"There is only one reason why someone is harassed on the street"
August 21, 2012 2:37 AM   Subscribe

Two years ago, Belgian film student Sofie Peeters moved from Leuven to Brussels for her film degree. She quickly realized [RTBF article in French] that every time she left her apartment, she faced wolf whistles, uninvited advances, and even insults on the streets. Sick of wondering whether it was her fault [article in English], she used a hidden camera to record street harassment, and made it into a documentary. An excerpt from it is available online with English subtitles: Femme de la rue ("Woman of the streets", an intentional nod to the assumption of prostitution).

While Peeters' documentary has faced accusations of racism, due to an apparent preponderance of Allochtoons ("non-natives"), as noted by the previously-linked RTBF article, European response to it [link in French, not circumscribed to Europe as it also mentions street harassment initiatives in Libya, Egypt, and the USA] has focused on the widespread phenomenon of street harassment targeting women. Among French speakers it has sparked a storm of tweets, mainly from women sharing their own experiences of harassment and how they deal with it.

Response techniques used by women include indifference, speaking up to harassers, sometimes even retorting with equivalent insults, or giving out the local police station number rather than their own. With the Internet, in addition to online discussions, there is also another means of expression: An anti-harassment movement called Hollaback! is encouraging women to make a noise about unwelcome whistles, jokes, jeers and obscenities. The campaign has swiftly captured the imaginations of women from London to Mumbai, Montreal to Paris, Texas to Buenos Aires, but it started, like so many wonderful things, in New York.

Frenchwoman Anna Gautheron, head of Hollaback France explains that women in France as well are "told not to be too loud, too pretty, too much out of the ordinary. We have learned to walk fast, not to make eye contact, and be invisible. People often think that women are harassed when they don't follow these rules and that it is somehow their fault. The truth is that there is only one reason why someone is harassed on the street: they encounter a harasser."

"Dismissing sexual harassment – from unwanted comments on the street about appearance to groping – as 'harmless fun' or complimentary [is] dangerous," says Holly Dustin, director of End Violence Against Women in the UK. "Sexual harassment has a real impact on women's lives, whether it is changing their behaviour or whether they feel safe on the streets. It feeds into a fear of rape and sexual violence and has a harmful effect on broader issues of equality." As mentioned in the same Guardian article: A YouGov survey of 1,047 Londoners commissioned by Evaw found that 43% of women aged between 18 and 34 had experienced sexual harassment in public spaces in the last year.

In Brussels, a convention has been signed for fines to be levied against harassers, although officials also admit it will be difficult to prove verbal harassment. In the meantime, as women share their experiences, awareness is raised about the importance of emphasizing respect on the streets.
posted by fraula (0 comments total)

This post was deleted for the following reason: Ack! Double! Please do add any links the previous post missed to that thread, though. -- taz


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