Director of Hollaback! to speak on gender violence and street harassment

Activist Emily May will be speaking about street harassment and gender-based violence Tuesday, March 29 at 7 p.m. in Derryberry Auditorium.

May is the co-founder and executive director of the organization Hollaback!, which focuses on increasing awareness about street harassment and its affects on those who face it. May has won many awards for her leadership, including one of the “12 women to watch in 2012” award by The Daily Muse, according to the organization’s website.

The Women’s Center invited May to speak to Tech students.

“More than anything, like most speakers, there is always several goals and one is always to highlight an issue and bring awareness to the issue,” said the Women’s Center’s administrative associate Diana Lalani. “In this case, I think that not everyone is convinced that cat-calling is harassment. It’s also important to recognize that this is just one piece of a larger harassment problem.”

Hollaback! made headlines on media outlets such as CNN, Time and Jezebel back in 2014 after a video attached to the organization was uploaded of a woman walking in New York City for 10 hours, highlighting the harassment she encountered by many people she passed. The video received backlash when viewers noticed that only black people were being featured harassing the woman.

Lalani said that she and her student workers were satisfied with the organization’s response, which was issued a week after the backlash that explained their role in the video and ensured supporters that they were listening and using the controversy to expose the issue even more.

“It’s amazing to me that it’s taken this long for society to start looking at cat-calling as street harassment, because I’ve always felt like it was,” said Lalani. “But people have acted like it was normal and acceptable.”

According to the organization’s website, street harassment is defined as a form of “sexual and gender-based harassment that takes place in public spaces.”

“(Street harassment) probably just seems like an annoyance at worst to a lot of people who don’t have to deal with it, but there are cases where it’s gotten ugly, and even when it’s not, it’s indicative of the objectification that’s been ingrained in society,” said Jake Gentry, senior environmental and sustainability studies major. “People need to be aware of its causes and effects.”

Junior journalism major Erica Dial hopes to learn important information about the issue that she herself has experienced on and off campus.

“I’m hoping that the event will provide appropriate ways to respond to street harassment that lets the perpetrators know what they’re doing is wrong, but doesn’t endanger the victim,” said Dial.

The event is open to the public and is sponsored by CenterStage and the Women’s Center.