Street harassment: The hidden assertion of dominance and power

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Photo from www.meetusonthestreet.org

by Coleen Nevado

All of us consists the mundane routines we take into action every day. For some, it usually involves the daily commute to school, work or any particular place. Due to this habitual task, some Filipinos have grown accustomed to walking the busy hustles of the street while getting a trace of the pollution that wreathes the city. They’re used to it, they say. Others have different predicaments when stepping outside, on the other hand. While most people only worry about the noisy and overpopulated places they encounter on the way, others fear the inability to escape unfamiliar men or complete strangers calling out what they think are “compliments” or saying things such as, “Hi, Miss beautiful!”, “Ganda mo, idol”, or “Pssst, sexy!”. This is something no one is used to and never will. This is catcalling which is also considered to be street harassment.

Based on the definition of Stop Street Harassment Organization, street harassment is “unwanted comments, gestures, and actions forced on a stranger in a public place without their consent and is directed at them because of their actual or perceived sex, gender, gender expression, or sexual orientation.”

Julemar Adelantar bears witness to these experiences as she had been catcalled so many times that she even lost count. “To hear them say those words while walking outside is really uncomfortable for me. People think it sounds like we’re being given compliments when strangers tell us we’re pretty or sexy in the most rude and uncivilized way possible but the truth is we just feel harassed and unsafe.”

Addition to that, it has also become a norm in our society where citizens believe women should avoid dressing in a provocative manner to avoid unwanted attention. But does this societal construct get rid of people who choose to be barbarous in streets and make the choice of harassing women on their own?

Provocative clothes or fully covered, conservative or not, sexual harassment is not the victim’s doing but from the hands of his or her harasser. It is a crime as it robs people the feeling of safety from their own streets. It is not a compliment and it is not flattering. Degrading to the dignity and traumatizing to the whole being, sexual harassment is never okay and never will be.

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