LONDON Mayor Sadiq Khan has warned commuters that “staring” can be a form of sexual harassment, along with cat-calling and cyber-flashing.
He has launched a series of Transport for London posters featuring the emblems of the Mayor and British Transport Police. Critics have said “obtrusive stares of a sexual nature” are too vague and can offend innocent people.
Below, an activist and a rights writer debate the issue.
Yes, says Maya Tutton
Maya is part of Of Our Streets Now, an organization that fights against harassment
“STARRING can certainly be a form of sexual harassment. If someone looks you up and down in one go or stares at your legs continuously for ten minutes, how does that not constitute harassment?
Intrusive stares can be very intimidating and this campaign from TfL says there’s justification for fear when it happens. We need to stop thinking that sexual harassment only happens when you’re being assaulted.
There’s a big difference between innocent daydreaming and prolonged, intrusive staring that can escalate into verbal harassment or even sexual assault. It’s about creating a culture of respect in the public space.
We all pay the same fare on public transport, so why are some of us harassed and intimidated?
Plan International UK conducted a survey of 1,515 girls and young women aged 12-21.
Of these, 37 percent were found to have experienced public sexual harassment on public transport.
In London, 41 percent of women have made changes to their clothing, commute or tube journey to avoid sexual harassment.
Imagine you are a schoolgirl on a train and a man walks up to you and starts looking you up and down and refuses to look away. They exit the carriage and he follows. It’s scary and we get hundreds of testimonies like this every month.
Staring often goes hand-in-hand with other forms of sexual harassment and is inseparable. As a woman, you know when someone is staring innocently into space and when they are fixated on your breasts and intimidating.
The TfL campaign is a step in the right direction – but much more needs to be done.
We advocate for a general legal framework on sexual harassment in public, so that it is clear what is and is not acceptable in our society. We have laws against dropping cigarette butts on the ground, but none against this kind of harassment of schoolgirls.
In addition to education in schools, we are calling for better lighting on public transport, easier access to phone charging stations and free WiFi on trains, and mandatory training for staff on how to deal with public sexual harassment. We need to make these spaces safer for everyone.”
No, says Lois McLatchie
Lois is a writer for a legal advocacy group
“HAVE you ever felt uncomfortable with one pair of eyes on the subway? For me, a woman who uses public transport frequently, they most certainly have.
But there’s another pair of eyes lately that’s making me even more uneasy. They belong to the British Transport Police poster.
The text below reads: “Intrusive stares of a sexual nature is sexual harassment and will not be tolerated.”
I can absolutely support a ban on “upskirting”. A ban on inappropriate touching on a train? Sign me up. But criminalize staring? Come on.
Certainly, a look can feel awkward. But what really makes this non-contact, silent act sexual harassment? It might be possible that even I stared innocently at a stranger on the Bakerloo Line for a little too long while digressing to a podcast.
As a young woman, I would most likely be able to explain myself away.
An older man, especially one who is unkempt or “neurodiverse,” may not be so easily excused.
The problem with criminalizing what we interpret as “bad staring” is that we leave it up to law enforcement officers to decipher who is staring “innocently” and who is staring “obtrusively.”
Innocence is in the eye of the beholder as it is not really about the look but how it is perceived as there may be no malicious intent. To reach a verdict, police officers would have to do the literally impossible – read the passenger’s mind behind the gaze.
And even if the inner monologue was inappropriate for polite society, we are no longer police actions, but thoughts.
This would be a “thought crime” and impossible to implement. It will not help end genuine sexual harassment.
It will not help end genuine sexual harassment. Ending the mistreatment and objectification of women certainly starts with better educational policies or tackling society’s growing porn addiction.
With a little imagination we can do much better. But if you’re on the train, make sure you picture it with your eyes closed.
Big Brother is watching.
https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/17956012/staring-women-sexual-harassment/ Staring at women and fixating on our breasts IS a form of sexual harassment