The Pixel Project is pleased to share the eighth annual blog list of 16 memorable stories of women dealing with street harassment, which has been kindly compiled by Holly Kearl, Founder of our partner Stop Street Harassment and one of our 16 Female Role Models of 2010.
Through Facebook and her Stop Street Harassment website, Holly receives and shares stories of women fighting back against street harassment. She shares these stories to help raise awareness of this particular type of violence against women as well as provide inspiration and ideas for everyone on making public places and spaces safe for women. Almost 100% of women and girls experience street harassment in their lifetimes, ranging from the uncomfortable to the downright dangerous.
This list provides a starting point for all to learn about and discuss the impact of street harassment. We hope it’ll inspire you to take action.
It’s time to stop violence against women. Together.
– Regina Yau, Founder and President, The Pixel Project
Holly’s picture is courtesy of Stop Street Harassment.
Empowering Response #1: Returning a Slap with a Police Arrest – Paris, France
A man punched Marie Laguerre in the face in Paris, France, after he verbally sexually harassed her and she told him to shut up. She collected witness testimonies, got the surveillance video from a café near where it happened and filed a police report. He was later arrested and she started a website where women can share their stories.
Empowering Response #2: Taking Upstander Action Together – United States of America
After a woman on the street shouted at a man whom she said had been following her for a few blocks, he grew angry and shouted insults at her. She shouted out that she didn’t know him. Five women nearby all walked over to stand between the harasser and her. He thought about approaching them, but then left. After the woman safely left too, the five women dispersed as well.
@PiaGlenn, one of the women, tweeted out the story and ended by writing, “Each instance of SH requires its own evaluation, prioritizing yr safety. But lemme say this: women, femmes, trans sisters, nonbinary luvs & those of us who experience it so often, Sometimes the thing to do is make a scene. You don’t owe a stranger politeness if you feel unsafe.”
Empowering Response #3: Mace Works Just Fine – New York City, United States of America
In a story she told for the Moth, Phyllis Bowdwin shared how in 1979, NYC, a mime sexually assaulted her and other women on the street, amid cheers from a group of men standing around nearby. In response, she dug into her purse, pulled out her mace and “sprayed him like a roach.”
Empowering Response #4: Don’t Be Sexist To Policewomen – Belgium
In Belgium, sexism in public places is illegal and this year, the first charge was made using the law. A female police officer questioned a man after he jaywalked, and he said in response to her, “Shut your mouth, I don’t talk to women, being a police officer is not a job for women.” Apparently it IS a job for women and she arrested him. He was fined 3,000 euros.
Empowering Response #5: Groping Is Not Tolerated – New Zealand
After a man ran up behind Madeline and groped her breasts at music festival in New Zealand, she found him, hit him a few times and her friend poured her drink on him. She, not he, received criticism because she was topless at the time. But she stood firm in her right to be topless (it was legal) and to not face assault. Madeline said, “I hope that I’ve inspired women to feel comfortable in their bodies, no matter how they look, and to stick up for themselves when anybody says otherwise or tries to deny you the right to protect your own body.\
Empowering Response #6: The Friend Strategy Works!
Anna was reading a book, waiting to meet her boyfriend, when a man began pestering her, trying to pressure her into having a drink with him. When a woman nearby overheard, she came over and pretended to know her. “Clara! Hi,” she says. As she hugs her, she whispers, “Are you ok?” The woman stayed with Anna until the harasser reluctantly left.
Empowering Response #7: Kicking A Street Harasser Off The Bus – Oregon, United States of America
After a man in Oregon verbally harassed and tried to physically harass IB on a public bus, she reported him to the bus driver and the driver kicked the man off the bus. She said, “I think ending catcalling starts with teaching younger children that it’s not okay. This should start by teaching them we are all equal and people don’t want to be treated as objects.”
