ARTICLE: STREET HARASSMENT AS SEXUAL SUBORDINATION: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GENDER-SPECIFIC HARM Skip over navigation
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Copyright (c) 1997 Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System
Wisconsin Women's Law Journal

ARTICLE: STREET HARASSMENT AS SEXUAL SUBORDINATION: THE PHENOMENOLOGY OF GENDER-SPECIFIC HARM

Fall, 1997

12 Wis. Women's L.J. 167

Author

Deborah Tuerkheimer *

Excerpt



This article is about street harassment and its impact, told through the stories of women who experience it. The article also represents an attempt to think critically about the phenomenology of gender-specific harm. Inquiry into how our injuries become visible and how our suffering comes to be understood and counted as important is both methodological and deeply substantive, having real consequences for women's lives. When we speak of the social construction of injury, who is constructing whose injury makes a world of difference.

This discussion gives meaning to its methodological assertions by contextualizing them in the social practice of street harassment. The injury of street harassment is largely unique to women and is for the most part socially unarticulated. For purposes of this discussion, street harassment occurs when a woman in a public place is intruded on by a man's words, noises, or gestures. In so doing, he asserts his right to comment on her body or other feature of her person, defining her as object and himself as subject with power over her.

As a practice, street harassment embodies and perpetuates women's sexual subordination. Although women experientially know that we are harmed by harassment on the street, we have barely begun to articulate the nature of the harm. Only when the injury of street harassment is understood as both a reflection of women's gendered oppression and integral to that oppression can we hope to convey our suffering to male culture. The harm of street harassment is ...
 
 
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