This week saw the release of a YouGov survey where 43% of women in London have said they have been the victim of sexual harassment in the last year.
A huge number of women in London, it turns out, have had to endure intimidating and unwanted attention from men, much of it coming whilst they are travelling on public transport. According to the poll 31% of women aged 18 to 24 experienced unwanted sexual attention on public transport and 21% of 25- to 34-year-olds. Overall, 5% of the women surveyed had experienced unwanted sexual contact on public transport.
The accounts have ranged from the creepy and unsettling to the genuinely terrifying. More worrying is how much these crimes seem to go unreported and are not generally discussed. The fact that it took one offender, Lee Read, to attack an eleven year old girl before he was apprehended is very worrying; this was despite the fact that he been filmed harassing several other women on the tube previously.
Fiona Elvines, of South London Rape Crisis, said it was rare to meet a woman who had not suffered street harassment. “Women manage this harassment every day, in their routines and daily decisions – but it has an impact on their self-esteem and body image.”
These statistics are worrying in and of themselves, but I was also troubled by how some of the media reacted to them as well. Many felt that the intimidating behaviour that many women have been subjected to with alarming regularity should not be considered sexual harassment.
But that hasn’t deterred people from standing up against harassment. Instead, End Violence Against Women wants an awareness campaign, but the fact is when Hollaback, the anti-street harassment group, set up a UK operation two years ago, the idea that women would shout out when the victim of sexual harassment was unheard of. Julia Gray, co director of the organisation, said: “I was told, ‘good luck with that’. The wider community will never believe that women should speak up for themselves.” Since then there have been many stories in which women have publicly shamed alleged abusers.
Another year has gone by without a single woman being nominated for Palm d’Or at Cannes. After suffering two weeks of fierce criticism, the organisers admitted that they needed to make a concerted effort to increase the number of female film-makers competing for the prize. Festival president Gilles Jacob said: “I am sure that next year the chief selector, Thierry Frémaux, will look more carefully to find films by women.” He went on to say that it was a “shame” that only one female director, Jane Campion, had ever won the festival’s top prize. I hope that we will see at least one female director considered for next year’s prize.