The fight to speak the truth

The Gotham Gazette has a really nice long article about street harassment in this month's issue. Aubrey Fox does a solid job of tackling the issue from all sides, interviewing street harassment scholar Laura Beth Nielsen, whose study on the issue was explained well:
"In a rare attempt to quantify the frequency of street harassment, Nielsen interviewed 100 subjects (including some men) in the Bay Area. Fully 62 percent of the women reported experiencing offensive or sexually suggestive comments 'every day' or 'often.' An additional 28 percent said they heard comments 'sometimes.' Only 10 percent of the women she interviewed said that they 'never' heard comments."
Nielsen's research also shines an interesting light on how different social groups respond to street harassment and the idea of implementing laws to change the current climate of public space.
"Nielsen herself has a nuanced view of government intervention of sexist speech. In her interviews, she found little support for an expanded government role, even among men and women who believed strongly that sexist speech is offensive and morally wrong. White men tended to cite the First Amendment to support their position, but white women and people of color used a much more pragmatic calculus. In essence, they believed that policing sexist speech would either not work or would backfire on its intended beneficiaries. In other words, women doubt that government is the answer to the problem of sexist speech. Nielsen, though, believes that changes in law would have an 'important symbolic effect.' New laws, she said, would help women make the case that harassment 'doesn't just suck, but is illegal.'"
And as a totally unrelated aside, we also recommend two posts this week that totally break it down, this one on The Burning Times about a personal history of street harassment. The author's well-stated point is that men forget about the harassment they have initiated, carried out, and thought was simply a joke. Women never forget. It continues to haunt us daily. How inconvenient.

NOLA radfem follows it up nicely:
Living while female means being in a state of constant alertness that burns up lots of emotional, spiritual, and physical energy before you even begin to gather your strength to compete with men at school and at work. It also means that the men around you are oddly oblivious to the fact that you live and function inside a war zone, while they function in the mythological great American meritocracy.
Beautiful testaments, ladies. Speak the truth. Get it done.

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