Summer in the City

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Ah summer. We've waited so long for the wee buds to burst open and announce full-blown summer, to peel off the layers of wool and flannel and slip into something a little more comfortable.

If only it were that simple. In my experience, along with the hot days and bared flesh of summer, comes a reinvigoration of street harassment--enough to last a girl the whole year through.

Outdoorsy fun plus bare arms and legs (ooo!) combine in the minds of (insecure? horny?) men everywhere to mean open season on women. I even had the honour last summer of being followed for several blocks by a thumping box filled with new admirers.

Granted, it's complicated. Like anything that has to do with power and is as variable as the ways gender, class, race, ethnicity, sexuality and ability interconnect, it's impossible to fit it all into one neat analysis. (Much of the street harassment I've had to deal with in recent years--which also takes place on public transportation, in parks, on the beach and from cars--is as much about sexuality as gender. A kiss goodbye on a street corner earns my girlfriend and me a "Baby, baby! Give me some more!"

Even the individual woman's sense of herself affects the experience of these moments between strangers, and not every woman finds every kind of interaction unpleasant. But as many variables as there are, street harassment is still (universally) a phenomenon in which men are acting and women are reacting. And that merits some collective attention to the issue.

We may Take Back the Night once a year, but I want men to feel pressured to share it willingly the other 364 nights (and days). As long as women rearrange their routes and lives because they don't feel comfortable in public spaces, we have a problem. We're still being put in our place.

Women are not all hapless victims, of course. …