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SSH will not publish any comment that is offensive or hateful and does not add to a thoughtful discussion of street harassment. Racism, homophobia, transphobia, disabalism, classism, and sexism will not be tolerated. Disclaimer: SSH may use any stories submitted to the blog in future scholarly publications on street harassment.

USA:Tzniut and Street Harassment

In correspondents, Stories, street harassment | on 06.19.13 | by | Comments ( 1 )

By: Talia Weisberg, SSH Correspondent

As a female who lives in New York City, I’ve received my share of unwanted looks from guys. However, I’ve never really been the victim of anything worse than a creepy stare. Ever since I learned about the existence of the term street harassment, and especially after I started serving as a SSH Correspondent, I’ve tried to figure out why I’m an exception to the nearly 100% of women who have been harassed on the street. The only (weak) reason I could think of is because I’m an Orthodox Jew who mostly adheres to the laws of tzniut (SNEE-oot) in dress, meaning that I only wear skirts past the knee, sleeves that at least touch the elbow, and nothing low-cut or too tight.

If we accept my assumption for why I have never really been street harassed as true, one could argue that the solution to street harassment is for women dress according to tzniut. However, this solution would be unfair and ineffective for several reasons.

First of all, a woman’s mode of dress doesn’t always influence a would-be harasser. A few weeks ago, I began discussing street harassment with a group of my friends, who were unfamiliar with the term. After I described what constitutes street harassment, one of my friends – someone who also dresses according to tzniut - shared how she had been groped and stalked for several days while going to and coming home from school when she was in ninth grade. Hearing this friend’s story helped me realize that although it’s possible that how a woman is dressed may sometimes impact a man’s words or actions towards her, it isn’t the definitive cause for street harassment.

Another reason is because it’s women’s right as human beings to walk down the street, whether in a foreign country our own neighborhoods, without being harassed. We can’t blame the victim and tell women that it’s their job to protect themselves from street harassment; instead, we have to tell the perpetrators not to harass women on the street. Although I have chosen to dress in the manner of tzniut, and perhaps it has spared me from being victimized by street harassment, I strongly discourage women from dressing in a certain manner just to avoid street harassment. They’re our streets too, and we have every right to walk down them undisturbed.

Talia Weisberg is a Harvard-bound feminist hoping to concentrate in Studies of Women, Gender, and Sexuality. Her work has appeared in over 40 publications and she runs the blog Star of Davida blog (starofdavida.blogspot.com).

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One Response

06.19.13

I believe your assumption is incorrect. Perhaps you just got lucky with the Random Number Generator, perhaps the amount of time you spend in public and the places you go have something to do with it. But I have been sexually harassed when wearing dirty work clothes, heavy Winter clothing, and even gowns that MORE THAN adequately fit the bill for tzniut.

Just knowing that you are female is enough for many of the serial harassers out there. That’s because street harassment has very little to do with sexual desire in truth, it’s mainly a power play used by males who get a little thrill out of dominating a stranger, even if just a little bit for a short while. They choose women because men have this tendency to occasionally rise up and kick the snot out of other men who hassle them on the street, and street harassers prefer a safer target to assert dominance over.

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