Engaging Men in Ending Street Harassment

1. Overview

 
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I am writing a book on gender-based street harassment & assault with Praeger Publishers, expected publication date Aug. 2010.

Street harassment is a complex problem & will require a multi-level approach to ending it. In this short, informal survey, I would appreciate your anonymous thoughts specifically on how to engage men in ending the street harassment of women. Your answers may be used in my book. I value your honest input & ideas.

Please feel free to contact me with any questions or concerns at stopstreetharassment@yahoo.com.

To provide a framework for the questions, here are a few things to note about street harassment.

1. Definition:
In the context of this book, street harassment is the range of behaviors by some men/boys toward unknown women/girls that are sexual, sexist, threatening, or otherwise inappropriate or rude that are done primarily because the target is female, and occur in public places. Street harassment can escalate into assault, rape, and even murder. (http://stopstreetharassment.com/research/definitions.html)

Men are harassed & women are harassers in public because of race, religion, disability, class, or sexual orientation etc. My book specifically focuses on men harassing women because of their gender.

2. Prevalence:
Various studies on street harassment show that it is a global problem & one that over 80% of women have experienced. From puberty through their early 20s are the years when women experience the most harassment in public. Women who regularly walk or ride public transportation alone or with other females tend to face more street harassment than other women. (http://stopstreetharassment.com/research/StreetHarassmentStudies.pdf)

3. Why most women do not like it:
Great gender inequity & a prevalence of female rape exist in most countries, and these facts influence how women experience and perceive street harassment. Street harassment reminds women that as a group they are less powerful than men as a group. It shows them that harassing men feel they have the right to interrupt them whenever they want, evaluate them, and touch them. Depending on the circumstances, a woman may be wary of any man who approaches her in public because of a common female fear of rape. In particular, if the woman is alone - and most often men harass women who are alone - in a deserted area, if it is several men, or if she has had a bad harassment or assault experience she will be more wary of ANY man that approaches her. Note, some women do report enjoying whistling or non-sexually explicit, non-sexist, and non-threatening comments on their appearance in circumstances where they do not feel threatened.

4. How street harassment impacts women's lives:
Street harassment impacts most women's lives to some degree. Most commonly, it makes many women consciously or unconsciously more "on guard" in public compared to most men. Many women engage in tactics like constantly assessing their surroundings, avoiding eye contact or scowling, and wearing headphones or talking on a cell phone to deter harassers. Harassment regularly causes women to make planning decisions about being in public, such as avoiding being in public alone after dark, traveling with a companion, avoiding routes where they think they will be harassed, and planning outfits which they think will attract less attention. Some women even make significant life choices, like turning down jobs that would require them to come home late, moving neighborhoods, and gaining weight to try to avoid harassment.

No matter how women respond to harassers, the men may escalate into insults or violence. Women also are commonly blamed for the harassment because of what they wear or where they are. These factors contribute to why many women find it easier to constrict their lives in public and try to avoid harassers.

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