6 Yale J.L. & Feminism 313 (1994)
The Woman in the Street: Reclaiming the Public Space from Sexual Harassment

handle is hein.journals/yjfem6 and id is 319 raw text is: The Woman in the Street:t
Reclaiming the Public Space
from Sexual Harassment
Deborah M. Thompsontt
I was walking to lunch with a partner, an associate, and another
summer associate. The lawyers were male and the other summer
associate was female. We walked past a construction site and the men
working there made comments about me which I'm sure the partner
(and everyone else) heard. I instantly went from feeling professional
and in control to feeling powerless and embarrassed. I hate that a lewd
comment from a construction worker has the power to make me feel
that way so easily.'
I was walking down the street the other day, wearing nothing revealing.
This man was flicking his tongue at me and asked me if I tasted as good
as I looked. There is nothing you can do about it. What if you get
someone mad? You don't know who they are, and you might end up
raped or killed.'
Recently Ifound myself in midtown and decided to take a walk through
Bryant Park .... [Within moments one man] invited me to take my
clothes off and. . . another ... wanted to know why I wasn't smiling
.... [There] were perhaps 50 men, strolling, ambling, striding along
eating hot dogs, sitting on benches and reading the paper or trading
illegal substances as though they had all the time in the world-and 3
women, all walking quickly and grimly, as I was now doing, as though
late for an appointment with the dentist.3
t I use the phrase the woman in the street in contrast to the traditional notion of the man in the
street which is familiar in American law and politics. As Cheryl Benard and Edit Schlaffer explain:
The man in the street, a phrase dear to the media and politicians, is a synonym for the citizen,
the voter, the average person, and at the same time the male. There is no woman in the street
in our language; only a streetwalker, or an intruder who can be treated like one.
Cheryl Benard & Edit Schlaffer, The Man in the Street: Why He Harasses, in FEMINIST FRAMEWORKS:
Jaggar & Paula S. Rothenberg eds., 2d ed. 1984). This Article aims to explain and ameliorate the
experience of the woman in the street.
tt J.D. 1994, Yale Law School. I would like to thank Adam Gutride for his ideas and supportive
friendship during the writing of this Article.
1. Response to Street Harassment Survey, conducted in Professor Ralph Brown's Defamation Class,
Yale Law School (Nov. 29, 1993).
2. Are People Rude on the Street?, USA TODAY, July 19, 1991, at All (comment of Kristin
Anderson, New Haven, CT).
3. Katha Pollit, Hers, N.Y. TIMES, Dec. 12, 1985, at C2.
Copyright 0 1994 by the Yale Journal of Law and Feminism

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