Last night, whilst browsing twitter on the sofa, we came across the #ShoutingBack hashtag. Both male and female tweeters were directing their followers to it, promising sobering (but important) reading. Curious, we started to read – and were alarmed by the sheer number and content of the tweets – all tales of street harassment, experienced by women of all ages.
Created by The Everyday Sexism Project (the site that catalogues instances of sexism experienced by women on a day to day basis) the stories range from women being abused verbally in the street, to horrifying reports of physical assault or grabbing on public transport.
#Shoutingback is similar in aim to Hollaback, a non-profit, international movement powered by local activists in 62 cities worldwide (including Birmingham, Brighton, Edinburgh, Gwynedd, London, Portsmouth, Sheffield, and West Yorkshire) that strives to raise awareness of and end street harassment – and also publishes submissions from its supporters.
But the sheer take-up of #Shoutingback hashtag, with hundreds of tweets posted in just a few hours, raised awareness in realtime, allowing women an immediate platform and a voice when they have previously felt they couldn’t speak about their experiences, and showing the twittersphere just how widespread the problem is today.
We spoke to Laura Bates from Everyday Sexism, who told us that "One of the big problems with street harassment is that if you don't experience it, you rarely see it, so there's a huge lack of awareness about just how serious the issue still is. Many people have no idea how extreme women's daily experiences are - how they are made afraid simply for leaving the house or having the audacity to walk unaccompanied down the street."
She added that whilst "We are quick to judge and condemn stories like the terrible gang-rape in Delhi, often we are much slower to acknowledge issues which are affecting women in public, every day, here in the UK. The hashtag was a way to open people's eyes to the shocking prevalence of sexual harassment, catcalls, whistling, assault and even rape that women are faced with on a daily basis."
Laura said the most shocking thing about the responses was "the overwhelming number of them and the sheer breadth of experiences being described" including so many stories of "women literally running for safety when their harassers won't take no for an answer."
With thousands of entries still pouring in 24 hours later, Laura and her team will be collecting the responses to upload onto their newly upgraded website, joining 20,000 other examples collected into different categories of sexism.
En masse, the tweets are a shocking testament to just how widespread street harassment is, and the effect it still has on women years after it’s happened (many were remembering incidents that occurred when they were as young as seven). We urge you to read some of the tweets (we've collected just a few in a Storify thread below), and tweet @EverydaySexism if you or anyone you know has experienced street harassment.
What do you think of the #shoutingback campaign? Let us know @StylistMagazine.
Picture credits: Rex Features