March 20 marks a new day of activism designed to put an end to the sexual harassment endured by hundreds of millions of women. Leigh-Ann Worrell, a 23-year-old Barbadian, reports on the ambitions of one inspirational woman.
“If you know the things I wanna do to do you in that dress.”
“You would make a nice baby momma, girl!”
The comments are endless, and the problem is worldwide.
Commonly referred to as public street harassment or eve teasing in some countries, many women, including those in Barbados and the wider Caribbean, have all been affected by this ugly, degrading creature.
Holly Kearl, a comrade in based in Washington DC, is calling out all the femme fatales across the globe to speak up and speak out, come 20 March.
The national street harassment activist, expert and writer explains why chose the spring time for the inaugural global event:
“At least in the USA, street harassment increases in the spring months when more people are outside because of the warmer weather and longer daylight hours.
“I knew there were people all over the world who cared about this issue and so I decided to bring them all together on one day, 20 March, the first day of spring, to protest against street harassment.”
On her website, Kearl notes that spring festivals can also be used as means to harass women.
“I’m all for friendly hellos and mutual, gender-neutral public interactions (that can lead to mutual flirting and hookups), but spring street harassment is out of control,” she says.
“Spring festivals, Mardi Gras, Spring Break – these are all used as excuses for harassing women.”
“The catcalls, leering, groping, stalking, public masturbation, and anti-woman comments are demeaning, annoying, and sometimes threatening and scary.”
Kearl says this year is a trial run to gauge its success, but she already has plans to make it bigger.
“Next year I plan to have toolkits and a logo and so forth ready well in advance so people can really do something big in their communities if they like.”
While street harassment is a major issue all over the world – and has been for many years – Kearl believes it can end.
“I’m an optimist and so I’ll say I think that yes, many years (probably decades, maybe even centuries) from now, there will be an end to street harassment and eve teasing.
“There has to be a complete change in how women are viewed and treated in societies before that will happen. There must be respect for women and an end to their objectification.
“It requires huge social change but if we get enough people working on it, it can happen.”
Kearl provides 10 ways to celebrate 20 March:
- Share your stories to break the silence.
- Respond to harassers
- Hand out or post anti-street harassment information. .
- Use your talents to raise awareness about street harassment.
- Hold an event, rally, or community planning meeting.
- Conduct a community safety audit in your neighborhood.
- Learn more about street harassment.
- Write an op-ed or article.
- Survey and map harassment.
- Start campaigning.
Let’s be the change we want to see!