Define Street Harassment

Nametag: Hello, my name is NOT HEY BABYDefinition of Street Harassment

Street harassment: The experience of women from all walks of life of being heckled, whistled at, rated, propositioned, leered at, fondled and in other ways assaulted and humiliated by men as they go about their daily lives in public spaces.

Surprisingly, there are several terrific resources just for street harassment. There wasn’t even a name for this until recent years. It was an experience women had when they went out in public. (And still have routinely today.) Books listed below can be located and ordered through sites such as Amazon.com, Bookfinder, Ashworth Books, and Alibris.

Interestingly, while Wikipedia lists 10 types of sexual harassment, street harassment is not listed. Even under the strict “sexual harassment” item in the list, it says sexual harassment is most common in the workplace and in schools. No reference to the constant and pervasive stress women can experience whenever they walk out of a building into a public space. Its “See also” section even mentions cyber-bullying, historically a very recent development…but not street harassment, which has been around for all of recorded history. We now have resources, but we still don’t talk about it much.

[Update in January 2012: If you type “street harassment” into Wikipedia it directs you to the sexual harassment page. No change there. It no longer has a list of 10 different types of harassment; the whole page has been reworked and added to. It’s a lot longer now. While I’m happy for more information, there is still absolutely no mention of street harassment — the most common, everyday experience of it that women have.]

Having said that–here’s some of what’s now available.

  • Back Off: How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers, by Martha J. Langelan.
  • Her Wits About Her, by Denise Caignon and Gail Groves. Out of print–you can search for used copies at the sites listed above.
  • Tolerance.org, especially this article on street harassment. There are so many links to other resources and other information here that you’ll be here awhile.
  • The Street Harassment Project located in New York. Particularly check out their Links page.
  • Anti-street harassment organization in the U.K.
  • One of my all-time favorites on this topic, Hollaback New York City. Here women share their icky experiences and what they did to fight back. Even better, they snap cell phone photos of their harassers and post them with a narrative of what they did. The women often ask for permission to take the photo and many of these guys are flattered and think it’s a favorable reaction to their behavior. Hard to believe, but true. You can submit your own photo here (they welcome stories and submissions from anywhere in the country).
  • Read this article on activists turning the tables on street harassers.
  • Cool new interactive blog (it has stories, photos, video, you can submit your own) called Don’t Be Silent.
  • One woman’s blog entry about street harassment. Read the responses too. Her thinking on the issue is so clear–she articulately encapsulates the entire issue for women.
  • Article: “Just Looking: A View of Street Harassment.”