On Street Harassment

[Content Note: Street harassment; misogyny.]

A bunch of people have emailed me about this video by Hollaback, which documents the street harassment directed at a young woman, dressed in a t-shirt and jeans, walking through the streets of Manhattan for ten hours. Text at the end of the video reads: "100+ instances of verbal street harassment took place within 10 hours, involving people of all backgrounds. This doesn't include countless winks, whistles, etc."

I did some tweeting yesterday about street harassment in response to this video, and I've collected those tweets here, for anyone who didn't see them.

One of the things I want to note about this video, which I touched on briefly in my tweets, is that street harassment intersects with other axes of marginalization—fat women, trans* women, butch women, women with visible disabilities, women who deviate in some obvious way from the Beauty Standard—are subjected to both sexualized and bullying street harassment, often at the same time.

This is only one woman's experience (one woman with lots of privilege) of street harassment.

Another thing I want to note is that the video does effectively make street harassment visible to men who don't experience it. It's a compelling rejoinder to men (and women) who argue that street harassment isn't a problem; that women exaggerate the ubiquity of street harassment.

In my tweets, I reference a related instance of sexual harassment in which the harasser waited until I was alone before he sexually harassed me. This, too, is an important thing to recognize about visibility: Part of the reason a lot of men believe that women exaggerate incidences of harassment is because harassers are cunning about when and where they can safely harass without fear of censure.

This is true even of street harassment. In my experience, street harassment happens more frequently when it's just the harasser and me, or when there is a group of men familiar to one another who don't hold each other accountable for harassment.

So, every time I hear a man say "I don't see it" in response to a woman's reported experiences of street harassment, I think: "Of course you don't. The whole point is that no one who (ostensibly) cares is supposed to see it."

This video gives everyone a chance to have a look.

[Please also see discussion of criticisms of the video in comments.]

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