#UOkSis: Letting Street Harassment Victims Know They’re Not Alone
If you’re like most women, then you’ve probably experienced it one way or another. You are walking down the street, minding your own business, and then all of a sudden, it happens to you: a man or a group of guys whistle, make cat calls or say something sexually aggressive and it’s all directed to you.
According to a recent survey, more than half of the women interviewed have experienced some form of street harassment. What’s worse is that most of these women experienced more than just whistling and cat calls, but harassment of a more physical and grave nature. This can range from flashing to actual physical touching.
Unfortunately, for most patriarchal societies, these occurrences are already considered normal.
A feminist social media movement called #YouOkSis aims to shed light on this issue. The movement is particularly directed to women of colour who—according to a study—experienced more street harassment than their white counterparts. The movement was started by social worker Feminista Jones who claims that it’s about time that black women’s voices, especially from low-income communities, were heard.
While most feminist schools of thought aim to focus on educating the male perpetrator, Jones hopes that the #YouOkSis movement can center on the victim for a change. Asking the victim three simple words (“You okay, sis?”) can immediately accomplish a lot. It lets the victim know she is not alone; it alerts the perpetrator that he is being watched, and it prevents the whole situation from escalating.
The movement also created a video where women of colour who have experienced street harassment were encouraged to speak out. One woman shared her devastating experience of being with her daughter when she experienced the harassment. Another young woman said that the experience not only made her feel disrespected but she also felt “dehumanised” at some point.
In the video, Jones herself also talks about her own firsthand experiences with street harassment, which also inspired her to start the movement. In the first instance, a group of teenage boys made lewd comments about her on the street and only stopped when another man intervened. In her other experience, she witnessed a woman who was pushing down a stroller while being harassed at the same time. It was now her turn to intervene in the situation, and she did so by asking the victim if she was okay. It was then when she realised how important intervention from bystanders is.
Clearly, Jones’ and her supporters’ work are cut out for them—all the more reason why their message needs to be heard more loudly.