Dr. Laura Logan of the Hastings College Sociology Department presented findings from her personal research during an Invited Faculty Lecture on Oct. 9. The lecture, tilted “Street Harassment at Intersections,” focused on how and why street harassment happens, as well as what possible solutions exist to combat it.
Logan has spent nearly ten years focusing on street harassment. She is on the board for the activist group, Stop Street Harassment, and has held this position for almost one year. She defines street harassment as any unwanted and offensive behavior, including speech, gestures and sounds, directed toward someone in a public areas.
Logan opened her lecture by explain that the use of the word intersections in the title of her lecture was more than just a tribute to where street harassment takes place. According to Logan, the word intersections also implies that the varying combinations of race, gender, social class and sexual orientation—among other qualifiers of social identity—play a large role in how street harassment is experienced by an individual.
“We can’t understand what the experience is like for people without understanding their social location. We can’t understand their social location if we don’t look at the multiplicity of their identity,” Logan said. “What street harassment looks like and feels like to an African American woman walking on a street by a college in Chicago is different than it looks like for a white woman walking on that very same street.”
Understanding how intersections of social identity shape an experience can clarify why an incident of street harassment happens and why the targeted individual responds as she or he does. This allows society to better understand how to address and possibly fix the issue of street harassment, according to Logan.
Logan used her lecture to share data from her qualitative research on the topic collected from 2009 to 2013. During this four-year period, Logan gathered information by speaking with individuals that had been targets of street harassment. She also identified, visited and evaluated locations at which street harassment had taken place. Logan focused on cases of harassment from the Midwest due to limited prior research in this area.
Through her research, Logan found that the underlying theme of street harassment stemmed from socialized gender roles. In the majority of the cases she studied, harassers that were “coded as masculine” targeted individuals they “coded as feminine.” Although this coding is often unique to each case, the harasser was typically male, and he typically identified the target as female or feminine.
Logan closed her lecture by offering a solution to fighting street harassment: stop gender policing. The prevalence of masculinity and femininity in cases of street harassment suggest a fulfillment of socialized gender roles. By allowing people to act within human nature instead of within set gender roles, there would be less expectation for men to be dominant and women to be sexualized, thus changing the culture of masculinity and breaking socialized gender roles.
Logan explains that in order to stop gender policing and change the culture of masculinity, everyone must play an active role.
“I don’t want anybody to be mistaken and think that means that we have to change men or that men are the ones responsible,” Logan said. “All of us—men, women, those who don’t identify as any particular gender, or gender queer—are responsible for changing the culture of masculinity.”