I’m of the view that one of the reasons public sexism happens, whether it’s street harassment, sexist jokes, or objectifying comments in the men’s room, is because men don’t think they’ll be called out on it. And if they are called out on it, they’ll be called out by women – and in these situations, women’s objections don’t hold that much sway. As important as I think it is for women to register their discontent with sexist jokes and catcalling, I don’t think these things will go away until the men who do them can stop counting on the implicit approval of other men.
Hugo Schwyzer has written about this, at length, in the context of street harassment:
As frustrating as it is to acknowledge, most harassers harass because they understand that their behavior is sanctioned by their male peers, be those peers on a golf course or a basketball court. A great deal of sexual harassment takes place in the view of other men; frequently, the harassment is a form of puerile male bonding. The best counter-attack to this behavior goes beyond confrontation. The best long-term solution is creating small communities of men who are willing — as a group — to model a very different way of being male. It’s about connecting with other men with whom you can stand in solidarity and together speak out against harassment that happens in your community.
Schwyzer concludes that “the most effective agents against harassment are those who fight it with a recognizable credibility.”