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Letter to the editor: Sexual harassment

Maggie Simms, Guest writer

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Sexual harassment. It wouldn’t be false to say that nearly every woman on this planet has dealt with this at some point. Neither would it be false to say that even men deal with sexual harassment.

A woman should not have to fear for her own safety when walking down a street by herself, whether she walks down it at one in the afternoon or one in the morning. A man should not have to be concerned about unwanted comments.

People in general should never be made to feel uncomfortable with their body or any comments made relating to it. The phenomenon that plagues society is one that seems like it would be easily fixed. Simply tell people not to harass others and they’ll take a hint, right? Not exactly.

The issue is that these behaviors are so deeply ingrained into society. Young people are taught and influenced starting at a very early early age, and those same points are often reinforced throughout their lifetime. There is no age where sexual harassment starts or ends, we are told to just expect it and then ignore it.

Speaking from personal experience, the first time I can recall being cat-called was when I was around 15 years old, by men older than my own father. I was walking down a street in Portland with my mom in the evening when a group of drunken men decided it would be funny to follow us down the street and make comments pertaining to what they would do with our bodies if they could.

I told them to stop, only to be countered with “god, you need to learn to take a compliment.” It was no laughing matter. A group of six men telling a 15-year-old girl what they would do with her is not okay. Two years later, I was crossing the street with a group of friends to go back to our car and a car full of guys pulled up next to us whistling and hollering.

They told us to be careful because if we were to show any more leg we would be asking for something. About a month after that I was driving with a friend in the car and a moving truck pulled up next to us at a red light and the men started hollering at us, asking us what we liked to do for fun because they could “show us a good time.”

We were 17, and not even safe in our own vehicle because they followed our car for a few blocks. Most recently, in the span of three months at my current job, I’ve dealt with more than a handful of comments coming from men shopping at the store I work at; all of them pertaining to my physical body, and none of them wanted, asked for, or provoked.

Telling them to stop, or that you don’t like what they’re saying, only makes them say more. It is for this reason that young girls are told to just ignore sexual harassment, and the reason that boys don’t seem to learn that it’s not acceptable. The worrisome concept is that nearly every female you ask will say that none of these stories are surprising or new to them. They’ve all been in similar situations.

Just ask anyone in your class or at your job. After all of these incidences, it seems they still can’t take a hint, and we still haven’t learned to take a “compliment.”

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Letter to the editor: Sexual harassment