Street harassment is a toxic practice that unfortunately plagues our society and has the potential to escalate to more serious and criminal matters. Not everyone is guilty of it, but every woman experiences it in some way or another in her lifetime. Something as innocent as walking down the street has become a cause for anxiety and fear.
An activist group known as Hollaback! has recently gained popularity with its fight to stop the cycle and end street harassment. The group defines street harassment as “a form of sexual harassment that takes place in public spaces” and explains that it “disproportionately impacts women, people of color, LGBTQ individuals, and young people.” According to the organization’s website, Hollaback’s message is currently implemented by local activists in 79 cities in 26 countries. Its website offers a supportive environment that includes open forums where victims can share their stories and explain how they handled the situation. Each post is equipped with an “I’ve got your back!” button for other users to show their understanding and support.
News of Hollaback’s most recent production went viral last week after the organization released a two-minute video of New York-based actress Shoshana B. Roberts walking around New York City for 10 hours recorded the various amounts of street harassment she encountered. Roberts experienced over 100 accounts of street harassment, including whistles, catcalls, unsolicited comments or commands, inappropriate looks, and one man who followed closely beside her for five minutes straight. Roberts’ goal was to remain silent throughout all of these situations, and this occasionally made the perpetrators angry and even more aggressive. The video set the Internet abuzz and received a plethora of negativity and even protest through social media. But the organization is satisfied with these results, claiming that these reactions from the public mean that the video’s message was successful.
Hollaback! has made an appearance on Ohio University’s campus before, and it is about time they visit again. In response to street harassment, the Ohio University Women’s Center will be sponsoring several events next semester in support of “Take Back the Night.” Take Back the Night is an organization dedicated to keeping women safe in public and relationships. From The week of April 1-4 will be Take Back the Night Week, hosted by OUWC. The Take Back the Night March will take place April 3rd.
Nobody should have to fear simply stepping outside in public. I personally have had anxieties the second I step onto a sidewalk. After reviewing the group’s web page and user forums, I discovered that street harassment happens to any girl or woman who has the potential to encounter someone vile enough to harass them: mothers, working women, college-age girls, pre-teens and even children. The cycle is disgusting and dangerous, and it needs to stop in its tracks for the well-being of people who are doing nothing more than trying to live their lives. Join the movement to end street harassment.
Jordan Williams is a junior studying English and women’s and gender studies. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.