This is a guest post from Holly Kearl, women's rights activist and author. You can contact Holly at hollykearl-AT-yahoo.com.
As a college student at Santa Clara University in northern California, I faced street harassment almost every time I left campus on foot, including when I went for my daily run, walked to volunteer at a local domestic violence shelter, or took a bus to go to the mall with friends. The whistles, honks, pssts, and comments quickly became annoying, then infuriating. The harassment was such a constant part of my life that I couldn’t ignore it. My experiences led me to write a master’s thesis and then, when I discovered a lack of literature on the topic, a book on street harassment.
Across the last few months since my book came out, I’ve given talks about street harassment on college campuses in states as far flung as Alaska, Iowa, California, Maryland, and Georgia. No matter the size of the campus or its location, most of the women in the audience have stories of street harassment. From peers yelling at them from dorm rooms or fraternity houses as they walk across campus to adult men yelling at them from cars as the women wait for buses or walk to stores off campus, the harassment stories are similar and so are the outcomes. Students feel disempowered, upset, and they often try to avoid the harassment by changing what they wear, where they go, and when. This is not fair and it’s not right.
Street harassment is a global problem and it requires a global response. This Sunday, March 20, thousands of women and men across the United States and throughout the world will participate in the first International Anti-Street Harassment Day.
Women and men on many college campuses are participating, including in Delhi (India), Cape Town (South Africa), Toronto (Canada), Irvine (CA), Iowa City (IA), Harrisonburg (VA), and College Park (MD). Their actions include setting up tables to hand out anti-street harassment materials, posting fliers around campus with messages about ending street harassment, and blogging and tweeting about street harassment from wherever they are over their Spring Break.
There’s still time for you to decide to do something, too. Agree to talk to a friend or classmate about street harassment. Share your story online. Tweet about street harassment with the hashtag #antistreetharassmentday. If you have time hand out or post fliers or hold an informal meeting on campus where people can brainstorm how to address and end this problem in your community. Here are 10 ideas for action, the Facebook RSVP page, and sample fliers.
Reclaim your campus, reclaim your community and do something to end street harassment. Let March 20 simply be your starting point.