Blame society for street harassment

Kate Clark

Just because you don’t know my name doesn’t mean that it’s “Hun.”Likewise, my parents were kind enough not to bestow upon me the name “sweetheart,” “darling,” “good-looking” or any similar moniker. And definitively nowhere on my birth certificate does it say “bitch” or “whore.”Yet for some reason strangers have decided these terms were perfectly acceptable ways to acknowledge me, and many other women.

KateClark
Kate Clark

This is street harassment, an interaction among strangers that is deemed unwelcoming and disrespectful. Some estimate 70 to 99 percent of women will face it sometime in their life, and despite being routinely pushed under the rug as unimportant. It is a serious issue to those targeted by it.

A 2012 Gallup poll found that while 89 percent of men in the United States feel safe walking alone at night, only 62 percent of women do. That’s because street harassment isn’t just name calling, unintelligible yells and whistles from passing cars. The term encompasses other actions such as stalking, grabbing, being the target of public masturbation and assault.

And the downright scary side is it occurs in Marquette, and I’ve had firsthand experience with it.In one instance, while walking home alone late one night, which according to some would be my first mistake, I noticed that a person was facing me at the end of the block. My initial thoughts were that they recognized me or were possibly waiting for someone but those feelings began to fade and were replaced by “don’t make eye contact” and “you’re one block away from home, have your keys ready.”

Two feet away, I began to calculate how to inconspicuously side step around, without actually looking at him. I also began to notice how much physically larger than me he was, which is no small feat considering I stand around 5 feet 9 inches.

“Where you going, sweetie?”Keep looking forward.“Hey.”

I could hear his footsteps begin to crunch over the ice and snow behind me.

“I’m not going to hurt you. Quit being a cunt.”

He stopped commenting, but his footsteps continued to follow me as I looped around my block, backtracked my path and crossed streets for good measure.

I did this because I didn’t know if following a random girl was simply fun for him or if he’d actually follow me up my drive to my apartment, where I lived alone.“It’s a statement of power,” Laura Bates said in a recent Guardian article on her own experiences. “It’s a way of letting me know that a man has the right to my body, a right to discuss it, analyse it, appraise it and let me or anybody else in the vicinity know his verdict, whether I like it or not.”

Women in our society are regularly objectified in their everyday lives. By letting the little things slide, whether it be with children and the phrase “boys will be boys” or harassment and being told to “take it as a compliment,” we allow for bigger attacks on agency to be viewed as acceptable.

It’s why young girls are taught how to avoid being raped and are regularly blamed if they are, but when political analyst Zelina Maxwell said last year on the “Sean Hannity Show” that, “we can prevent rape by telling men not to commit it,” she received death threats.

With street harassment, we are conditioned to view it as normal, something that’s just going to happen.

It doesn’t have to happen though. I, and countless other people, have no reason to be screamed at, touched without our consent, followed home or told what expression to wear on our face.

Artist Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s streetart series, “Stop Telling Women to Smile” began in Brooklyn in 2012 and has since appeared in multiple cities in the United States.

The series features reminders such as, “women do not owe you their time or conversation,” and “women are not outside for your entertainment.”

Fazlalizadeh said being catcalled almost daily is what inspired her to create the project.

Catcalling and the problems she mentions in her works, are the ones that are regularly seen as unimportant, but over time they do add up. You start to alter your opinion of yourself and your daily life.

Of course, you can always take it as compliment.

Having experienced both genuine compliments and skeevy comments, I can say this doesn’t work.

A compliment makes you feel good, harassment makes you feel gross.

Finally, when faced with street harassment on the sole basis of being a woman remember, “boys will be boys.”

While there probably isn’t any biological reason for men to treat women as objects for their enjoyment, society made sure to raise them so they do.