The good news is that a Hollaback! has started in the UK (actually, I thought it had started a few years ago). This article from the BBC:
Why do men shout at women in the street?
From whistling to catcalling, and even groping, street harassment is an everyday reality for many women around the world. But now a new wave of feminist groups are organising to stop it.
One dark evening in south London, a group of men slow their car behind a young woman walking alone.
They call out to her, propositioning her to get into their vehicle.
She keeps walking, heart rate quickening, ignoring their lewd comments. The men continue to follow her and their words get more aggressive.
Just before she reaches the nearest underground station, she’s had enough. She strikes the men’s car and flees down the station steps.
In a rage, the men leap out of their car, chase her, grab her by the neck and pin her to the wall.
This was an experience that drove Vicky Simister to take action and found Anti-Street Harassment UK.
It’s one of a new wave of groups tackling an age-old problem. At the forefront of the movement is the international Hollaback! campaign group. Having started in the US, it will open another dozen chapters next week, everywhere from India to Croatia.
Hollaback! and Anti-Street Harassment UK offer forums in which women can share their experiences, share photos of their harassers and view maps of where previous incidents have occurred.
Most people would recognise that what happened to Simister was totally unacceptable. But what if the incident had not escalated into violence? What if Simister had not been followed? What if it was just suggestive remarks shouted across a street?
Day in and day out millions of women are whistled at or shouted at on public streets. It’s unpleasant, and for Hollaback! activists it’s all part of the nasty business of street harassment.
They’re in a long tradition – going back to the 1970s Reclaim the Night movement – of trying to make the streets safer and more pleasant for women. Much has been done, in the West at least, to deal with harassment in the workplace, but the streets remain a different proposition.
A study by stopstreetharassment.com suggests that 95% of women say they have been the victims of leering, honking or whistling and a large proportion have been groped or grabbed in public.
Emily May, the founder of Hollaback!, is on a mission to stop the harassment.
“It stems from a broader culture of gender based violence,” says May. “To shift that culture it takes people standing up and saying street harassment is not okay because most people in our society don’t want it to exist.”
When a man shouts “hi gorgeous” or “come over here love”, the recipient of the comments might be annoyed, but the remarks are often disregarded by bystanders, so the problem goes largely unaddressed.
“Women are advised to ignore it, and we don’t speak up about it. Therefore, these men keep on doing it and push boundaries further and further,” says Simister.
And it’s dangerous because it’s difficult to distinguish which men simply shout and which ones may use catcalls as a gateway to violence or sexual aggression.
“If a guy is checking out a woman it’s annoying, but that’s how sexual predators who are honing their craft test how far they can go,” says activist and filmmaker Maggie Hadleigh-West.
And street harassment varies from country to country. In the UK and US, most women will experience only shouting, but in many parts of the world street harassment can escalate to groping and more frequent public sexual assaults.
In India it is euphemistically referred to as “eve teasing”, in Japan groping on the subway has long been a problem, and the attack on Lara Logan in Egypt gained international attention.
But why do some men harass women in public?
Street harassment occurs because our society has always allowed it and dismissed the behaviour as “men being men”, says Hadleigh-West.
“Culturally, men have been indoctrinated into it, and it’s been a privilege for them to walk down the street fantasising about women. The culture hasn’t checked the behaviour.”
Because society has perpetuated this as a cultural norm, men tend to engage in street harassment as a way to prove their masculinity, says Northeastern University associate professor of sociology Kathrin Zippel.
“Often times it’s not really about the women, it’s just about the men performing masculine acts for each other and establishing a pecking order amongst themselves. What is really going on is the dynamic among men.”
So can the leering, the catcalls and the grabs ever really be stopped?
“Some activists have targeted city planners and the public transport officers to make the case that women should not face harassment in the streets,” says Zippel.
In response some countries such as India and Japan have created women-only subway cars.
But critics say this sort of measure is only a temporary fix.
“I find recreating segregation in public to be highly problematic. In the short term it might be a good solution, but they also notice that if women step onto mixed cars there are less women on them and the ones who are experience more harassment,” explains Zippel.
To take the burden off women, the founder of antistreetharassment.com Holly Kearl suggests that councils gather survey data on assaults and sexual harassment and then work out what kind of responses work.
On college campuses in the US officials addressed safety concerns by adding more lighting, installing safety phones and redesigning bus stops
Not all men impose unwanted attention upon women, and Kearl agrees that it’s important for these men to join in the movement to stop street harassment.
