Beijing's Harassment Problem: Mini Skirts Don’t Lead to Street Harassment, Misogyny Does
If you’re ever in Beijing, watch out for men taking photos of your crotch. Yes, this is a thing: Beijing has been tackling some high levels of street harassment recently, most notable in its public transportation system. Last week, China Daily cited the traffic department of the Beijing Public Security Bureau's new guidelines warning women to avoid mini-skirts and hot pants. Women are also advised to try to cover themselves with newspapers and bags.
Police officer Xing Wei explained that it's difficult to prosecute harassers due to the lack of cameras on public transit. The maximum penalty for sexual harassment is fifteen days in detention. So instead of targeting the men prone to groping, China is clamping down on women’s choice of attire–because apparently, it's the bait’s fault. “It is also difficult to train public transportation workers to assist women in harassment prevention and response,” said Xing. Wang Jiansheng, director of Beijing Public Transport Holdings Ltd agreed with Xing’s statement. “After all, as a transport company, our main job is to take passengers to their destinations,” he added.
Women, it’s apparently up to you to deal with the gropers out there. This must mean it’s time to give up the awkward side shuffle when you feel a hand on your ass. But harassment doesn’t have to be physical; catcalls and creepy compliments also fall under the street harassment heading. What the Beijing folks are missing is that it’s not the women’s fault: a mini-skirt does not a pervert make. It's time to blame misogyny and start punishing harassers.
Shifting the blame starts with grassroots projects like ihollaback.org, a non-profit that’s working to end street harassment. Hollaback is an online community where women can share photos and stories of street harassment, and basically have each other’s back. Hollaback is now working in 64 cities and 22 countries to help raise awareness.
The Stranger, an alternative Seattle newspaper, recently ran a feature about dealing with street harassment, funny illustrated solutions and all. But most of the time, if you’re anything like me, you think of something to answer your groper an hour later, when you’re disgusted and seething at home. The Stranger asks us to practice answering harassment with a simple “Stop harassing me.” I'm all for empowerment, but the idea that women rather than their harassers are the ones who need to deal with this is discouraging. Beijing’s guidelines are a step backward. He’s the one with a problem, not you. Rock those hot pants.