Gigi Hadid: Self-Defense Is ‘Everyone’s Right,’ Yet Worldwide The Majority Of Women Experience Street Harassment

Gigi Hadid’s self-defense when attacked in Milan by a so-called prankster who habitually molests celebrities, got worldwide attention last week. The man grabbed Gigi from behind and lifted her completely off the ground. Gigi managed to elbow him in the jaw and get free of his grasp. Her attacker then ran away. Gigi tried to go after him, furious, but the same bodyguards who stood by and did nothing, held her back. Is this just something women are supposed to tolerate?

Gigi Hadid’s self-defense has stirred a worldwide debate on a woman’s right to self-defense and to defend her own body. It is a conversation that is well overdue, as women in many parts of the world, even in the United States, are unable to walk down the street without experiencing frightful harassment and risking far worse. According to Gallup, 45 percent of American women are afraid to walk, even near their homes, after dark, compared to 27 percent of men.

The women of the world have been made to feel afraid, and no one has said very much about it until Gigi Hadid’s self-defense demonstration. Miss Hadid was attacked and fought back. Most women face their harassment in a form of public isolation, as everyone else looks the other way and they tolerate. Sexual harassment in public places is a form of bullying, that has been tolerated, to a greater or lesser extent, for centuries.

Gigi Hadid was targeted because of her fame, but all women know, one doesn’t have to be famous to be harassed on the street. Like most forms of victimization, often the first reaction is one of embarrassment and humiliation. It is humiliating to take abuse in public because of one’s race, gender, religion, or any of the other details bullies use to intimidate people. It can be hard to initiate self-defense strategies in the face of paralyzing public humiliation.

Women all over the world feel conflicted. They feel punked down and cowardly as if they had betrayed their own being when they don’t defend themselves. Yet many women feel fighting back is somehow socially unacceptable. They don’t want to make a scene. In some cases, a strong self-defense might be illegal or they fear fighting back could provoke an even stronger attack.

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Gigi Hadid on the runway for Tommy x Gigi [Image by Randy Brooke/Getty Images]

Gigi Hadid’s self-defense forced the world to take a closer look at the message people are sending out to their own daughters about their rights as human beings. Are women obligated to tolerate being grabbed on the streets and perhaps dragged away? To risk rape or death in the name of being lady like seems awfully extreme, but that seems to be what one writer was suggesting. In an interview with Lenny, Gigi expressed disdain at the earliest reactions to her self-defense story.

“The first article that was posted about the incident was headlined: “Not model behavior. Gigi aggressively lashes out and elbows fan in the face after he tries to pick her up. The supermodel angrily hit an unknown man before running to her car.” That’s when I really got p*ssed. First of all, it was a woman who wrote the story with that headline. What would you tell your daughter to do? If my behavior isn’t model behavior, then what is? What would you have told your daughter to do in that situation?”

Gigi Hadid fought back against harassment and another woman’s first reaction was to condemn Miss Hadid for protecting her own life. Gigi did not run to her car immediately after the attack. She tried to pursue her attacker once she had hit him hard enough to make him run away. Gigi’s response was one of strength. Secondly, even though Miss Hadid was in a large crowd, no one even lifted a finger to help her except her little sister. It was very telling of what happens on the streets every day to women all over the world.

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Gigi Hadid {Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]

Women worldwide are afraid, mostly because they don’t feel they have the right to defend themselves until they are certain they are fighting for their life. It shouldn’t have to go that far before a woman has the right to fight back. An organization called Stop Street Harassment has posted worldwide statistics, and although the specifics vary, the message is clear. All over the world, women put up with way too much.

Gigi Hadid’s self-defense statements highlight a worldwide and age-old problem. In Australia, 65 percent of women experience physically threatening harassment according to Stop Street Harassment. In Buenos Aires, 100 percent of women revealed they had been harassed on the streets and 37 percent of those involved indecent exposure. In the UK, 45 percent of young women, 18-24, had experienced unwanted sexual touching in public. All French women who responded to the survey said they had been sexually harassed on public transportation.

Gigi Hadid told Lenny that she felt she was in real danger. What else would anyone think if they were grabbed from behind by a stranger and lifted off the ground? Women have a right to prevent unwanted touching of their bodies anyway. This man had no right to put his hands on Miss Hadid or any other woman and who knows what might have happened next? Gigi could have been abducted. The people around her, even Miss Hadid’s own bodyguards, didn’t try to stop the attack.

“Honestly, I felt I was in danger, and I had every right to react the way I did. If anything, I want girls to see the video and know that they have the right to fight back, too, if put in a similar situation. Practicing self-defense is important so that when you’re in the moment, reacting from muscle memory comes more naturally to you than freezing up.”


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Gigi Hadid has sent a clear message. Fight back. Self-defense is everyone’s basic human right. Statistics show that the situation is a bit better in the United States, where women may be more likely and more legally empowered to fight back in self-defense, but even in America, 65 percent of all women said they had been harassed in public and 23 percent of those were sexually touched. Nine percent had been forced to perform a sexual act against their will.

Gigi Hadid’s self-defense message spoke to the billions of women worldwide who experience abuse on the streets of their own hometowns, on a nearly daily basis. Gigi responded to Lenny, explaining that she was speaking on behalf of others who didn’t have the support she enjoys.

“I know people are put in much worse situations every day and don’t have the cameras around that provoke social-media support. I just want to use what happened to me to show that it’s everyone’s right, and it can be empowering, to be able to defend yourself.”

Gigi Hadid’s self-defense raised awareness because she fought back and now Gigi is speaking up for women all over the world.

[Featured Image by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images]