Acting Against Street Harassment

During the past couple of weeks, the “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” video has stirred up a lot of conversation over social media. The purpose of the video was to bring attention to street harassment, which is an issue that many women deal with and experience on a daily basis.

From what I witnessed being said on the timelines of my personal social media accounts, it seems as if many men were offended by it. “I don’t believe they’re calling that harassment,” they said. “Women shouldn’t be so rude. It won’t kill them to smile and say ‘thank you’ to a compliment,” they said. “If they’re not being touched, I don’t see the problem. Women try to criminalize men for anything because they are man haters,” they said.

These reactions are why the video and acknowledgement of the issue is so so so important to society right now.

Many men don’t see that the things they say to women who pass them by on the street can be offensive, annoying or flat out uncomfortable. Many men were never taught how to speak to a woman they find or attractive and they were never taught that speaking to a complete stranger and getting angry for not receiving a positive response is flat out inappropriate.

An organization called Hollaback! has been created with the purpose of educating people on street harassment. The only way a street harasser will be able to understand how the person on the other end of that “Damn girl, can I follow you home?” conversation feels is to bring awareness to the issue.

Hollaback! is located in 79 different cities and 29 countries. I was super excited to learn of this organization about a month ago because street harassment is something I experience on a regular basis… And I absolutely hate it.

When I voiced my opinion/feelings on Twitter about this issue, I got a reply saying “So you girls just spend all that time getting ready and looking cute before you leave the house, just to not get attention from guys?”…. And yes, the majority of us really do (I know I personally do).

I don’t know when looking nice became related to wanting a man’s attention… Possibly back in the 1920’s (idk, idk)…. But in 2014, that is no longer the case. Women look good because they want to look good for themselves, not because they want 10 different guys stopping them in the street with the intentions of starting a conversation as if they are merely objects existing for their pleasure.

No woman wants to hear, “Well f*ck you then you stuck up b*tch,” when she’s just walking to school and doesn’t want to stop to talk to a strange man on the street. No woman wants to hear, “I don’t really care if you have a boyfriend, I can do you way better than what he’s doing for you” when she politely tries to tell a stranger that she’s not interested in exchanging phone numbers… And so on.

The major issue within street harassment starts with how we are taught to avoid it. Girls are taught to dress “appropriately” and to not wear anything that will attract too much attention… But boys aren’t taught to not approach, disrespect, or follow girls who pass them by. In social settings, girls are taught to not put their drinks down and go back to them… But boys aren’t taught to not drug and attempt to rape girls. Girls are taught to not walk through the city alone at night, but boy’s aren’t taught not to kidnap and abuse women they see walking alone.

Women of all ethnicities, from all cities, and with all occupations and styles are affected by street harassment. Whether they’re wearing a tight club dress or a pair of sweatpants — it happens… And it needs to stop. S

peak up about your experiences with street harassment and hopefully your stories can trigger something in the minds of the people who “don’t understand why it’s an issue.”

Learn more about the Hollaback! organization and how we can all work towards putting an end to street harassment here.

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