Recently there has been an uptick in posts, video content and articles about street harassment. I’m glad that there is more attention being drawn to it. I for one cannot stand being approached, ogled or catcalled as I walk down the street. Being told I look delicious, or accosted with a “Can I ask you a question? Why are you so beautiful?” is not my idea of a man with good intentions giving a lady a compliment. Now, growing up in a Latino household, I am fully aware of the cultural customs of addressing a woman with a compliment to express the fact that she is seen and you acknowledge her. However, it seems as if the majority of men have not received the memo and resort to barking at a woman from a car as she walks by or undressing her with your eyes and yelling “You have a nice ASS!” when she’s far enough away as appropriate measures. Both of these cases have happened to me. There’s a large range from being respectful and friendly to being crude and defensive when she does not acknowledge your advances or attempts to garner her attention. Street harassment is ridiculous and unsafe. If you’re making a woman feel uncomfortable in public then you should probably rethink your communication strategy. Women should feel safe leaving their homes, dressed as they wish and not have to receive the repercussions of wardrobe selection for the day. That being said, with the focus being on street harassment specifically, I’d like to turn our attention to other forms of harassment that happen all of the time off the streets.
Women aren’t only made to feel uncomfortable on the streets, but also on the train, at bars, stores, work and even in private homes. Yes, we are all aware of the various HR rules set in place at companies regarding sexual harassment in the work place and the measure to ensure women feel safe at work, but it tends to stop there. Men can argue that we should take such advances as compliments or ways to break the ice with women, but often times they are making most women feel uncomfortable and sexualized. Why do I bring this up? Let’s take it back a couple of weeks.
A friend of mine had a costume party at her house. I was dressed in one of my usual creative costumes; I was Mrs. Peanut; nothing about my costume was sexy in any way. While talking with a group of people, I felt someone brush against my bum. I shrugged it off as someone simply walking by and trying to get through since it was a house party and there’s only so much room. Then I felt it again, this time lingering and rubbing and groping my backside as if it were a melon being checked for ripeness. I turned to see a man in his mid to late 40’s with other men of his age discussing my “great ass”. I told him not to touch me and his retort was, “You have a great ass!” I said, “I know, stop grabbing it!” He could only muster up that he wasn’t and I made sure he knew that if he touched me again I was going to make sure to touch his face with my fist.
No one should feel like someone is violating them at any point. We can go around and point fingers that the majority of these so-called men are actually boys in their 20’s and 30’s, but the fact of the matter is that this is an issue with men of all ages. Even in networking, I’ve had a man gush over how great my legs looked at a networking event. He’s old enough to be my father and yet felt as if this was an acceptable subject to discuss to butter me up for networking purposes; not how great my work in social media and marketing is, but how great my body looked since I had taken up boxing. What most men forget is that a woman’s value is not measured by her looks, but in all of the other attributes she has to offer. Intelligence, disposition, creativity and other talents that make up who she is as a person are what are more important than any body part. I’m not saying that men are not allowed to be attracted to the gift wrapping, but the whole package is what is more valuable and making a woman feel special should not be specifically based on that bow she wears.
To avoid a full on rant, let’s remember that harassment isn’t only in the streets and to fully squash this issue, it begins with treating women with respect in any environment. Let’s live by the rule of thumb, “would you talk to your sister, mother or grandmother that way?”. And last time I checked, most men don’t talk to their girlfriends or wives like that either. In a nutshell, fellas, if you want to compliment, impress or simply strike up a conversation with a woman, maybe avoid the clichéd pick up line, catcall or “God bless you, ma.”. Gender equality doesn’t mean women should fire back with our own catcalls and inappropriate advances towards men, it’s respect for each other and the knowledge that we are more than just the shell in which we are encased.
What are your thoughts about harassment? Am I overreacting to this topic in general? Do you think this issue is finally important and in the forefront of the media enough to tackle? I’d love to see your comments below!