Last night as I was walking home after work, roughly about 11.30pm, two young men where walking on the other side of the road to me.
One decided to shout across the road, “Oi Bitch, hold my drink Bitch!”
The phrase “Bitch hold my drink” is largely known from Dave Chappelle’s legendary “I’m Rick James, Bitch” Go take a look, its pretty funny.
A quick look on Urban dictionary confirms this and also adds that the phrase can be used to “enforce superiority and dominance”
Now as much as I’m sure this young gentleman was not attempting to dominate me, more than likely was just showing off to his mate with him.
Who I have to say wasn’t impressed, his response was “Joe, not cool Joe”.
I’d just like to point out that I wasn’t scared, didn’t feel threatened and wasn’t even offended by this guys comment but it did lead me to thinking, why does he think that it’s ok to shout that at me, someone he doesn’t even know?
What he did, as menial as it may have been, was a form of street harassment.
A form of harassment that according to Stop Street Harassment (SSH) 65% of all women had experienced and 25% of men had been street harassed (a higher percentage of LGBT-identified men than heterosexual men reported this).
Though there is no clear or standardised definition, one that the organisation give which I thought was quite adequate is as follows;
Gender-based 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.
Street harassment includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, public masturbation, groping, sexual assault, and rape.
They also go on to say;
Of course, people are also harassed because of factors like their race, nationality, religion, disability, or class. Some people are harassed for multiple reasons within a single harassment incident. Harassment is about power and control and it is often a manifestation of societal discrimination like sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, classism, ableism and racism. No form of harassment is ever okay; everyone should be treated with respect, dignity, and empathy.
Street harassment is a human rights issue because it limits harassed persons’ ability to be in public. You can read more on the United Nations’ policy towards it here, though it is a Comission on the Status of Women, I couldn’t find a similar article relating to men.
I think that I would be correct in assuming that everybody would be able to recall a time that they have been harassed on the street by someone they didn’t know due to their gender, the clothes they are wearing or their race.
But why is it so common and why is it seen as a norm?
In April 2015, a twenty three year old woman who was repeatedly wolf whistled by builders in Worcester reported them to the police. West Mercia police did confirm that they had followed up on the complaint as a “possible incident of anti-social behaviour” but no arrests or charges had ever been made.
She received wide spread criticism online with some saying she was wasting police time whilst others gave her praise for highlighting the issue.
This is not only an issue for women, this happens to men too and I have seen it first hand.
Only the other day I was walking with a male friend who wears glasses, a guy walking towards us started shouting “You fucking specky four eyed prick”, no reason to why, he just shouted it?
Finding a report or news story regarding an example of street harassment aimed towards men proved harder to find.
If we start to accept that street harassment is just a daily nuisance and not actually a crime then are just adding fuel to the fire?
A recent study by Office for National Statistics (ONS) claims that murders and killings in England and Wales have increased to their highest level in the last five years.
According to the data compiled there was 14% rise in violent crimes in the year to September 2015. A total 574 people were killed, an extra 71 compared to the previous year’s figure. It includes 75 deaths in June alone.
With recent events just in my city alone where a twenty two year old man was stabbed on a busy high street and consequently died, these figures are not hard to believe.
I cant find any studies to show that there is a connection between the rise in violent crimes and street harassment, but its not exactly a ludicrous conclusion to believe that if a person feels they have a right to shout and hurl abuse at a stranger and get away with it, without realising the consequences it may have (both the fear they may insight but also that their victim may respond in a violent manner) then they may also believe that physically attacking someone will have as little repercussions.
If our actions do not have a consequence will we think twice about doing them?
Joe if you ever do read this then your friend was correct, not cool Joe.