“Maybe something about the way you dress is triggering them”

April 14, 2011

I can’t believe some people are still blaming women for street harassment. I just read this on a forum:

“In my experience, cat calls have almost disappeared. I’m not only speaking of me – I don’t even see them directed at other women. Therefore, I have to hesitantly say that maybe something about the way you dress is triggering them.”

From another woman, shamefully enough.

– Anonymous

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.

Volunteers needed for SlutWalk

March 22, 2011

The number one myth I hear around street harassment is that it’s women’s fault because of the way we dress.  That’s also a common myth when you hear about the sexual assault of women. Case in point:

On January 24th, 2011, a representative of the Toronto Police stated, “women should avoid dressing like sluts in order not to be victimized.

Outraged folks in Toronto are doing something about that victim-blaming — they’re holding SlutWalk.

SlutWalk is scheduled for Sunday, April 3rd, 2011.
Speeches at 1:30. Walk at 2:00.
Starting location is central Queen’s Park,
heading to Toronto Police Headquarters at 40 College Street.
Facebook Event Page

More on the Why:

“As the city’s major protective service, the Toronto Police have perpetuated the myth and stereotype of ‘the slut’, and in doing so have failed us. With sexual assault already a significantly under-reported crime, survivors have now been given even less of a reason to go to the Police, for fear that they could be blamed. Being assaulted isn’t about what you wear; it’s not even about sex; but using a pejorative term to rationalize inexcusable behaviour creates an environment in which it’s okay to blame the victim.”

Volunteers Needed:

  • March 26: They have a prep day this coming up Saturday where they need people to come help with making signs, etc
  • April 3: They need volunteers on the actual event day
  • Starting Now: They need people to just keep spreading the word through word of mouth/social media/etc.

People interested in volunteering can contact Erika Scholz, at volunteer@slutwalktoronto.com

If you’re not in Toronto, think about starting your satellite SlutWalk, info here.

Stop Blame

December 17, 2010

One of the worst myths I encounter in my work to end street harassment is victim-blaming.

“Well, with the way women dress these days…” “What do you expect with the clothes you wear…”  “Don’t go out alone if you don’t want men to harass you…” and “What did you expect when you went out alone after dark?”

It’s such a big part of the conversation around street harassment that it takes up considerable space in my book about street harassment.

And what I find striking and alarming is the global nature of the victim-blaming, from India and Australia, to Brazil and Lebanon, to Egypt and the UK. And of course in the USA.

Stop Blame PosterEarlier this year, then, I was thrilled to read about Scotland’s television ad campaign that aired during the World Cup called Not Ever, which focused on countering the idea that a woman is “asking to be raped” if she’s wearing a skirt, drinking, out late, etc. I would love to see a similar campaign in the US during the Super Bowl!

Via @thefworduk, I just found out about a similar, brand new campaign in Wales called Stop Blame. While, like Not Ever, this campaign focuses on ending the victim-blaming of rape and sexual assault survivors and victims, the commentary is largely the same as the victim-blaming that survivors of street harassment (and any form of sexual harassment) face. It is an extremely important campaign and I applaud the Welsh government for producing it.

From StopBlame.org:

This campaign asks us all to challenge the endemic culture of victim blame.

Stop blaming the victim for rape and sexual assault committed against her.

Stop handing the rapist – the assailant – excuses that serve to make his behaviour more socially acceptable.

Rape is a crime in every sense of the word- emotional, physical, psychological and legal; the most intimate violation imaginable. No woman is ever ‘asking for it’.

Rape. Sexual assault. There is NO excuse. Let’s stop blaming the victim.


Can every government around the world please have a similar campaign? They wouldn’t end victim-blaming, but they sure would help!

Groped & harassed, but victim-blaming keeps her silent

December 15, 2010

I am a school student. In my area there is a 99 percent chance that you get groped on crowded buses…so i often go to school by cycle…thinking that it was safe…..but i was wrong…. a guy on a scooter squeezed my breast with one hand and before i could react sped off..i was both physically hurt and psychologically disturbed…often people in our society blame the girl for being the victim…for not being careful…so i did not dare to share this with anyone..i hate sick men….most of the men in Chennai are sick.

– Anonymous

Location: Chennai, India

Share your street harassment story today and help raise awareness about the problem. Find suggestions for what YOU can do about this human rights issue.

Goodbye, miniskirt?

October 26, 2010

In a push to “restore urban decorum and facilitate better civil co-existence,” Luigi Bobbio, the mayor of the Italian seaside town Castellammare di Stabia, wants to ban “anti-social behavior.” Okay, so probably sexual harassment, racial harassment, bullying, and so forth, right?


The mayor claims he wants to target people who are “rowdy, unruly or simply badly behaved,” and to him, this entails people who are sunbathing, playing football in public places, engaging in “blasphemy,” and…. wearing miniskirts and low cut jeans.


There’s a lot one could say about this, but I’m going to focus on what is street harassment-related.

First, I want to say that I’m pretty tired of people (including other women) blaming women’s clothes for causing the harassment and violence men perpetrated against them. I heard that a lot in the past two weeks when I was traveling through California, Alaska, and Iowa, talking about street harassment. (“…Well, the way girls dress these days…”) This is flawed logic because women experience harassment and assault no matter what they wear (men have harassed me the most and the most explicitly when I’m wearing bagging running clothes, sweaty and red faced) and the idea that some clothes are provocative and others are not are cultural constructs that vary by culture! The problem is not women or their clothes.

I am certain that banning types of clothing alone will not cut down on “unruly” behavior. Most women in Yemen and Egypt, most of whom are veiled and otherwise modestly dressed, experience harassment in public spaces. That makes it crystal clear the problem isn’t women’s clothes but societies which encourage and allow men to harass women without consequence. Until that changes in Italy, they can ban miniskirts all they want and the harassment will continue.

The people who harass the sunbathers or women wearing miniskirts and low cut jeans are the ones whose behavior needs to change. Perhaps the mayor and the town should spend their time launching awareness campaigns about treating people with respect, no matter what they are wearing, and making sure that is taught in schools.

I’m glad that the NYC Council is holding a hearing on Thursday to discuss street harassment and what we can do about it in a logical, thoughtful way, instead of trying to ban certain clothes. Or segregate women from men like some countries have resorted to doing on public transportation because the harassment is so bad there. If you’re in the NYC area, come out at 1 p.m. on Thursday to share your street harassment experiences and ideas for making the city safer for women and girls!