Everyday self-defence: Hollaback narratives, habitus and resisting street harassment

Fleetwood, J. 2019. Everyday self-defence: Hollaback narratives, habitus and resisting street harassment. British Journal of Sociology, 70(5), pp. 1709-1729. ISSN 0007-1315 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

Street harassment is recognised as an ‘everyday’ form of violence against women. Influenced by contemporary sociologies of everyday life, this article examines women responses to street harassment, drawing on over 500 first person narratives submitted to the website of Hollaback London. The narrative structure highlights women’s actions, which (like street harassment) have generally been considered inconsequential. Quantitative content analysis reveals the extent and variety of strategies employed by women, including speaking back, calling on others for help, physically fighting-back, walking away and an array of ‘small’, everyday actions and gestures that aim to resist harassment. I argue that these responses comprise everyday self-defence practice. Furthermore, the notion of narrative habitus is employed to argue that Hollaback narratives do not just describe harassment, but that reading narratives can generate dispositions for self-defence. Narrative analysis reveals the way that satire is employed to make space for women’s successful self-defence. I argue that Hollaback narratives do not just offer storylines or scripts for resisting street harassment but foster a style for doing so. Analysis considers the limits to narratively motivated self-defence. This research demonstrates that, in order to ‘see’ women’s resistance, we need to pay close attention to the everyday as the site of both gendered oppression and moments of liberation.

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Street harassment, self-defence, narrative, habitus, everyday

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4 December 2019Published
12 August 2019Published Online
17 July 2019Accepted

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Date Deposited:

12 Aug 2019 14:35

Last Modified:

12 Aug 2021 01:26

Peer Reviewed:

Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.



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