Friday, March 23, 2012

International Anti-Street Harassment Week

The other day, I was running the 5k route that cuts through and around the campus I work on. Near the end, I pass some sort of warehouse where there are frequently men loading and unloading things from the back of trucks. I've been running this route about once a week, and every time I get to this point, I notice the men staring at me. I notice them elbowing one another and nodding their heads in my direction.

Two weeks ago, when I ran past these men, one of them did more than watch me. He stared long and hard, looked me up and down, and then gave me a thumbs up, staring directly at my chest. I--as I always do--kept running and moved past them, not glancing back to see if my leaving had generated as much attention.

It's not the worst thing that's happened to me. I don't feel physically threatened. I don't think that these men are going to climb off of the truck and attack me in broad daylight. But it is annoying and insulting. I may be running in a public space, but that does not make my body public property. That does not make me a display for critique.

This week is International Anti-Street Harassment Week.

Though the studies on street harassment are limited and the term itself is amorphous, research and anecdotal evidence suggest it's incredibly common. In some locations 100% of women report being a victim of street harassment.

Plenty of women have taken to the internet to share their stories. Some of them, like me, feel annoyed and disrespected, but not necessarily threatened. Others, like this writer, have more threatening encounters.

That same writer goes on to say that she doesn't feel comfortable shouting back to the harassers (a potential tactic), and she doesn't think that legislation is likely to be very effective. I agree with her on both counts. The only real way to combat street harassment is to make more people recognize that women are not objects. Here's a video to get us started:

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