*Content Warning: The following blog contains content about street harassment that can be triggering for some.
Have you ever had unwelcome comments, gestures, or acts directed at you by a stranger? I have many times.
This is street harassment. Street harassment means disrespectful, offensive, or threatening statements, gestures, or other conduct directed at an individual without consent. According to The Sun,
Street harassment is an overlooked problem that needs legal regulation. Street harassment includes UNWANTED leering, whistling, comments and demands, persistent requests for someone’s name, transphobic or homophobic slurs, flashing, shouting, honking, sexual or sexist comments, and illegal acts like groping, public masturbation, and sexual assault.
In the UK, Member of Parliament (MP) Stella Creasy is pushing Prime Minister Liz Truss to bring her proposals on street harassment to law. During Lizz Truss’s election, she promised to crack down on street harassment if elected. Stella Creasy is hoping the government will follow through on legal regulations for street harassment.
This is a largely neglected issue, that most women and girls have faced in their lives. The threat of street harassment or sexual harassment has caused women to be more aware in public spaces than men. Women and girls have to assess their surroundings, carry around pepper spray, or never walk alone to feel safe. Women will never achieve a fully feeling safe in public as most men have the right.
Women and girls have always been told to never walk alone at night or to have something to protect them (like pepper spray or key chain alarm) or to have a man walk with them, or learn self-defense. Personally, I’ve been told this on multiple occasions, I’ve been to a self-defense class, I’ve been told to have a man walk me home, and have carried a key chain alarm when walking alone at night. Sophie Sandberg’s tik tok page is all about how she writes in chalk around the streets of NYC to get the awareness of street harassment.
This is such a major issue that society has overlooked, and has not bothered to try and help. People tend to blame women for what they were wearing, or how much alcohol they’ve had, instead of looking and blaming the people doing the harassment.
I have faced street harassment on many occasions, even here at James Madison University. It happens everywhere, which is why it’s such a major issue. I am aware of my settings every second I am alone or with other women in public. The more people are aware of how relevant this issue is, the more people will fight to end it.
A step forward to stopping street harassment would be to follow in the Egyptian government’s footsteps. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El Sisi has ratified laws to confront street harassment. This amendment imposes that people will be punished by either facing imprisonment or fines for street harassment. Egypt’s government is a step in the right direction to protect women and girls in public from street harassment.
Street harassment is NO joke, and a serious problem The United States government needs to look at how this problem will touch every women’s life on some level. There is definitely more research and thought needs to be done to fully stop street harassment but addressing it is a start. It’s time to put laws in for street harassment to change the way people behave, think and do things towards women and girls in public.
This is too overlooked and I hope the next generation of women and girls will be able to feel safer in public.