There’s a survey up at Holla Back NYC. It’s about street harassment, of course. I hope a lot of people take it. It will be really interesting to see the results once they’re tallied.

Taking the survey was interesting for me, but surely not in a way the Holla Back folks would want or would have envisioned.

At one point, you are asked to note how often, if ever, certain things have happened to you.  How often does someone pass you on the street and tell you to smile?  How often does someone comment on your body?   So I started checking off my answers, which meant acknowledging just how often I experience street harassment.  I have clearly managed to mentally downplay the number of incidents, and looking at my answers in the survey forced me to see what a good job my brain has done with that.  In addition, checking off the different types of harassment required me to think … not only about the many ways in which I am harassed on the street, but about some of the more upsetting things that have happened.

More than once I nearly checked ‘never’ when some long-closed door in the depths of my memory would swing wide and flash something foul to the front of my brain.  No one’s ever followed me — oh, wait, there was that time …  No one’s ever — oh, wait, there was that time …

Over and over.  By the time I finished the survey, I felt sad, angry uncomfortable, self-conscious.   I’d be curious to get that count: the number of women who experienced the survey as reliving things they’d managed not to think about for a while.  Maybe it’s just me.

(You can take the survey here.)

3 thoughts on “Side-effects

  1. Hi – I get google alerts for “street harassment” and got one for this blog entry. I’m actually the one who is doing the survey you took and Emily was so kind as to post it on Hollaback NYC.

    I’m sorry taking the survey was upsetting, but I’m not surprised. Like you said, it would be interesting to find out how people felt while taking it.

    While the purpose of the survey is to allow me to collect a range of views, experiences and stories people have with being in public in general and with street harassment in particular for a book I want to write on the topic, I also did anticipate that it might raise people’s consciousness about the issue. I don’t know how much that has happened or not. Two people contacted me about it after taking the survey, a male cousin of mine wondered if men really masturbate in front of women. Another man who took it asked me if sexualized street harassment happens very often since he’d never seen it. It allowed me to have a dialog with them about it and open up their eyes to the problem a bit more. But they are just 2 out of 1000+ who have taken the survey so far.

    My mom was my guinea pig before I launched the survey and she took each version of it, about 5 times in all, and she went through a range of emotions each time. After the first time she took it she felt less safe outside because she’d been forced to remember all the bad things that had happened to her (including attempted rape by an acquaintance when she was walking home through a field after school at age 14). Another time she felt anger after having to again remember all the times these things had happened. But by the end she said she felt empowered because she’d been able to rehash what had happened to her several times and she was able to acknowledge and share that it had happened and not be silent about it anymore.

    Over a year and a half ago when I first started working on street harassment research, I sat down and wrote every major instance of street harassment I could remember and I was astonished at the length of my list (& I was only 23 years old then) & the range of the harassment. I was mad, I was upset, I was angry, and I was also more aware of the impact it’s had on my life. It’s good fuel when I start to feel complacent about street harassment.

    Anyway, I’m sure you’re not alone in how you felt after taking the survey. I hope that even though it may be upsetting that anger/sadness can be utilized for good to fight against street harassment! Thanks for posting a link to the survey, I really appreciate it! And I realize this is long but I’m just a bit excited to see that the survey impacted someone enough that they wrote about it.

    In solidarity, hk


  2. Thanks so much for your response, HK. I’ve never made a list like the one you described, but taking the survey was like that in a way. It’s interesting what you write about the guy who wondered whether sexualized harassment was common because he’d never seen it. At an old job of mine, there was a man who created a sexually hostile and threatening environment for all the women at that site. When we raised the issue with our supervisor, he questioned whether we were mistaken because, as he said, “He’s never done anything like that to me.” I remember being so shocked at his response, that he absolutely didn’t seem to get that this man might behave a different way with men than he did with women … that it never occurred to him that women might have a different experience of the environment than he would as a) a man and b) everyone’s boss … that he seemed to be saying that our complaint could only be valid if it matched up with something he’d experienced … that our feeling of fear on the job didn’t matter because it wasn’t affecting him.

    I will be so interested to read the results of your survey. Good luck with your writing! I don’t get crazy amounts of traffic in my little space over here, but if even a couple of people who read this post click over and take the survey I’ll be happy to have helped increase the pool of info you’ll be working with.


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