This week, from 18th - 24th March, is International Anti-Street Harassment Week (http://www.meetusonthestreet.org/). The event has grown from an Anti-Steet Harassment day in previous years, to a whole week dedicated to raising awareness of, and seeking to end, street harassment in it’s many guises. It’s grown to a weeklong event because of the massive response in the past from countless women around the world who have all experienced street harassment.
Coincidentally street harassment has been making the news here in recent press. On International Women’s Day last week David Cameron announced that the UK government has signed up to the Council of Europe’s Convention on Violence Against Women & Domestic Violence. The vast majority of media coverage of this has zoned in on a couple of sentences in the Covention which pledge to make illegal ‘unwanted verbal, non-verbal or physical conduct with the purpose of effect of violating the dignity of a person, in particular when creating an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment’. Tabloids, Tweets and talk shows joined the flurry of concern over the fact that this could effectively ban wolf whistling (shock, horror!) Firstly, I feel that this has detracted our attention from the fact that the Convention is aimed at tackling a much broader range of issues, from domestic violence, to rape, to female genital mutilation and forced marriage. Issues which are grave and horrendous, and very, very real for many women across Europe. That our government took so long to sign up to the convention is the only puzzlement (it was created almost a year ago). Secondly however, if wolf whistling and other forms of street harassment are caught in the far reaching net of the convention, then all the better. Because yes, street harassment - from a whistle, to a leer, to longer than neccesary stare, to a grope - is “intimidating, degrading, humiliating [and] offensive”.
At work today I spent some time speaking to a female colleague who recently encountered some pretty awful sexual harassment from a member of the public, whilst in work. This younger woman was clearly left shaken and upset. We had a good long chat about the various ways in which we have both been harassed in the past. I can honestly say I think the first time I clearly recall street harassment happening to me was when I was 12 years old, and wearing my school uniform. The jeers in the town centre where I grew up didn’t come from school boys my own age, but from adult men. As a young girl this male attention flattered my ego; (of course, isn’t every young woman in our society taught from a young age that male attention is to be not only desired, but sought out?) Today, realising how long I’ve had to put up with street harassment I shocked even myself - and I balked at the thought that as a 12 year old I was being perved on in this way.
Now,16 years on, I am openly furious about street harassment. For me this has included whistling, staring, shouting, whispering and following. I’m one of the lucky ones, I have not been physically groped as far too many women have…or worse (because wolf whistling is the thin end of a much bigger, more sinister wedge). On the occasion where I have mentioned my disgust at this to others, I have on far too many times been met with ‘but you like it really don’t you?’, ‘take it as a compliment’, or ‘it’s just flattery’. (*SCREEEAAAMMMS!!!!!*) NO! NO! and NO! NO, no, no, no, no, no, no!!!
I don’t like it. It is not a compliment. It is not flattering. It makes me feel intimidated. It makes me feel uncomfortable and unsafe. It is uninvited and unwelcome. It is disrespectful. It is derogatory. It is sexist. It is humiliating. It is reducing me to something for you to look at and makes me feel like a piece of meat. It is not how you’d want your mother/sister/daughter/wife/girlfriend to be treated. It intrusive. It is rude. It is power play. It makes me feel like less than I am.
If you want to compliment me, get to know me, find out something wonderful about me and give me an honest compliment that is not based on your sexual opinion of my face or body. If you want me to feel comfortable and safe close your mouth and avert your gaze. Treat me with respect; I am someone’s daughter, someone’s sister, someone’s girlfriend. I am a helluva lot more than what you can see. How dare you?! Stop sexualising me.
I know that the majority of women who read this will know just what I am talking about. This Anti-Street Harassment week raise a shout; raise a ROAR. Share your story and get angry. IT IS NOT OK! Talk to other women, unite together and give each other support - that is just as important as anything else we can do to stop this.
Despite it sometimes feeling like we’re wading through treacle, I have to keep hope that we are moving toward a better society for everyone to live in. Street harassment has no part in it.
For more and to see how you can get involved see:
For more about the European Convention on Violence Against Women, the FAQ’s are a really good place to start:
- nolaneko likes this
- unmargindindefini reblogged this from feminist-fury
- feminist-fury reblogged this from katacharin
- daydream04 likes this
- electric-femme reblogged this from caliguloves
- flyzilla likes this
- tuesdaym00n reblogged this from katacharin
- faysbook reblogged this from katacharin
- amysaurus reblogged this from caliguloves
- amysaurus likes this
- caliguloves reblogged this from stopgenderpolicing
- anonymouscatastrophe likes this
- dragonskales reblogged this from katacharin
- vietnamz likes this
- formulas reblogged this from katacharin
- stopgenderpolicing likes this
- ibelonginneverland likes this
- kitcloudkickr likes this
- starfalls likes this
- dailymurf likes this
- no-this-is-patrick reblogged this from zaman-al-samt
- zaman-al-samt reblogged this from makingtheworldours
- makingtheworldours reblogged this from katacharin
- katacharin posted this