The first article in the MAN-selection series addresses the harassment single women experience in public. The term public harassment might be used to describe a wide range of intrusive behaviors, thus constituting an intrusive act, which according to Vera-Gray (2016), is “an intentional breaking into or entering without consent.” It is the experience of intimidation, in a way similar to aggressive pressure and physical attacks. Gardner (1995), describes public harassment as existing within a continuum of possible events; beginning with the abrogation of stranger-civility; and ending with a potential transition into violent crime (assault, rape, and/or murder).
Reasons for Random Harassment in Public and Why It Matters
Written by: Aubrey Conrad
What is public harassment?
Public harassment describes unwanted public interactions between strangers. The perpetrator of public harassment is normally motivated by a person’s sexual gender or orientation and causes the victim to feel annoyed, scared, or humiliated. What is now popularly referred to as “street harassment,” frequently occurs in restaurants and theaters, on public transportation, in stores and parks, at beaches, and many other public venues. It is delivered in the form of verbal harassment, but may also include gesturing, exposure, and/or groping. Why do women, especially those without a male companion, remain the targets of public harassment in this day and age?
In some cultures, such as those where abortion is used to propagate a disproportionately large population of males, it is more acceptable to discriminate in regards to, not only gender, but also race, religion, political conviction, and social status. Therefore, the women of western cultures are more likely to be harassed by those who remain dedicated to these types of societal constructs.
Perception of masculinity
Children raised with the idea that a woman’s place resides in service to males, often perpetuate certain behaviors in the public arena; and treat women, especially single women, accordingly. This person may believe that ‘real men’ pinch bottoms, for example, and feel that this is a complementary gesture.
Perceptions of inappropriateness
Public harassment is a targeting of women with harmful and disrespectful speech, often following an evaluation of appropriateness, and what may be construed as sexual availability. While much of society has grown more accommodative, there remains a conservative sect who will continue to call certain modes of dress into question. A woman who dresses ‘inappropriately,’ in public, is more likely to attract public harassment.
Perceptions of non-availability
Women who like to go out by themselves are more prone to offensive behavior and sexual advances than women with partners. A woman seen to be living an independent life without a spouse, might be interpreted as a rejection of the “reasonable man,’ a figure belonging to a kind of cosmology thought to be available to women in their approach to all matters of the world (Vera-Gray, 2016) . The idea of the ‘reasonable man’ is a known legal hurdle in cases concerning equality. It is a referential status objectifying women, which on the ‘street,’ could result in victimization, such as stalking, rape, and paedophilia (Kelly 1996).
Why does random harassment in public matter?
Public harassment is a human rights violation and form of gender violence with far-reaching effects for the victim. Women end up feeling less safe in public places and may limit the time they spend there. Women must come forward and speak about public harassment, since it is one way of healing the resulting emotional and psychological harm. Everyone should be free and safe in public places, whether they are by themselves or with companion(s).