Next week, if a woman is walking down Bourbon Street in New Orleans on Mardi Gras, shouldn’t she expect to be harassed? If a woman sits in a bar, alone during a crowded Thursday night Happy Hour, shouldn’t she expect to be harassed? If a woman walks through a college football stadium parking lot, alone, late on a Saturday morning, past a series of tailgaters, shouldn’t she expect to be harassed?
Maybe she should.
But of course it doesn’t mean she wants that kind of attention or that it’s okay. Reading visual clues for addressing a woman at any time, in any circumstance, with any kind of interaction is the responsibility of men. Men must figure out where the boundary is and respect it. Although the boundary is flexible and may be bigger and wider depending on the situation, there is nevertheless a boundary over which men shouldn’t cross.
Men must step up to their responsibility and not fall victim to the “well-what-do-you-expect, she-was-asking-for-it” syndrome. Men will be surprised at how much more successful their interactions with women are when they are in touch with non-verbal clues from women on the street so they can avoid being harassers.
[Editor’s Note: Here are tips about how to talk to women without being a harasser. Be sure to check out a video about this topic on The Consensual Project blog and an article in The Guardian]
– Alan Kearl
This post is part of the weekly blog series by male allies. We need men involved in the work to end the social acceptability of street harassment and to stop the practice, period. If you’d like to contribute to this weekly series, please contact me.