About a year ago, I was standing outside, wrapped in a giant blanket, refereeing an activity for a campus organization when a couple of guys I didn’t know drove by and catcalled me.
The activity was being hosted by Students Against Sexual Assault. Taste the irony there?
I’ve been catcalled while out on a bike ride. I’ve been harassed by guys while fueling up my car. I’ve heard many uncomfortable and unnecessary comments from strange men, ones that I don’t care to remember.
My stories can’t even begin to compare to some of the ones shared to me by friends.
Last night as I left my gym, a couple of strangers on the sidewalk felt the need to talk to me about my appearance and how I looked like I must be getting some good workouts in. Obviously, it was uncomfortable, and left me walking away, checking over my shoulder to make sure they weren’t following.
Based on compounded experience with last night as a tipping point, I have this to say: guys, just leave women you don’t know alone.
I’m not here to police you, to make you feel like you are walking on eggshells, or to accuse you of harassing a woman every single time you have a positive interaction with her. I’m not even here to tell you that you can’t compliment, hug, or hang out with a woman.
I’m simply saying that you should reserve those things for women you know well.
Think about it – while you may just deliver a spur of the moment compliment or comment to a strange woman or acquaintance and not think about it again, it doesn’t end there for her. Even if your intentions are perfectly great, you just sent the majority of women (because I refuse to say that I speak for ALL women) spiraling into an interesting cycle of questioning.
Suddenly, you cast doubt on her safety at the moment, probably left a bad taste in her mouth depending on what you said, and if it’s an acquaintance, she’s now left with a slightly confused perspective of your relationship.
Let me be the first to tell you that while there are certainly anomalous females, we as women DO NOT need to hear compliments, or have any part of our being commented on, from strangers.
We DO appreciate compliments and comments from men in our lives who have EARNED a position there, men we trust, men who we know well and who have clear intentions. Men who respect us.
Guys, next time you’re about to say something even sort of borderline to a woman you don’t know well, ask yourself a simple question: “Is my comment worth possibly making her feel unsafe or insecure?”
Hint: the answer is most likely a resounding NO.
(And because I can already hear it now, girls, take all this and apply it to your interactions with guys. Equality y’all, equality.)