Feminist bookmark alert: street harassment

Over at The F-word, Laura Woodhouse has responded to a post at the Guardian’s Comment is Free about street harassment, or more particularly to the response it provoked on the Guardian’s own site:

once again the comments section has filled up with comments from arrogant little pricks whose thoughts on the matter can be summed up in one of three ways:

(1) When will these bloody misandrist women stop whinging and get the hell off the net?

(2) Street harassment hardly ever happens and it’s all ironic, harmless fun anyway.

(3) But women love it and ask for it – look, they’ve got boobs!

Laura asked for a simple show of hands from F-word commentors about whether they had experienced street harassment. Most commentors opted to give more detail than that of their various experiences.

So do bookmark it for the next time someone tries to argue that street harassment is not a big deal or doesn’t happen much. Because we know better, and if those naysayers have half a brain and an ounce of intellectual honesty, then after they read that thread they will also know better. It’s all about a perceived macho entitlement to dominate public space, and often an implicit threat of imminent physical harm as well.

If you want to tell your own story of street harassment, I encourage you to go over to the F-word post and add it there. By all means copy it here as well, and/or submit it to Hollaback Oz.

I’d also be interested in examining how the antagonistic comments on posts about street harassment and rape and pay inequality etc are often used as a tool for silencing and shaming feminist opinions and arguments through intimidation i.e. essentially just good old cyberbullying.

Categories: gender & feminism, violence

Tags: , , , ,

8 replies

  1. Another thing about street harassment is the avoidance behaviour it leaves you with. If I see a group of two or more young to middle aged men together on the street, I’ll take a different route so as to not come to their attention. I’m probably more likely to get a “fat bitch” these days than a “hey sexy lady”, but the effects are remarkably similar.

  2. I’ve just realised that I can’t recall a single one of these episodes happening while I was walking my German Shepherd or one of my Dobermanns, which I’ve lived with and walked regularly from childhood to around the age of 35.
    Which confirms to me that it’s all about creating a credible threat, not about “expressing appreciation” or “trying to make a connection”.

  3. Street harassment is hostile, plain and simple. It is just as insulting and offensive as hurling racial epithets at random people on the street, and most people don’t tolerate that nowadays. But as a woman, I’m supposed to laugh off leering, hostile ogling, cat-calling, whistling, shouting, and name-calling (I have been called a “bitch” more than once for ignoring men who shout, “What’s your name?” and “Where are you going?”) as quaint, low-brow macho culture, or worse, feel flattered by the “male attention.”
    I just posted about this very topic on my own blog, btw: http://www.emiliedice.com/blog/?p=48

  4. Lauredhel, I don’t remember getting the same harassment when standing next to a big dog, either.
    Emilie, yes, the classic switch from dramatic leering to outright abuse if you don’t show some startle/fear is a dead giveaway, isn’t it?

  5. Lauredhel, you too? I’ve actually changed the way I walk to work to avoid having to pass groups of men on the street. None of these ones have done anything, but I tense up so badly I was giving myself headaches.
    Twice when I was living in Australia I had men grab me, and both times people pretended nothing was happening. The second time was in a store, in front of the cashier, who just looked at me impatiently for getting angry.
    People tell me that the answer is violence. Yeah, cuz that’s what I want to do – give someone who’s already indicated that I’m not a person a good excuse to hurt me.
    Annas last blog post..KITTEH!

  6. Scroll down to the Anon comment at the F Word, the comment by a WWD starting “Me too. (Or me 64 at this point.)”
    I can vouch for feeling far more vulnerable as a person with a disability (though mine’s invisible, so at least that), and I also recall being hypervigilant when I had a babe in arms.

  7. My husband is disabled, and he *gets* Street Harrassment the way none of the other men I’ve been involved with do. He’s partly protected from being 6’10” tall when he’s out with his cane, but we avoid going anywhere near the main drag of our city on Friday or Saturday nights when the Boyz have decided they need to dominate everyone around them… and we live in that neighbourhood.


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