY ass day you fat-ass bitch!” and sped away up the street, cursing and flipping me off.

I know I shouldn’t have said anything, but I just didn’t know what else to do. I was completely alone. There was no one around to help me. It seemed pointless to call 9-1-1 because they wouldn’t have been able to get to me in time, and I was afraid if the men saw I had a smart phone they would get out of the car and try to rob me or worse. I wish I could feel proud of myself for telling them to leave me alone, but instead I’m just thankful that they didn’t get out of the car and hurt me or kidnap me.


Brave Keenan Santos Pays With his Life For Standing Up To Street Harassment

Reuben Fernandez, deceased Keenan Santos and
Avinash Solanki


On Saturday night an innocent dinner of six friends in Mumbai, India, ended in the violent murder of a 24-year-old man and left another victim fighting for his life in Kokilaben hospital. How did this happen? Keenan Santos confronted a vile drunk that was sexually harassing his girlfriend.

According to the DN Nagar police in Amboli, Andheri residents Keenan Santos (24), Reuben Fernandez (29) and Avinash Solanki (31) dined out at Amboli Bar and Kitchen on Saturday night where they were joined by Santos and Fernandez’ girlfriend and a common friend.

The group of friends left the restaurant at 11 pm and headed out for some paan. Standing at a nearby stall, they were approached by a clearly inebriated eve-teaser, a euphemism for sexual harassment of women by men in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, who was alleged to have made sexual advances towards Santos girlfriend. As a natural reaction to defend his girlfriend, Santos confronted the man and pushed him away. A heated exchange erupted with alleged attacker, Jitendra Rana, fleeing the scene, whilst threatening to return. Shaken but not taking the threats seriously they continued to enjoy their night.

A short time later Rana returned with a group of what is believed to be 13 men brandishing swords and knives. Santos was stabbed so violently in the stomach that he was disemboweled, Fernandez was stabbed four times and Bali suffered minor cuts and bruises.

Both men were taken to Kokilaben Dhirubhai Ambani hospital where Santos was pronounced dead at 1 am and Fernandez is still critically ill. Santos father arrived at the hospital moments before he died, he said:

“”I drove to the hospital, and reached to find my son struggling for his life. He breathed his last within minutes.”

Senior police inspector, Vijay Kumar Bhoite, who is in charge of the investigation made this statement:

“We have arrested Rana, Both and Durgaj. We are on the lookout for the fourth accomplice, Deepak… We have asked the hotel to give us their CCTV grabs, so we can find out how many more goons were involved in the crime.”

We at Hollaback! want to give a big shout out to our sisters at Hollaback! Mumbai and want to show our support at such a tragic loss of human life. We encourage you to keep holla-ing back in the face of adversity. We also pay tribute to brave and heroic soul Keenan Santos for standing up and giving his life to speak out against injustice.


We Still Believe Anita Hill


20 years ago this month Anita Hill courageously thrust the issue of workplace sexual harassment into the American public consciousness when she spoke out about the inappropriate behavior of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas.

To celebrate the profound impact made by Hill’s appearance at the all-white, all-male congressional hearing in 1991, The Nation has brought together a whole host of inspirational women, including playwright Eve Ensler, the Domestic Workers Alliance’s Ai-Jen Poo and our very own badass Chief Executive Emily May to discuss the implications of Hill’s legacy. This awesome troop of ladies not only discuss how Hill orchestrated a change in the workplace but also what remains to be done. In particular, there is a legal loop-hole that alienates domestic workers. To be protected from workplace sexual harassment or discrimination there needs to be a minimum number of employees, in many instances at least five, which excludes workforces of one. This has to change. Watch the video so you yourself can inspire change!

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Virginia Rometty Changes 100 Years of Male Dominated IBM


In 100 years of IBM’s existence the company has never had a female CEO, until now, cue Virginia “Ginni” Rometty. As of January 2012 Rometty will step into the shoes of current CEO Sam Palmisano. The news comes hot on the heels of Meg Whitman’s appointment last month as CEO of Hewlett-Packard Co.

