These are a few of the thousands of street harassment tweets from @EveryDaySexism‘s tweet chat (#ShoutingBack), which began Tuesday morning and is still going strong. Thousands of women have shared their stories in short snippets, bringing to light the vile, hateful, scary, and annoying ways men they don’t know treat them on the streets, on public transportation, in stores, and in bars or clubs.
This is not the first tweet chat about street harassment. A few years ago, the India-based group @Blank_Noise used #INeverAskForIt and asked people to tweet about victim-blaming in the context of street harassment. A few times over the past two years, Egyptian-based groups like @HarassMap and @Imprint_Mov have organized tweet chats about street harassment and sexual violence, using #EndSH.
But this chat is the largest to date.
Tweet chats are a simple but powerful way to show how rampant street harassment is worldwide and what kinds of disgusting forms it takes. They also show how scary street harassment can be, and the news that a woman in San Francisco was in the hospital after a harasser she rejected slashed her with a knife made its way into the conversation.
Laura Bates from The Everyday Sexism Project and the organizer of the chat told me, “We started the tweet chat on #ShoutingBack as part of the Everyday Sexism Project’s goal of uncovering ‘invisible’ forms of sexism- experiences that are rarely seen by those who don’t personally encounter them. We wanted to open the world’s eyes to the serious harassment women still face on a daily basis just for having the audacity to walk down the street – just for daring to be a woman in a public space.”
She continued, “The thousands of stories that poured in were overwhelming, devastating and empowering in equal measure….I feel very strongly that this kind of awareness-raising and altering of the public consciousness is the way forward in tackling such pervasive social problems, so I hope some positive momentum for change came out of it too.”
The chat already is helping alter public-consciousness, including by making more men aware; men who may otherwise not realize street harassment is so pervasive or so horrible but who can play a powerful role in stopping it.
The tweet chat is also helping discredit misinformation and myths that exist about street harassment.
Just a few days ago, a dieting firm in the UK published findings from a study of dieters in which many of them said mild street harassment was a good weight-loss motivator. On Tuesday, Cosmopolitan magazine published an article on their website called, “Wolf Whistles Motivate Us to Exercise” and cited the UK dieter study to portray street harassment as a compliment.
Outraged that a popular women’s magazine with many young readers would purport this idea without addressing the reality of how violent and hateful most street harassment is, numerous people wrote comments to the article calling out the magazine for writing it. When I wrote my comment to the article, I directed the author to the #ShoutingBack thread. Within 24 hours, the story was removed.
The removal of the article was in part due to the #ShoutingBack thread showing what street harassment actually looks like and anyone reading through the stories can understand why it is not a compliment. Instead of being a compliment, street harassment is as a human rights violation, gender violence, and a crime that must end.
If you haven’t yet, tweet your street harassment story to add it to the collection (and you can also share a longer version on the Stop Street Harassment blog) and then share the thread with your networks, especially with men you know.
Our stories matter, so let’s do some #ShoutingBack at street harassment; these are our streets, too.
Holly Kearl is the founder of Stop Street Harassment and Meet Us on the Street: International Anti-Street Harassment Week (participate, April 7-13). In 2010 she authored Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women. She also manages the Legal Advocacy Fund at AAUW.
Photo via Stop Street Harassment’s Facebook page.