Feminism, Activism, and Striving For Lasting Change

“This is too difficult of a problem for us to solve…” And that is why work on it should begin quickly. 

Formerly, when societies reserved tasks for men and women, one could not imagine that division to erode. But now, one would not understand why that division wouldn’t. Many things can’t be imagined but that doesn’t mean it won’t happen. While it deeply saddens me that this is a difficult time for women’s safety, change can be made.

Change doesn’t come from thin air, but rather made through a system. In this post, I’ve covered questions regarding the “97%-report”, social media activism, and finally capped my pen after discussing possible next steps so we can speed up the aims feminism wishes to achieve and liberate women from the struggles many evils of society subject them to. 

Table of Contents

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The Numbers, What Do They Mean?

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UN Women (United Kingdom) revealed that 97% of women aged 18-24 have experienced at least one form of sexual harassment. To many, it is surprising. Sadly, to women it is not. Yet, it is important to answer questions regarding the survey.

How was sexual harassment defined in this survey?

UN Women defined sexual harassment for this survey as ” … violent practices against women and girls. It can take the form of various acts including … as well as verbal sexual conduct …” 

Who was surveyed in the UK UN Women Survey?

1089 women in the United Kingdom.

What was the platform used for this survey?

YouGov released the surveys through an algorithm that allows the prediction of population results from a sample. 

Can we trust this methodology?

The sample size of 1089 is normal. Social research methodologies often cap their sample at 1000. The real question is if it was representative and why there were no region-wise sub-studies. But given YouGov’s history and the backing by UN Women, we can possibly trust this.

Given that some factors were overlooked, there will be a margin of error, but that doesn’t delegitimize the cause. Talk to women you know and there will be many sad experiences and you’ll gain ground evidence of why the issue is valid and needs attention. Let us divert our energy onto solving those issues instead of scrutinizing the survey further.

The Numbers Explained

Many people countering the survey had a problem with the definition including online harassment and relatively less severe but still valid forms of harassment. The following breakdown debunks these beliefs.

If you have a problem with the inclusion of ‘online comments or jokes’, and ‘in-person comments or jokes’, imagine this without those. Is the problem solved? You can remove as many columns as you want but you can’t prove that the issue doesn’t exist unless you pretend like none of these existed. The problem here would be that you’d have walked into a dark room and embraced ignorance. 

Delegitimizing Online Experiences

Some people associate women’s experiences with irrational policing. I agree that many times online policing lacks a base. However, you might not have encountered such content and that doesn’t mean that nobody else has. According to Amnesty International, more than half of the women who had experienced abuse or harassment online also faced stress, anxiety, or panic attacks as a direct result. This stat would not stand true if online experiences were irrational. 

Listen to understand, not to respond.

The Issue Around Reporting

Harassment is further made easier by a system that makes its reporting difficult. In some cases, reporting makes the woman’s life worse instead of just providing no change (an Everyday Sexism research showed that 16% of women noted worse treatment after reporting a workplace harassment issue). The following data shows why women don’t usually report. 

I understand that some reports can be false. However, according to UN Women in 2019, only 3% of reported sexual crimes in the UK are false. This number shouldn’t hinder you from believing anyone’s story as you aren’t in a courtroom entitled to making a decision. It is reasonable to exercise restraint in participating in cancel-culture-like activities but being a judgmental listener should be off the table. 

Other Researches on Harassment

Over years, this isn’t the only study that has taken place. There are plenty of other resources to look at in case you doubt this one or want to check how things have changed over time.

  • End Violence Against Women Coalition Survey (2016) – 64% of women of all ages have experienced unwanted sexual harassment in public places. 85% of women ages 18-24 had faced sexual harassment in public spaces.
  • Ending Violence Against Women (EVAW) Coalition Survey (2012) – 43% of women aged 18-34 had experienced ‘street harassment’ during 2011 alone.

Even if we scale down these numbers and account for possible suspected errors, the issue is still valid, prevalent, and needs to be addressed.

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Who to Target – The Victim or the Perpetrator?

It is upsetting that many people blame the victim for “putting themselves in that situation.” We need to understand where this statement comes from and tackle it instead of plain anger. If there’s one solid precedent the Sarah Everard case sets, it’s that victim-blaming get’s us nowhere. 

