It all adds up…

Funny how you can keep seeing little bits and bobs around one certain subject and then, suddenly, you join the dots and out pops a blog post! Here’s one about all the street-harassment related items that have popped into my field of vision lately…

I came across this Welsh PSA (above) recently that beautifully sums up how street harassment can affect women – Every. Single. Day. Whilst there are those who don’t get why such cat-calls and comments are an annoyance (the very same people who tell harassed women to ‘grow up‘ and ‘it’s a wolf whistle, big wow‘) this advert aims to show them that it’s not just a one off remark that can be upsetting,  it’s the culmination of a constant barrage of ‘compliments’ that can make women feel creeped-out and pissed-off.

And if you’re so pissed-off that the only answer is to vent some rage by playing a First Person Shooter for a couple of hours, well there’s now a game especially for you! Amateurish new video game Hey Baby has been causing controversy due to the fact that the gameplay revolves around brutally murdering the blocky-looking boys who might pass lewd comments on you as you attempt to make your way home;

Whilst many are, obviously, stating that cold-blooded murder is never the best way to deal with a ‘harmless’ wolf whistle, games journalist Kieron Gillen explains that that’s not the point. In a post addressing the flustered male readers of Rock Paper Shotgun, Gillen says;

Okay: the game isn’t about mowing down men. It’s about male privilege and what male privilege feels like.

The game’s rubbish, of course. But the one thing it does well is show how what you may think is an innocuous compliment feels in the context of a woman’s life. You approaching a woman in the street and being what you think is politely flirty is a different thing when, down the street, someone’s suggested that maybe you’d like to suck my dick and you’re a fucking bitch if you don’t.

From her perspective, it’s a culture of harassment she has to either politely deal with or ignore. From your perspective, you’re just showing how you feel. That your passing desire means you get to derail a woman’s life whenever you feel like it is the absolute definition of male privilege. If you’re a man, and you’ve acted like this, the woman you do it to, beneath the polite smile she has to offer, has probably fantasised about you dying.

Laurie Penny has also written a piece on Hey Baby for The New Statesman which has, of course, spawned a flurry of angry comments. Comments which drew another, calmer contributor (by the name of J. Van Meter) to remark;

It must be painful for some guys to imagine that their ‘friendly’ comments, rather than drawing the fond attention of passing woman, just cast them as faceless potential threats.

Which brings me neatly on to my final street-harassment related tit-bit of the day!

I came to Phaedra Starling’s Schrödinger’s Rapist post via a discussion at the Reclaim The Pub blog. Whilst Starling’s post, written as a guide for men on how not to approach women in public spaces, has received a lot of criticism (and is by no means perfect!) – in my opinion it still holds its own as a simple and eye-opening breakdown of male privilege. Basically, the post explains that whilst men may feel their romantic advances towards a stranger in a public place are harmless and good-natured, there’s only a slim chance that their behaviour will be read as such by a woman who has most likely encountered harassment and assault far too often to feel safe.  Have a read here, if you haven’t already.

Each and every one of these examples I have come across lately really underlines how the constant onslaught of street harassment can add up to create a much bigger problem than the one that first appears. That is why retaliations like ‘it’s a wolf whistle, big wow‘ miss the point by a mile…

By: Sarah Barnes, 13.07.2010 | Comments (1)
Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,