When it comes to women who face street harassment, the statistics are grim: between 80-99 percent of women report having been targets of aggressive, unwanted attention from male strangers. In a poll of 800 women, Holly Kearl, author of the book Stop Street Harassment: Making Public Places Safe and Welcoming for Women, 75 percent reported having been followed, and 57 percent had been sexually touched by grabbed by male strangers.
That’s the uncomfortable reality painted by Elizabeth Mendez Berry last year in a widely read op-ed on the issue. And as Regis Philbin awkwardly showed us last December when he groped singer Nicki Minaj, no one is immune. As Mendez Berry writes:
Despite the fact that it touches almost all women, gender-based street harassment isn’t considered a social problem in the way that, for example, racially-motivated street harassment is. Many believe that women should just relax and enjoy the commentary. And many of us do appreciate a poetic compliment from a respectful man. But the problem is that a “Good morning, beautiful” can instantly become “Go to hell, bitch” if the gentleman in question doesn’t take rejection well.
Luckily, women are fighting back. In this short film sent to us by reader Nuala, women of color work toward reclaiming their neighborhoods, names, and sense of self-love. On March 20, women around the world will speak out against street harassment. Stay tuned.