Women in the UK are standing up to street harassment. They're also being told to get over it and learn to take a joke, of course.
Writing in the Guardian, Hannah Pool says a number of things that shouldn't need saying, but do. And since she articulates them well, I'll reproduce them here.
"If you are reading this thinking, "What's she complaining about, doesn't everyone like a nice compliment?" let me explain: there is a big difference between receiving a genuine compliment and being the object of someone's persistent and aggressive attention, and I'm sure men know the difference."
The most common misperception about street harassment is that it's a harmless bit of fun. But those who believe this have clearly never been asked for their phone number by a stranger and then told to fuck off when they politely decline. Sexual harassment on the street is not harmless, and it's not funny. It quickly escalates, and it leaves women feeling threatened, alienated and humiliated.
Women who don't like it are not prudes or stuck up. We just don't enjoying being objectified and leered at by men who should know better. Men need to take responsibility, and women need to speak up. They are our streets too.
I want to encourage women to speak up about it, so the message gets through that it's not OK. I don't think you can criminalize it, but you can make it socially unacceptable, so people stop turning a blind eye. I want politicians and educators to know about it and for the authorities to take notice of it as an issue – so that when the police are called they have policy on how to deal with it.
The campaign has sponsored workshops and started a dialogue, gaining widespread media attention — as well as giving women a forum to vent. And these things do make a difference: in the past few years several US transit systems have added PA announcements (NYers will recognize the rather prim "a crowded subway is no excuse for an inappropriate touch") and law enforcement has reportedly stepped up their responses. (Hollaback's campaign of photo evidence has helped in this regard, and with the wider use of SmartPhones, will hopefully only grow — when it's safe to do so.)
But, of course, things don't happen overnight. The Guardian is a relatively progressive forum, but even so half the men commenting doubt that this even happens, and this comment pops up with depressing speed: "You seem like a lot of fun."
'Give Us A Kiss Love, It's Christmas' [Guardian]