Reclaim the Streets!

August 27, 2010 at 11:58 pm (Feminism, Rosie B, Uncategorized, women)

I’d like to see a day when I don’t have to worry about having obscenities yelled at me or disgusting gestures made out of car windows when all I’m doing is walking to work or going about my business. I am sick and tired of being told this is all ‘harmless fun’ – it is not: it sends a worrying message that aggression towards women is acceptable and even desirable.
. . .
Street harassment is so normal and pervasive (it’s everywhere) that we don’t even register it many times when it happens – but it’s there and it’s eroding our sense of safety, self and what we believe is possible. How many women feel safe walking home after a night out? We should.

That’s from a thread over at the London Anti-Street Harassment campaign (here). The women express those familiar feelings of fear, intimidation, and the impotent, boiling rage of those harassed and bullied by men who think it’s amusing to shout out “nice tits” or whatever to some woman who is out in public. What makes you furious is that you have no effective come-back. Swearing or fuck off gestures usually attract laughter or escalated abuse or an amazed huffiness. When seeing a cluster of blokes hanging around outside a pub (the smoking ban has made this worse) or a gang of guys walking along the pavement, women will cross the street or make detours to avoid passing them, for fear, at the very least, of being embarrassed and humiliated.

Recently I wrote a post which among other things dealt with men who think they are entitled to intimidate random strangers – if the random strangers are female. The example I gave was of a Muslim woman who was spat at by co-religious males because they didn’t approve of her cycling and the clothes she wore. This looked to me like yet another way of keeping women down and I thought at the time that a Reclaim the Streets! like the Reclaim the Night! movement was needed, and then I read this in the Guardian:-

Vicky Simister, a financial analyst, . . has found street harassment particularly problematic since moving from Ireland to London for work. “I was walking down a busy road in the middle of winter,” she says, “wearing a huge jacket, when these two guys slowed their car down to pay me ‘compliments’ about my appearance. This escalated into sexual comments. I eventually lashed out in frustration, and they got out of their car and ran after me, physically assaulting me. The police were called, but I wasn’t happy with their response. One said: ‘They said they were following you, but only to say nice things.’”

After this, Vicky set up the London Anti-Street Harassment campaign (Lash), to lobby MPs and journalists, and begin a serious debate. “I want women to put their hands up and say: ‘We don’t want to be treated like this,’” she says, “and I want men to realise the impact their words and actions have.”

It’s often suggested that street harassment is inevitable. But, as May says, while it might not be considered “as serious as domestic violence or sexual assault, street harassment is on the same spectrum of violence against women.” The fact that it is so often just accepted by people suggests women’s bodies are still considered public property – an attitude the anti-street harassment movement aims to change.

(Actually from what the women on the thread are saying, street harassment is particularly bad in London, so no, it‘s not inevitable if it varies from city to city. Some think it has been getting worse in recent years.)

Right on, sisters! I wish you all the best for this campaign.

20 Comments

  1. resistor said,

    ‘The example I gave was of a Muslim woman who was spat at by co-religious males because they didn’t approve of her cycling and the clothes she wore.’

    What an odd example to give, when nearly all abuse of Muslim women for the way they dress comes from Islamophobes.

  2. maxdunbar said,

    That’s your last comment on this thread. Now fuck off.

    On topic, I think bystanders should be encouraged to challenge the morons who shout this kind of abuse. There is a role for men here.

  3. Egg on your face said,

    Max prefers to drop bombs on them, anyway.

    And he is the kind of moron who shouts abuse at Muslim women. But not for cycling.

    Anyway, how can any of the bloggers here complain of abuse? Encouraging abuse is now Shiraz Socialist policy.

    This article is Rosie’s attempt to regain some feminist cred after her article encouraging the use of ‘cunt’ as a term of abuse. I bet that went down well with the sisterhood, didn’t it?

  4. maxdunbar said,

    Egg

    That was your last comment on this blog.

