Because the internet is helping fuel discussions about and activism against street harassment, it can be easy for those of us in a young generation to think this is a new issue no one has addressed before. But women have been speaking out against street harassment for a few decades. For women’s history month, I want to point out a few of them on the scholarly side and acknowledge their work.
- In 1981, Micaela di Leonardo wrote an article called “Political Economy of Street Harassment.” It’s the earliest place where I’ve seen the term street harassment used in the context of men harassing women because of their gender.
- In 1984, Cheryl Benard and Edith Schlaffer conducted the first – and really the only – study on why men harass women. They published their findings in an article called “The Man in the Street: Why He Harasses,” found in the book Feminist Frameworks.
- Cynthia Grant Bowman wrote an extensive legal piece on street harassment called “Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women,“ for Harvard Law Review in 1993.
- Carol Brooks Gardner led the first full-scale study on what she terms public harassment by studying 500 people in Indianapolis. Her findings are published in Passing By: Gender and Public Harassment (1995).
- In 2002, Deirdre Davis wrote about street harassment and African American women in the article “The Harm that Has No Name: Street Harassment, Embodiment, and African American Women” published in Gender Struggles: Practical Approaches to Contemporary Feminism.
Each woman paved the way for later research on the topics. I have a full list of articles and books I’ve come across that deal with street harassment on my website if you’re interested in learning more.
Thank you to each of these woman (and to everyone I didn’t list but who have worked on this issue) for helping us get this far in addressing the widespread problem of street harassment.