On The Subject of Street Harassment.

Today, March 24, marks the end of Anti-Street Harassment Week 2012.  But while I haven’t been posting about Anti-Street Harassment Week all week, harassment has been a common theme of several of my latest posts (especially if you look on our tumblr).  At the moment, though, I do think it’s worth it to take a minute to talk about street harassment specifically, and the movement that’s been started as a reaction to it.

Street Harassment is a surprisingly prevalent problem around the world.  A survey of over 800 US women revealed that 99% of them experienced street harassment.  Stop Street Harassment defines it as “Street harassment is any action or comment between strangers in public places that is disrespectful, unwelcome, threatening and/or harassing and is motivated by gender.” As someone who has lived both in the United States and Kenya, I can personally attest to the fact that men DO make inappropriate comments to women on the street.  In Kenya, men even grab women’s arms on the streets or take other actions which are obviously not acceptable but which society passively accepts because it fails to respond.

People-~-and by “people” I here generally mean “men” try to tell women (and have told me personally) that street harassment should be taken as a compliment.  Opponents of street harassment disagree strongly: it is objectifying and degrading.  In Egypt, it is referred to as “public sexual harassment”-~-and that should tell you something.  Sexual harassment as a whole and street harassment in particular are NOT complimentary; they are extraordinary insulting, and society needs to stop letting people get away with it.

This passive acceptance of street harassment is coming to an end, though, and it is being replaced by an active response to the problem.  Stop Street Harassment is an international movement that aims to increase awareness of the problem, educate men on why it’s wrong, and teach women how to respond to and deal with street harassment.  Their website has a lot of useful resources as well as ideas for fighting street harassment on an individual or community level, and it’s worth checking it out.

Statistics available from the 2008 Stop Street Harassment Survey revealed that women alter their behavior and even sometimes their life choices in response to street harassment.  Before anyone tries to tell me that this is “not a big deal”, 19% of women surveyed stated that they moved homes at least once because of harassment in their area and 9% said they changed jobs at least once because of harassers along their commute.  Almost a fifth of women surveyed have changed where they LIVE because of harassment issues?  That, ladies and gentlemen, is a REALLY BIG DEAL.  On top of that, 45% of women said they avoided being out after dark at least once a month-~-11% said they adopted this behavior all the time.  62% of women reported being on guard and constantly assessing their surroundings ALL THE TIME.

America claims it is the land of the free, but 62% of women living there don’t feel safe enough to comfortably walk home from work.  That needs to end, and it needs to end now.

I’ll just leave you with a video my roommate sent me that was inspired by Stop Street Harassment and International Anti-Street Harassment Week.  Enjoy!

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~ by Randi Saunders on March 24, 2012.

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