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Rampant Sexual Harassment of Women…in the West

Anti-Muslim bigots such as Robert Spencer, Pamela Geller, Geert Wilders and co. love to trot out the talking point that Muslims (due to Islam of course) are unique in harassing and oppressing women. According to them, anytime a Muslim man harasses or otherwise assaults a woman it is considered a result of Islam or somehow encouraged by “Islamic behavior.”

This belief, however, is not limited to anti-Muslim bigots but has also crept into the popular imagination and perception of the mainstream. This was evident during the Egyptian Revolution when reporters, pundits and opinion-makers latched onto the Lara Logan incident as a marker for Arab and Muslim societies, viewed as monoliths that are separately “unique” when it comes to the treatment of women.

Take for example Bill Maher, who took the incident as an opportunity to explain why “our culture” is better than “theirs” (Arabs, Muslims). We reported on Maher’s comments at the time:

On his last show Bill Maher went on a speel undermining the Democratic character of Revolutions sweeping across the Arab world. Amongst his ludicrous statements he claimed “women can’t vote in 19 of 22 Arab countries,” that “women who have dated an Arab man, the results aren’t good,” that “Arab men have a sense of “entitlement,” etc. He also went onto forward the argument that “we are better than them,” justifying it by implying he is not a “cultural relativist.”

Such statements not only defy facts and logic, not only are they racist but they serve to undermine the truth about the status of women in the world today. Maher’s all too typical tirade covers up the fact that what is at the heart of the problem is not a clash of cultures or civilizations (the familiar “us vs. them” paradigm), or a simple difference in the degree of harassment.

Reality asserts that at the end of the day, women are mistreated across the globe, across cultures, races, and religions at unfortunately high and gross levels.

The website Stopthestreetharassment.com deals with the issue of harassment, and in its category on statistics does away with the myth that somehow “harassment” and “assault” are unique to men from the Middle East or Muslim countries. The report indicates that this is a world-wide pandemic ranging from such divergent places as India, Europe, Egypt, Latin America and of course…the USA.

In its report on Statistics, stop the street harassment informs us:

In one of the first street harassment studies ever conducted, Carol Brooks Gardner, associate professor of sociology and women’s studies at Indiana University, Indianapolis, interviewed 293 women in Indianapolis, Indiana, over several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The women were from every race, age, class, and sexual orientation category of the general population in Indiana and the United States. She oversampled women of color to better represent their experiences. Gardner found that every single woman (100 percent) could cite several examples of being harassed by unknown men in public and all but nine of the women classified those experiences as “troublesome.”

Using a national sample of 12,300 Canadian women ages 18 and older from 1994, sociology professors Ross Macmillan, Annette Nierobisz, and Sandy Welsh studied the impact of street harassment on women’s perceived sense of safety in 2000. During their research, they found that over 80 percent of the women surveyed had experienced male stranger harassment in public and that those experiences had a large and detrimental impact on their perceived safety in public.

Laura Beth Nielsen, professor of sociology and the law at Northwestern University conducted a study of 100 women’s and men’s experiences with offensive speech in the California San Francisco Bay Area in the early 2000s. She found that 100 percent of the 54 women she asked had been the target of offensive or sexually-suggestive remarks at least occasionally: 19 percent said every day, 43 percent said often, and 28 percent said sometimes. Notably, they were the target of such speech significantly more often than they were of “polite” remarks about their appearance.

During the summer of 2003, members of the Rogers Park Young Women’s Action Team in Chicago surveyed 168 neighborhood girls and young women (most of whom were African American or Latina) ages 10 to 19 about street harassment and interviewed 34 more in focus groups. They published their findings in a report titled “Hey Cutie, Can I Get Your Digits?” Of their respondents, 86 percent had been catcalled on the street, 36 percent said men harassed them daily, and 60 percent said they felt unsafe walking in their neighborhoods.

