Ask any woman you know, and I’ll bet she has some sort of story about a time a man did or said something in public that made her uncomfortable. It happens all the time. Women live in fear because of it. Yet society still tries to make it look like woman are to blame and like men aren’t doing anything wrong. And it’s not okay.
Having a strange man snap a photo of you. Hearing a “compliment” that isn’t really a compliment. Being touched without permission. Hearing cat calls on the street. There’s no shortage of these stories to be found among women today.
In a recent blog post, Erin Bailey shared her stories about being harassed and encouraged her readers to do the same. The response was overwhelming. Women from all over were sharing their experiences with men who didn’t respect them. She eventually had to turn the comments section off because people began harassing each other — it even happens online. But this post showed the harsh truth that women already know: No matter their age, ethnicity, shape or size, women have been subjected to offensive comments and harassment from men based on their appearances.
And the truth gets even sadder when you realize just how young this kind of harassment starts. Women took to Twitter to share their first experiences of street harassment with the hashtag #WhenIWas, revealing instances of girls as young as six being subjected to comments or advances from strangers.
It often gets to the point where women are actually afraid to go out in public — even in the middle of the day. It’s not at night in creepy alleys that women are getting harassed. Women can be harassed at 3 pm in the grocery store or in the morning at the coffee shop. No matter where or when, if a man spots a woman he likes to look at, he often thinks he can say or do whatever he wants.
Women don’t always speak out about these kinds of experiences. Why? Because society still puts the blame on the woman. “She must have been asking for it. Why was she wearing such a slutty outfit? What did she expect? Isn’t that flattering?”
These lines have become excuses for this kind of harassment. People spread the message that women should take these kinds of encounters as a compliment, that they should be flattered. They say that they must have been dressing provocatively or being overly sexual. These lies have been spread so much that even women start to believe them.
These excuses, though, are just that: excuses. And don’t we only make excuses for behavior that we know is wrong? People who are still arguing that women bring this type of behavior on themselves are trying to justify their behavior rather than changing it. A woman has heavy makeup on, so you think you can go up to her and make some disgusting comment? Let me assure you: She was not putting that makeup on and thinking, “Boy, I hope some random guy comes up to me tonight and says he wants to sleep with me!”
The truth of the matter is that no woman — or man, for that matter — deserves any kind of attention she doesn’t want, especially when it’s related to her body or appearance.
Women should be allowed to dress as sexy as they want without fear of endless men harassing them. Maybe we want to dress up for ourselves or for a girl’s night out. We aren’t asking for you to make us uncomfortable just because we feel good in this skirt.
A woman should be allowed to go to the gym or for a run or to the grocery store without having to look over her shoulder constantly to make sure she’s not being watched or followed. We shouldn’t be scared of being in public for fear of a man making inappropriate advances.
Women should be allowed to feel empowered, feel sexy, feel confident, feel happy without the thought or fear of how a man will react to it.
The bottom line is that women are people. We aren’t meat. We aren’t bait. No matter what we have on, no matter how friendly we’re being, inappropriate comments or actions are just that: inappropriate.
It’s time for women everywhere to speak up. Tell your stories, and spread the word about how this isn’t okay. Say something when you feel uncomfortable. It’s become clear that society’s viewpoint on this issue isn’t changing rapidly, so it’s up to us to make that change — to speak up and make people listen. Let others know that a cat call isn’t a compliment. That you aren’t allowed to Snapchat a picture of a random woman to all of your friends. That women are people — people who deserve respect and the ability to live our lives without commentary on our bodies.
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