Street Harassment, Cat calls. Call it what you want. It’s insulting and even more it’s violating.
I enjoy a nice compliment, but there is a line between making me feel special and making me feel threatened. When a man stares at you with lustful eyes, whistles or grabs at your arm to get your attention, you know what they are looking at and what they are looking for. Street Harassment is a major problem and it affects 90% of women by the age of 19. Beginning at puberty for most (12) it can be a life long experience.
I admit, I have developed an immunity to “hola mami” and “damn girl, what’s your name”, the comments pass me by no longer insulting my mood. There are however the things that will still send me ready to fight, like men who stare and walk a little closer than they need to, so they can brush up against me, or someone in line who insists that breathing down my neck is attractive. Fear definitely pops up when the whistle you ignored starts following you and insisting that you stop being stuck up and give him the time of day. I can’t fight everyone and I refuse to let some idiot with no sense or manners ruin my mood, that is giving him too much power. I pick my battles, the others I let bounce off giving them the importance they deserve, none.
I will however in an instant go to war when a man says anything to my baby sister. I have unfortunately accepted that there are men with no decency in this world, but I can’t accept that for my baby girl. The rage that grabs a hold of me when I know a man is leering at her with sexual intentions makes my blood boil, she is a baby. Maybe having a young sister makes me sensitive to young girls being harassed I see them all as my sister. Organizations like Stop Street Harassment work in fighting this issue and making the streets a safer place for all women and girls. The thought of walking down the street without the worry of a verbal attack seems so foreign and strange, yet with people fighting towards it I believe it can be achieved.
“This is for grown looking girls who only 10… give yourself time to grow” (Nas) and as women with sisters, cousins and children we have to make sure we are instilling in them the importance of being age appropriate. Men seek out the girls that look grown up because they know they are thirsting to “act” grown up and they will prey and take advantage of this. If we want to stop harassment we need to show these girls there is more value in inner self than physical show. They are being taught otherwise by the media, and some young girls may even welcome and encourage the cat calls because they don’t realize the degradation that is actually being done.
I don’t think we provoke situations but I do think some women portray themselves in a manner that displays lack of respect. It is important to be conscious of your own actions if you want to hold people accountable for theirs. I stick to denim and tunic blouses and I face harassment daily, so don’t misconstrue, I do know that this is a struggle in progress and we have to present ourselves with respect and dignity to demand it. Plus leaving something to the imagination keeps it exciting.
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