Hollaback! started in 2005 as a conversation between seven youth (four women and three men). As the women told story after story of harassment, the men became increasingly concerned. Collectively, they resolved to change that.
Around the same time, a woman named Thao Nguyen bravely stood up to her harasser – an older, upper middle class raw-foods restaurant owner – who terrified her by masturbating across from her on the subway. She took his photo with her camera, and when the police ignored it, she posted it on flikr. The picture eventually made it to the front page of the New York Daily News, where it incited a city-wide conversation about street harassment. The seven youth were inspired by Thao’s story and decided to apply her model to all forms of harassment and to document these experiences on a public blog.
Interest in Hollaback! grew over the next five years. What began as a simple idea – a blog to collect women’s and LGBTQ+ individuals’ stories of street harassment – became part of an international movement. In 2010 Emily May, one of the original seven youth, became the organization’s first executive director. Since its inception as a nonprofit, Hollaback! witnessed a tremendous surge in interest and a rapid expansion in social, political, and cultural capital for the organization and the broader movement to end street harassment.
Since Hollaback!’s founding, its leaders have faced online harassment. At first the harassment took the form of homophobic name-calling over emails, but eventually they began receiving rape and death threats. In 2013, fed up with being harassed, and angered by the harassment they saw happening across the internet, they decided to do something. Hollaback! founded HeartMob, a platform where people facing online harassment can ask for exactly the kind of support they need, when they need it, and get it from vetted bystanders who have the tools and resources necessary to help in impactful ways.
With the addition of HeartMob, Hollaback! has articulated a broader sense of purpose. By expanding from a fixed focus on street harassment to the wider lens of access to shared and public spaces, we’re seeking equality for women and LGBTQ+ folks in all forms of public space.
These are the ideas that ground our work and our lives.
A Culture of Awesome
We believe that everyone has a right to be their most awesome self, and that the movement to end harassment in public spaces will be led like all successful movements that have come before it: by people with bold ideas who take risks to upend the status quo. We aren’t afraid of our own strength, and we aren’t afraid to wield our collective power to make the world a better place.
Making the Impossible Possible
We know a lot of people don’t take a stand against harassment because they think ending harassment is impossible. We’re not afraid to fight for something better, and we are united in our belief that a world without harassment isn’t just possible: it’s imminent.
Transparency and Honesty
Movements move at the speed of trust, and trust is earned. We recognize that honesty and transparency are a crucial part of impactful relationships in the movement. Whether you are a reader, a contributor, a funder, a legislator, a local leader, or a partner, we promise to be candid and forthright with you.
We’ve Got Your Back
Changing the world isn’t always easy. It’s scary to tell your story, and it’s scary to lead a movement that defies longstanding norms. When times get tough, we stand together. Our work also involves a lot of learning and self-reflection. We embrace others’ perspectives, see debate as a learning opportunity, and we’re humble enough to know there’s always room for improvement. We treat each other with respect and compassion.
We will not fight harassment at the expense of other movements. We are flamboyantly anti-racist, anti-classist, anti-ableist, anti-homophobic, anti-transphobic, and anti- any other form of discrimination that is designed to keep people “in their place.” We recognize the danger of intersecting oppressions, and we believe in the power of intersectional justice. We seek to understand harassment from every possible perspective, and seek to represent our movement with a wide and diverse constituency.
Followers Are the New Leaders
It’s not the leaders alone who build movements – it’s the followers. We are committed to supporting followers to become new leaders, who can then turn their followers into new leaders, and so on and so forth until harassment in public spaces is history.