Street Harassment and Happiness: The Little Bird Project Collaborates with The Happiness Institute!
The Little Bird project is thrilled to announce its collaboration with The Happiness Institute!, an organization based in San Francisco dedicated to helping people cultivate what makes them come alive. This collaboration will allow us to meet our mutual goals of examining issues surrounding well-being. Through this series of posts, we will examine the simple yet profound topic of happiness: what it is, how it relates to gender-based violence and oppression, and how we can take action to our everyday lives. As always, the Little Bird invites guest posts along these lines as well as the broader lines of a street harassment discussion.
*A note before we start: the Little Bird does not necessarily promote or endorse the informational links provided. Instead, they are used as launching points for discussion. We invite constructive dialogue aligned with our constructive posting guidelines parameters.*
I recently watched a documentary about happiness – Happiness Is – which asserts that happiness is not a result of wealth or achievement, but of community and internal fulfillment. Meanwhile, the challenge of finding (this type of) happiness is complicated by social alienation and all its byproducts, including violence. This Los Angeles Times article uses case studies of school shootings and other violent acts to illustrate the connection between alienation and violence in America. (Sadly, I am writing this post on the same day that a school shooting in Connecticut claimed at least 27 lives. My deepest sympathies to those impacted.) Meanwhile, statistics indicate that one in three women will become victims of gender-based violence, while 99 percent of women experience street harassment (gender-based harassment) every day. The Little Bird knows all too well that street harassment does NOT promote happiness; check out our street harassment stories for examples, and contact the Little Bird to submit your own story.
Would these levels of violence decrease if our society became happier? A few thoughts to start:
- This Alternet.org article details the “pernicious effects that inequality has on societies: eroding trust, increasing anxiety and illness, encouraging excessive consumption” – causing unhappiness. Inequality also impacts public health, causing three times the rate of mental illness, ten times the rate of homicide, and increases in incarceration and other social ills, compared to equal societies.
- Meanwhile, the World Happiness Report 2012, described in this Huffington Post article, ranks countries’ happiness levels using a “life evaluation score,” which is based on factors including people’s health, family, and job security as well as political freedom, government corruption, and other social factors – external factors that impact internal happiness. While the results of the study are debatable, the links between happiness and overall societal wellness are illustrated.
Next question: Why do people sexually harass other people, and would they do so if they were happier? Some thoughts to start:
- Feminist theory asserts that street harassment is caused by unbalanced gender norms, inequality, and society’s tolerance of harassment. Other models, including one articulated in this Psychology Today article, add biology to the list of usual suspects: men are motivated by biological wiring attracted to short-term sexual relationships, eliminating the need for relationship-forming communicative strategies.
- Does happiness have anything to do with (gender-based) disrespect? This article – Retraining the Sexual Harasser – makes the point that the “harasser needs to be interviewed not only with regard to the circumstances surrounding the complaint, but also organizational and interpersonal factors … [including] attitudinal and psychological predispositions… sexual harassment awareness, general levels of stress, and personality factors.”
There is more information out there on the topic, and plenty of opinions. (In the mean time, check out these informational resources on handling street harassment and self defense through Impact Bay Area – empower yourself!) How would YOU synthesize this information, and the relationship between happiness and (street) harassment? And most importantly: what is your own personal call to action?