Case Study 3: Safe-T-Man and Street Harrasment.

Please study the advertisement and reading below before participating in the discussion of case study 3.

[NOTE: The reading below is required for Group A participants]


"Designed as a visual deterrent, Safe-T-Man is a life-size, simulated male that appears to be 180 pounds and 6 feet tall, to give others the impression that you have the protection of a male guardian with you while at home alone or driving in your car. This unique security device looks incredibly real, with a positionable latex head and hands, air-brushed facial highlights, and salt-and-pepper hair. Made of the highest-quality, inflatable PVC vinyl, he weighs just 7 pounds and can be dressed according to your own personal style. When not keeping vigil over your well being, deflate, store and transport him inconspicuously in the optional tote bag. Comes with a repair patch. He costs $100.95 plus shipping and handling."

Excerpt From: Cynthia Grant Bowman, "Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women," 106 Harvard Law Review 517 (1993).

"A woman walks down a city street. A man whom she does not know makes an obscene noise or gesture. She counters with a
retort or ignores him and walks on...This is a common enough sequence of events. It happens every day of the
year...Superficially, this is a simple, ordinary encounter...but beneath the surface is a complexity of feeling, thought, and intention
that, despite two decades of femininst theorizing and two millennia of women writing about women, we have just begun to
decode." - Muriel Dimen, Surviving Sexual Contradictions (quoted in Bowman).

"Street hassling is also the earliest -- and therefore the defining -- lesson in the source of a girl's disempowerment. If they
haven't learned it anywhere else, street hassling teaches girls that their sexuality implies their vulnerability. It is damaging to be
pointed at, jeered at, and laughed at for one's sexuality, and it is infantilizing to know you have to take it." -Robin West, The
Difference in Women's Hedonic Lives: A Phenomenological Critique of Feminist Legal Theory, 3 Wis. Women's L.J. 81
(1987) (quoted in Bowman).

"Street harassment evokes from its targets emotional responses that range from moderate annoyance to intense fear. Two
themes repeatedly appear in women's responses to inquiries about the experience of harassment: the intrusion upon privacy and
the fear of rape....(W)omen point to [the] constant fear of rape and remark that there is no way of knowing which stranger will
in fact turn out to be a rapist. Thus, each time a strange man addresses a woman on the street, she must entertain the possibility
that he might rape her...[a]ll harassment takes place in a social context in which women are always conscious of the threat of
rape. Consequently, any incident of harassment, no matter how 'harmless,' both evokes and reinforces women's legitimate fear
of rape. It does so by reminding women that they are vulnerable to attack and by demonstrating that any man may choose to
invade a woman's personal space, physically or psychologically, if he feels like it. Thus, street harassment forms part of a whole
spectrum of means by which men objectify women and assert coercive power over them, one which is even more invidious
because it is so pervasive and appears, deceptively, to be trivial.

"A recurrent theme of feminist jurisprudence is that the law fails to take seriously events which affect women's lives. The law
trivializes or simply ignores events that have a profound effect upon women's consciousness, physical well-being, and freedom.
Until relatively recently, for example, no term even existed to describe what is now universally called "sexual harassment,"
although the phenomenon itself was well known to women...(A)nother type of sexual harassment that profoundly affects
women's lives: the harassment of women in public places by men who are strangers to them...street harassment. Street
harassment is a phenomenon that has not generally been viewed by academics, judges, or legislators as a problem requiring
legal redress, either because these mostly male observers have not noticed the behavior, or because they have considered it
trivial and thus not within the proper scope of the law...

From a feminist perspective, it is not surprising that existing legal concepts, fashioned primarily by male judges and legislators in
light of the experiences encountered by men, fail to provide effective remedies for the peculiarly female-directed experience of
street harassment. Nonetheless, this failure fundamentally contradicts the values underlying Anglo-American law, for the legal
remedies available to women in this context are inaequate to secure even the most primary goods of a liberal democratic
society. "[L]iberty," as John Locke observed, "is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where
there is no law..." The liberty of women, in this most fundamental sense of freedom from restraint, is substantially limited by
street harassment, which reduces their physical and geographical mobility and often prevents them from appearing alone in
public places. In this sense, street harassment accomplishes an informal ghettoization of women--to the private sphere of hearth
and home." [citations omitted].


Group A Participants: Please think about and respond to the following questions. Post your answer here.

Group B Participants: If you would like to discuss these questions, please post your comments on the general discussion page.

Consider the juxtaposition of Safe-T-Man ad with the excerpt from the article on street harassment. What are the implications
of a woman having a male guardian versus her travelling alone? Is the Safe-T-Man ad a market statement on the need for male
protection of females from attack by other males? Why would something like this sell? Is it fair to market it to women’s safety
fears? To many women, the idea of Safe-T-Man has some resonance—we feel less threatened walking down the street with a
male than we might if walking alone or with another female. Indeed, are women harassed less often if accompanied by a male?
Why is Safe-T-Man different from a car alarm or a handgun?

[Introduction] [History] [Scope] [Feminist Legal Theory] [Case Study Intro] [Case 1: Faulkner] [Case 2: Bobbitt]