I have been grumping about the conversations surrounding street harassment since this past summer, when I first caught a video on Facebook that was part of an anti-street-harassment campaign. I have refined my rant somewhat, and wanted to present at least one main point here on the blog, the point that I just can’t seem to get past. There is no way that this campaign will reduce the incidence of street harassment, and that’s no accident.
There, I said it.
What this comes down to, basically, is that the videos being circulated, websites being visited, and conversations being had are not reaching the majority of people perpetrating the offensive acts in question. We have left them entirely out of the conversation, and are instead just talking to other people who already agree with us. This, in turn, creates more of a rift between people and serves to increase animosity and decrease empathy on all sides.
Instead of encouraging and empowering people to actually do something about those that offend them, we offer a passive aggressive outlet in a format that has virtually no chance of creating any meaningful dialog. I think it would be a beautiful thing if we encouraged more victims to respond directly to the people that offend them (as long as there was a reasonable degree of safety at the time). We live in a free society, and people are within their rights to say things to you that you don’t like. There is a limit to this, naturally, but short of someone actually threatening physical safety, I see no legal or moral precedent for restricting the speech of strangers on the street.
HollaBack, one of the most public voices for this cause, lists the following as its goals:
-Break the silence
-Inspire international leadership
-Shift public opinion
-Engage elected officials
There is nothing about changing laws, doing outreach, or actually dealing with offenders. It’s all a lot of bureaucratic nonsense which gives the illusion of activism without any real results.
Need further proof? If you visit stopstreetharassment.org and click on “ideas for ending street harassment” you’ll be directed here:
Also, one last point. You’d be a fool to not think there was profit motivating this. Think of all the ad space available when a video goes viral… not to mention merchandising, web traffic, etc. It’s all too easy to get people to buy in to something that requires nothing more of them than good ol’ fashioned righteous indignation.