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A friend of mine led me to this article recently on Jezebel, about a new free iPhone anti-harassment app that helps individuals come up with quick responses to harassment in various situations such as at school, at work, on public transit and on the street. “Not Your Baby,” developed by Andrea Gunraj and the Metropolitan Action Committee on Violence Against Women and Children (METRAC) in Toronto was released last week. This is a big step in the wave of iPhone apps that are being used for public safety and violence prevention, such as Circle of Six.
My initial thoughts are that this is a step in the right direction and is helpful for those who want to prepare themselves for the onslaught of street harassment or workplace harassment. But I am a firm believer in the notion that there is no wrong way to respond to harassment because women shouldn’t have to be conditioned to have a “snappy response” to street harassment. Additionally, while this app may not be easy to access in the moment, for those who experience street harassment more often it could be a good tool to have for future incidents. Building confidence to say something more assertive can be empowering, if someone has traditionally not spoken up.
After spending time using the app myself, I have found a few problematic response suggestions. “Excuse me?” is a suggestion that comes up if you want a response for a stranger harassing you on the street, as well as “No, thanks” and “Maybe next time.” These suggestions imply that the harassment was an interaction that should not be treated with severity and the individual who is harassed needs to treat the harasser with respect. “No, thanks” does not name the behavior that was wrong or tell the harasser that their actions were harassment that will not be tolerated. “Maybe next time” implies that the behavior may work again another time with the harassed. If we’re talking about harassment as unacceptable and threatening behavior, we should divorce it from the idea that uncomfortable comments on the street are compliments that should be handled politely.
That being said, there are assertive responses that come up such as “Don’t be that guy” or “Don’t harass women.” What are your thoughts on the app? Share your comments and questions below!
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