Femme de la Rue

Today I want to share with you one of the worst things about Brussels. I know that may sound a little odd for this blog, but this is just too important not to post.

Last week a documentary by Belgian film student Sofie Peeters made the headlines across Europe. The film about sexual harassment in the streets of Brussels shows a dark and disgusting side of this city. In general Brussels is not unsafe but, like many other women, I’ve received unsolicited and inappropriate comments from men in the street and was even followed a couple of times. However I’ve been lucky to never experience anything like Sofie and the other women in the film. What I saw really troubled me and, much like Sofie in her concluding remarks, it’s hard to see what the solution to the problem might be.

Much has already been written about the film (here and here) and I don’t want to analyze it here. And this of course is not a problem unique to Brussels. I just simply think everyone should watch this – both men and women.

So what’s being done to address the problem? The city of Brussels plans to introduce fines for sexual intimidation as of September. Women are sharing their stories and fighting back through initiatives like Hollaback! which I wrote about a few months ago. This is a good start but somehow it doesn’t seem like enough. I don’t have the answer but I hope Sofie’s film continues to raise attention around this serious issue and that we as a society can take concrete steps to end sexism, harassment and violence.

Whatever your views on the issue, please pass this on and share with others.

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2 thoughts on “Femme de la Rue

  1. mikanqueen says:

    I lived in Brussels for 5 years and it was a city i enjoyed calling home, for the most part. While I haven’t seen the film or followed the controversy, I have experienced unwanted attention and even assault (both sexually motivated) by men of immigrant origin or descent on the streets of Brussels. As you say, this is a particularly unpleasant side to the European capital.

    Having also seen at first hand how schizophrenic the Brussels’ and Belgian authorities behave towards large sections of their populations (ie the ones who migrate legally or otherwise there and their descendants), I can’t help thinking that this problem of sexual harassment is indicative of a failure of the ‘welcoming’ authorities and ethnic community representatives to find ways for us all to live in harmony together. I deliberately don’t use the word ‘integrate’ because it has negative connotations for those expected to fit themselves between ever-changing goalposts. I genuinely believe that we all need to adapt. But that doesn’t mean that one group should suffer the indiscriminate use of power by another – in this case men over women.

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