    Did you enjoy it?

  5. James Bloodworth said,

    My wife is a very attractive mixed race Cuban of 23 who almost always gets grief from black guys if she goes out on her own. This ranges from creepy and lewd comments which are unpleasent but fairly easy for her to brush off (that kind of thing is normal in Cuba) to men actually physically grabbing her, which has happened several times now. As a man it’s hard to relate to this kind of harassment as you never experience it yourself; and it doesn’t happen when a woman is with another man. I must say however that the problem is far worse for my wife than it has been for past girlfriends: some young black men seem to feel particularly entitled to grab or physically accost a woman as she’s walking down the street solely because she is a black woman!

    Obviously it’s not anything to do with blackness (that shouldn’t really need saying): my wife, the victim of these harrasments, is herself mixed-race. I’m afraid however that it is related to attitutes promoted by hip-hop, rap and “urban” culture – watch any rap video to see how women are viewed as meat and what they are supposed to be (in the eyes of the rappers), actually there for. Casual misogyny is highly fashionable even in mainstream culture – and what is considered “cool” for most inner city youth *is* the rap/hip hop lifestyle, which takes misogyny to another level.

    It was in Nottingham city that we lived when these instances occurred; but I see no reason why any inner city would be any different. Next month we are moving to London – is it going to increasingly be the case that women are going to have to start carrying weapons around with them? I can’t help feel that in the area of sexual equality despite the progress made in law social attitudes are starting to go backwards.

  6. James Bloodworth said,

    “Obviously it’s not anything to do with blackness”

    *Obviously the casual misogyny is nothing to do with blackness.

  7. jim denham said,

    We must all support Sakineh Mohammadi Ashianti as a matter of priority:

    http://www.petitiononline.com/Ashtiani/petition-sign.html

  8. Rosie said,

    Max – I wouldn’t be so deletion happy. In fact, though I hate to say it – I’m throwing up slightly, “resistor” has made something of a reasonable point. I would bet this burqa banning talk has made burqa wearing women a target for hostility, though it’s sexism mixed with anti-Muslim bigotry. Burqa/niqabs are very rare where I live, but when I last saw a couple of women dressed like that in the main street (in very well cut face-covering niqabs matching elegant coats) there was a ripple of hostility and one young bloke said loudly to another, “They should be illegal.” Goths, of course, can get similar reactions – in fact one was murdered quite recently, wasn’t she?

    I’m sad that this is on the increase. Time was a woman would go to a country like Italy where men thought they had the right to grope unaccompanied women and then return to Britain in relief. I remember being in Greece in the 80s and being constantly harassed and nearly crying with relief when I walked into the Underground, asked a bloke for some directions, which he gave in a friendly, ordinary way, without chatting up or an attempt to grope. Of course I and my friend were foreigners in Greece and may have been seen as easy meat. But we were both speccy, serious girls looking at Greek antiquities as well. The worst of it was that it stopped ordinary, pleasant interaction. I heard yet another bloke in Greece saying, “Mees, Mees,” gritted my teeth and walked on, and he was returning my wallet!

    James – so you think there’s been a cultural shift as well? That really is disheartening.

    Egg – it’s “Cunts” not “cunts”. It’s a specialised term used in blogging, which I am trying to introduce. I wish you would use it in context – but I can see it’s going to go the way of “paradigm” or “parameter”, which are terms of specialised use that are employed loosely and slackly.

  9. maxdunbar said,

    Resistor has no interest in challenging anti-Muslim bigotry he is only concerned with sectarian point scoring

  10. Rosie said,

    True enough, that is his whole raison d’etre, but he has said something which was reasonable, just like a dog that hysterically barks and growls at everyone who approaches a house once in his life barks and growls at a burglar.

  11. charliethechulo said,

    Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

  12. Egg on your face said,

    Rosie

    “Egg – it’s “Cunts” not “cunts”. It’s a specialised term used in blogging, which I am trying to introduce.”

