By: Erin McKelle, SSH Correspondent
We all know that street harassment is a huge problem and that we must work hard to end it. Street harassment happens to (by conservative estimates) 80% of women and because of how prevalent it is in our society and around the world, it means that the issue is that much more important and that ending it is that much more critical.
So the question is, how can we take back the streets? Not just for ourselves, but for every woman who has ever been harassed? How can we make the streets safe for everyone and create safe public spaces? It’s obviously a daunting task, so how can we go about it?
The answer lies in activism and taking an active role as bystanders. We have to be willing to not let things slide that make us uncomfortable or that are clearly sexist. It’s about going against the grain and letting harassers know that what they are doing isn’t okay.
To give a better and more thorough understanding of this, here is a list of 5 ways that you can take back the streets, whether you are the target of harassment, seeing harassment happen to someone else or are just simply wanting to make a difference.
1) Stand Up to Harasser’s…if you feel safe, of course. The best way to do this is to use strong and assertive body language and speech. Tell the harasser directly exactly what they did that that was offensive and to stop. Keep your composure and remain cool, calm and confident. If you don’t feel safe enough to directly stand up to your harasser, report your story to Stop Street Harassment and/or Hollaback! to raise awareness and indirectly stick up for yourself. You could also report the incident to the police (although you may or may not have success with this) and take a picture or video of the harasser with your cell phone.
2) Be an Active Bystander and help others who are experiencing harassment. If you see someone being harassed, step in and try to diffuse the harasser and also look out for the victim. Depending on the circumstance, you could use a distraction to get the harasser’s attention away from harassing (for example, asking them for directions), pull the victim aside and ask if they are okay and need help or even directly call out the harasser in front of a crowd, which will probably shock them and cause them to stop. Just be mindful of safety, the situation and use your judgment to form the best plan of action.
3) Actively Resist and take action to create social change. Hold a march or rally to protest street harassment, create a short film or vlog on the issue or even leave information about Stop Street Harassment in public restrooms, subway cars or sidewalks. Volunteer or write an op-ed for organizations that work to end street harassment. Do something to get other people’s attention and raise awareness about the issue. Be creative and use your imagination
4) Be an Advocate and talk to people young and old about street harassment and start conversations with friends and family. By talking about the issue openly, you are creating a safe space for others who have probably experienced the same thing and are simultaneously educating and erasing the stigma around street harassment. You could also act as a mentor to young boys and girls and talk to them about why harassment is not okay and empower young women to stand up for themselves and know that they never deserve or are inviting harassment. Also, think about starting a town hall at your school or work to get your colleague’s talking about the issue.
5) Use Social Media: Tweet information, facts and statistics about street harassment on your Twitter or Facebook page. It’s a very easy way to get a lot of people to engage with this issue and to make others aware of what street harassment is and how to end it. If you want to tweet your harassment story, include the hashtag #streetharassment or #hollaback and it will be added to the @Catcalled @ihollaback and/or the @StopStHarassment Twitter thread.
Remember, no action is too big or too small and any and everything you do to take back the streets brings us one step closer to ending street harassment for good.
Erin is an e-activist and blogger based in Ohio. You can find more of her work here and here.
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