Stop street harassment

by Ségolène on Décembre 3, 2014 - 9:20am

Sofie Peeters's documentary *, which deals with street harassment in Brussels, came in 2012 as a bombshell in the public debate and gave birth to numerous reactions on the Web. Since then, other videos followed from New York or Paris, showing exactly the same phenomenon. **

What is street harassment? Street harassment is " the behavior addressed to people in public and semi public places, to call out on them (be it verbally or not), sending them intimidating, insistent, disrespectful, humiliating, offensive messages because of their sex, of their gender or of their sexual orientation " ***. This phenomenon affects essentially women and can take several forms: it can involve only whistles, insults, remarks, or physical attacks (jostling, butt picking, etc.) Today, which woman has not ever known such acts?

Some will say that it is about trying to pick up; unfortunately, we are very far from that here. Trying to pick up takes place when both people accept it and desire it (even if finally one of the parts refuses to go further). Telling a woman who walks in the street " you are sexy, answer when I speak to you. Go away bitch ", has nothing to do with seduction, and makes of the street a hostile environment for women, making them feel constantly anxious. At first, they feel themselves guilty and wonder: “Is it my fault? Was I dressed in a provocative way?”, and end up interiorizing those interrogations.

Without necessarily thinking that it is normal, we eventually accept it, we try to become indifferent. But the seriousness of this phenomenon is more important in reality; beyond the (unacceptable) tolerance coming from society of this harassment, consciously, or not, women are then brought to change their behavior. By stopping to wear skirts when intending to take public transports, lowering the head when encountering males, walking faster, accepting a lot of remarks silently, forces women to be in a permanent state tension / submission.

There is a kind of unequal occupation of the public places, as if, finally, the street was the space of men, and that women had to comply with the rules that the former established: if you come, are ready to receive our so-called compliments; if you put on a skirt, it is because you are available, do not be surprised by our catcalling. This is reminiscent of the following dominant idea in the patriarchal societies: Bodies of women are at the disposal of men and have to answer their desire. But no, no, and no. We are in the XXIst century. Women should be free to circulate as they please to wherever they like.


* Extract of Sofie Peeters's documentary :
**Video about harassment street in New York :


I come from France and I will be an exchange student for two semesters at the university of Potsdam. If I wrote this article, it is because I was pleasantly surprised with the "tranquility" which I have here in Berlin compared to France, in terms of catcalling and harassment. My approach is not really scientific, but I really wanted to tackle the issue. Moreover, I wanted to know how you lived that in your country? What are your experiences? And you, boys, how do you perceive this phenomenon?