“We have to engage men. In our society it is easy to sexually objectify women, so it is important to make men realise that every woman you harass is someone’s mother, sister or daughter, and she is a person who deserves respect.”
When men take accountability for the actions of themselves and their peers, it helps to create a cultural shift in attitude. If a man feels that catcalling won’t be accepted by his peers, he is less likely to engage in the behaviour.
“When men are made aware of it, hopefully by women they love, they can listen, hear and see what is going on. It becomes an individual responsibility and men really do care when they get it,” says Hadleigh-West. “I have seen enormous change happen in the consciousness of men.”
In the comments section, a selection of comments reveal the extent of the problem, just how culturally ingrained this shit really is. Most of the justifying comments are from males (quelle surprise) but a few from females who obviously do not know a slippery slope or continuum when they see one.
Now, don’t all jump at once to line up to be “Mrs Newtonne” (although frankly, I think Mr Newtonne is having a wet dream):
I totally oppose any behaviour that makes other people feel threatened or uneasy. But suggesting men shouldn’t look at a great pair of legs, etc. is ridiculous. When I walk with my wife, she always looks at other women, sometimes making comments to me like “great figure!”. If women are pretty and dress attractively they must expect, even hope, to attract!
Lulu has no concept of an objectification continuum:
[…]If someone looked at me appreciatively I don’t think I’d mind (I’d prefer a glance or a friendly, acknowledging smile than a lasting leer – who wouldn’t?) It’s the cars and vans that beep their horns at me, men that make comments, etc. that I dislike.
JohnGonzales uses the ‘menz are wired that way’ and ‘women do it too!’:
The article acknowledges that not all men do this. But it’s a biological fact that men find women attractive and vice versa. It’s not ‘men’ who are at fault. It’s the ‘no consequences’ way of thinking that is to blame, and it’s a product of the increasingly liberal society we’re in. More and more women are guilty of it these days as well; just go out in a big city at the weekend and you’ll see it.
james Allen also is from the ‘menz are just wired this way’ school:
I was once walking behind a very attractive big bosomed girl getting off Waterloo underground station. It was incredibly busy and looking at the guys coming the other way Id say almost all of them were stealing a downwards glance at her as they passed.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this, it’s natural. If anything it’s amusing at how similarly we all response when presented with beauty.
I had to get through half the comments before finding one male who recognises the problem (sort of):
As a man I’m appalled by how so many of the obviousy male respondents are refusing to even try to understand how women feel – preferring to project their expectations.
My workplace (engineering) has a leering culture, although behind the womens’ backs due to ‘political correctness gone mad’. As I refuse to participate in this culture I’m regarded as ‘not one of us’. Thankfully.
Facing the other end of the problem is Andi:
I’m what you might call a larger lady and I don’t get “hello sexy”, I get “fat cow” and similar yelled at me – often by teenagers or younger. I even had someone spit at me in the street recently. And it is noticeable that these are groups of young males together, clearly bolstering their egos by their behaviour.
yottskry uses the ‘just wired that way’:
“We dress in a way we find comfortable and pretty, thats all!”
And men find you pretty in it. We are wired a certain way, which is to appreciate (and at a biological level, search for) attractive women. If women are attractive, men will look at them. That said, there is no excuse for lewd comments, groping, unwanted attention or catcalling… but just *looking* and appreciating comes naturally.
Alex_politic believes it is ‘not menz problem’:
I’m sorry this is just another case of ‘manophobia’ and discrimination. A small number of men do 99% percent of the cat calling and and sexual harassment yet the entire gender are grouped together. Implying we all need to be educated to “make men realise that every woman you harass is someone’s mother, sister or daughter, and she is a person who deserves respect” Is simply derogatory and insulting
Finally Alice, who isn’t a feminist, but at least she knows that something is terribly wrong with the whole situation. The comments she referred to seem to have been deleted by the BBC, man, they must have been OTT:
I just saw some comments suggesting that women are “asking for” this sort of behaviour due to their dress, and I have to say it made me feel physically sick. I’m not a feminist, but I do think that that’s unacceptable- surely everyone has the right to wear whatever they want?! I’ve had this happen to me recently, and it’s terrifying. How would most men like it if it happened to them regularly?
Lardy, there is little to no hope…