People advise women to stay safe because it is easier to do than combat a larger system. Sadly, what may seem easy and obvious is not always correct. A survey in 2020 by Visible noted that 41% of women changed their clothing and travel schedule to avoid harassment in London. Over time, harassment accounts have increased showing the redundancy of victim-blaming. 

Something else that can be done is reframing news. When only the victim is recognized (“woman abused”), readers are more susceptible to victim-blame. In cases where the gender of the perpetrator is known, news can be framed as “man abused woman” instead of “woman abused” as it recognizes an active agent that can be held accountable thereby also inhibiting victim blaming.

Has Modern Feminism Slipped into Something Dangerous and Toxic?

No, btw.

Feminism is an equality-focused social movement that seeks to grant women rights and respect not raise their value above men. Even though black sheep exist and there is a misandrist minority, it doesn’t mean that feminism is losing its touch.

It is upsetting to see how many people give women a hard time in trying to explain their rights to their bodies, consent, equal-pay, etc. It is completely understandable why women get upset and tired with people who constantly question them and refuse to create the safe space they deserve.

However, when we put lasting change on the table, people online should also develop their delivery and changemaking methods. Yet, this does not leave others innocent. A person listening to someone upset also has a role to understand them instead of diminishing their experiences.

Mass Reposting on Social Media

Given that people have a right to post what they want, this isn’t an issue on its own. The problem aggravates when it is endorsed.

  • People are judged entirely by what they post.
  • The personal boundaries of those who use social media to relax are encroached upon.

We need discussions that seek causes, change, and practical actions beyond spreading awareness; many people have been made uncomfortable by the same people who repost ‘woke’ content online.

Illusion of Competence

Concluding this section, I’d like to say that backing a social cause doesn’t make you perfect. There is always room for improving one’s knowledge and dissemination strategies.

The problem arises when people keep judging others but never themselves.

Why Do Harassment and Assault Occur And What Can You Do About It?

Mere labeling won’t get us far, it is important to understand why certain things happen so they can be tackled at the source.

  • Lack of empathy. Some form of psychological damage and trauma causes beliefs that dehumanize others. Some believe that they are powerful, dominating, and entitled to get what they want. This does not justify harassment rather recognising them can prompt prevention through rehabilitation.
  • Objectification. Pornographic material could cause this. It sets unrealistic expectations and rewires the brain putting a person at risk of addiction, and emotional issues. This often leads viewers to seek aggressive and inhumane desires.
  • Group norms and internalized behavior (male groups considering losing virginity as an achievement, toxic masculinity, etc.). A person would stick to their group rather than the expectations of an outsider. Group norms are reinforced by rewards (laughs when sexist jokes are made, hype when a person gets intimacy, etc.) and punishments (out-of-context use of the word ‘simp’ to bring back “the boys” on the “right track”, ridiculing, social boycotting, etc.). A group-specific and institution-wide system needs to be developed to shift these beliefs (I’ve linked a few resources to help at the end).
  • Sexual social scripts. Through media-set standards, people expect that an endpoint of dates is always sex. The endorsement of this script consciously (those who believe paying for a date entitles them to it, etc.) or subconsciously (those who think the girl is playing ‘hard to get’ if she says no, etc.) leads to the loathing of those who break this script (saying ‘no’ in the middle of the script) manifested by disregard for consent. Some forms of media can be discouraged to alter this script.
  • Extreme lack of self-discipline and misuse of biological information. There is a failure to differentiate between genetic implications and societal implications. Biology decides what one can do – such as the attraction, and physical strength advantage of men. But society decides what people should do. Many pieces of research talk about human’s inherent nature to breed and feel attracted but ignore decision-making power. 
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What Else Can We Do as Individuals, Groups, and Institutions?

