Just the other day, I was walking to my car and a man came up to me. His hand was outstretched and he asked if the coffee I was holding was two creams, one sugar. I said no, I drink my coffee black. I continued to walk because I was on my way to work. He walked alongside me until I made it to my car. As we were walking, he offered to pay me for my coffee, and as I was pulling away in my car, he yelled that he would give me his number for my coffee. Now, this is not the first time this has happened to me. It’s not a frequent occurrence, but it does happen.
It happens more frequently to other woman though. 85% of women, ages 18-24, have received unwanted sexual attention in public places, such as the one I described. Some women enjoy being catcalled. In 2014, Doree Lewak, of the New York Post, wrote an article called “Hey, ladies — catcalls are flattering! Deal with it.” She reaffirmed every catcalling males’ logic by agreeing that catcalling is flattering. Any compliment we, as women, receive should inflate our ego and make us feel better about ourselves. Up until this point, people have complained here or there, but nothing has amounted to anything more than a couple comments. Until now.
On June 18, a 37-year old woman from Atlanta named CJ took to social media to air her complaints. On Twitter, she wrote: “‘He blocked me from walking to the register when I was ignoring him in CVS and we been together since that day!’ – NO WOMAN EVER”. Although she did not plan for her tweet to become a sensation and no woman ever to become a trending hashtag worldwide, that is exactly what happened. Over the course of 24 hours, her attempt to use snark and sarcasm to shed light on an underrated societal problem became a phenomenon.
Over the course of a week, people from all over the world have expressed their support to CJ’s cause. News sources such as Mashable, The Telegraph, and ABC have covered the growing social media campaign against street harassment. Buzzfeed covered street harassment in eight different countries. In Australia, 87% of women have experienced verbal or physical street harassment. It is usually delivered by people in cars with honking, leering and yelling. In France, 100% of women have been harassed on public transportation. In India, there is a different word for it: eve-teasing. This involves either being stared at like you’re an animal or being serenaded with sleazy Bollywood songs. The term street harassment is not recognized in Japan; instead, it is called suspicious greetings. People lure a person into their cars in order to sexually attack or abduct them. This happens to more than just women; it also happens to children and other adults. Kenya has managed to avoid street harassment because the women dress extremely conservatively. Mexico has catcalling, but it avoids overly aggressive actions. In the U.K., street harassment is seen as friendly banter.
Street harassment in the United States has the same reception as in the United Kingdom. These harassers believe they have the right to say whatever they want to a perfect stranger. They think the only way to meet a woman is to approach them on the street. #NoWomanEver combats this belief and forces these men to realize that no woman is ever asking for their unwanted advances.
Street harassment comes in many forms, from being followed, sexual comments, indecent exposure, sexual touching, catcalling and aggressive behavior. Some examples of the #NoWomanEver tweets are:
“I just loved how he came in to talk to me everyday at my place of employment #NoWomanEver”
“As I walked by he said, “Mmm, wear that dress!” This obviously made me want to take it off & leave it in a pile next to his bed. #NoWomanEver”
“I knew he was the one when I saw him masturbating to me in the park #NoWomanEver”
“When I was walking down Carson Street & he ran up behind me & grabbed my ass, I knew he was the one for me! #NOWOMANEVER @ImJustCeej”
“Getting my boobs grabbed by strangers at a bar is totally my favourite #NoWomanEver”
“Being screamed at by men from their car as I’m walking down the street really turns me on.” Said #NoWomanEver
“You pressed close on the train, I moved away. Then you crushed my hand on the handrail and pinned me there. True romance! #NoWomanEver”
Women are not just using #NoWomanEver to combat street harassment; they are also using it to combat other gender discrimination issues.
You are right, the pay gap is a myth. I freely choose to earn less money over my entire life…said #NoWomanEver @JaneCaro
It’s men who need to be reading the #NoWomanEver hashtag now. It’s so depressing how rampant #sexism is & how many men disrespect women. @Kon_K
#NoWomanEver is not alone. It is accompanied by similar hashtags from around the world, such as #StopHarcelementDeRue in France, #MyFirstPublicIndecency in India and #MyDressMyChoice in Kenya. A recording of 100-plus unwanted comments directed at a woman over a ten-hour span was released by Hollaback, a nonprofit advocating to end street harassment. The video went viral and received over a million views and 27,000 comments in less than one day. Fusion’s video about street harassment was retweeted 256 times.
This social media campaign has allowed women to express their concern about street harassment. It continues to gain momentum as the harassment refuses to cease. Men are attacking CJ for launching the campaign, explaining their beliefs about complimenting women and boosting their egos. But there are men going to Internet to support the movement. As this continues to grow, we can hope that women will continue to speak out and finally put an end street harassment.