Keep It Simple and Straightforward with Progressive Boundary Setting
Street harassment is a complex issue. Solutions to complex issues require a means to help conceptualize and convey them.
Societies are based upon rules a/k/a boundaries that limit unwanted behaviors. These rules must be COMMUNICATED. If the rules are not RESPECTED, then they must be ENFORCED. Rules are enforced by the use of Progressive Responses a/k/a escalating actions by individuals and policing authorities. Responses must be Just Right a/k/a appropriate for the situation, neither too passive nor too aggressive. The use of Just Right Responses creates respect for rules and boundaries of society.
If Street Harassment is COMMUNICATED to both individuals and society as an unwanted behavior, then those that engage in it lack RESPECT for the rule of polite interactions. Therefore, this boundary must be ENFORCED by targets, bystanders, and society through the use of Progressive Responses that are Just Right for the situation.
In terms of society, violations of rules are ENFORCED by social pressure and policing authorities. In terms of individuals, violations of personal boundaries are ENFORCED by the Progressive Responses of body language, assertive phrases, and physical actions. Progressive Responses that are Just Right for the situation create RESPECT for the individual.
The collective effect of Just Right Responses by individuals COMMUNICATES societal social pressure to ENFORCE the end of street harassment. ENFORCEMENT by policing authorities COMMUNICATES the rule of RESPECTFUL interactions. It encourages targets and bystanders to engage in ENFORCEMENT of this boundary through the use of Just Right Responses that are neither too passive nor too aggressive in response to Street Harassment.
PART II – COMMUNICATE, ENFORCE, RESPECT: THE THREE STEPS TO ENDING STREET HARASSMENT
Global Warming has the RRR: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, a three step plan to lowering an individual’s and society’s carbon footprint. It works because it can be implemented on both a small and large scale, from children to multi-national corporations.
CER: COMMUNICATE, ENFORCE, RESPECT is a three step plan that can be implemented by both society and individuals as a method to end street harassment.
It all starts with COMMUNICATION. The behavior of street harassment must be clearly communicated to society that it is an unwanted behavior and outside the boundary of acceptable social interaction. Clear communication leaves no room for the excuses and claims of “I didn’t know…”, “I didn’t realize…”, “I didn’t mean …”, etc. Therefore, those that engage in street harassment will undeniably be breaking the rules of society.
Individuals and organizations such as Hollaback, Slutwalk, and others that make people aware of the existence and problem of street harassment are engaging in the 1st step of COMMUNICATION. They are communicating that street harassment is unacceptable behavior and against the rules of society.
COMMUNICATION takes many forms such as using social media, websites, blogs, protest marches, talks, discussions, speeches, Letters to the Editor, Op-eds, books, articles, flyers, posters, handouts, rallies, and more. On an individual level, COMMUNICATION involves body language, assertive phrases, and actions.
The 2nd step is ENFORCEMENT. Those that break the rules, lack RESPECT for the rules. COMMUNICATION depends upon RESPECT to be effective. Therefore, the next higher level is ENFORCEMENT. Institutional ENFORCEMENT comes in the form of law by government and actions by policing authorities. Societal ENFORCEMENT also comes from collective social pressure and cultural norms. Individual ENFORCEMENT comes in the form of assertive phrases and physical actions.
ENFORCEMENT has the short term goal of limiting harassing behavior. But it also has the long term goal of creating of building a culture of RESPECT. RESPECT is created from appropriate responses that are neither too aggressive nor too passive. That means individual responses to street harassment play an important part of creating RESPECT.
Passive responses to street harassment such as ignoring it and/or being overly fearful do not create RESPECT. On the other hand, overly aggressive ENFORCEMENT responses, such as yelling, screaming, punching, and kicking also do not create RESPECT. In order to make this distinction, street harassment is defined differently than sexual assault. Therefore, it is important for both men and women to receive education on appropriate methods to respond to street harassment as either targets or bystanders.
The final 3rd step of RESPECT involves maintaining both newly created RESPECT, and the RESPECT that already exists in society. RESPECT is not permanent. It is transitory. RESPECT must be continually earned or it will be lost. Since, RESPECT breeds RESPECT, and disrespect breeds disrespect, men and women in society must receive education and training on how to have respectful interactions.
Generally speaking, men need to learn how to respectfully interact with women and maintain limits on their behaviors. And women need to learn how to respectfully COMMUNICATE and ENFORCE behavior limits and personal boundaries.