Empowering Response #8: Grope Someone’s Breasts? Go To Jail – Jakarta, Indonesia
CCTV footage of Ilham groping Amanda’s breast from his motorcycle as she walked along an alleyway in Indonesia went viral earlier this year. Four days later, he was arrested, and later in the year, the Depok District Court sentenced him to a year in prison.
Empowering Response #9: No Harassment Allowed In Restaurants – Georgia, United States of America
After a man groped Emelia Holden in a restaurant in Georgia, she turned around, grabbed him by his collar and slammed him onto the counter shouting, “You don’t touch me motherf—!” It was all caught on video. She said later, “I didn’t even think, I just reacted.” She told a coworker to call the police and the man was arrested and charged with sexual battery.
Empowering Response #10: The Anti-Street Harassment Squad – Delhi, India
A 40-person, all-female motorcycle police unit in Delhi, India, has reduced the incidents of street harassment by 30 percent, according to the police in the city. The women have intervened in many street harassment cases during 24-hour patrols. “We keep an eye on girls in distress. In several cases, members of the woman squad have nabbed stalkers. They rescue girls and also ensure they reach their destination safely,” said Vijayanta Arya, Deputy Commissioner of Police.
Empowering Response #11: Upskirting Is Not Tolerated – Singapore
After a passerby noticed Akira Yamamura trying to record an upskirt photo on his Apple iPad tablet along a road, he alerted the woman and her fiancé. The couple confronted Akira, who tried to flee, but the passerby detained him and called the police. A police investigation found that the man had taken 27 videos and nearly 600 photos of 37 women without their knowledge. He was arrested and later jailed for 16 weeks.
Empowering Response #12: Harassment Shouldn’t Be Included – New York City, United States of America
A girl in New York City said she was uncomfortable by older men harassing her. When a “delivery guy for a big company said very inappropriate things” to her, she called the company to complain. She hoped “it may stop him from making other girls feel uncomfortable and unsafe in the future.”
Empowering Response #13: Dad Stops Upskirting Menace – California, United States of America
When a dad in California noticed a 29-year-old man start videotaping his 15-year-old daughter in a Target and crouch by another woman to take footage up her skirt, he kicked away the phone and then, when the man ran, tackled him in the parking lot. Then the dad called the police and got a photo of the man’s license plate number as he drove away. The man was later arrested for “invasion of privacy.”
Empowering Response #14: Being Proactive Against Street Harassment – Georgia, United States of America
Elizabeth in Georgia looks out for women facing street harassment. She says. “If I so much as see a man checking out a lady, I will ostentatiously watch him. He needs to know he has an audience for his choices.” She advises, “Let the offender know that he has upset you. Let the people around you know that he has misbehaved, and you are not going to be quiet about it. Keep your eyes open and stand up for others.”
Empowering Response #15: Upstanders Against Upskirting – Singapore
Two men in Singapore were honoured for intervening in two different incidents of upskirt picture-taking. “The Police thank Mr Yusman and Mr Yap for their display of public-spiritedness. Such acts go a long way to help deter crime on the public transport network,” said Assistant Commissioner (AC) of Police Koh Wei Keong, Commander of Public Transport Security Command.
Empowering Response #16: Sticking Together To Thwart The Harasser – California, United States of America
In California, a man followed a woman for blocks. She got on a bus to try to get away from him, but he got on too and continued harassing her. Another woman passenger stood up and asked her, “Do you feel safe?” The harassed woman was so upset she couldn’t speak, so the other passenger guided her away and said, “We can sit together.”
The harasser tried to follow them, but other women passengers then stood up to block him. Soon “there were six or seven women creating this barrier,“ said one of the women who stood up. “That man looked at us, yelled one last shitty thing, and got off at the next stop. Because he realised there was no way he could win against all of us.”
She wrote, “After I got off the bus, I started crying. I was sad because we have to deal with situations like this ALL the time, but I was crying happy tears because, for once, I felt like I wasn’t alone, and I felt how powerful we are when we stand together.”