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USA: All Women Deserve Safety

In correspondents, street harassment | on 03.13.13 | by | Comments ( 0 )

“American Girl in Italy” by Ruth Orkin (www.orkinphoto.com/photographs/american-girl/)

By Natasha Vianna, SSH Correspondent

It was the end of the night on Cinco de Mayo in Downtown Boston. After having a wonderful evening with friends, my friend Christina headed towards to subway so she could go home. On her walk, she passed a group of men standing on a corner. The group turned to face her as she walked by and began calling her by harassing nicknames and shouting at her. She walked without looking or responding, but as soon as she thought she was safe, she felt what she explained as the most dis-empowering moment of her life. One of the men reached out and slapped her ass. Not knowing how to respond, in shock, she thought of 100 things she could have done but chose to run off while the group of men laughed.

Looking back, there were so many things she wanted to say, she wanted to stand up for herself, she wanted to let those assholes know that they were horrible people who made her feel unsafe. But she couldn’t do that. She didn’t know them, what they were capable of, or what their intentions were. If she had stopped to shout back, a young girl to a group of men, who knows what could have happened. Her only concern was her safety.

When one man harasses a woman on the street, she is faced with a decision that could alter the course of her life.

After years of experiencing street harassment, I have become savvy when it comes to crossing the street at the right time and pretending I am deaf, blind, and mute. Yet, it should not have to be this way. I should not have to run across the street because a creepy man is making comments on the corner and I should not have to stay quiet in fear that my response could anger my harasser.

Women are faced with these challenging situations every single day on the streets. Somehow, the idea that women are objects for men’s visual pleasure is one that has been preserved during our evolution of women’s rights over the decades.

As a young woman in America, this is something I have experienced far too often and I know I’m not alone. These dis-empowering moments of gender-based violence, when men use their privilege to make us feel unsafe, is AWFUL and life changing. It’s infuriating; it’s horrifying, it’s unjustifiably wrong. I cannot walk down a street without worrying that at some point; someone might harass me or a woman near me.

When men harass women, I wonder if their mothers, their sisters, their daughters, or their nieces ever come to mind. Would they be okay with another man treating their loved ones this way? I’m sure they wouldn’t.

So men, rethink how you interact with women. The change we all want to see happen in our society has to start with you. Set the example. Show others how to respect women. Only then will you see a better future for your daughters and their daughters. Our future generation of girls depend on you.

Natasha Vianna, a fearless activist and young feminist, is a freelance writer and blogger based out of Boston, MA. Follow her on twitter!

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