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The Things We Must Endure

Date: February 28, 2008 | Posted By:

_dsc2887.jpgSince a fairly young age, I’ve traveled all over San Francisco by myself. And I’ve been lucky enough to be aware of what I should expect from being a girl who consistently uses public transportation. Not everyone will treat you respectfully, and when you’re stuck in an uncomfortable situation, the first thing to do is to simply walk away. I’m now 18 years old, and being harassed on the street has become so common for me that I choose to ignore the catcalling and quickly continue on to my next destination. But recently, I was waiting for the bus and a man chose to expose himself to me. Again, I decided to walk away. At that moment, I’ve never felt more violated or outraged toward a complete stranger.

It baffles me that there are people in this world who think that it’s okay to treat someone as a sexual object. When my thoughts cross this topic, a question continues to come to mind: Why should we expect this to happen? How have we become to accustomed to this mistreatment?

Starting with that unfortunate experience, I decided to do a little experiment.

I asked 10 close girl friends of mine how often they are sexually harassed, and they all replied with the same answer; multiple times every day. Some of them only experience the typical catcalls, while others have been touched inappropriately or have also had men expose themselves in public areas.

From catcalling to groping to indecent exposure, women of all ages are forced to endure these forms of harassment. I find it truly disgusting that this happens so often. I feel myself grow outraged whenever a man chooses to say something sexual toward me or another female, and my first reaction is to tell them how sick and immature they are. But I know in the back of my mind that my feelings would remain unacknowledged and they would most likely mock me for speaking up.

It’s a lose-lose situation. If we ignore them, they’ll continue to say inappropriate things until we’re completely out of sight. If we speak up for ourselves, it turns into an argument that we probably won’t resolve.


80832093rg5ququ2.jpgSexual harassment doesn’t only occur within metropolitan areas: this is a global issue. In the February 11th New York Times, I read an article addressing the issue of sexual harassment in Mexico City. It has become so common for a woman to be forced to deal with harassment there that the government has decided to have single-sex buses for women.

While I think it’s about time action was taken to solve this issue, it’s depressing to think that harassment is such a common occurrence in everyday life. These women rarely report to authorities when they are sexually harassed — they simply deal with it.

This past year, only seven women made official complaints of harassment on Mexico City’s buses. Since in San Francisco women experience it multiple times daily, I can’t even imagine how high the rate is in Mexico City.

Why does this happen? Media has such a strong influence on women’s images. From Abercrombie & Fitch ads and Sports Illustrated covers to Calvin Klein billboards, the media has enforced the general image of women to be almost always sexual. It has become way too common to see a woman in an ad exposing herself in a sexual way.

No woman should have to feel uncomfortable for simply being a woman. It’s frustrating to know that even if we show the slightest amount of skin, we will be recognized for it in a degrading way. It’s not like we choose to wear outfits that reveal our skin because we like that kind attention or are trying to benefit the male population: We do it mostly for ourselves. Maybe we like how we feel in those clothes, perhaps it helps us feel trendy and comfortable.

I want to know that on a hot day, I can wear shorts and be confident that I won’t be harassed. Until that day comes, I’ll have to continue with the simple method of walking away.

Holly Crimmins is eighteen years old and a senior in high school in San Francisco. She is a new intern for About-Face and is greatly anticipating graduating from high school and attending college next fall.




What Do You Think?

9 Responses to The Things We Must Endure

  1. W on 02-28-2008

    The male gender does this because many do not respect women. Those that do appear to respect women, I believe, are only doing so because the law prevents them from harassing and perpetrating against women. If there were no laws against sexual, physical, and emotional acts of violence - men would be raping, killing, and subjegating women at free will whenever they wanted. Corrupt governments and countries who have no laws protecting women are proof of this. Eg: Guatemala and many countries within Africa. There is documented proof of this and much research available.

    Men, throughout history and in present day society, continue to violate a woman's right to autonomy, privacy, and safety. They do it for power and domination. I have been called a hoe, fat bitch, whore, and numerous other insults that are not appropriate to mention, and I have been threatened with physical violence for not giving men what they feel they are entitled to - control over me, my right to freedom of expression, communication, and security.

