First Annual Anti- Street Harrasment Day


Yesterday, March 20th was the first annual Anti- Street Harassment Day.

Street Harassment is at least a daily ocurrence for many women and young girls. It seems that a female cannot walk half a mile in any city without receiving some type of cat call, honk, whistle, or unwelcome approach from a stranger. In fact, 80-99% of women report receiving aggressive, unwanted male attention from a stranger. Of these women, 75% report being followed and 57% had been sexually touched by male strangers. Despite these alarming statistics, street harassment and gender based aggression have not received the same type of outrage from society (or the legal system) as race/ethnicity-based, religion-based, or even sexuality based agression. Hopefully yesterday marked a change in that perspective.

Women have learned to deal with these innapropriate gestures, but why should they have to? What is it about our society that makes it acceptable for men to be so invasive? General obsession with physical appearance is one answer, but not a comprehensive one.

Street Harassment is not about sex, physical attraction, or a desire to get to know a stranger. Street harassment is about power. It is a man’s way of gaining the upper hand in what could have been a casual, unnoticed interaction. It is a daily reminder that as a woman, you are far more likely to be subject to any range of violent acts such as rape or molestation. Women and girls are frequently molested in public settings, primarily in metros/ mass transit arenas.  Women are left feeling scared, shaken, infuriated, disempowered, and helpless.

These women are strong, courgeous, and deserve protection from any type of violent act. There is no fully appropriate response that can empower a woman after this kind of interaction. Silence leaves her wanting to voice her discontent and yelling back in rage only further empowers the perpetrator. The solution lies in stopping the the act from happening in the first place.

The first annual anti-harassment day did not receive the level of media coverage it warranted, but it is a helpful beginning to the end of these types of unacceptable behaviors that endanger women.

Shelby Hickman

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  • gwmchstudents

    This is an eye-opener, a great issue brought to the notice of public. Being a female immigrant in the U.S I thought the problem didn’t exist here in first place, but this article reminded me of a personal incident that took place when I had just joined GW and recieved such an unwanted attention from a stanger in the metro. Unfortunately, I was all alone and helpless as it happened late in the evening when I was on my way to a class. I was petrified. Did not know how to avoid a 6 feet tall and a huge man stading right before me and forcefully talking and asking me out for dinner. Scared to remove my cell phone and call for help. But before the doors closed he left. Though it was not a physical torture, it indeed was a shocking experience which left me thinking for days. I understand what a women goes through in such a situation and wonder why it is still overlooked?

     

    Priya Mishra.

  • gwmchstudents

    I did not know that Street Harrassment Day existed but I am thankful that it does and wish that more people knew about it and its message.  Sometimes I feel ridiculous when I notice myself taking an alternate route to avoid a group of idle men. Most likely I am not avoiding a dangerous situation rather an uncomfortable one.  Regardless of my level of fear for my actual safety, it is embarrassing and offensive to get cat-called at and from my conversations with other women/girls I am not alone with my feelings or experiences. When are men going to realize that it is not cute or complimentary to whistle at a woman walking by, rather its disgusting?

    -caitlin

  • catseye71352

    It is past time we started to address this crap! One time I was harassed by a guy who was accompanied by a (male) toddler. How’s _that_ for sick?

  • gwmchstudents

    I too was not aware that there was a day dedicated to this issue–one that certainly needs calling attention to. I also notice that I find myself very uncomfortable if a random stranger tries to call out to me or whistle. I often just walk right by and not pay any attention.  However, I can see how this can have a negative effect on a woman dealing with past issues of emotional stress or even abuse especially when the harassment is taken beyond the level of being uncomfortable. I definitely think it is important to raise awareness about street harassment and find positive ways for women to handle situations like this. I think community wide programs in areas where this type of harassment is frequent may be a good way to start. These programs can focus on women and how they can avoid these situations and be empowered, and also target men around areas of respect for women.

    -Rebecca Kurikeshu

  • gwmchstudents

    I’ve noticed over the past several years how many people, especially in mass transit or walking around campus, are ‘plugged’ in. Plugged into their ipod or text messaging or their phone. I wonder how technology has lent itself to street harassment. I often feel that if I am walking with music I am disengaging and thus less noticeable. At times this makes me feel more comfortable–like I am walking with a mission. Although I notice checking my shadow more frequently since the music may drown out approaching footsteps. I also try to be on the phone when walking somewhere I don’t feel comfortable–letting someone else know where I am and where I am going. This post made me reflect that these small habits have all stemmed from a fear of being approached by a stranger…a fear of street harassment. Somehow this label “street harassment” feels empowering. I hope that this word starts a new movement to empower women to band together and bring this issue to attention. Thanks for the post!

     

    A. Chadwick

  • gwmchstudents

    It is about time a day was dedicated to this cause. 

    You should check out Holla Back DC. Holla Back DC  is a group that is dedicating to addressing street harassment. Check out their website: http://hollabackdc.wordpress.com/

    On anti-street harassment day, they organized groups that conducted safety audits of neighborhoods in all wards in DC. 

     

    Kristina