Male Occupation Of Public Space

I was reading today about street harassment in a blog entry on Feministe It mentioned what is called the male occupation of public space. It confused me a little bit…after doing a little bit of research I think I understand what this means. Men are assuming control of the public atmosphere, taking patriarchy and male entitlement to the streets. That is why men think it’s ok to “holla” at you from their cars, from across the street, that is why they are fine yelling sexual comments at you as you walk quickly away in embarrassment and shame. They are really saying HEY YOU I demand your attention and because I am your superior, I am a man, you will give it to me. Its taking societal messages and applying them,rather boldly, in public. Men are comfortable demanding your attention in public because public spaces are dominated by men. And according to male entitlement if they demand your attention, you HAVE to give it to them, it is their right, their privilege, you owe them.  Daily, women walk around in public spaces and some of us are frightened and weary of leaving the house because we are sure that no matter what we say, what we wear …someone is going to approach us or worse. Whenever something bad happens to a woman, say she is kidnapped or raped in an alley, maybe she is beaten or mugged on her way home from work, people tend to question what she was doing outside, in that part of town, at that time of night,and how she was dressed…… Why?….. Because what we know to be “public” is really a man’s domain and a woman has no business occupying space that belongs to a man, so that whenever something happens she was “asking for it” or “deserved it”, she shouldn’t have been out so late

Men claim the public space 24hrs of the day. Depending on the time of day the consequences for this claim varies. I have been walking alone at night from work and been followed all the way home by a man that was laughing and hiding behind cars (i believe he was inebriated) it was terrifying and i walked several blocks out of the way in an attempt to avoid leading him to my home. When I told friends, I remember them saying, it wasn’t “proper” of me to be out so late, and that if this man had done anything to me it would have been fault for being out so late, walking on a main street. But who assigned the night to these men? Women are stalked and shamed and intimidated in broad daylight as well as night and their only crime is occupying public space that men have claimed ……unless you are on the arm of man, you are up for grabs as far as cat calling, whistles, propositions, stalking and violence is concerned. When men claim public space they are taking patriarchy and male entitlement to the streets, and using both concepts to control and intimidate women into maintaining their assigned gender roles. It is scary and oppressive and I wish I knew how to stop it other then responding respectfully and telling them how their behavior makes me feel….I’m kind of pessimistic about that approach I have to admit, but what can we do but share our stories and address these individual problems as they come up. I wrote this blog because I finally put a name to how I felt about being out in public and being made to feel afraid, inferior or embarrassed at the hands of men. Being able to further define a situation gives you more power over it


4 thoughts on “Male Occupation Of Public Space

    1. ……Unfortunately you are right, women ARE socialized to feel inferior, to be subordinate and submissive….but men are socialized to be aggressive, domineering and authoritative, men are socialized to use women rather than treat them as equals…..I can’t say that I believe the weight of responsibility is equal here because we live in an androcentric society and even for women who reject submission they are still under institutional & societal patriarchy and they can still be victimized. When men occupy public space they use fear tactics, male entitlement and patriarchy to boldly keep women under foot. When you reject being inferior but are still treated that way by men then what are you supposed to do…..

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