My personal pet peeve is street harassment. Getting beeped at or catcalled for no other reason than that of my gender or appearance does not constitute a compliment in my eyes. While some pay not attention to these occurrences, others will rank these encounters from mildly annoying to a source of constant worry and insecurity. Women are generally the target for this behaviour, although Stop Street Harassment also notes high rates of discrimination against transgender and LGBT individuals, signalling the deeper, entrenched problem where some members of society think it is acceptable to behave in a disrespectful or even threatening manner to seemingly more vulnerable people.
There is no doubt that many people living in our current society have, at one point or another, been or felt harassment, whether it is sexually, verbally, physically or otherwise. While the law has changed in this respect, and offers more protection to the individual than several decades ago, mentalities and social attitudes have been slower at registering this change.
This tipping point of my street harassment experience was when a friend and I were walking back to our house after a panel discussion held at our university, precisely on sexual violence and the impact language can have. People in a passing car took this opportunity to yell gendered insults relating to our sexuality at us. While this wasn't the first time this had happened to either of us, this was the final drop of water that made the dam holding our contained feminist feelings break through. This was the latest reminder that, for every feminist-orientated debate we would attend, the problem wouldn't just solve itself. And the reason for that is simple: the people in the car were not the type to come to the talk that we had just attended, or to question their behaviour.
While we cannot forcefully compel such people who perpetuate street harassment, and demonstrate how their behaviour exacerbates oppression, we can at least hope to slowly, but surely, permeate their subconscious and thereby turn them into proud feminists. Or at least make them stop and think twice about their actions.
Having mulled this situation over and over, I decided to use social media to my advantage, and start a new trend (although surfing on older and more well-known ones) which I have since dubbed "FemNominate", allowing people to share all the amazing milestones feminism has achieved so far. "FemNominate" is a great opportunity to learn more about what has been accomplished so far towards achieving gender equality, and most importantly, the incredible people who helped get us where we are at today. While acknowledging that we still have a long way to go before full equality will be achieved, it is also a way to recognise what an impressive legacy we have to be thankful for.
The general message to pass on is the following:
So far, the trend is growing and has proved a success. This is a movement aiming to unite all voices, across cultures, regions and languages - especially in the light of International Women's Day this 8th of March - so do join in the movement! Get ready to share and inundate your friends with feminist icons you think should be acknowledged and maybe - with an ultimate push of positivity - change a mentality or two.
Examples of FemNominations:
(Original article posted here, 3rd March 2014)