Men: Imagine the following scenario.
You are doing work late into the night (let’s say on your college campus). Finally you look at the time, and realize that its 3 am and you decide to make the trek back to your off-campus apartment. It’s a cold so you throw on your gloves, scarf, and hoodie and begin to walk home. After taking your usual path behind the sorority house and through a dorm parking lot, you take one of your usual short cuts down a street with no lights. As you start getting excited to finally almost be home which gets you one step closer to get sleep before your big exam tomorrow, you look up and see a woman walking about 15 feet in front of you. She perks up as she hears you walking closer and looks back very quickly. You see intense fear in her eyes as she immediate doubles her walking pace. You start to feel really uncomfortable that she is clearly terrified of YOU.
Should you tell her “Hey, chill… I’m cool” or “I’m a good guy!” ?
Should you tell her that you have been studying the unit on masculinity and gender-based violence for your sociology exam tomorrow? Should you tell her that you volunteer your time at the university’s rape crisis center?
You’ve got to say something right? I mean you’re a great person. Right? Why is she so damn scared?
Should you say anything at all? You just want her to know that its okay and that theres nothing to be afraid of.
So what does this have to do with street harassment? Imagine that same fear that woman felt. Thats a fear that many women face every single day. Now couple that with a group of men staring, whistling, “complimenting” screaming, or following her. Our intentions aside, we have to be aware that historically, some men have screwed up this system and now we’re all paying. We get a bad name and get judged before people even know us… and women have to live hyper-vigilant and even fearful every day when on the street. I’m certainly not saying that as men we have it “just as bad” as women, I’m just pointing out that we’d all benefit from ending street harassment.
Does the scenario above sound like anything you’ve dealt with or experienced before?
This was my very first experience with street harassment as an undergraduate at Syracuse University. Actually, it was my very first experience where I finally realized I play a role in street-harassment. More importantly, I play a role in ending it. #EndSHweek
Sacchi Patel. March 2012.