In 2007, the Manhattan Borough President’s Office conducted an online questionnaire about sexual harassment on the New York City subway system with a total of 1,790 participants. Nearly two-thirds of the respondents identified as women. Of the respondents, 63 percent reported being sexually harassed and one-tenth had been sexually assaulted on the subway or at a subway station. Due to collection methods used, the report “Hidden in Plain Sight: Sexual Harassment and Assault in the New York City Subway System” is not statistically significant, but it suggests that a large number of women experience problems on the subway system.

The author’s own studies support the pervasive and widespread nature of the problem of harassment that exists in the USA,

Nearly every woman I have talked to about this issue has been harassed by men in public. Further, every woman can cite strategies, such as avoiding going in public alone at night, which she uses to avoid harassment and assault. To learn more about women’s harassment experiences I conducted two informal, anonymous online surveys about street harassment: one in 2007 for my master’s thesis at George Washington University and one in 2008 as preliminary research for a book. Between both surveys, there were 1,141 respondents. Similar to the other studies conducted on street harassment, nearly every female respondent had experienced street harassment at least once.

In my first online survey, conducted during the spring of 2007, I asked the 225 respondents: “Have you ever been harassed (such as verbal comments, honking, whistling, kissing noises, leering/staring, groping, stalking, attempted or achieved assault, etc) while in a public place like the street, on public transportation, or in a store?” Ninety-nine percent of the respondents, which included some men, said they had been harassed at least a few times. Over 65 percent said they were harassed on at least a monthly basis.

Over 99 percent of the 811 female respondents (916 respondents total) of the second informal survey I conducted in 2008 said they had experienced some form of street harassment (only three women said they had not). In one question they could indicate the types of interactions they have had with strangers in public, here is a sampling of their responses.

  • Leering
    Ninety-five percent of female respondents were the target of leering or excessive staring at least once, and more than 68 percent reported being a target 26 times or more in their life.
  • Honking and whistling
    Nearly 95 percent of female respondents were honked at one or more times and 40 percent said they are honked at as frequently as monthly. Nearly 94 percent of female respondents were the target of whistling at least once and nearly 38 percent said it occurred at least monthly.
  • Kissing noises
    Just over 77 percent of women said they were the target of kissing noises from men and 48 percent said they’ve been the target at least 25 times in their life.
  • Making vulgar gestures
    Nearly 82 percent of female respondents were the target of a vulgar gesture at least once. About twenty percent said they had been a target at least 51 times.
  • Sexist comment
    Over 87 percent of women said they were the target of a sexist comment, and about 45 percent said they’ve been a target of a sexist comment in public at least 25 times in their life.
  • Saying sexually explicit comments
    Nearly 81 percent of female respondents were the target of sexually explicit comments from an unknown man at least once. More than 41 percent have been the target at least 26 times in their lives.
  • Blocking path
    About 62 percent of women say a man has purposely blocked their path at least once and 23 percent said this has happened at least six times.
  • Following
    Seventy-five percent of female respondents have been followed by an unknown stranger in public. More than 27 percent have been followed at least six times.
  • Masturbating
    More than 37 percent of female respondents have had a stranger masturbate at or in front of them at least once in public.
  • Sexual touching or grabbing
    Nearly 57 percent of women reported being touched or grabbed in a sexual way by a stranger in public. About 18 percent said they have been touched sexually at least six times.
  • Assaulting
    About 27 percent of women report being assaulted at least once in public by a stranger.

These jarring statistics of abuse, harassment and assault upon women in the “enlightened, culturally superior” West should give us pause and a heavy dose of perspective on the meaning of that age old adage, men are pigs.

Once and for all let us quit the holier-than-thou hypocritical obfuscation of the facts and realities on the ground when it comes to women and harassment. Women do not feel safe on Western streets, not because of the “evil Mooslims” but because too many men are unable or unwilling to control themselves.

To rectify this pandemic we must not divert the truth but face it head on. Instead of resorting to racist diatribes, innuendo, hate speech and efforts to destroy a race, religion and culture, organize to stop the harassment and aid in creating a safe space for women in our societies as opposed to the present status quo on our streets.

I encourage everyone to visit StoptheHarassment.com and check out how to End It.

