Sexual Harassment: Frightening Women Everyday
When walking down the street towards your destination the last thing you would want to hear is derogative words coming out of a stranger’s mouth. Unfortunately, out of every three women at least two have received some form of sexual harassment from a man before. The sexual harassment can range from something as small as a couple of words shouted at you while you walk somewhere to something more dangerous like being followed home or even being assaulted.
A study done by two University of Connecticut researchers, Diane Quinn and Stephanie Chaudoir, suggests that not only does being sexually harassed harm a woman, but also witnessing it. Women who have been or have seen other women get sexually harassed tend to not trust strange men or their intentions. According to a survey done in 2014 by SSH (Stop Street Harassment) over 87 percent of women said they were the target of a sexist comment, and about 45 percent said they’ve been a target of a sexist comment in public at least 25 times in their life. Whether it’s being leered at or being followed home or even something as repulsive as witnessing some random stranger masturbating at or in front of you. As a woman, I don’t have to personally experience these situations for me to feel that they are unacceptable. No woman or man should ever be degraded or humiliated like that just because a someone has decided that they need to let us know how they feel.
My biggest fear as a woman is not that I will get cat called in the middle of the street. My biggest fear as a woman is that at some point in my life someone will try to catch my attention in such a way, and my response will not be enough and will anger them enough to attack or follow me. We are taught growing up by society, men especially, that when a compliment is given you are almost obligated to show gratitude. That having a man go out of his way to show signs that he is interested in you sexually is something that we should appreciate and not run away from. Hollaback: a non-profit and movement to end harassment in public spaces took to the streets to show what woman go through in New York. Shoshana B. Roberts signed up for 10 hours of just walking through New York streets with a camera concentrated on her and two secret microphones hidden, picking up all the comments coming from men around her. In those ten hours, she was harassed 108 times. She was called names, stared at, followed, etc. Now, some people will try to argue that maybe she got that much attention because of what she was wearing, maybe even provoked the men. This beautiful young woman walked those ten hours without speaking to anyone and wearing a simple black tee shirt and dark jeans. She didn’t wear tight clothing, low cut shirts, or even leggings that accentuated the bottom half of her body. There is no reason or excuse for how those men felt it was appropriate to come up to her. There is no reason for why a young woman must be concerned about the comments that might be thrown her way.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, sexual harassment is the uninvited and unwelcome verbal or physical behavior of a sexual nature especially by a person in authority toward a subordinate. Unfortunately, Webster forgets that sexual harassment does not only happen in the workplace. BEWARE! It can happen anytime and anywhere. I cannot stand by while people continue to belittle women with their ghastly words or their sickening actions. Without actions being taken against men that think this is alright, we lead them to believe that we will not object once they go too far. There should not be men following women on the streets, men touching women on subways, men calling women anything at all and expecting a reply, men expecting women to fall over themselves because they utter some nice words at us.
A lot of women are subjected to this kind of thing every day. When Leah Green from the Guardian tested men and their reactions to what women regularly go through, men were shocked that a woman would talk to them in that way. She walked the streets asking random men if they would like to go home with her. Most men looked at her like she was crazy. She went into a hardware store and belittled the person working there as she asked if there was a woman that worked there who could help her out because she would probably know more about that sort of thing. She stood near a man and leered at him while he smoked a cigarette, and it was obvious in the video that the man felt very uncomfortable. She even went as far as asking two older men walking together if they had ever made out with each other. The reactions that the men had to these questions or suggestive behavior that she portrayed were that of what women show every day. In the article, she writes about how one day while walking down the street she saw a chair that she liked outside a shop and commented to the shop’s proprietor about the chair only to be asked in return if she and her friend had ever made out. After that comment Green and her friend fled the scene feeling embarrassed and more than a little humiliated. All the comments and sexual innuendo that she used for her short movie were also used by men towards other women, even to herself.
Jessica Valenti said, “Women who are harassed, at work, on the street, or even online, are subject to the same rigid purity standards as women who are sexually assaulted; Just by virtue of being out in public, we’re overstepping certain boundaries.” Being out in the streets we often must worry that men will somehow find an excuse to speak to us or get too close. We worry that somehow what we do or say or even wear will offend someone enough for them to want to cause us some type of harm. Being sexually harassed is a form condescending women. We have gone through years of being put down by men only because we lack a physical attribute that they think is important. To men out there who think that it is okay to degrade women, I want to ask you, would you be so accepting if this was being done to your mother or sister or even your daughter?