By: Isabel Contin

Last week, I was leaving a small get together at my friend’s apartment building. As I was walking to my car at around 2 a.m., I noticed someone following me. Out of fear and panic I decided not to look back and walk as swiftly as I could to get to my car safely.

The unknown stranger never said or did anything, but I could hear his footsteps following closely behind me. As the only girl in my family, I had been raised to always stay aware of my surroundings when walking alone. I managed to get into my car and lock my doors immediately before buckling in and driving away. I have no idea if this man was out to get me or if he simply was coincidentally walking the same way as me at two in the morning, but sadly being in this world for so long has taught me one thing: to be afraid.

Street harassment is a very real problem that we are sadly faced with on a daily basis. As women, it is not uncommon to be afraid to walk out at night by ourselves, or even just walk through a group of men in plain daylight. It is intimidating and frightening and it makes us feel vulnerable. Recently, non-profit organization Hollaback released a video of a woman walking through the streets of New York City. They claim she was harassed over 100 times in a span of ten hours. Although we only see a small portion of that amount in the video (and some claim that they might have embellished the total number for effect), it is shocking to see the amount of times she is harassed over such a short period of time.

Being catcalled, groped, harassed, followed, assaulted or even stared at in an aggressive manner all count as street harassment. I have heard many arguments defending the way these men act, from the ever persisting “yeah, well what was she wearing?”, to the more subtle “maybe they find you attractive, learn how to take a compliment.” A compliment is meant to you feel better; being catcalled, followed or talked to in a sexual manner is not a compliment. It makes you feel uncomfortable and frightened. On top of that, the way someone is dressed should never be an excuse for unwanted attention and harassment. I should not be afraid of someone following me in the middle of the night when I have done nothing to make me think I am in danger. However, everything I have seen and heard on top of the cultural habit to turn a blind eye when something horrible happens made me feel terrified in the situation.

We live in an time in which rape and harassment are not only normalized, but expected. We, as women, are taught to be the careful ones. We’ve been conditioned to think in a certain way. It’s like we’re told “hey, don’t you dare get drunk at a party, because some guys might take you into a bedroom and do unspeakable things to you while you are not able to give consent.” Victim blaming seems to be the norm in this day and age, which is both offensive to the woman being harassed and anti-progressive for society as a whole. How about instead of teaching women to cover up and be careful who they trust, we teach men to be more decent human beings and not take advantage or objectify women?

Sexual objectification is real, victim blaming is real, street harassment is real, and gender inequality is real. Rape culture continues to be a problem because of societal attitudes towards rape and harassment. We need to educate ourselves and completely eliminate it from our society. It is definitely not a hard concept to grasp, and it is baffling that everyone does not see a problem with it.

Men may be tired of hearing women “complain” and speak out about harassment and rape issues, but guess what—we are even more tired of talking about it. Give us a reason to stop.

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