If you’ve ever been harassed on the street by males whistling and shouting vulgar propositions, you will understand why Emily May started the Holla’Back movement. On April 11, in the A.K. Hind’s University Center Grand Room, May shared her story and legacy with the students of Western Carolina University.

Coming from North Carolina, May was accustomed to a relaxed setting and southern hospitality. She was in for a culture shock when she moved to New York City at age 18 to attend college at New York University. During her first weeks of living in NYC, May noticed a lot of street conversations. She found it very interesting that people would yell from their vehicles at people walking down the street, often yelling vulgar, inappropriate comments. The longer May lived in NYC, the more frequent and vulgar the shouting became.

As time passed, May was getting yelled at while walking down the street at least 3 times per day. In one instance, May was walking to the subway late at night when a strange man came up behind her and whispered discourteous words in her ear. May thought to herself, “How is this acceptable treatment toward women?” but then let the topic slip her mind as quickly as it came about.

Five years later, while conversing with her friends, this topic was brought up. After hearing May’s stories, the male friend of the group Sam said, “You live in a different NYC.” Even though May and Sam attended the same university, lived in the same town, and lived very similar lives, the difference was simple: Sam was a male and May was a female.

It was then that May and her friends decided to start a blog called, “Holla’Back.” Holla’Back started as a blogging site to collect women’s stories about street harassment. May and seven of her male and female friends believed that street harassment was unacceptable and that every woman should have the right to walk down the street without feeling unsafe due to street harassment. They believed women should, in fact, “holla’back.” By 2007, these stories from the blog began to grow into an international movement. Holla’Back became widely known all around the world. In May 2010, a full website was created and May became the organization’s first executive director.

“Street harassment is everything from comments about someone’s appearance, gender, sexual orientation, vulgar gestures, sexually explicit comments, leering, whistling, barking, kissing noises, following someone, flashing someone or exposing oneself, blocking someone’s path, touching or grabbing, public masturbation and much more,” said May.

Holla’Back is now a movement to end street harassment powered by local activists in 45 cities, 16 countries and in 9 different languages around the world.

May has been very successful with the Holla’Back organization and has been featured on the Today Show, Good Morning America and People magazine for her outstanding efforts to end street harassment.

Holla’Back iPhone and Android applications have been developed that provide information on what to do if you are caught in a street harassment situation, or if you are a bystander of one.