Hey Shorty!: A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Schools and On the Street was written by Joanne N. Smith, Mandy Van Deven, and Meghan Huppuch. The authors together form a nonprofit group called Girls for Gender Equity, which is an organization that seeks to educate and eventually eliminate gender discrimination. This book, Hey Shorty exclusively focused on sexual harassment and is based out of New York City. Street harassment is a form of a gender-based harassment in public space and is defined by Stop Street Harassment as “unwelcome words and actions by unknown persons in public places which are motivated by gender and invade a person’s physical and emotional space in a disrespectful, creepy, startling, scary, or insulting way.” Hey Shorty is a response to street harassment and focuses on the experiences of young women in an urban environment such as NYC and looks to provide them with educational and safe opportunities as opposed to walking the dangerous streets of NYC after school.
In the beginning of the book, we are provided with a short yet concise summary of Title IX. Title IX is the legislation that prohibits sexual discrimination in regards to access to education and other related resources. The authors discuss how, in the 70s when it was first enacted, Title IX was nearly impossible to enforce. The authors were often met with resistance, whether it was being unable to contact the Title IX coordinator or being met with animosity from school officials who worry about being seen as a “sexual harassment school.” Hey Shorty then describes the two “types” of sexual harassment, known as “quid pro quo” harassment (an authority figure abusing their power on a student in exchange for favors) and “hostile environment harassment” (where the behavior of school encourages a perverse, offensive environment).
The book shows the efforts of the Girls for Gender Equality to find out about harassment in schools by utilizing many different methods and tools, such as focus groups, blogging, in-person interviews, and of course, publishing a book. What the authors found was truly disturbing and definitely a shell shock for me, someone who never experienced any sexual harassment inside my elementary or high schools. The first finding reported that sexual harassment is a part of students’ everyday lives. Many students were not even aware that what they had experienced was harassment. This was particularly disturbing because there are children who are experiencing this horrible treatment and for some reason were taught that this is normal, expected behavior that they have to deal with. Similarly, the second finding revealed that almost 100% of students would not or did not report any incident of sexual harassment because it “was not that big of a deal.” I was so upset when I read that students were scared or otherwise impartial to this treatment because there are so many students who also reported missing school due to fear of being harassed. If students are afraid to report their harassers, it is because when they did report they were met with unhelpful, judgmental administrators who were more concerned about keeping the school’s reputation than they were for the livelihood of their students. These two findings led to the third and final finding, which shows that everyone needs to be educated about sexual harassment and Title IX implications. Both teachers and administrators need to be pressured to enforce (and abide by) Title IX and students should be educated about the type of treatment that is appropriate within schools, thus making it possible for them to report it effectively.
One of the most upsetting things I learned while reading this was the amount of students who had experienced sexual harassment but did not know it and therefore did not report it. Both students and administrators are scared to use the word harassment because it (obviously) implies very negative behavior. A lot of students, especially those who are so used to this maltreatment, probably assume that harassment is something more than what they experience every day. The statistics provided in the book show that 69% of people surveyed “did not think sexual harassment is a problem in schools”, even though 23% of students admitted that sexual harassment happened at least “a few times a year.” When the question was reworded and did not include the term “sexual harassment” itself and instead listed out specific acts or behaviors, more students were willing to admit experiencing inappropriate behavior; 71% of interviewed students reported being the target of sexual jokes, unwanted comments, or other verbal harassment, 60% of students experienced sexually suggestive gestures, and 10% of students reported forced sexual activity. Students are socialized not to report this behavior and they are not even educated about the inappropriate behavior they experience. Students are not aware of Title IX and it’s implications and is therefore unable to adequately report their experiences.
Hey Shorty! provides important research and information regarding the occurrence of sexual harassment in schools. The research discussed in this book shows us the importance of instating legislation like Title IX, but without effective enforcement, legislation like this benefits few people. This book presents the larger issue of society’s view of sexual harassment and sexual violence. This is no longer something that can be avoided, ignored, or downplayed. This is a real, present issue that is going to keep affecting people unless we do something to combat it. This book does an excellent job of personalizing the stories of sexual harassment as well as act as an educational guide.
Smith, Joanne N., Mandy Van Deven, and Meghan Huppuch. Hey Shorty! A Guide to Combating Sexual Harassment and Violence in Public Schools and on the Streets. New York: The Feminist Press, 2011. Print.