Have you ever been walking down the road minding your business and had someone toot their horn at you or yell out something charming like “show us your tits!”? Well you’re not alone. Street harassment is unfortunately really common, and heaps of people experience it regularly.
Street harassment is when someone you don’t know says something or does something that makes you feel uncomfortable in a public place. It could be saying something sleazy to you, staring at you, invading your personal space, touching you, honking their car horn or yelling out their car window. Street harassment is a form of sexual harassment, and it can make you feel pretty bad when it happens.
Harassment can be different things to different people but basically, if you feel uncomfortable or offended by someone’s behaviour, that’s street harassment.
Why does street harassment happen mostly to women and girls? And why do the harassers (usually men) feel like that kind of behaviour is ok?
It’s got to do with how women are viewed in our society, often women are seen as sexual objects rather than human beings. This goes way back in our history when women were seen as property of either their fathers or their husbands and very rarely held positions of power. It was only a couple of years ago that we had our first female Prime Minister. This means that some men think they have the right to stare at, comment on or touch women they don’t know. Harassers don’t even consider how intimidating and creepy it is, or it might make women feel.
No one has the right to make you feel uncomfortable or unsafe when you’re walking down the street or catching the train to school.
How women are represented in the media today reveals a LOT about our society.
Take these ads below for example – in all of these adverts the women featured are not in control and are totally without power like some sort of object. This is where the term “sexual objectification of women” comes from. It’s based on the idea that women aren’t people with feelings, ideas or a will of their own. Women exist simply for the entertainment and pleasure of others.
This might sound extreme, but when you look at these ads you can really see it. And when images like these are flooding our mainstream media, it causes issues like street harassment.
Redfoo’s Literally I Can’t is a perfect example of the sexual objectification of women.
It’s been called the most sexist song of the year, and you might have heard about some of the backlash against it. It’s pretty reasonable to think in 2014 that we’d gotten past the whole “women should be seen and not heard” thing, but Play-n-Skills are telling women to literally “Shut the F up”.If you listen to the lyrics Redfoo says:
“I said jump on the pole
I didn’t need your opinion
Gurrrrl I’m sippin’ on this drink
I’m tryna see what you got
Not tryna hear what you think”
You can see how this kind of popular culture reinforces the idea that men have the right to catcall or stare at women in the street.
To find out how you can best deal with street harassment or support someone else in that situation, click here.
If you’re feeling worried or concerned about street harassment, talk to someone about it. Check out any of these free confidential services: