IRL & Online: Calling out Virtual Street Harassment

13 Dec

Street harassment is not confined to one venue. The unwanted, often gender/sexual/sexuality-based comments, threats, groping, stalking, leering, etc, are perpetrated in almost all public spaces, including virtual ones.

When we think of street harassment, we usually think of face-to-face, In Real Life scenarios of gender-based violence, but online street harassment takes many of the same forms and has the same impact. The characteristics are the same: it usually targets someone’s (actual or perceived) sex, sexuality, gender, or sexual orientation, it’s unwanted, and it makes public spaces unsafe and unwelcoming.

And, like any other form of harassment, it won’t stop unless we step up and take action.

Whether you’re a casual facebooker, seasoned blogger, or expert gamer, chances are excellent that you see these behaviors on a daily basis. The added anonymity of many virtual, public spaces (such as blogs, YouTube, or forums) can make it easier to harass, cat call or threaten others online, and it can make it seem harder to call out and address it when we see it.

It’s important that online or off-line, we are calling out street harassment and harassers, and supporting survivors of violence. Whether the cat call is in person or posted as a comment, the key is not to let it slide.

Helping to create safe and welcoming spaces in the real world as well as online are programs like BACK UP: The Open Source Women Back Each Other Up Project & Gentlemen’s Auxiliary. The Project “aims to make help against harassment visible and available, to create safer environments, to help women to support other women and men to challenge other men.” The Project specifically takes on making science fiction and fantasy, gaming, anime, comic, cons –arenas that tend to be male-dominated and discriminatory towards women and LGBTQ individuals– and related online spaces safer.

Their concept is simple, and one that we could all adopt: if you see someone being harassed -in person or online, whoever they are, whoever is doing the harassing, whether you know them or not-  you will back them up and offer support.  

Want more interesting and insightful blog posts on the topic?
Check out: vito_excaliber’s thoughts or Jim C. Hines’ (note: these are not hosted by or affiliated with Safe Streets AZ, and some adult language is used).


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