Street Harassment on Public Transport: India, Brazil, Japan, and even Mexico Top the U.S.

Man accosting woman who is trying to ignore himRead “Mexico City Introduces Women-Only Buses to Deter Groping.” I don’t know what it’s like in your country, but here in the U.S. it seems that taking real steps against street harassment is faintly gauche. There’s a subtle attitude that “hey, the occasional jerk is unfortunate, but nice women toughen up and put up with it.” There’s a subtle implication that a woman who speaks up is oversensitive or immature, and that classy, strong women just stride through the barrage of harassment and ignore it. There’s so much wrong with that line of thinking that it’s hard to know where to start.

I’d love to see optional separate public transportation here in the U.S. A comment I hear from women who commute on public transportation is that “the best you can hope for is to be ignored because the men won’t call each other on that kind of stuff.” In this reality, separate transportation is a superior alternative.

Someone on another blog referenced a street harassment movie about 90 minutes long called “War Zone,” by Maggie Hadleigh West. Here’s the intro on YouTube. (The article that originally referenced this movie is here and also in the blogroll.) Here’s the intro on MySpaceTV Videos.

I found it extremely uncomfortable to watch this movie even though it’s mostly just people talking to each other, and even though I’m a woman myself. We have such an enculturated resistance to the idea of women verbally confronting men over street harassment that even I as a woman have a hard time watching it being done (although it’s empowering–I can’t remember ever seeing it done in real life). So I can imagine how uncomfortable a man might feel while viewing this film. Male or female, I admire you if you watch it. It just is not easy to watch.

According to articles, the film has generated heat, debate, and attention wherever it is shown. This is the type of movie in which it doesn’t matter how exactly the footage captures reality–some people are going to dismiss it out of hand. That, too, is reality.

Given that reality, what can both sexes do to combat street harassment? It includes staring, leering, the elevator stare (a leisurely stare up and down a woman’s body), groping, deliberately brushing or bumping a woman, cursing, whistling, propositioning, rating a woman’s body (“Hey baby, you’re gorgeous”) as if she’s public property to judge, etc.

What can we do about this? What ideas do you have as readers? What experiences have you had with street harassment–whether you’ve done it yourself or had it done to you? Share the wealth of your experience here. Keep in mind the commenting guidelines.

[2012 update: I saw one of our commenters had started a street harassment website back in 2008, Stop Street Harassment. It seems good to post the link here. It is still up and active.]

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Blog Plans for 2008

graphic of a calendar for 2012Coming Posts:

“Getting safe and getting help: Stalking” [the second in a series of two “get safe” posts–the first one was “Getting safe and getting help: Sexual Assault” posted on 12/7/07]
“Profile of a Male Perpetrator”
“Profile of a Female Perpetrator”
“Profile of a Child Molester”

Write in with ideas of other related topics you’d like to see covered in this blog. In 2008, I’ll probably start filling out the domestic violence end of this subject area–like rape, something anyone of either sex can experience. We’ll talk more about that.

I also plan to do more to research and provide resources on protecting children from predators. The first post title in this subject area is listed above and should be up as soon as I finish a reasonable amount of research on the topic and on resources. I also added a new category, “For Parents,” to accommodate this subject area.

What else do you want to see here in 2008?

[Update in 2012: It’s good to know, in hindsight, that I did get those topics posted in 2008. For 2012, I have plans for more information on online safety, cyber bullying, stalking, and domestic violence. So I’ll repeat my question from four years ago: What would you like to have covered in this blog this year? What are your concerns? Questions?]

“For Men” category, but no “For Women”?

Stylized drawing of two parents + two children.A word of clarification is in order. You may see that the category “for men” has a number of posts, while the category “for women” doesn’t even exist. Why?

Because: While men are rape victims, rape is overwhelmingly a female experience perpetrated by males. Therefore, nearly every post in this blog is for women by default.

Sadly, rape is heavily skewed toward male attackers and female victims. Perhaps someday that will change, and rape–no matter who the attacker or survivor–will become a rare crime. We can dream (and hope and work).

I make a conscious effort to provide information and resources that include and can be used by male victims in most posts. They need and deserve the same quality of support as any other rape survivor.