Last week we posted “Male Allies” and talked about why we need the men of DC Metro area to help us end sexual assault and harassment. Lo and behold, we received a negative comment from a commenter named ‘Man’. This is what Man had to say:
Don’t go to settings where you are likely to get harassed. That will help ease your experiencing of this phenomenon everyday. [Link to Man’s Comment]
This victim blaming attitude is what continues to perpetuate the continued cycle of gender-based violence. We see it with rape, domestic violence and other forms of sexual assault, street harassment is no exception. Because we wrote that harassment happens EVERYWHERE in the city, (buses, metros, the streets, bars, stores, etc.) Man’s comment implies that women should just stay in their houses. Should we also cover our bodies and faces completely as to not tempt men? Not leave the house without a man? Have “women only” buses and metros? These are not solutions to the problem. The only solution is for harassers to STOP harassing!
It is NEVER the victim’s fault. We have just as much right as anyone else to walk where we want, go where we want, when we want, with who we want, and wearing what we want. Yes, we live in a city and street harassment seems to come with the territory. But street harassment is not one of the prices we have to pay to live here – local taxes and expensive rents are. Still confused? Read our Frequently Asked Q’s.
There is a long history and culture behind sexual violence and victim blaming has been going on for centuries. In her blog, Stop Street Harassment, Holly looks at study that examines street harassment in Victorian London during the 1880’s . At this time in London women “described themselves as innocent victims of street annoyances who were respectably dressed” and the men said “What can women who ‘dress themselves up’ with ‘false bottoms and stays – and other erotic adornments’ expect? If women ‘really do wish to be left alone,’ they should dress to be ‘plain and unappetizing and avoid the haunts of men.'” [Link to Blog Post and Article]. Sounds like the same old same old to us.
We say it again here. Sexual harassment happens on a spectrum and can range from comments like “Heyyy, baby!,” to leering, to groping, to public masturbation. And it can lead to serious violent assaults, rape, and murder. The men who harass believe they have a right to objectify women and say/do whatever they want. Just because women are in a public space does not give men free reign on our bodies or the right to say whatever comes to their mind.
This IS a community problem and we need our allies, especially men. Men, if you want a resource and need some ideas on how you can stop street harassment read Men: Help Stop Public Harassment by Brian Martin.
We applaud the men and women who don’t subscribe to the victim blaming attitude and thank those who stand up for us as we battle the public spaces of DC Metro.