Last week, I took my bike out of storage after a long winter. I dusted it off, added some air to the tires, and hit the pavement for my first ride of the season. Not five minutes into my ride, I received my first catcall of the season, as well.
A car full of twenty-something guys pulled up alongside me in the bike lane and shouted some rather unsavory phrases out the window.
As a woman, I have to put up with this garbage every time the weather gets nice. I can’t just walk across campus in a pair of shorts, you know, like a human being, no — if I want to wear shorts in nice weather I should expect to hear at least one unwanted comment from someone who thinks he has the right to yell things about my body.
If I’m riding my bike, I better prepare myself for all the cars that are going to pass me and shout rude — even lewd — comments at me as they do.
Look, I’m not out riding my bike or enjoying the weather as a display for onlookers. I am riding my bike because I am a person who likes to bike. That is in no way an invitation for catcalls.
And yet, we live in a world where catcalls are to be expected — are even the norm. This is unacceptable to me. Women have as much right to go outside without being harassed as men do.
This week is anti-street harassment week, and organizations nationwide are calling attention to street harassment. What’s being done? A few years ago, an organization called Hollaback! (ihollaback.org) formed, its mission being to combat street harassment by turning the lens onto the perpetrators, rather than the victims.
Victims of street harassment can take a photo of their harasser or just post their story as a way to call out the people implementing the harassment.
Hollaback! defines street harassment as “one of the most pervasive forms of gender-based violence and one of the least legislated against … it is rarely reported, and it’s culturally accepted as ‘the price you pay’ for being a woman or for being gay.”
Other organizations, including Stop Street Harassment (stopstreetharassment.org) and MasculinityU (masculinityu.com), also are raising awareness this week.
I particularly like MasculinityU’s approach: the website was founded on the principles of educating men to not perpetrate, rather than educating women on how to avoid being a victim. According to their website, “We want to have men and boys rethink the ways they were told to be a man and understand the limitations and restrictions that come with it.”
I very much agree with that principle. Women should not have to make calculated decisions in order to avoid the inevitable street harassment they’ll receive; instead, men need to stop harassing.
If you have been harassed on the street, consider sharing your story at ihollaback.org or participating in any number of awareness events throughout this week.
If you have harassed someone on the street (or anywhere…) before, please realize this immature behavior is standing in the way of someone being able to enjoy their day the way you are.
Like I said, if I’m out enjoying a bike ride, I’m doing it for me, not for you. Grow up.