The very real issue of sexual harassment

Danielle Zukowski

Last week Hollaback!, an anti-street harassment organization, aired a video of a woman being catcalled as she silently walked down New York City streets that soon became viral. The actress is a reflection of the objectification that occurs every day.

Objectify: to reduce a person to an object; to confiscate their humanity with a word, a look, a touch. People become inanimate in the midst of harassment. As a young woman, this diminution is all too familiar.

Many of the video’s comments when typed out may appear harmless, but in actuality they are not. This damage is not limited to stereotypical “women.” People in general, whichever gender identification, do not head outside in search of this pestering. When downtown for class or work, reaching that destination is our sole goal. We are not yearning for what resembles compliments or “innocent” greetings.

It is incredibly discomforting when a stranger approaches someone of our age, typically unacquainted with city settings. These “compliments” are interpreted as potential threats to our safety. They generate hesitancy before exploring the city alone, which should not exist especially in broad daylight. And especially when a person, such as myself, values their independence but, frankly, fears the audacity of strangers. Obviously, my words don’t hold true for everyone, but at least from my experience I can attest to this.

Last weekend, I rode the Greyhound home to Detroit. Being a frequent user of public transportation, I have become quite accustomed to certain intrusions on my comfort zone and exercise necessary precautions, but that does not imply acceptability.

For the most part I am a friendly person. I will gladly return a hello or a smile. I appreciate a held door. Be it in a suitable environment, those exchanges are polite. However, I am not comfortable with a random city dweller advancing toward me for no apparent reason from a distance when emitting no attempt to interact.

I understand that some people are genuinely trying to be mannerly on public transit, but it is just not as innocent as it appears when it distresses people. A constant guard is our façade designed to protect ourselves.

An older man should not sit next to a young girl when every single other seat on a bus is vacant. Any form of touching is inappropriate, regardless of the motivation. Any remark on my appearance, complimentary or otherwise, is misdirected. You are not entitled to terms of endearment. The times I had to relocate while waiting in the Detroit bus station due to these safety offenses were exhausting.

Buses issue warnings on smoking and violence on board. Where is the briefing on the very real issue of sexual harassment?