Emily May

Ashoka Fellow
New York, NY, United States, North America
Fellow Since 2014
My work: Making street harassment culturally unacceptable by raising its visibility and establishing support systems.

Citation

This profile was prepared when Emily May was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2014.
The New Idea
For decades, sexual harassment in schools and the workplace has been widely seen as unacceptable, and a wide variety of both preventive and punitive measures have been established to address it. The clear legal framework established for workplace sexual harassment has failed, however, to translate to public space, due both to a lack of accountability, and to the unpredictable nature of street harassment.

Emily is working to change that: first, by taking the spotlight off the harassed and shifting it to the harasser, in order to reverse the power dynamics of sexual harassment in public space. Using social media and crowd-source technology, she has created a real-time response to street harassment. When confronted with street harassment, victims can anonymously share their story online or via an iPhone or Android app, marking the incident’s location on a Google map, and uploading photos of their harasser. The result is an immediate feeling of agency among victims and a shared understanding that they aren’t alone – but more importantly, a growing data set that Emily and her team are using to shift the very way in which we look at street harassment.

Recognizing that only a fraction of the people who live the problem will report it, and that the problem is too pervasive to combat through punitive means, Emily is building a global movement of young leaders, who then feed these stories to local media, policymakers, and related influencers. Together, they aim to break the silence and stigma associated with street harassment and legitimize it as a problem in need of real attention and solutions.

Since 2010, Hollaback! has grown from a handful of sites to operating in 65 cities in 22 countries. The result is over 800 press hits globally, on all five continents and in 12 languages. Her work has been featured in People, Fast Company, and The New York Times. At a policy level, Emily and the team inspired the world’s first-ever hearing on street harassment in New York City, with the result that today, individuals can directly report harassment to the councilmember in the district in which they were harassed. And in London, local Hollaback! leaders worked with the government to develop Project Guardian, where 2,000 officers who police the city’s public transport network have been trained to deal with sexual offences and a reporting hotline has been developed.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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