As (some) men are the ones who cause street harassment, ultimately, the problem will not end until they stop harassing women.
Some of these men do not realize their actions feel like harassment to women and (claim they) don’t intentionally mean to insult or threaten them. For those men, here are tips on how to interact with women in public places without being a harasser.
Other men purposefully harass women. Without laws against it or a society that cares, they can harass women with virtually no consequences. Since men listen to other men, male allies can play an important role in getting other men to stop harassing women by making it clear to their friends, colleagues, classmates, and family members that they find the behavior unacceptable and by intervening when they see street harassment occurring.
Some of the reasons why street harassment occurs is a societal disrespect for women and because men are trying to prove their masculinity through aggression and sexual comments or acts. The following is a list of suggestions for what we (especially men) can do to help stop street harassment in the long term.
- Not encourage or condone violence in any form, especially men’s violence against women. That means not watching music videos, movies, or pornography or playing video games in which violence against women is glorified or sexualized. This also includes not supporting companies that use violent imagery to sell products.
- Not put pressure on friends to “score,” not reward men for having multiple sexual partners (or penalizing women who do), and not mock men who have not had a sexual partner or who have had only one.
- Not describe women as body parts or refer to them only as sex objects instead of as complete human beings with a personality, interests, and talents. We can remind people who do rate women solely by their looks that they have other attributes.
- Not buy products from companies that portray only women’s body parts or portray them as sex objects and not watch movies, pornography, or music videos in which women are portrayed as objects that exist for men’s pleasure.
- Not penalize men or women who act outside their gender norms.
- Eliminate language like “pussy,” “wuss,” “fag,” and “girl” as insults used to punish men who are not being “macho.”
- Eliminate language that portrays men and things that are masculine to be positive, while women and things that are feminine are negative (e.g. men think rationally while women feel emotionally).
- Not penalize, mock, or dismiss men and women who speak out against violence, inequality, and disrespectful behaviors.
Specifically, we can:
- Talk to men about street harassment. Women, share your stories with men you care about. Men, read the stories on this blog.
- Brainstorm and role play ways to intervene in a harassment incident: either before it occurs when our friends are the would-be perpetrators, or when we see it occurring.
- Encourage people to always stand up others, for human rights, for human dignity, even if they think it will make them unpopular. And we can do the same ourselves.
Read Stop Street Harassment blog posts by, about, and for male allies
- Brian Martin’s “Men: Help stop public harassment“
- Hugo Schwyzer, “Street harassment and recruiting alpha males“
- Jackson Katz’s The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and How All Men Can Help
- Todd Denny’s Unexpected Allies: Men Who Stop Rape
- Martha Langelan’s Back Off! How to Confront and Stop Sexual Harassment and Harassers (see chapter 8: “Not All Men Harass: Men as Allies for Women”).
- R. W. Connell’s Masculinities
- Michael S. Kimmel’s Manhood in America: A Cultural History
- ICRW’s publication What Men Have to Do With It
- Bryon Hurt’s film “Hip-Hop: Beyond Beats and Ryhmes“
- XY Online (men, masculinities, and gender politics)
- Men Can Stop Rape
- Man Up Campaign
- Know Your Power Campaign
- One Step Too Far Campaign
- A Call to Men
- Pixel Project’s What YOU Can Do (for men)
- UN’s project MenEngage
- Men’s Anti-Violence Council‘s comic strip on confronting harassers
- Parivartan program in India (teaching boys healthy definitions of masculinity through cricket)
- It Starts with You, a White Ribbon Campaign initiative encouraging men to be positive role models to other men and mentor them in issues of respect, etc.
- One Man Can campaign in South Africa
- The Good Men Project
Resources on How NOT to be a Harasser:
- Shapely Prose blog post, “Schrodinger’s Rapist: or a guy’s guide to approaching strange women without being maced“
- Guardian article, “Rules for a Happy Valentine’s Day“
- The Globe and Mail, “Guys, Catcalls are Never Cool“
- Stop Street Harassment blog entry “Is it harassment?“
- Baltimore Sun article “Flirtation or harassment?“
- The Consensual Project video, “Consent on the Street with Holly Kearl“