A WORLD that has had enough of aggressive, entitled, psychopathic, misogynistic men has a new hero.
When 21-year-old Emelia Holden had herself finally had enough — performing a top-tier takedown of a groper much larger than her — she had no idea that the confrontation, caught by surveillance camera, would be one of the most viral videos of the year.
From the New York Times to The Today Show to People to the U.K. Daily Mail, Holden’s act of brave self-defense — and let’s be clear, that’s what it was, self-defense — garnered Savannah, and her employer Vinnie Van Go-Go’s, a moment in the spotlight that resonated beyond the usual go-to journalistic clichés about Spanish moss and Southern drawls.
Through the media whirlwind that followed, Holden showed such poise, good humor, and quiet but clear determination that she quickly became a bright point in what has rapidly become a completely dispiriting national scene overall.
I specifically mention that Holden’s physical actions against the man were done in self-defense for a reason.
Sometimes we gussy-up sexual assault by using euphemisms such as groping, inappropriately touching, fondling, etc.
But there’s a reason the word “assault” is in the charge of sexual assault. It is literally a physical attack.
Every one of us has the right to defend ourselves. And when you live in a world where so many people in power are men with the same pathological sense of entitlement as Holden’s attacker seems to have had, that right becomes ever more precious, and ever more important.
Some have tried to downplay the incident by saying it was “just a touch” on the behind. Any decent person will immediately see the epic failure of that line of thought.
Maybe you could get away with calling it “just a touch” if an assailant’s wife and children are nearby in a public restaurant.
But maybe that “touch” turns into something else when a camera isn’t present, and if we continue to enable this kind of grotesque behavior by not calling it out when it happens.
And make no mistake – this kind of entitled misogyny is everywhere in downtown Savannah on a typical drunken weekend.
Holden’s stand could easily be one of many to come, as there is no shortage of threats to women here as everywhere else.
It was saddening and enraging to see a small but vocal minority of people insinuate, or either just explicitly say, that Holden “had it coming” because of how she was dressed.
Such a disgustingly retrograde attitude would be barely deserving of recognition at all were it not unfortunately still alive and well in some quarters.
Thankfully, whenever I saw that opinion voiced it was shouted down.
Many times, these sorts of stories end badly for the hero. As most of us have learned, no good deed goes unpunished.
That can sometimes be doubly true in Savannah, a place that often revels in dysfunction — whether in City Hall chambers or in downtown’s regular alcohol-fueled transgressions.
But in this case not only does Holden’s employer have her back, apparently business and tips are up at Vinnie’s, too. And deservedly so.
Perhaps unsurprisingly given the era we live in, there is a coda that involves a GoFundMe page. However, in this case it’s not for Holden herself.
She admits on the page that “I’d like to take this opportunity to give back to something that means a great deal to me, CATS!” Her charity of choice is the Palmetto Animal League, a Ridgeland, S.C.-based adoption center, clinic and no-kill animal rescue nonprofit.