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Dear Mayor Garcetti…

Street harassment in Los Angeles needs to stop now.

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Dear Mayor Garcetti,

My name is Erin Kim, and I attend the Ambassador School of Global Leadership. I am writing this to inform you that sexism, particularly street harassment, is an issue in my community. Those who face sexism due to various factors – whether it’s race, gender, clothing preference, or social class – are affected in a negative way with a physical or emotional consequence. Not only do they feel uncomfortable being treated differently because of their certain traits, but they also feel more insecure about who they are as a person.

I have to come my understanding of this problem out of personal experience. I have been catcalled on the street because of my race, and I have been mocked by my peers because of my racial appearance. Many people in this society are aware that sexism is an issue in today’s world yet perceive it as mundane. Unfortunately, many do not take action to bring an end to it.

Many people think that women are the main target when it comes to sexual harassment. But men often get harassed because of how they portray themselves in the public.”

I am writing this because I believe that there should be some sort of “societal reformation” within my community. Both women and men experience sexism at least once in their lives. According to a study from a nonprofit organization called Stop Street Harassment, over 99 percent of women have been street-harassed at least once in their life. To go further into detail, 95 percent of women have stated that they have experienced being the target of excessive staring. As a woman who has gone through this, I can say that it certainly did make me feel very uncomfortable. The fact that strangers have stared at me perpetually is comparable to the feeling of personal space invasion, no matter how close or how far that person may be. But leering is just one of the many examples of street harassment that many people go through.

Many people think that women are the main target when it comes to sexual harassment. But men often get harassed because of how they portray themselves in the public. In 2014, SSH conducted a 2,000-person nationally representative survey in the United States. Among the men that have reported their experiences through the survey, 25% have been street-harassed. The majority of the men were LGBT identified, with the most common form of harassment being homophobic or transphobic slurs. SSH not only conducted a statistical survey to gather accurate data to record the number of men who dealt with street harassment, but also cautiously asked about their experience. “They were also harassed for doing things that are considered feminine. For example, Justin was harassed a few times because of the bag he carried. Men would yell at him and call it a purse.” A man named Tom shared his experience in dealing with street harassment: “There was a while where I had a pink umbrella I got at the Cherry Blossom Festival, and I would carry it around because it’s a goddamn umbrella and who cares, but apparently plenty of people care. A guy by the bus stop around the corner from my apartment even threatened to rape me with it… I changed my bus route.” Trivial things such as carrying a certain bag or using a certain umbrella lead these men to fall under unprecedented scenarios including judgements and threats. Our culture of “hyper-masculinity” acts as a catalyst in the increasing numbers of harassment among men who may not fall under the category of the “masculine norm.”

“Liberals may believe people are incapable of controlling themselves, but it is unbecoming of the Right to use this excuse, even on something as minuscule as catcalling.” This is a common argument that is used in any community that street harassment is present in. Fear that a response might escalate the situation often keeps the targeted individual quiet.  “The routine harassment women experience ensures,” according to one scholar of the subject, “that women will not feel at ease, that we will remember our role as sexual beings, available to, accessible to men.” Just because control over women’s access to movement has become less visible today doesn’t mean it has vanished. Women should not be fearful when walking down the street, but should instead be proud themselves. The mere fact that harassers think that it is acceptable to make people uncomfortable because of their shortcomings and not being able to control themselves should not be an excuse in tolerating street harassment.

One solution that can help to bring a final end to sexual harassment anywhere and everywhere is with your help in sponsoring various campaigns that are strong advocates in the idea of ending street harassment in our community. For example, Stop Street Harassment is a nonprofit organization dedicated to documenting and ending gender-based street harassment world wide. It started as a blog in 2008 and became official in 2012. Harassment stories have been shared on the blog, many serve as blog correspondents, countries joined their “Anti-Street Harassment Week,” they run mentoring programs in many countries, and publish publications on street harassment. Your partnership with the Stop Street Harassment organization can help bring an end to street harassment in our community.

As a community, we should prioritize unity over individualism. We should treat each other with respect to ensure a community where everyone not only feels safe, but feels comfortable enough to express themselves in various manners. I know that this might sound cliche, but “treat others the way you want to be treated.” Although the United States is said to be a “free country,” we shouldn’t use this as a mere excuse to tear others apart; instead, we should use it to be able to be whomever we may want to be without being insecure about ourselves.

Thank you for taking the time to read my letter. I hope that you understand that street harassment is a major social issue in my community and will work towards changing it.

Sincerely,

Erin Kim

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