Summer is the undisputed best season of the year. Everything is bright and lush and you can bike everywhere, spend hours in the park or on the beach, drink alfresco on patios and balconies, go out dancing, and walk home in the middle of the hot summer night. The next morning you can roll out of bed and right out the door to get iced coffee and bagels and do it all over again… and in potentially every one of those situations you can almost guarantee you’ll get accosted by the lowliest of summer characters – the street harasser.
One of the shittiest downsides of the sublimity of summer is the staggeringly high rate at which individuals, especially women and members of sexually diverse communities, get unrelentingly harassed in the street for absolutely no reason. Of course this isn’t an issue that’s only present in summer, but it sure as hell feels like it erupts into a frenzy as soon as the trees begin to bud.
Being that we’re in the business of talking about fashion here at The Pack, you might think that we’re priming you for a handy listicle on how to avoid all the uninvited commentary hurled at you in public spaces, but, nope. Street harassment has no taste and doesn’t care about what you’re wearing (duh). Also, it’s not your job to prevent abuse. You keep doing you. What we are interested in is contributing to a constructive dialogue that’s been happening in URL and IRL communities about the very real threat to safety that street harassment poses, how it makes us feel, and how we can address it through our responses.
In 2010 Holly Kearl wrote the book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women based on her blogging on the subject and later founded the non-profit, Washington DC-based, but globally-oriented organization Stop Street Harassment. On the organization’s website they note an academic study of street harassment conducted in Canada in 2000 which found that “over 80 percent of the women surveyed had experienced male stranger harassment in public and that those experiences had a large and detrimental impact on their perceived safety in public.”
It’s sadly not surprising. Living in downtown Toronto, we at The Pack are no strangers to getting unsolicited commentary that runs the gamut from despicable to uninspired (“nice ankles”?) and of course, always being reminded to SMILE (omg die). It’s a regular topic of conversation at The Pack meet-ups and one of our biggest debates has been about how to best confront the situation in the moment. Stop Street Harassment’s website has an array of supportive tips and resources that we’ve thought about adding to our arsenal of approaches, but we’re interested in starting an exchange of ideas here and hearing from you.
Read and join our comment thread below for a conversation about what we’ve all experienced, how we’ve confronted situations (for better or worse), and what we’d love to start doing when idiots try to waste our time and energy in the streets.