It is so refreshing to see these trailblazers of female equality and empowerment, women that we can look up to and say that we want to be just like them. In the immortal words of Marie Wilson of The White House Project, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” And this is absolutely the case, seeing the likes of Rometty and Whitman’s rise to success sets a sterling example to the next generation of kick-ass feminists.

We are now seeing not one but TWO long-overdue examples of women in positions of power. It will follow that more women will pursue such high-power positions with fewer impediments; women’s power will become normalized and more people will come to believe that ALL people can operate in all fields at all levels! Pink-collar jobs no more!

Rometty is being touted as successful, passionate and inquisitive by a friendly environment of fellow IBM-ers. This is great news for our equality-seeking world but it certainly isn’t enough to have two female CEOs of major technology companies. New leadership is needed. Step to the fore!

Although this is noteworthy step for female equality, it is common knowledge that females in America make up over half the work force, but still only make 70 cents to every male dollar and as of 2011 only 12 of Fortune 500 companies have women CEOs, none of whom make the top ten. In fact, the highest raking female, Patricia A. Woertz of Archer Daniels Midland, only made it to number 39.

As we continue to stand up against street harassment and reach for high-ranking positions in all sectors we can all take on the methods of activist work. And I would say visibility is key. We have to be able to see ourselves represented, or else we’ll be commodified, mythologized and used for other peoples’ purposes. Many of us were taught to be meek and unseen so male supremacy could rein. To combat that old oppression, let’s be passionate, steadfast and BAD-ASS leaders so equality can supersede patriarchy.

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Demand Ends Child Trafficking Through Their Site!


Scroll to the bottom of The Village Voice’s homepage and you will find a bland, colorless gray box labeled The last sentence of the disclaimer preempting sections of the gray box listed under “Adult” reads:

“I also agree to report suspected exploitation of minors and/or human trafficking to the appropriate authorities.”

But no disclaimer is going to put right the wrong done to children victimized by sex trafficking.

Village Voice Media, owner of 13 alternative newspapers including the Village Voice and LA Weekly, is also owner of the online classified site, which has been severely criticized for refusing to do away with its adult advertising on the site.

In September of 2010, 21 State Attorney Generals requested for Backpage to remove its adult services sections stating that they “believe that ads for prostitution—including ads
trafficking children—are rampant on the site.” Backpage declined the request of the attorney generals stating:

“Censorship will not create public safety nor will it rid the world of exploitation.”

This past September, Village Voice Media was again urged by a group of 45 attorney generals to help end the use of their site as a “hub” for trafficking minors.

On Tuesday, the Groundswell movement, a new multi-faith coalition took out a full-page New York Times advertisement. The advertisement was an open letter to the CEO and Chair Jim Larkin and Board of Directors of Village Voice Media, urging them to follow the lead of Craigslist (which removed it’s adult services section in 2010) and shut down the Adult section of Again, Village Voice Media refused, instead pointing out on the Village Voice blog that criminals use cell phones and no one is blaming Verizon or AT&T!

The Groundswell Movement is now urging clergy and concerned citizens (THAT’S YOU!) to sign a petition demanding that Village Voice Media shut down the Adult section of Make a difference and sign the petition today!

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Therese’s Story: Unwanted attention

While waiting for my fiancee to exit a retail establishment, I was standing on the sidewalk at this intersection somewhat a ways back from the street and close to the entrance of a residential building. It was nighttime and dark out, although the area seemed safe.

A man approached to enter the building and told me how pretty I was making the entrance area appear. I’m ashamed to admit that I snapped at him and told him “that’s a rude thing to say.” I’m ashamed because he was paying a compliment, but even though he said it in a nice tone his intentions to hit on me were very clear. That’s why I snapped.

I feel very conflicted about the encounter. On one hand I did not desire this man’s attention and it was not appropriate for him to just come out and say this especially to a lone female at night. However, he said it in a nice way and was, at the end of the day, complimenting me and there was no tone of contempt there as there would be with a catcaller or harasser.

I just want to cleanse myself from this encounter by releasing it out into the world, and saying “I’m sorry” to this gentleman, for snapping at him, but also I’m not sorry because you should not hit on a lone woman at night in passing, no matter how pretty she is making your building entrance look. It’s unwanted attention you’re paying to her, whether it’s with the best of intentions or not.

Thank you for listening.

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