Beyond Street Harassment

Beyond Street Harassment


The amount of momentum the dialog about street harassment has had lately has been surprising and impressive. I honestly thought that this issue would get little sympathy from the mass media other than a typical “boys will be boys … and don’t women secretly like it anyway?” type of response. But skits like Jessica Williams’ on The Daily Show have done a pretty killer job talking about it.

But at the same time, the dialog has been disappointing. Many writers have pointed out the racially-charged nature of the famous video wherein a woman is documented being catcalled over 100 times in New York city. And if you read the comments, the discussion becomes even worse, blaming catcalling on minorities and women who dress in revealing clothes.

It’s been really cool to see men start to sympathize with the following points about this discussion:

-Being randomly talked to by strange men on the street makes women feel at worst unsafe and at best annoyed

-Women aren’t obligated to smile and be grateful when we are objectified and praised for our physical qualities

-Men should be expected to behave better than this

I would love it if this discussion led to a world where men did not harass me on the street. But at the same time, I feel like street harassment is a side effect, not a cause, of a sexist society.  The same systems that try to strip women of rights are also stripping the dignity away from men who aren’t rich, white and in power. Construction workers yelling about your ass are not necessarily the people pulling the strings in America — so how long are we going to focus on them over politicians and mass media figures who are?

Men are still shown that objectifying women is an easy way to bolster their self-worth, because it’s a lot easier than fixing the systems that emasculate men based on their race, religion and income level. We’re fighting a war on the ground when we should be going to the real assholes up top, the ones who don’t have time to bother women on the street because they’re actually doing damage at a much higher level.

Becky Lang