By Sarah C.
Walking home, I felt eyes on me from behind and turned around to see a middle-aged man staring at me. “How’s your day baby? You’d look much better if you smiled!” I said nothing in return but rolled my eyes in disgust and continued on my path. He followed behind me and I picked up my speed, hoping that in his drunken stupor he would not be able to keep up. The comments continued as I got closer and closer to home, and my hands tightened into fists. Instead of going to my house, I zig-zagged across my neighborhood, hoping he’d lose interest. I lost him after a while but could not shake the feeling of insecurity at the pit of my stomach. After talking to my female friends, I learned that they had all been in similar predicaments before.
Feeling unsafe due to street harassment is something that most girls unfortunately get used to as they grow up. Some may see the unsolicited comments as compliments. However, they are simply another reminder that we are being viewed as objects instead of people. The problem is not simply those who do the harassing, but also those who allow it to happen. In the words of Desmond Tutu, a South African social rights activist, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” Although many do not catcall women, they laugh along when their friends do, or simply stay silent.
When our culture tolerates men who harass women on the street, it reinforces the idea that they have the right to do or say whatever they please to a woman’s body. Although something like a catcall may seem harmless, it contributes to the larger, very serious issue of sexual assault. So, next time you or someone you know feels the urge to bother a woman walking by, think about whether you want to be part of the problem, or part of the solution. Remember that this woman is not seeking your validation.
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