Steps You Can Take At An Individual Level

  1. Check up on your friends and create a safe space for venting or redirect them to a safe space if you do not have the capacity.
  2. Object questionable behavior and jokes. You don’t have to participate in cancel culture like activities. When someone makes an offensive joke, you can simply counter it by asking them “what’s so funny?”, and that might plant a seed of self-reflection, among other strategies.
  3. As a man, hold other men, especially your friends accountable since unfortunately groupism leads to lower valuation of a woman or outsider’s opinion.
  4. Engage in communication uniformly, i.e., don’t be the type of person who stays silent when women suffer but becomes the loudest person when it’s to combat “all men are…”
  5. Listen to speakers, podcasts or even start one. This helps you get information or participate in discussions that might be more insightful than DM conversations (check out this one by a friend).
  6. Avoid women-centric profanity.
  7. Don’t generalize your immediate experiences as totalities, i.e., don’t thrash feminism just because you encountered one misguided representative.
  8. Find different forms of humor to replace rape jokes (you can always reach out to me, I make supermarket puns!).
  9. Quit pornography and help spread resources to combat it. NoFap is a great starting point to understand the issues, and how to combat it.
  10. Reevaluate how the media you consume affects your outlook and behavior towards women.
  11. Share these steps with others and brainstorm for more. Let me know of more steps in the comments here too.

Actions You and Your Group or Institution Can Take

While there are many ways to target group-change, apart from a few that I list below, one target we can follow is to create a committed minority. A study shows that if a system has at least 25% people committed to something different, the entire system can revolutionize. Mass reposting when done appropriately can leverage this phenomenon to create change.

Something else institutions should account for is to avoid shaming and selective teaching. Girls are taught to dress properly but boys are not taught to discipline themselves. By all means, cultural dressing senses can stay but if someone violates them they shouldn’t be shamed and blamed for being harassed. Additionally, boys should also be taught to discipline themselves.

To Learn More

  1. Roundhouse Activism Training 
  2. He For She Training and Other Resources
  3. Starting a HeForShe Movement or Chapter at your institution
  4. How to design projects to end violence against women and girls a step-by-step guide to acting

To Learn More About the Topic

  1. Data Explorer 
  2. Common Myths About Sexual Assault
  3. Negative Impacts of Sexist Humor
  4. About Pornography and How to Stop Consumption

What are some other solutions you suggest that can be taken at individual and larger levels?


References

Click to Expand References.
  1. http://www.tools4dev.org/resources/how-to-choose-a-sample-size/#:~:text=A%20good%20maximum%20sample%20size,%2C%2010%25%20would%20be%2020%2C000
  2. https://www.openaccessgovernment.org/97-of-women-in-the-uk/105940/#:~:text=An%20investigation%20by%20UN%20Women,it%20would%20not%20change%20anything
  3. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2021/mar/10/almost-all-young-women-in-the-uk-have-been-sexually-harassed-survey-finds
  4. https://www.globalcitizen.org/en/content/sexual-harassment-uk-british-women-sarah-everard/
  5. https://www.unwomenuk.org/safe-spaces-now
  6. https://www.unwomenuk.org/site/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/APPG-UN-Women_Sexual-Harassment-Report_2021.pdf 
  7. https://yougov.co.uk/topics/lifestyle/articles-reports/2017/10/19/most-18-24-year-old-women-have-been-sexually-haras  
  8. http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/  
  9. http://www.endviolenceagainstwomen.org.uk/news/20/4-in-10-young-women-in-london-sexually-harassed-over-last-year
  10. https://stopstreetharassment.org/resources/statistics/statistics-academic-studies/  
  11. https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/politicsandpolicy/sexual-harassment-in-britain/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+BritishPoliticsAndPolicyAtLse+%28British+politics+and+policy+at+LSE%29 
  12. https://www.standard.co.uk/insider/sarah-everard-sexual-harassment-violence-women-gender-language-statistics-b923865.html 
  13. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/sexual-harassment-poll-yougov-young-people-night-out-a7972991.html 
  14. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2018/apr/07/don-greif-why-men-sexually-assault-women
  15. https://www.statista.com/chart/11596/majority-of-young-women-have-been-sexually-harassed/
  16. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/insight-therapy/201411/why-do-men-sexually-assault-women
  17. https://www.dw.com/en/the-psychology-of-a-rapist/a-54814540 \
  18. https://time.com/5503804/ive-talked-with-teenage-boys-about-sexual-assault-for-20-years-this-is-what-they-still-dont-know/  
  19. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/10/30/health/men-rape-sexual-assault.html 

4 Comments

  1. It’s amazing!This is a very crucial topic that people need to have a proper understanding on and Amaan you have done an absolute wonderful job in explaining it . Well done!

    Liked by 1 person

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