Can L’Oréal really help stop public sexual harassment?

By Deanna Utroske

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images \ (IR_Stone)
© Getty Images \ (IR_Stone)

Related tags CSR L'oréal

After survey data showed that 9 out of 10 women around the world say that harassment is the number one issue they face, the multinational beauty maker teamed up with Hollaback!, an organization dedicated to transforming culture and ending harassment.

Hollaback! got its start in 2005 as a community of young people sharing their stories about street harassment online. In 2010, the organization’s Founder, Emily May, incorporated Hollaback! as a non-profit to help support global growth of the movement to end street harassment and develop young leaders.

Today, Hollaback! “shows up as a perpetual affront to harassment wherever it exists,” ​May tells Cosmetics Design, explaining that the organization has recently worked to help address voter suppression, anti-Asian harassment in the wake of COVID-19, and anti-Black harassment as well.

Bystander intervention is the safe, smart first step to ending harassment

Hollaback! promotes positive change through bystander intervention trainings: live learning experiences (in-person pre COVID and now via Zoom) that teach both men and women how they can effectively disrupt harassment when they see it.

“It’s really simply people taking care of people,”​ May tells Cosmetics Design. “It’s not about heroics or swooping in and saving the day,”​ she says; it’s about “how you can show up in a way that both takes care of them and keeps you safe.”

The movement to end harassment is a movement of hope. “For so long people havefelt hopeless,” ​says May, explaining that through her work, she’s heard over and over again from people saying, ‘Yeah, harassment is awful. It strips away at who I am. But there is nothing we can do.’

“It’s an important thing to note is there is something that we can do,” ​she emphasizes. May looks at changes that have taken place in her lifetime, pointing to the Anita Hill - Clarence Thomas hearings that brought workplace harassment into the spotlight.

“Sociality has changed our perspective,” ​she says. “Stuff that was normal in the 80s and 90s is not normal today. We can do the same thing when it comes to street harassment,” ​believes May. “It just takes investment.”

In partnership with L’Oréal, Hollaback! is training people around the world to disrupt harassment

L’Oréal reached out to May and her team at Hollaback! in 2018. And earlier this year, on March 8, 2020, the beauty maker and the non-profit launched Stand Up Against Street Harassment with a goal of training one million people globally in bystander intervention.

Stand Up has local non-profit partners around the world; and in countries beyond the US, Hollaback! is training the trainers, May explains. Here in the States, to move the initiative closer to it goal of one million bystanders trained, Hollaback! is aiming to educate some 20 thousand bystanders through its live training sessions before the end of the year.

There are pre-scheduled bystander interventions trainings almost daily that are open to the general public​. And organizations, companies, schools, non-profits, and other groups of 80+ can arrange a private training with Hollaback!

The partnership with L’Oréal is a “dream-come-true project,”​ May tells Cosmetics Design. “We have not seen an investment this significant in this issue or seen what bystander intervention looks like at scale,”​ she says.

Surveys conducted after in-person trainings show that 99% of participants “say they leave with at least one thing to do if they see harassment.” ​That fact along with L’Oréal’s investment gives May hope that together they can “facilitate a culture change.”

This article was updated on 5-Dec-2020 to correctly state the year Hollaback! got started: 2005

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