Catcalling and Street Harassment

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Just like any other person (I’m assuming I’m just like any other person) I don’t mind someone speaking to me on the street. A typical “hello” or “how are you doing today” works for me. I consider myself to be a pretty friendly person in the sense that sometimes I’ll acknowledge someone first and that I don’t mind a person speaking to me.

But that can all change if I’m being called or yelled at from across the street by the usual male street harassers. It’s funny how some guys really don’t understand that a normal conversation will do. Besides, I don’t respond well to catcalls and “Hey baby” or “Hey beautiful” are no exceptions either.

Women experience street harassment on a daily basis. Hollaback.com released a video last year entitled, “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.” The video documents the constant street harassment women face from simply walking down the street. Not only it is uncomfortably annoying it falls right along the lines of creepy and sometimes, down-right frightening. It’s as if the male species feels as if they are completely powerful when it comes to a woman simply trying to get from point A to point B.

I recently experienced a situation at a gas station one night. An older man (possibly intoxicated) called at me from the other side of the parking lot. I ignored him until I realized that he wasn’t going to take my lack of a response for an answer, because he repeated himself, louder and much more aggressively. I then responded because I was afraid he would come towards me. Unfortunately for me, after returning from the inside of the gas station where I was harassed three more times, the drunk man was sitting at the gas pump waiting on my return.

I can’t describe the fear I felt as I tried to simply pump my gas and leave. I was probably at the gas station for about 15 minutes, which is a very long time to be at any gas station in any situation. At one point he told me I was pretty enough to kiss and that he wanted a hug. He even began calling other men over to my car from the apartment complex across the street, rushing them to come over before I left. Luckily I was quick enough to leave just as the other guy approached my car and pulled the handle (the doors were locked by that point) as I drove off. No one woman, or any person for that matter, should have to be forced into speaking to someone for fear that the other person will harm them. In more tragic instances this abusive behavior does lead to acts of violence.

The Hollaback.com video only shows instances of verbal harassment but the unwanted attention comes in all forms from catcalling, to sexual harassment and gives the fear of unwanted physical contact. And it is not a cultural thing, as white men contribute to street harassment as well (the video only shows black and Latino men) and proves that it is a global issue. It violates a woman’s privacy to have her freedom breeched by men who don’t understand that we, as women, do not have to respond to their advances. It stems from sexism and a form of violence that women experience at the hands of men. By no means am I bashing men, I am however, acknowledging the problem of street harassment and the constant threats that women face. I want to bring an end to it because it can and does go too far.

Deja Harris is a Graduating Senior Print/Mass Communications major from Jackson, Mississippi. She will be a contributor to The Campus Chronicle for the 2016-2017 school year.

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