Street harassment: hit the road jack

By Katie Jolgren | Staff Writer

Catcalling, whistles. Being told to smile.
Some men think such comments are completely harmless. They walk past a woman and tell her she looks pretty today, and then when she ignores them, they ask why she won’t talk to them.
These men do in fact know exactly what they are doing. They are completely aware of the stifling fear they instill in a woman. They enjoy the power of intimidation. Often they converge in groups and prey on two women or a woman alone.
When they are in a pack, cowardly men turn into beasts, especially when they are in a car driving. As they yell catcalls out of a moving vehicle, the woman being harassed has no chance to respond and they have had their thrill.
Actually, obnoxious men in cars are much easier to deal with than men on the street. They are usually too afraid to approach a woman alone. They speed off shouting and whistling, leaving you shaken up but perfectly intact.
It is the men who are brazen enough to approach me on the street or walking to my car who scare me. If they are alone, it is easy enough to brush them off, but not before they look you up and down and deliver an appraisal of your appearance today.
These low life men will tell you how pretty you look and that they would take good care of you if you were their girl.
Clearly, that can’t be true. Otherwise they would have a girl to be taking care of right now.
In the past, I never feared walking on campus. Of course, women have to be cautious at night, keys gripped between your fingers and a hand on your bag. But I’ve never been afraid of any men, young or old, whom I encounter at Citrus.
But this semester, there has been a surge of harassment, and I no longer feel safe. When a group of five or more men approach you and begin catcalling you within earshot of 15 other people, it’s just not humiliating, it’s frightening.
Street harassment has happened to me and I am sure I am not the only woman who has dealt with it. These men had no fear of onlookers stepping in or taking action to defend me. They understood that they would be able to get away with this gender intimidation. They certainly were not wrong.
With the release of the YouTube video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman,” the viewer sees exactly what it is like for women on a daily basis. Granted, I have not been harassed continually for 10 hours, but I do empathize and fear for this woman.
That’s the biggest problem here. Men may not realize the fear that such remarks cause in women. They do not understand what it’s like for a woman to tense up every time a group of men approaches them or the cold sweat that breaks out once they leave.
It’s refreshing to see both women and men becoming aware of street harassment and attempting to find solutions. With the recent creation of the #DudesGreetingDudes hashtag on Twitter, we see men tackling the hypocrisy of catcalling. While some men may try to defend their advances as niceties, this hashtag is asking men if they would do the same thing to other men, and overwhelmingly the answer is “no.”
The conversation has begun, but there is a lot more work that has to be done before we can all feel safe.


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