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I do occasionally wear headphones to block out catcalls and similar harassment, but I do not pretend to be completely comfortable on the Greenway at dusk or in that path’s bathroom at any hour, without someone standing watch outside.
The message of such catcalling is that women do not belong in public spaces unaccompanied by a man.
While, in most instances, lewd and vapid remarks remain just that, as ugly and hateful as they may be, they do serve to signal a vague hostility and as a reminder of the constant potential of personal violence to those women so targeted.
Finally, I suggest what changes in belief and behavior will be necessary to change these conditions so that women may act with as much freedom in the built environments in which they live and work as men already do.
With the exodus of white, middle-class families from the cities to single-family detached dwellings in the suburbs following World War II, women became responsible for the upkeep of those homes and for caring for children while their spouses worked outside the home (Silbaugh 2008).
References Bondi, L.(1992) “Gender Symbols and Urban Landscapes.” 18.2: 166-79.
This thesis is a collection of experimental and theoretical studies on social norms and cooperation.In short, women’s mobility and activities are persistently circumscribed by the social production of public space and its attendant risks (Green and Singleton 2006).Being able to run, bike or go for a walk on trails or even sidewalks alone is restricted for women by such structural elements as “poorly lit spaces, boarded up houses, alleys, a tunnel to the supermarket, parks and bushes” as well as by time of day (Green and Singleton 2006, 7).Moreover, Turner’s father publicly insinuated that the victim had placed herself in a dangerous scenario and contended that women should be more careful in the future to avoid such spaces. These behaviors suggest that some people persist in judging women harshly for using public spaces and that social conventions concerning those norms continue in practice to restrict female freedom of movement and action and, thereby, their civil rights. Fear of street harassment, physical attack or social exclusion if a woman should use common areas without a male companion, or at certain times of the day or night, have significantly influenced and continue to shape the way women consider public spaces.I examine this concern briefly in the essay that follows. Thereafter, I seek to contextualize it and suggest its implications for women’s use of public spaces.Men engaged in such behaviors are often demonstrating “territorial harassment”—untoward comments ultimately predicated on a view that the public environment in question, whether a street, sidewalk, a subway or a park—is “distinctly male turf” in which, in this view, women do not have the right to act autonomously.In these cases, as these males understand gender roles, women traveling to work or otherwise active in public spaces are outside of their “appropriate” home-sphere, and their goal (conscious or not) is “effectively to drive women back into their private sphere, where they may avoid such violations” (Thompson 1993, 323).The physical design of houses reflected these norms by providing specific spaces in which women spent their time (for instance, designated areas for a laundry room).More generally, social norms prescribed that women should create a “nurturing and soft environment” in their homes, while their spouses were expected to work in the larger, more risk filled, work-a-day professional environment beyond (Bondi 1992).