It’s that time of year again!
The weather’s getting warmer, the days are getting longer, and most of us can’t wait to get a little sunshine on our skin.
People are breaking out the shorts, skirts, sundresses, tank tops, sandals, and bathing suits. We’re hitting the parks, beaches, running paths, streets, back yards – anywhere we can get a little bit of that Vitamin D.
And with this time of year comes an increase in street harassment.
It’s not as if there is not street harassment in the dead of winter. As my friend Heather recently said to me, “I can go out in a full-length down coat, hat, gloves, and boots, and I will have some f*ck think it’s okay to yell about my ass.”
But it tends to get more pronounced when it’s a bit warmer, and there’s a bit more skin showing on your average street. Now don’t get me wrong. It’s not the fact that skin is showing that’s the problem. It’s the fact that most men can’t seem to help ourselves once the skin comes out, and we just HAVE to comment and stare.
So let me say it plainly to my male-identified people out there: Street harassment and leering are never okay. Never.
Nope. Not ever.
In case anyone’s unclear, let’s look to the phenomenal folks atStopStreetHarassment.org to define precisely what we’re talking about:
Catcalls, sexually explicit comments, sexist remarks, groping, leering, stalking, public masturbation, and assault. Most women (more than 80% worldwide) and LGBQT folks will face gender-based street harassment at some point in their life. Street harassment limits people’s mobility and access to public spaces. It is a form of gender violence and it’s a human rights violation. It needs to stop.
Yup. That’s right.
We’re talking about the “Hey baby!” Or the “Smile! I bet you have a pretty smile!” Or the “Damn, you’ve got a fine ass!” Or the licking your lips and staring as she walks by.
It’s all harassment. It’s all misogyny. And it all needs to stop.
And since men are the primary perpetrators of street harassment, men bear the responsibility for ending it. So with that in mind, here are a few things men can do to stop street harassment.
1. Don’t Leer or Harass!
It seems obvious, but it bears saying.
One of the single most important things men can do to stop street harassment is to refuse to participate.
That means that you should never be commenting on a woman’s (or any person’s) body or appearance unless you have a relationship with that woman and have anexplicit understanding that this is welcome (which means that you’ve talked about it and she’s consented to it).
But it doesn’t stop there.
Though I don’t recall ever hollering to a woman on the street, there are plenty of times in my life when I have used my eyes and body language to treat a woman as little more than an object.
And in the end, how is leering any different than cat calling? Both send the message that women’s bodies are public property.
Sometimes the most radical action we can take is refusal to participate in oppressive norms.
2. Listen in Solidarity
Don’t say it.