Talking about street harassment

If you end up talking about street harassment with someone who hasn’t experienced it, or doesn’t think it’s ‘that bad’you could be in for a difficult conversation.

The Hollaback! map can go some way to telling the story of just how awful and widespread an issue it is, all supported by comprehensive research on the subject.
These conversations can be exhausting, however, if you feel you want to lay down the law, here are five key points to help you spell it out:


1. You are not obliged to like what happens to you just because others might view it as a positive.
No one else can tell you about your own experience, dictate your response, OR defend the intention of someone else’s comments.
Thanks for being optimistic – but no. Intention doesn’t matter and we’re not flattered.


excessive and insincere praise, given especially to further one’s own interests.


2. They didn’t make those comments to make you feel good.
They did it to flex their muscles and reinforce the social reality that they can, uninvited, publicly express their opinions and sexual desires with impunity, and we cannot even state our opposition to this without immediate, patronising contradiction.


3. There is no ‘what if it was the other way round?’ comparison here.
We’re not talking about an equal playing field and what one person ‘wouldn’t mind’, someone else really would. Equally, imposing on someone an inferior kind of control (eg. women get what they want if they flirt) undermines and limits them – things aren’t even and the context of power is very important.


4. Remarking upon someones physical attributes and their opinion of them only serves to reinforce the fact that women’s worth is judged by appearance above all, and that we are at all times responsible for its upkeep. That’s not a fun reminder, and neither is receiving the same shallow dismissal of our thoughts and feelings when we stand up for our ourselves.


5. It’s not an ‘overreaction’ just because you don’t understand the context in which it happened.
In the UK 1 in 5 women aged 16-59 has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. ‘Harmless’ is a reckless term when the reality is that even the smallest of clues to a harassers mindset can be a warning.


And if all your arguments fall on deaf ears – don’t be disheartened!.
Society has told some people that they already know everything – it won’t stop us Holla-ing-back!


Please get in touch if you have any additional ‘common arguments’ around discussions of street harassment you’d like us to include – or any tips you’d like to share!

Email: [email protected]

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