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Street Harassment is Harassment.

April 23, 2013

End Street Harassment Week was the week of April 7th.

That week was also the first nice weather we’ve seen in a while. I didn’t think it was a coincidence.

Most of us know about street harassment. Stop Street Harassment, the organizers of the second annual International Anti-Street Harassment Week, define the problem on their website:

Catcalls, sexist comments, public masturbation, groping, stalking, and assault: gender-based street harassment makes public places unfriendly and even scary for many girls, women, and LGBQT folks. It limits their access to public spaces.

Even if you don’t know the term “street harassment”, you know what I’m talking about. Sometimes it’s overt, like stalking or unwanted touching. Sometimes it’s not as blatant: it’s a man telling you to “smile, baby” or a man asking your name because he just “wants to get to know you.” These things can be street harassment too.

The reality of street harassment means thinking twice about your outfit or your makeup before you go out to avoid unwanted attention. It means taking a cab instead of the subway to get away from strangers. It means sizing up situations constantly, knowing that even the most innocent smiles from strangers can quickly escalate to unsafe situations. It means keeping your head down to avoid eye contact, knowing that any attention, even accidental, could become threatening. This might sound totally reactionary and paranoid to some people, but it’s the reality for a lot of folks — specifically women and gender non-conforming folks.

Street harassment maintains the divide between the public sphere and the private sphere – it means that women can’t feel comfortable in their own neighborhoods. It exacerbates the objectification that we already feel – just because we are in public doesn’t mean our bodies are public property.

What can we do about street harassment? We can name it, we can call it out, we can talk to our [male] [cisgendered] [straight] allies about what they can do. We can talk to each other, because that’s what gives us power: knowing we’re not alone.

Here are some links from #EndSHweek:

One Comment leave one →
  1. April 23, 2013 5:31 pm

    This is awesome to read. As a woman, going out to run typically means a sports bra and shorts. The cat-calls are endless. Typically, they’re met with my middle fingers. Thank you for this movement.

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