I’m sick of hearing people blame women for street harassment by saying things like, “if only women covered up it wouldn’t happen.”
In many countries where women ARE completely covered, harassment occurs. 90 percent of women surveyed in 2009 in Yemen had been street harassed and most women wear a veil. Egyptian woman Hadeel al Shalchi wrote a great opinion piece for The National about the insane amount of street harassment in Egypt, and the following section discusses the issue of being covered and still being harassed:
“The onus in our society has largely lain on women to prevent sexual harassment. If a girl doesn’t cover her hair or wear very conservative clothing, then she’s obviously asking for it and wants the harassment, the prevailing attitude seemed to be.
As a result, more women began to cover up. The hijab and niqab became common in Egypt, not purely for religious reasons but also because women wanted to avoid the unpleasantness of being glared at by the opposite sex.
But when the harassment continued, Egyptian women knew there was something seriously wrong.
Covered from head to toe in black, they were still being groped, propositioned and annoyed. What more could they do? …
Three years ago, an amateur video of women in hijabs being attacked in downtown Cairo during a holiday event was made public. Shocked Egyptians were brought face to face with the ugly nature of harassment. Some mobile-phone images showed men tugging at young girls’ clothes. Others showed the girls being physically attacked.
This was real evidence of a very real problem. Those who had ignored what every woman knew could deny it no longer.
Women’s groups were emboldened to launch anti-harassment campaigns, teaching women that the problem was not their fault and encouraging them to persist in bringing complaints – even small ones – to the police. They were also urged to take self-defence classes and to use what they were taught on men who abused them in the street. …
In Egypt, sexual harassment will, most probably, continue to exist for a long time to come. Attitudes that allow such behaviour appear culturally ingrained. But increasingly women are waking up to this reality and beginning to reject it.
Women here are saying it loudly: enough to being groped on the subway, to being undressed with a look, to being followed to work. This must stop!“
Amen. Enough!! Street harassment MUST END and it will not end by requiring women to be completely hidden from view. Instead, men must stop harassing women and there must be cultural respect for women. What can you do? Here are a few ideas, feel free to share more in the comments.
- Tell your friends not to harass women
- Learn how to be a male ally in ending this problem
- Use respectful language and don’t support products that depict women solely as sex objects
- Share your story and raise awareness that street harassment is a problem
- Make anti-harassment videos to document the problem
- Report harassers and hold them accountable for their actions
- Join or donate to anti-street harassment groups