Forget “I Hollaback”. I Call the Police.

As I was walking home yesterday afternoon from the Carnivale street fair, I witnessed street harassment. Four men were standing on the sidewalk, and one of these men approached a girl who had been in the parade earlier that day. She was still wearing her feathered, spangled, and slightly revealing costume.

I qualify that as “slightly revealing” because, quite frankly, a bathing suit in the same style would have been appropriate for a family get together at a pool. I also mention this, because “look what she was wearing” is often the defense for harassment and even for sexual assault and rape. Her costume was appropriate to the occasion, but even she had been walking down the street naked, attire is no excuse for harassment.

The man that approached her practically stood in front of her as he was asking her if she had a Facebook account. She ignored him, stepped around him, and kept walking. He grew angry, and started yelling at her that she was racist for not talking to him.

I also grew angry. Why on Earth should she be obligated to talk to him? She didn’t know him, and he was acting aggressively towards her. He clearly felt that by walking down the street, she somehow owed him some attention. Her outfit was not an invitation to talk to her.

While this is not the most aggressive example of street harassment that I’ve seen, and I’ve certainly been the focus of more aggressive street harassment, it still infuriates me. Women do not walk down the street in order to entertain whomever is watching. We do it to go to work, to get groceries, go to the bank, go to the gym, hang out with friends, go out to eat, watch a newly released movie, etc.

Street harassment has been a hot topic of late, and with movements like “I Hollaback”, women are trying to combat this problem with social pressures, and public advertising of the faces and locations of men who have harassed a woman on the street. But this isn’t enough.

So, what can we do? We can start causing even more of a ruckus, and force the local legislature and keepers of the peace to sit up and take notice of the fact that women are made to feel unsafe every day, while going about our normal lives. This won’t be an easy campaign. As discussed in Cynthia Grant Bowman’s article “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women”, published in Volume 106:517 of the Harvard Law Review, there should be a twofold campaign against street harassment, both in civil litigation and in municipal law.

For those of us who live in an urban environment, more often than not, there are cameras that can see us on the street. There are police officers that patrol the streets. If you are harassed on the street, look around for a camera, and call the police if you can find one. The camera footage is an impartial third party observer to the harassment. Then, accuse your harasser of an intentional infliction of emotional distress to the police officer and say that you want to press charges. Make sure the officer knows that the camera could see the harassment take place, and ask that they procure the footage. Show up to the court proceedings and tell the court how the harassment made you feel. Explain the fear of assault and rape that is inflicted when you are approached. Explain how you live with this fear every day of your life, and that it is the duty of the police and the government to protect you from this fear.

I will no longer “Hollaback”. I will start calling the police and pressing charges against unwanted sexual attention. It is time that we take a stand.

Posted on May 28, 2012, in Media, Personal Stories and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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