Sometimes we have to return to the basics. It is important for us to explain exactly what constitutes “Street Harassment” for our new readers as well as consolidating the knowledge of our existing audience. I speak to many people that are aware, vaguely aware, unaware or totally unsure of what is appropriate in public spaces. This is because the perennial problem of street harassment is something we are used to and have come to accept and ignore. So now it’s time to set the record straight.
Street Harassment is any form of behavior, verbal or physical, between strangers in a public space that is unwanted, disrespectful, threatening or violent. The best way to know if this has happened to you is to ask yourself how the abuser/incident has made you feel, if you feel ashamed, angered or forced to stare at the floor, walk faster or dive into a shop – you should not tolerate it and you should definitely Hollaback!
Street Harassment affects everyone, men, women and LGBTQ folk, although statistically it happens to certain groups more frequently than others, not a single individual on the planet is impervious to it. It manifests itself in all manner of ways from wolf whistles to assault. Popular Anti –Street Harassment site Stop Street Harassment has defined the varying types of street harassment:
“It ranges from leers, whistles, honks, kissing noises, and non-sexually explicit evaluative comments, to more insulting and threatening behavior like vulgar gestures, sexually charged comments, flashing, and stalking, to illegal actions like public masturbation, sexual touching, assault, and murder.”
A few months ago I met a man via my husband who asked me “where do you draw the line in street harassment?” It is interesting because I do not believe that he was a pervert or a mean person, just an ignorant product of the “boys will be boys” mentality that trivializes the act of abusing another person on the street. He continued:
“Well what exactly can I say to a woman on the street?”
For this poor chap, my advice was that it was probably best for him to say nothing at all and maybe he should imagine being bound by an imaginary line that forever lies just ahead of him. I could not blame him entirely because we are constantly exposed to images that suggest such behavior is acceptable. There is a scene in “The Hangover” where the characters cruise a cop car down the Vegas strip, using the loud speaker Bradley Cooper’s character informs a woman on the street something to the effect of “you have an awesome rack”, having already accepted the other humorous parts of the movie so it is widely accepted as “harmless fun”. However, I am sure the majority of people out there would not like to have their “rack” or any other part of them referred to by a total stranger on the street.
Regardless of sex, creed, color or choice of outfit everyone has the right to feel safe and confident on the streets without fear of any varying violation of their person or personal space. We have the power to end street harassment and we will. Join the revolution, it’s freakin’ awesome!