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  • momagic

    Hahaha there was an article on walmart a few weeks back not paying equal pay to men and women!!!! hahaha so much for equality. linda do me a favour take up this fight on behalf of women and lets see where you get. ka ching

  • Reader101

    It is not by spreading misandry toward western men that you’ll defend muslims from the accusation of “oppressing women”. And I say this as a staunch anti-islamophobe. By citing bogus “womyn studies” professors or male-hating feminists you’ll not be doing honor to truth. Read Erin Pizzey to know something about “domestic violence”.

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  • Verasu Hamd

    Long time reader, first time commenter. I enjoyed this article a lot, it tackles the issue in the same vein as the “All Terrorists..” article and the “Europol…” article. Statistical evidence goes a long way in aiding the fight against those who believe that Muslims or Islamic Law are somehow inherently misogynist, oppressive of women or as you say “unique” in that regard.

    To echo JN, however, the empirical evidence you present should also be followed up by a theoretical discussion of Islamic belief regarding women, and some of the theological “obfuscations” pushed by Spencer and his SS brigades. For example the misrepresentation by these haters of the verse in Surah Nisaa’ and so forth.

    Thanks again, and keep up the good work!

    -Verasu

  • JN

    I would also like to see a comprehensive breakdown of the argument that Islam is inherently oppressive to women in the style of Danios’ takedown of Spencer’s crappy book. There are probably some good examples to respond to.

    As Garo said, this is one of the subjects that Islamophobes love to dwell on, because they think they have the upper hand, even if they have no understanding of it whatsoever. If the goal of LW is to dismantle their arguments and shut them up, that’s something that will need to be addressed.

  • Solid Snake

    I’m one of those guys who lose their sense of reason when I see/or hear a woman being harassed by a man or men. I mean i just wanna sneak up on those jerks and pull a CQC move on them. Really its probably one of the lowest point a man can go in doing something and i believe that such men should be severely punished without hesitation (well provided that they are convicted)

  • http://thebandofstrangers.blogspot.com/ Jack Cope

    When I lived in the Middle East, the front section of the public buses was cordoned off and the first three rows of seats on the bus being reserved for women/families. One of my defining memories of the time is going to work on a crowded standing room only bus full of men at 5AM *and those three rows of seats still remaining empty*, such was the culture! Sure, I remember that my Mum used to have men stare at her but I also remember she never complained about being groped or anything more and could go out at night, something she could never do when she lived in London. And I also remember that the city where I lived was a big destination for trafficked women, not for the local Muslims mind, but for the western tourists. Funny how these things work…

  • Garo

    Garibaldi,

    Let us face it: the status of women in Islam is just as misunderstood as the concept of Jihad is and perhaps even more so,in the West.

    Since the status of women in Islam is considered a rich ammunition store for the Islamophobes to pick from as they see fit,I feel uncomfortable getting involved in the business of criticizing the mistreatment or harassment of women by non-Muslims. I must have profound knowledges before getting involved here.

    Therefore,I suggest that loonwatch.com does itself and its readers a favor: a good research paper on the status of women in Islam.

    Perhaps,you,Danios and others may like doing so,as you have wonderfully done on Dhimitude,about two years ago.That was a masterly hard work based on scholarly reserarches. Need a similar paper on the status of women in Islam.

    If loonwatch.com has already covered the subject of women in Islam I am unaware of,please discard this request. Thank you.

  • Khushboo

    Actress turned Humanitarian, Ashley Judd mentioned that in the US “every 2 seconds, girls/Women are sexually aggressed on” on “The View” this morning.

  • NassirH

    Let me take a wild guess as to the logic behind Cassidy’s comment: some Muslim countries have institutionalized discrimination against women while Western countries do not. Sorry Cassidy, but no one said anything to the contrary. In fact, I’m sure everyone here recognizes that Saudi Arabia, for example, discriminates against women with its current set of laws (e.g. laws against women driving). However, that doesn’t change the survey highlighted in the article. And no, rambling about the Ottoman Empire doesn’t prove anything either.

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