Taking a stand against sexual harassment



On a warm, cloudy evening this week, I was making my way to North Campus from Coffea after it closed at midnight.

Avenue of Champions is a broad, well-lit street frequented by police, and since this was a normal walk for me, not a hint of danger crossed my mind — until I heard the mating call of a young man.

In a show of obvious intelligence, this man decided to hang out of a car window and yell “Hey sexy!” at me as I ambulated down the sidewalk.

That, dear readers, is when I felt threatened. Why, you might ask? Well, there is all 5-foot-4-inch, 120 pound of me on foot and at least 200 pounds of another person in a huge vehicle. Who wouldn’t feel unsettled by such a show of physical power?

Sexual harassment is an issue rarely discussed on this campus, yet it occurs more than frequently. As women, we are taught to ignore such comments and “move on,” but I don’t see how this helps anything at all. Women keep ignoring these pointless advances, but (mostly) men keep making them. Frankly, I’m sick of taking it.

Sexual harassment can be as subtle as a whistle or as obvious as catcalls or groping (which is actually assault). It can come from strangers or acquaintances, men or women. No matter what form, harassment is still demeaning and unjust.

What do these harassers want? Do they think I’ll want to go home with them because they hollered at me? Do they want me to thank them for a compliment? No.

The purpose of sexual harassment is to demonstrate an outdated power dynamic between the harasser and the victim, with the victim in the more vulnerable position. Not only is it rather embarrassing to be harassed, but also harassment benefits no one and nothing tangible is gained by either person. Sexual harassment has nothing to do with “boys being boys,” or what one, is wearing, how drunk a person is or if someone is walking alone.

None of these elements have anything to do with the overwhelming urge that befalls complete strangers to objectify me without hesitation. Truly, nothing dampens my day more than knowing that patriarchy is alive and well after a man decides to remind me of my womanly figure in public. Sexual harassment is illegal and no one deserves to be harassed for any reason.

I have found that the best way to control sexual harassment is to stand up to harassers rather than silently brush off the situation. You can remind them politely that it is not their place to comment on such things in public and that they are breaking the law.

If there are plenty of witnesses around the shock is multiplied, for the harasser gets to feel just as embarrassed as the victim. Simply be blunt, be polite and take a stand against a crime and a power dynamic that has been dismissed for too long. Of course, if the harasser is on the go, like the gentleman I recently encountered, the one finger salute is always a great response.

One gesture can say it all: I do not enjoy being rudely yelled at for no reason other than my perceived gender, and I am not going to take it politely.

Allie Huddleston is a freshman gender and women’s studies major. Email the [email protected].