As the wise Christiane Amanpour once said, “I never assumed ever that because I was a woman that anything was off limits to me,” a quote that has become a foundation in the pursuit of gender equality.
In what world is it acceptable for a young woman to be followed down the street, and repeatedly harassed by a man’s inappropriate and degrading comments regarding the physique of her body, or the look of her face? In what time period, century, or generation do we live in that makes demeaning street harassment still even remotely acceptable?
It is 2015, yet somehow we seem to still have issues with inequality and discrimination within our society. As I share my story of daily street harassment, and the effects it has on a woman, it is by no means meant to be some man-hating, feminist manifesto. I’m simply declaring for myself, and for all women, the right to respect, demanding the wild notion of the most basic form of human rights.
“Those jeans look great from behind.”
“You would look so much prettier if you smiled for me.”
“Hey baby, why don’t you come on over here, and we can talk for a few minutes.”
And what I believe to be the tackiest of them all, “Did you fall from heaven because you look like an angel to me.”
Occurring just within the last week or two, I was walking to a coffee shop to study for an upcoming midterm exam, I had on my backpack, glasses, and was most definitely NOT “asking for it”, but for some strange reason a man had the nerve to come up and tell that woman aren’t supposed to study. What? Is it not 2015? This man legitimately told me that I was too pretty to be smart (as if the two are somehow directly correlated), and I should find myself a nice man to take care of me.
Excuse me sir, but once again, what? Are you saying that I cannot, or that I should not further my personal intellectual pursuits or a higher education because I am a woman? Is this really the progressive society we are so proud to live in today?
Until now, I have always been so honored to be a part of such an accepting generation; I have lived in a time in which so many historic, revolutionary events have taken place. These strides forward have included the legalization to gay marriage, the legalization of marijuana, the first African American President of the United States of America, a decrease in the stigma surrounding mental health, woman holding prominent positions in office, and so much more.
I am gratified to live in a country in which slavery has been abolished, segregation has been eradicated, and citizens are given the freedom to express their own speech, beliefs, ideas, and religion. But in reality, are we really as free and forward thinking as we believe ourselves to be? Is society really moving in the right direction if our women feel unsafe and uncomfortable just by leaving their houses?
The devaluing of woman is still a HUGE issue within our society, and is a whole human rights issue of its own. Cat calling alone contributes to the perception of how a woman should be treated, and in the grand scheme of things, contributes to society’s corrupt rape culture that has been based on the devaluation of women. How is a woman expected to pursue her dreams as if they were limitless, if she can’t even make it two blocks without being made feel inferior?
After asking a variety of women to describe how cat calling and street harassment has personally made them feel, the results make your heart sink. Some of the most common responses were: worthless, unsafe, uncomfortable, unprotected, demeaned, helpless, small, inferior, shameful, degraded, humiliated, cheap, and devalued.
This condensed list is just a sneak peek into the feelings of woman around New York City, a city that is merely a dot on the map. So I speak on behalf of these women, who should never be made to feel this way again, when I say the catcalling is NOT and will NEVER be a compliment. Catcalling is street harassment, and it is downright disrespectful. If you really want to “compliment” a woman, you may compliment her by showing your respect to her.
A Public Service Announcement to all Catcallers: I know this may come as a shock, but contrary to popular belief, I do not wake up every morning and put on a cute little outfit to impress the downtown construction workers as I walk by. I have am not “asking for it.” Excuse me, but I am not, nor will I ever be your “baby.” I did not put on makeup or do my hair in hopes that you would call me pretty. Please don’t you dare tell me to smile for you, I won’t.
Let me make it very clear that as I am walking down the street, I have never once sought out or asked for your seal of approval. Despite your suggestion, I will not, and should not, kill myself because I didn’t take the time of day to respond to your disrespectful remarks. I owe you absolutely nothing.
As contributors to society, it is imperative that women receive the respect they deserve, and to accomplish that, woman must know and understand that in which they deserve. Don’t just care about the respect of a woman because it is your mom, wife, sister, daughter, niece, friend, etc., but care because no matter who the woman is, that woman is a person.
Always remember, “I really want to marry the guy who whistled at me from his car.” –said no woman ever.