“Hello, My Name is Not ‘Hey Baby'”

my-name-is-not-hey-babyDon’t you hate when you’re minding your own business walking on the street when suddenly you become a target for harassment?

I’m going to make the assumption that only about 50% of the class knows what I’m talking about.

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Street harassment is still a huge problem in the world. It’s defined as:

“ a form of sexual and gender-based harassment that takes place in public spaces. At its core is a power dynamic that constantly reminds historically subordinated groups (women and LGBT folks, for example) of their vulnerability to assault in public spaces. Further, it reinforces the ubiquitous objectification of these groups in everyday life.”

This form of harassment goes unreported and is largely under researched, so the statistics I found varied. 70-99% of women and 19-25% of men surveyed said they’ve experienced some form of street harassment (note: majority of surveyed men who have been harassed were apart of the LGBT community). Furthermore, research by Cornell University in 2014 shows that 66.7% of female victims of harassment experienced it before the age of 14.Screen Shot 2016-04-07 at 11.08.30 AM.png

I find these results very alarming, but I was not shocked by any means. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve been cat-called or witnessed other women being cat-called. Last summer in NYC I would have consistently be yelled at on my walk to work. This was in broad-daylight on busy streets. Might I add I was wearing business casual attire and could not possibly have been “asking for it.” I’ve been harassed in CVS in Fort Lauderdale while buying shampoo and harassed in Starbucks in San Francisco while buying a latte. I’ve even been harassed at BC. Those are just a few examples of the innumerable times I have experienced harassment across the country, so imagine how many times this happens everyday to women all around the world.

Australian comedian, Jen Kirkman, tweeted a few days ago about how she was verbally harassed by four men.

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This tweet sparked a conversation and prompted women all over the world to reply with stories of street harassment they had experienced. For the next few days Kirkman retweeted countless women’s stories. I read through many of them and was appalled at some of the situations these women have endured. What’s fascinating to me is that while Kirkman retweeted these stories, she received backlash from some males saying that street harassment isn’t an issue. However, I thought that Kirkman using her Twitter account as a platform for street harassment awareness would powerful. It was very eye opening reading those stories.

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While researching cat-calling I came across a popular YouTube video that exhibited the extreme prevalence of the issue. A woman walked the streets of NYC in jeans and a t-shirt for 10 hours and received over 100 instances of verbal street harassment (not counting winks, whistles, etc.).

I found the video quite effective and hope that it helps expose the doubters to reality. I can’t recall ever being harassed while with guy friends or my dad and brother, which can make it hard for them to realize how much it actually occurs. Even with these social media efforts, there are still people who don’t consider verbal street harassment an issue and view it as “compliments”:

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I’m not even going to address those comments because that would warrant another blog post. Nevertheless, social media is making a difference in creating awareness around street harassment. It’s great to see these platforms showcase stories and examples of acts that occur countless times every single day. What’s most important is that many of these stories reiterate the fact that harassment occurs everywhere- not just at 3am in dark hidden alleys.


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  1. Great post Kaitlin! This is definitely a problem and will continue to be if people dont understand the extent and relentlessness that comes with it. People are raised a certain way and to speak to women in this manner is disrespectful but to the men in the video it was “flirting” or “complimenting”. It was a good start to a social media conversation when Kirkman shared her story and others began to follow suit. Social Media is the perfect place for people to share their story and to get the exposure needed for people to understand the severity of the situation.

  2. Although even BC has its outliers, I’d like to think that the most guys here would know what you’re talking about, even as the opposite sex. I’ve seen the video before and it really resonated with me. I believe all of those men should have made a better effort to mind their own business. However, I also believe that some attempts at passerby communication could be courteous and uplifting. The instances above are not, and defining the line with campaigns like the one you described is essential going forward. Cheers, great post!

  3. Great post! You are definitely making a point and this kind of situations can happen anywhere and at anytime. I also think that unfortunately, this has become the new “normal” for women. In that regard, the “Report it to Stop it” campaign in the UK is very interesting and want to empower women by making them report it. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2015/04/17/report-it-to-stop-it-campaign-transport-for-london_n_7086202.html. I also like this campaign made in Ontario “It’s never ok” http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2015/11/19/ontario-takes-aim-at-sexual-harassment-violence-with-new-video.html

  4. I have so many thoughts about street harassment, particularly how race and class and power dynamics play into it. But I won’t go into them here.

    Have you looked into any of the online versions of street harassment? There’s a funny/sad Instagram account called Bye Felipe where they post the harassing messages women get on online dating sites. Sometimes they are unsolicited dick picks, sometimes they are nasty responses to being ignored or to politely being turned down. I don’t understand why those dudes can’t just ignore being ignored or turned down.

    With the digital stuff, some women are clapping back by sending screenshots of the posts to the men’s sisters, mothers, or other women in their lives if they can find them on social media.

  5. One reason I really like the video you posted is that as opposed to starting with the large issue of gender differences and gender equality they decided to tackle a more tangible and everyday occurrence. I also like that through Twitter Jen Kirkman was able to give women a platform to discuss street harassment because it allows other Twitter users to see how prominent and dangerous street harassment can be. Another individual that I think does a great job of using humor, but still addressing the seriousness of this issue is Jessica Williams in her Feminized Atmosphere video on the Daily Show.

  6. I really liked how you tied social media into this post while still focusing on harassment that occurs in the physical world. I thought you did a great job of incorporating different mediums to give a holistic view of the problem. You tied in a lot of examples and provided good data. The numbers were surprising at first, but then when I thought about it, it seemed likely. Thanks for writing this post and sharing it with our class.

  7. Nice post. I think that’s one of the real power of social media is to call attention to these matters. I thought the extended video is a great idea, because sometimes SM over-reacts to a single incident while this demonstrates the problem over time.

  8. Excellent post and what a great topic to discuss. I agree with Daniel, you really did do a great job of incorporating examples of harassment in social media and what people are saying on Twitter. I was recently in Boston this past weekend and experienced the same cat-calls. Social media is helping to transform this large issue as well as a former model, Jean Kilbourne. She has created videos called Killing Us Softly as well as Ted talks discussing how women are portrayed in the media as well as other topics like the one you discussed in this blog. It would have been interesting to take a poll on Boston College students to see how much they are harassed on campus.

  9. I think this is a really important topic that many people don’t understand. I think the screen cap where people don’t understand that “have a nice day” can in fact be said in a menacing way. I think these types of campaigns addressing these issues are so important not only for men to see the reality but also for the younger generation of women to understand that they don’t have to accept verbal harassment. This, along with the #womennotobjects campaign are so crucial in shaping the mindsets of the younger generations that I’m really glad you highlighted it in your blog post this week!

  10. Social media provides a space for people to share their experiences and unify in a way to realize that they are not alone, and there are probably other people who have the same feelings or opinions. Sites like http://www.stopstreetharassment.org would not be able to spread as much awareness without social media. I found it really interesting that when you go on that website, right at the top of the page is “Share your street harassment story” and links of icons below to all social media platforms. Over 2000+ harassment stories are shared on this website’s blog, which have captured attention from major news sources like BBC, CNN, and The New York Times. In class we have seen the success of many social campaigns like #WomenNotObjects, and this is another example of raising awareness digitally. I appreciate that you chose a powerful topic such as this for your blog post this week, as it reminds us of the positive uses of social media.

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