Stop and Frisk vs Sexual Street Harassment - Same Game, Different Players

     The NYPD's Stop and Frisk policy, one which began under our present mayor Mike Bloomberg a few years ago, has come under great scrutiny due to the imbalance in the number people of color being targeted compared to other populations in the city.  There have also been claims of police violence made on some of the cops doing the stop and frisk procedure, also known as a "250" in police jargon.  The main issue at hand is that 250s happen nearly 100% to Black and Latino males, and occur primarily in minority heavy neighborhoods, pointing to the prevalence of racial profiling in the city.

     There have been many reports and even secret recordings done of some of these stop and frisks, and they are indeed excessive and heinous.  While watching a video of a young man residing in Harlem who was sharing his stop and frisk experiences, I couldn't help but to be struck by the language and phrases he used. They were words I've heard before, but in the cases of women recounting their feelings and experiences about Street Harassment.  The young man spoke of how he felt targeted.  How he would be just walking along minding his business when suddenly, out of nowhere, cops would set upon him and demand to pat him down. He mentioned how on occasion this happens to him several times a day, and how he is always doing nothing whatsoever to provoke it.  He spoke of being fearful and trepidacious whenever he sees a cop or a police car.  He also mentioned how the constant harassment from police was beginning to make him not want to leave his house as much. He said that these experiences felt "violating", "degrading" and "belittling". It immediately hit me how often I have heard those same sentiments expressed lately, but the ones I hear are always from women talking about Street Harassment.  It's the same.  It's really just one form of bullying as compared to another.

      Now, while Stop and Frisk is mandated by our city government and therefore would be considered far more heinous based on that alone, the effects that both Street Harassment and Stop and Frisk have on the victims are the exact same.  Feelings of helplessness, fear, loathing, loss of self worth, fear of going certain places, feeling targeted - the parallels are there. The real difference, though?  Many men DEFEND Street Harassment, saying that women like it, deserve it or are 'asking for it' by the way they dress or the places they decide to go. Imagine if you suggested that these males were "asking" to be stopped and frisked just by being outside or dressed a particular way.  Those who experience Stop and Frisk would be outraged, no? I personally am outraged when people try to belittle or dismiss the occurrences and effects of Street Harassment. Many of the same men who hate being harassed by cops still don't think twice about harassing strange women in public. It floors me that they either can't or won't make the connection.  Being targeted and victimized sucks, no matter who is doing it to whom.

 Their depiction of the problem:


     Whether it's Stop and Frisk or Street Harassment it's the same tactics, same intent.  To show and enact power over another person simply because you feel you can and because they fit the "type" that you feel entitled to commit this type of behavior upon.  Cops say they do it mainly to prevent crime.  Cops also do it to meet quotas.  Men say that they harass women simply to "give a woman a compliment" or to "act like a man".  In both cases, however, the end result is mainly just degradation and dehumanizing of the person being stopped/harassed.

                                                              What you feel when you see this:

                                                                   I feel when I see this:

                                                                     and this:

     I am sure that many will jump and say "Wait! You're really trying to equate Stop and Frisk with guys saying some offhand comments to women walking down the street?!"  Yes.  Because in both cases there is a victimization and objectification going on. Also, Street Harassment is more than that.  It is a man deciding to treat a woman like he has a right to her, even though he does not know her.  This takes the form of unwanted verbal contact, physical contact, intimidation and can escalate all the way up to rape. In both cases, one party is forcing his will upon the other, taking full advantage of the imbalance of power between them.  It is initiated by the harasser whether the victim seems to warrant it or not, although I would never say that street harassment is ever warranted or wanted.  I would give an example of a woman wanting interaction as one who is looking at you smiling as she walks by.  That is a person that might not mind you saying hello, giving a compliment or engaging in a conversation.  However, the overwhelming majority of women who are walking down streets or frequenting public spaces are not doing anything to invite interaction and commentary from strange men.  They are just trying to get from point A to point B and/or live life, much in the same way that many males who are stopped and frisked are not behaving in a criminal manner and are also just trying to go about their daily lives.

     In the same way that a stop and frisk can escalate into a violent encounter with a cop, so can street harassment in certain cases where the woman resists being harassed in some way.  There are men on the street who feel entitled enough to certain women to become physically violent if their attention is not returned or embraced by a woman they have decided to "target".  You can read some instances of that here and here. The fear and intimidation that both the stop and frisk victim and the street harassment victim are made to feel is the same.  Fear and trepidation when you see a potential harasser/fear and trepidation when you see a cop.  A feeling of being disrespected and treated unfairly.  Feeling constantly hunted or targeted.  For the men who experience this, that potential harasser is a cop car or officers on patrol.  For a woman, that is any man approaching on a sidewalk, standing on the street, or in any public space she's also occupying who is making it his business to focus his sexual attention on her, be that verbal or otherwise.

     Some men who get stopped and frisked also harass women.  They should know better because they know exactly how it feels to be targeted and degraded SIMPLY FOR WHAT YOU ARE.  That's all I'm saying.  There should be some empathy there that causes them to want to be better than that and not treat someone else the way they themselves hate being treated.  They should also teach the men and boys around them and in their families and communities not to engage in such behaviors, either.

     Whether it's Stop and Frisk or Street Harassment, both are insidious and both need to be addressed and hopefully stopped altogether.

Giant Head Sculpture "Echo" at Madison Square Park

Created by Spanish artist Jaume Plensa in Madison Square Park, New York.

East River Ferry Ride

Free until June 25, 2011. Nice way to spend part of an afternoon...

The East River Esplanade

One of the great things about living in New York is that if you're adventurous, you'll get to know all the little nooks, crannies and hidden gems that the masses here have no idea even exist. The East River Esplanade is one of those hidden gems. You have to cross the East Side highway and walk through a little "cave" to get to it. A cool, shady little place to get away from the crowds.... right in the Middle of Manhattan.  


El Barrio Week in NYC - 2011 June 4 - 14

Come and enjoy 14 days of art exhibits, cooking demonstrations, spoken word performances, restaurant tastings and dance performances.
El Barrio in East Harlem, NYC is a hidden gem and mecca of latino influenced food, art, dance, traditional celebrations and much, much more. There will be all manner of events and displays, including art exhibits, dance presentations and cooking demonstrations, just to name a few. Get yourself some sabor! El Barrio Week will run from June 4 to June 14th. The complete calendar of events can be found here:

El Barrio Week 2011 Calendar of Events

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