Empowered Voices: How You Can Respond to Street Harassment
Not only is April Sexual Assault Awareness Month, but last week was International Anti-Street Harassment Week. While street harassment has been around a long time, the grassroots movement against it started to solidify around 2008. Since then, new organizations have formed, and mainstream attention after some high-profile cases has made the term “street harassment” well-recognized.
As travelers, we face street harassment in a specific way, and we need support just as much as everyone else. Unfortunately, that can be hard to find when you’re on the road, which means it’s even more important for us to connect with others when we can.
This past month at the Women in Travel Summit, I lead a workshop on the specific nature of street harassment and how we can respond in an empowered way. I was lucky enough to connect with some truly amazing women and find a real sense of community and support, so I’m passing on what I’ve learned to all of you.
Image courtesy of Safe Hub Collective.
Stop Street Harassment held a virtual write-in. Not all travelers are bloggers, but you don’t need to have a blog or even write with the kind of grammar you would use at work or in school. Express yourself with a poem, a short story, or just a stream-of-consciousness reaction to street harassment. Write it in your journal, post it on Facebook, send it to friends, or submit it to Stop Street Harassment.
Join the Conversation on Twitter
The digital age has allowed people all over the world to converge around issues of importance, and street harassment is no different.
To get started, I recommend following @StopStHarassmt, @Nostreetharassweek, and Tatyana Fazlalizadeh of Stop Telling Women to Smile fame, as well as my account. There are several tweet chats happening, in addition to ongoing conversations on #YouOKSis and #FastTailedGirls among black women. Tag and follow #EndSH, #EndSHweek, and #NotJustHello to be a part of the worldwide conversation
Attend an Event
Since the problem of street harassment is truly global, so are the folks fighting to change it. There are events worldwide, from film screenings and demonstrations in my hometown of Boston to marches in Nepal and teach-ins in Egypt. Organizing online is great, but there’s something so powerful about meeting in person with people who take this issue seriously.
So, wherever you are in the world, find the people who are smashing the patriarchy one day at a time.
While the mainstream has just started paying attention to this issue, there is a global community that has been active for years. This is a great opportunity to hear some thoughtful perspectives on street harassment. It’s also a great time to learn how street harassment is compounded for people who are black, trans, disabled, queer, or fat (among many others), and especially those who are at the intersection of multiple vulnerable identities.
Image courtesy of Safe Hub Collective.
Experiencing street harassment can be scary and emotionally draining. While connecting with others who have had similar experiences can be great, reading an onslaught of stories or bigoted responses to those stories can be triggering or otherwise exhausting.
Make extra time to take care of yourself. Me, I’m celebrating the end of Boston’s historic winter with ice cream cones and extra time out in the sunshine. Other tried-and-true methods of self-care include:
- Watching guilty pleasure television
- Dancing to Janelle Monae
- Getting a massage
- Making sure you get a great night’s sleep
Whatever works for you, just remember the wise words of Audre Lorde: “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation, and that is an act of political warfare.”
Connect with a Community
Finding a supportive community is one of the only things I know of that consistently helps alleviate the buildup of emotions from street harassment.
Luckily for you, you’re a part of Wanderful’s community! Share your stories of street harassment and your self-preservation tactics in the comments of this article, in the Wanderful forum, or in our Facebook group. I would love to hear your stories and to answer any questions you may have about street harassment.
How do you fight back against street harassment? Did you celebrate Anti-Street Harassment Week? Share your stories as well as how you’re fighting back in your own way in the comments!