The ideology that sexual harassment is a personal problem is strong, and its strength is reinforced by a government policy that removes women from the streets. City officials did not appear to be interested in discriminating against women vendors. The intended purpose of the new regulations was to curtail the dirt, congestion, and competition created by all vendors. By assuming that the regulations were gender neutral without exploring the alternate possibility, city officials increased women vendors' dependence on men and increased male domination of the streets. By increasing male domination of public and economic life, city policy reinforced public patriarchy. 35
Despite their intensifying struggle for economic and political autonomy, many women, including most of the vendors we interviewed, accept male domination of city streets as natural. As a result, they frequently fail to organize as a conscious constituency. Women are less likely than men to use streets, parks, and other public places, thus themselves contributing to public patriarchy or male domination of public life. 36 Campaigns for a "hassle-free zone" conducted by the local rape crisis center to raise consciousness about street harassment as a public issue are an important antidote. 37 Likewise the presence of women vendors on the streets is another antidote. As a young flower vendor stated, "The more women become vendors, the more people will accept them, the less people will think it's freaky and try and keep them vulnerable."
I would like to thank George Washington University's Center for Washington Area Studies and especially Professors Howard Gillette and Jeffrey Henig for all their efforts in making this study possible. In addition, I would like to thank Jennie McKnight for her patient and skillful editing; Mindy Shapiro for her assistance in coding and interviewing; Micaela di Leonardaro, Phyllis Palmer, Karen Sacks, Tara Wallace, and John Willoughby for their helpful reading of earlier drafts; and Ann Bookman and Sandra Morgen for their many editorial and content suggestions. Finally, I would like to thank Eileen Zeitz for her work on earlier versions of this study and Hank Leland for his final editing.