Picture this: you’re going for a run. You live in Australia where it’s a bajillion degrees every day in summer, so you’re sweating like a pig. You’re going through the mental debate of “I can’t do this shit” and “channel your inner Beyonce!”. And then BAM. A car horn sounds and a lovely gentlemen, ranging from somewhere between the ages of 15 and 60, leers encouragement out of his car at you – “NICE ASS!”. Cue – inner Beyonce is gone. Sound familiar? Then you may have been a victim of street harassment, just the thing the TAI conducted a study on.
This is an article exploring the pervasive nature of street harassment experienced by women in Australia. In my opinion this research is very credible as it was undertaken by TAI, The Australia Institute. They are a wholly independent think tank based in Canberra and operate on a donation basis. They are not affiliated with any other organisation, thus their objectiveness are not compromised. According to their disclaimer:
The Institute aims to foster informed debate about our culture, our economy and our environment and bring greater accountability to the democratic process. Our goal is to gather, interpret and communicate evidence in order to both diagnose the problems we face and propose new solutions to tackle them.
I feel that the audience for this text is someone like myself, a student or academic scholar interested in women’s rights and experiences. The information is presented through surveys and statistics, which I think is important because a lot of debate around this topic is criticised for being based on opinion/personal experience.
While the author does display dismay at the necessity for women to modify their behaviour to avoid street harassment, it comes about based on their statistical findings so I don’t feel this compromises the validity of the research. For example, Johnson and Bennett state that it is shocking that “nearly all women – 87 per cent – have experienced some form of street harassment, either non-physical or physical, in their lives” (2015, p.2). This, in my opinion, is a good balance between the research being objective, but the presentation being subjective enough to involve and engage readers.
The findings were gathered through surveying 1426 Australian women and presented chronologically in the same order the questions were asked, making the article flow coherently. The questions included both yes and no and open ended, such as “when was the last time, if at all, you experienced each of the following types of physical street harassment [been followed, been kissed without consent etc] by a stranger or strangers?” (Johnson & Bennet 2015, p. 4). This gives conclusive answers but also provides enough background information for the question to be relevant to the individuals being surveyed.
I would say one issue with this survey, however, was the size of the focus group. I feel it was perhaps not big enough to represent the experiences of all women, and especially not big enough to be considered an intersectional approach that explores experiences of women across different demographics and circumstances. However, this is understandable as they stated their funding is donation based.
Overall, I would say the research is credible and very useful. It is presented without jargon but still objective and academic, making the findings easy to integrate in further research or academic articles. It is, in my opinion, a very valid addition to the existing debate about women’s experiences in Australia and maintains the difficult balance between interesting but based on hard data.
The researchers have stated they would like to further research and help to unpick this rampant issue in Australia. So ladies, hopefully one day we can truly channel our Beyonce and Run the World (Girls!). Or, maybe just run down the street without being harassed.
Johnson, M, Bennett, E 2015, ‘Everyday Sexism: Australian women’s experiences of street harassment’, The Australia Institute, Canberra