    An immortal quote, that should be advertised and linked to on every feminist blog. Presumably if we capitalist the N word, or the Y word, or lots of other such epithets, they will become specialised blogging terms as well.

    In your fevered dreams!

    Being deleted by Max Dunbar is an honour. This blog is now getting a reputation for bigotry, censorship, intolerance, promoting abuse while pretending to decry it, in other words hypocrisy, and lots of other things besides.

    So go ahead Max, DELETE DELETE. Make my day.

  13. Egg on your face said,

    capitalise, of course.

  14. charliethechulo said,

    A provocation from a twat (or berk):

    “This blog is now getting a reputation for bigotry, censorship, intolerance, promoting abuse while pretending to decry it, in other words hypocrisy, and lots of other things besides.

    So go ahead Max, DELETE DELETE. Make my day.”

    My advice (which no-one has to take), is to let the twat/ berk’s comment stand, as an example of pathetic, ignorant, stupidity.

  15. Rosie said,

    This thread seems to be straying from its original topic, which was about the harassment of women- I hope we’re not getting into troll territory. However, if someone has a problems with my “Cunts” definition of people who are intellectually dishonest, I’m open to suggestions for alternatives. My post re Comments Policy stated that:-

    “I would ask the contributors here, both bloggers and commenters, to read this draft position paper and suggest some amendments and improvements”

    So if Eggy has any ideas for amendments and improvements, he can be assured they will receive my full attention.

  16. James Bloodworth said,

    “James – so you think there’s been a cultural shift as well? That really is disheartening”

    I do yeh. Misogyny has been made “cool”; not just by rap/hip-hop – that would be shallow and scratching the surface to blame it all on a genre of music – but a softer misogyny has been adopted by the mainstream and while becoming more tame – i.e. wife beating is hugely stigmatised – it is increasingly acceptable. Girls are encouraged to constantly look sexy, while the ideal promoted in celebrity and culture is the barbie doll look/pornstar look; with pole dancing classes increasingly popular amongst teenage girls. There’s obviously nothing wrong with looking attractive – you do have to be careful on the other side of the argument from those who just hate attractive women, (those who speak of the Burka as “liberating” fall into this catagory) but the promotion of women in culture as essentially “just there to be fucked” is most definitely related to these misogynistic attitudes displayed towards women in the street, which appear to be on the increase.

  17. Egg on your face said,

    Actually, I suggest you simply steal the comments policy wholesale from Liam MacUaid’s blog, and stop all abuse from whereever it comes. Including from your own supporters.

    Indeed, given your foul and spreading reputation, I would say especially from your own supporters would be appropriate.

    Then you might just get some civilised discussion.

    You have absolutely no moral authority, none whatsoever, to condemn any abuse from any quarter while promoting abuse is the stated policy of this blog.

    So no, I won’t suggest a replacement for your term ‘Cunts’ for people you don’t like. This kind of invective doesn’t need replacing. It needs flushing down the toilet.

  18. charliethechulo said,

    A thick cunt writes:

    “You have absolutely no moral authority, none whatsoever, to condemn any abuse from any quarter while promoting abuse is the stated policy of this blog.

    “So no, I won’t suggest a replacement for your term ‘Cunts’ for people you don’t like. This kind of invective doesn’t need replacing. It needs flushing down the toilet.”

    I say: let his thicko, cuntish comments stand as a memorial to ignorance, prejudice and stupidity.

  19. Rosie said,

    Yeah, I’d say let them stand. I could pedantically point out that I’ve amended the “abused” part of the policy to “taken to task” but people round here don’t seem to read whole blog posts.

    However, the USA;s founding fathers had similar problems – it took a lot of thrashing out to draft the Constitution – some folk stuck to “possession of property” instead of “pursuit of happiness”.

  20. africanblackmilitant said,

    James Bloodworth

    Blaming black people again ?

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