Leave Women the @#$% Alone!


“You will need this,” my cousin said while gifting me a canister of pepper spray for my high school graduation. “Please be careful.”

Though I am a paranoid person who rarely walks alone, I still sometimes get harassed. My senior year of high school, my friend and I were walking back to my car after seeing a musical downtown, when a car full of men in their late 20s pulled up beside us. They drove next to us as we walked, attempting to persuade us to get in their car. Though it may sound dramatic, I feared for my life in that moment. I didn’t know these men and what they were capable of. So I was polite to them in order to deescalate the situation. I thanked them when they called us pretty, and told them we weren’t available to hang out right now. They still persisted. My friend ended up yelling at them to stop bothering us. They acted like she was insane for being so rude to them. A few minutes later, they drove off.

It is estimated that 1 in 3 women have been or will be a victim of sexual assault in their lifetime. However, this number is most likely inaccurate, because sexual assault is a vastly underreported crime. I am sure any woman I speak to would be able to tell me a story of a time they received unwanted sexual advances from a man. Sexual assault is loosely defined as any unwanted sexual contact, whether that is physically or verbally, which includes cat-calling. As a female, I have been dealing with cat-calling since the ripe age of 13, when I was walking through my high school parking lot and a group of seniors shouted at me, “hey baby, why don’t you come over here and sit on my lap.” We are taught to prevent harm by not walking alone, to carry a weapon on us, to keep our heads down. But why is it our job to prevent someone else’s actions?

Text: empower
Photo by Kelly Sikkema for Unsplash.

The stigma around cat-calling and harassment needs to change. Instead of teaching our young girls to not get harassed, we need to teach our young boys to not harass women. Imagine you are telling someone how to not get hit by a car. You tell them not to jay-walk, to walk on the sidewalk, to follow crosswalk signals, and so forth. They do all of these things, but end up getting hit by a terrible driver. Are you going to blame the person who got hit? Are they going to have to take pedestrian-walking lessons? The answer is no. The bad driver is held accountable. So why do we treat sexual assault like it’s any different? Why does society prepare women for something they have no control over? Why do I have to hold my keys in my fist, or learn how to escape the trunk of a car, or bark like a dog in order to get men away from me? It is not my responsibility to keep bad people away from me. It is the responsibility of others to not engage in these things.

And I hope that in 7 years, when my little cousin Bailey goes off to college, I don’t have to give her a canister of pepper spray.

By Maddie Feeney, Activist Writer

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