Public Sexual Harrassment of Women

Public Sexual Harassment of Women: Impacts, Activism, & Justice, Tuesday, 11 October, 6.30-1pm

Room GC-G08, London Metropolitan University

The reality and possibility of the routine intrusions women experience from men in public space – from unwanted comments, to flashing, following and frottage – are frequently unaddressed in research, as well as in theoretical and policy-based responses to violence against women. Often at their height during women’s adolescence, such practices are commonly dismissed as trivial, relatively harmless expressions of free speech too subjective to be legislated against.

This event drew together international experts, local activists, and academics to talk through the range and extent of the intrusions women experience in public, as well as possible avenues for justice, such as the recent work in Nottingham to introduce an offence of misogyny as a hate crime.

Chaired by CWASU Director Professor Liz Kelly, the panel of eight experts discussed experiences and responses from research conducted in England, India, and Australia, as well as worldwide activism through the international Hollaback movement. Recent work in London on the experience of racialised harassment was presented, and the overlaps and tensions between harassment experienced in physical public space and online public space were thought through.

Panel members

  • Ama Josephine Budge(Batty Mama/HYSTERIA) will read from her work on racialised sexual harassment, ‘Your Ass be Spread (and Other Feminisms).’
  • Karen Desborough(Bristol University) will discuss the motivations and lived experiences of anti-harassment activists, examining their motivations for activism, and the challenges and constraints they face and overcome.
  • Dr Bianca Fileborn(LaTrobe University) will reflect on what street harassment victims want when it comes to justice, and will examine some of the key challenges in achieving justice in response to street harassment.
  • Dr Jaya Gajparia(London Southbank University) will draw on research conducted in Mumbai, India to showcase class complexities of accessing gendered public spaces.
  • Melanie Jeffs(Nottingham Women’s Centre) will explain the rationale behind the Nottinghamshire move to classify misogyny as a hate crime, and the findings so far.
  • Kafayat Okanlawon (Independent Activist) will talk about her invovlement with Purple Drum and activism on racialised sexual harassment of young Black and Minority ethnic women in public.
  • Sunny Singh (London Metropolitan University) is a writer and academic, who will explore the usefulness (or not) of differentiating online harassment from offline.
  • Dr Fiona Vera-Gray(Durham University) will outline what the research literature tells us about the range and extent of women’s experiences in public space.