    I am sorry you have had such negative experiences already and at the young age of eighteen. I'd love to tell you that it gets better as you get older but it doesn't. Men, throughout your lifetime, will be demeaning towards you. You have to stand strong against this abuse, and, unfortunately, either fight back, or grow thick skin.
  2. on 03-01-2008

    The way I see it is that men who harass you are just desperate. They are so influenced by the media and what happens in movies, they think that any women will just throw themselves at these guys who yell "ay mam-i! what you doing this weekend?" It really sucks that we have no other option then to just tune them out, it shouldn't have to be like this but unfortunately that’s just how it goes
  3. W on 03-03-2008

    When my mom was in her early twenties a man flashed her as she walked down the street. She looked down at his genitalia and commented, "It's awfully small. You should put it away." He did. Another woman in my family assaulted a man with an umbrella when he grabbed her outside of a bar. He limped away. Men in a situation like this are pathetic but also dangerous.

    Men think it's funny or flattering when they make an innocent cat call at a woman as she walks alone down a street. What they don't get is that women are often afraid because they've undoubtedly had a previous situation where they were attacked or almost attacked. I have. To a woman alone it's never JUST a cat call.

    I believe, in my mom's case, this pervert was counting on her being petrified or shocked. It's how he gets off. To see her in a state of fear would have made him feel powerful. Take self defence classes ladies. Look this type of man in the eye. Walk strong and confident. By doing this you let them know as your passing by (quickly) that you'll claw, bite, kick, scream, and do permanent damage if they try anything.

    I've given cat callers the finger before. It's been in situations where I've known I have a quick escape route. But, ultimately, you have to be comfortable with the level of risk you're willing to take to send the message that you think they are pathetic and socially inept.
  4. W on 03-04-2008

    One more thing. Trust you're instincts. When your gut tells you something's wrong with a guy. Act on it. Something IS definitely wrong.
  5. W on 03-04-2008

    One more thing. Trust your instincts. When your gut tells you something's wrong with a guy. Act on it. Something IS definitely wrong.
  6. Samantha on 03-13-2008

    Holly, I am from Brazil and I've already faced really disgusting situations. Stupid words and so on. Once a man toched me when I was 14. I was coming back from Bakery, using normal clothes (those big and long6 pants from school uniform) and a man did it. I fell embarased to remember.

    In Brazil, to be a stupid woman is glamourized by the media. There are some TV programs where the girls are with small clothes, small bikinis making stupid jokes and behaving like idiots. I am tired.

    In subways, many girls suffer sexual harassment. My cousin once was so angry that she tried to hit the guy in the face! Terrible, she was really angry.

    Sorry for my english mistakes, but I needed to share these experiences.
  7. Samantha on 03-13-2008

    Another thing I needed to share. My friend and I were talking and we got a conclusion: some men don't respect women. Respect only another men. here in Brazil is like this. I mean, if you use a ring, a engagemet ring, the chances os suffer harassment decreases. Some friends of mine use fake engagement rings to avoid these situations. This is ridiculous!
  8. Silverstar on 03-18-2008

    Maybe women should start hanging out in large groups and yell rude, demeaning things to guys walking by. Hm..no some guys would probably like it. lol. Seriously though, some men need to learn to keep their mouths shut and keep their perverted thoughts(and body parts) to themselves.
  9. TC on 08-10-2008

    i am male, and the conduct of other men (and how frequently after some crass remark or performance the adult 12 year old boy can find another stooge to slap hands with over their humorous performance) DISGUSTS me. a lot of men just have never sat down and thought about what it must feel like to BE a woman who has to sit through treatment like that every single day.

    a guy i sort of vaguely knew once confided that back when he was in high school, he'd occasionally grab girls' asses and his sort of 'man, was i acting juvenile' was based solely on HOW MUCH TROUBLE he would have gotten into given sexual harassment laws now. it just made me sick, and i didn't speak to him again. i mean, did he ever think how many of those girls had already been traumatized sexually by men refusing them the right to say no to unwelcome sexual advances, and here he is just grabbing away and giggling. it's disgusting. by the time i was 12 i already knew a few girls who had been raped, and i sure wouldn't have ever thought 'grabbing' a girl was anything but totally wrong, but i think too many guys spent too much time hanging out with their beavis and butthead buddies to think about what it's like to be on the receiving end of their behavior.

    i think society exempts boys (and men) from the need for maturity since too often nobody holds men or boys accountable for their treatment of women, since what's openly sexual harassment is STILL often just treated as something they'll grow out of.. but regrettably, to frequently don't.