Feminism or Security? the Transnational Campaign Against Street Harassment

Sunday, 10 July 2016: 11:24
Location: Hörsaal 21 (Main Building)
Oral Presentation
Mischa DEKKER, EHESS, France
My analysis focuses on tensions in the transnational campaign against « street harassment » and specifically on differences in the construction of a public problem between France and the Netherlands.

In a fashion similar to #Occupy movements, local activist groups associated with US-originated Hollaback and Stop Street Harassment have over the last three years emerged in many cities in over thirty countries, campaigning against what they argue is a daily violence against women in public space.

Policies and legal frameworks are created in alliance with governments and public transport operators. Enterprises are urged to train personnel, as #WelcomeBar/Festival labels allow user evaluation that impact businesses’ clientèle. A more active kind of citizenship is promoted through pamphlet guidelines and trainings on how to intervene as a bystander.

Although the campaign seems transnational, actors are confronted with tensions arising from efforts to apply the same concept in countries with different ideas about (non-)acceptable behavior and differing policy and legal frameworks to address allegedly harassing behavior. Street harassment campaigns’ root both in feminist and security justifications, the latter seemingly more dominant in the Netherlands and the former in France. French activists’ frequently reference « Northern European » public spaces as more gender-equal. Yet in the Netherlands anti-street harassment propositions frequently come from the political right, leading Amsterdam’s left-wing mayor to argue a local ordinance is not a priority as street harassment does not seem a major local problem and legislation could stigmatize ethnic minorities.

My main corpus consists of ethnography and interviews with anti-street harassment activists, policy-makers and legal actors in the Netherlands and France, and interviews with important US actors as to grasp how strategies and ideas diffuse.

Is street harassment a transnational campaign? How to explain differences in coalitions between activists and states, and the legal and policy measures that evolve from them?