This is written by Anna, who plans to start a Hollaback in France!
I’m very sorry for what happened to Sabriya. I’m a French woman who has lived one year in New York City. I don’t live in Paris, but I have to say that I’ve felt much more relax and safe during my staying in NYC that I had in my hometown. Maybe NYC is such a huge city that everyone is more or less anonymous: no one really cares about how the others are dressed, or how they behave. You don’t have time to look at a stranger who looks unusual in the street and wonder “what do I think about this?” At least, it is the feeling I had.
I don’t want to talk about a cultural difference between our countries as street harassment exists everywhere around the world. I’ve been street harassed in NYC a few times. Two men gave me the “Hey cutie”, others the kissing noise, one put his hand into his pant and smiled when I walked by him, a truck driver honked at me and my girls friends, and, the most disgusting, a man masturbated in front of me in Coney Island.
From my experience, street harassment in France is more intrusive and happens more often. I mean men often come closer, engage a conversation with you. And they stay, they don’t just pass by.
Unfortunately, I have very little information on street harassment in France, we actually don’t even use the terms “street harassment”! The newspapers articles that I found treated it as a game or as a form of flirting. As for the forums/websites, they’re often full of racist comments. That’s one of the reasons I decided to start a Hollaback France. Here are the links of two articles (here and here) written by sociologists (in French) about violence in public spaces and women’s fears.