“It’s not a compliment! It’s a crime” : How young women in the UKare talking about street harassment

University essay from Umeå universitet/Umeå centrum för genusstudier (UCGS)

Abstract: This study explores experiences of public sexual harassment among young women in the UKin light of a renewed focus on violence against women after Sarah Everard was raped andmurdered while walking home during lockdown. Thirteen young women were interviewed while this case dominated British media and public debate. The paper’s focuses is on how this cohort problematise street based harassment - how they encounter, negotiate and contextualise it at this time. The study uses qualitative methods of feminist phenomenology and narrative analysis. Participants describe everyday street harassments as a serious problem that regularly impactson their daily life and freedoms, while being sidelined and trivialised by wider society. They reject that it is a minor problem or a compliment, and push back about the onus being on them to problem solve and do safety work to avoid men’s violence and intrusions in public.They challenge the idea this is not worth talking about by telling their stories, particularly online. Collective storytelling is a form of agency and activism that empowers women to reframe social issues according to their own lived realities and terms. Two principle narratives emerge from the storytelling: resistance to mainstream ‘givens’, and positioning street harassment as a form of gender based violence that targets women as an entity. Participants situate VAW as men’s issue - men need to engage and address this social problem.

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