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Activists find novel ways to stamp out street harassment

It’s an unfortunate fact of our lives that women are often subjected to street harassment. Any woman can tell you that it’s hard to walk down the street without our appearance being commented on by absolute strangers.

These unsolicited comments are at best annoying, and at worst, terrifying. But lately, I’ve been starting to hear about women fighting back.

One such activist is Lindsey from Minneapolis. She got so sick of the cat-calling that she started doing something about it, and created the Cards Against Harassment project.

Here is one of her videos:

Lindsey films many of her interactions with men on the street, but she also hands out cards that point to the web site and explain to the men why what they’re doing is wrong. You can even print out your own cards to give to street harassers.

Lindsey is not alone in wanting to call out these street harassers and let them know that what they’re doing is not OK.

For instance, in her public art project Stop Telling Women to Smile, Tatyana Fazlalizadeh speaks to women about the street harassment they’ve experienced. She then draws sketches of them and posts the sketches along with captions that speak directly to the offenders in the environment where the harassment actually happens.

The captions say things like “my outfit is not an invitation,” and “women are not outside for your entertainment.”

To me, one of the most interesting things about these two projects is that they are meeting the perpetrators in the place where the interactions happen. They both reframe the female victims as strong defenders of their right to not be harassed, and as capable of standing up for themselves.

Bottom line, street harassment is not cool, whether it’s commenting on our bodies, our hair, or the food we’re eating. It shouldn’t be up to us women to educate men that it’s not OK. But since no one else is doing it, why not take matters into our own hands?

Tessa Needham Synnott discovered About-Face while completing her PhD in Performing Arts at the University of Western Sydney (Australia) in 2008. Her thesis explored the potential of performance to provoke change, and part of her research was Bodily, a solo theatrical performance about body image. She loves technology and the creative arts, and is passionate about the different cultural forces affecting the body image of girls and women. She is a freelance graphic designer, photographer, and WordPress developer: tessaneedham.com.

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