Jack at Ethics Alarms quotes Emily Moss’ A Letter To The Guy Who Harassed Me Outside The Bar (which I linked to last week). Jack comments:
The amazing thing is that this kind of ritual harassment would vanish with some slight behavioral additions to our culture, many of which once were the norm…
Too many people think that a return to old-fashioned norms would mean that women wouldn’t be subject to street harassment anymore.
When a man wrote in to the New York Times to say he had never seen any improper treatment of women in public places in New York, numerous women quickly responded with assertions to the contrary. Typical were letters claiming that inappropriate behavior by well-dressed men was far from unusual and praising the police prosecution of the case. According to one letter about harassment on elevated trains, “these detestable practices do not seem to be confined to any particular line of cars nor any one class of men.”
So just like now, in 1906 women on the street were being hassled by roachbags. Just like now, some people (mainly men) claimed that no, it didn’t happen, or if it did happen then it wasn’t so bad.
And just like now, the victims were blamed. Caruso’s defenders claimed that the women had led Caruso on with their slutty lady eye glances.
In fact, the named victim at Caruso’s trial was was extremely reluctant to be identified, presumably for this exact reason:
The woman whom Caruso allegedly molested identified herself as “Mrs. Hannah Graham of 1756 Bathgate Avenue, the Bronx,” but reports noted that she had been reluctant to become involved in a police matter for fear of jeopardizing her reputation as a “respectable” woman, and that she submitted her name and address only under pressure by the arresting officer, James J. Cain.
The name later turned out to be a fake.
It’s probably true that we more often hear about street harassment nowadays. But I’m pretty sure that what’s changes is not the harassment part, but the “we hear about it” part.
UPDATE: Jack has updated his post with a response to this post, saying that I’ve misread him. (Wouldn’t be the first time.)