Desensitized to Hollering

Walking along the streets of New York can make the most unattractive girl (and I mean this respectfully) feel beautiful. There’s always that construction worker, dope boy, or high school junior who thinks he has a chance. Men are socialized to “holler” at a woman when they like what they see. Women are socialized to play hard to get, try to ignore the comments, and continue with their day. The way some women cope with the unwarranted attention is by plugging in their headphones in and turning up the volume high.
I want to believe the first time I got hollered at on the street was at age 11. Coming home from junior high school, I never looked older than my age but the boys on the corner tried to talk to me and I ignored them in fear of this new and unnecessary attention.
Around age 13, was the first time I was cursed out because I refused to respond.
By age 14 Franklin Avenue boys decided to throw water on the girls that walked by. Of course, innocent ol’ me was hit in the crossfire on my way to picking up my 8th-grade yearbook; as a result, I went to school drenched.
By age 15, around the same time of year (June), en route to my house the same Franklin Avenue boys decided they wanted to throw water on me and my friends because we refused to speak to them. Let’s just say things went from zero to a hundred real quick. I had back up this time. 

Essentially, getting hollered at is one of those things that come with the territory of being a New York woman, no matter what color, age, or race you are. Some women grow so accustomed to it that when a guy doesn’t give them the attention they are used to they start to question if they look good or not. While other girls get jealous if their friends command more attention from a guy while walking down the street. I would like to believe that this is normal but in reality, it’s not.

Getting hollered at can be a form of objectification and sexual harassment. When a woman chooses to wear something sexy she should be able to do so without being looked upon as a piece of meat. Whatever happened to the times when men addressed women with respect, not calling her out of her name or calling her to his car? If a guy wants to give me a compliment I can admit it does brighten my day, but the line is crossed when a guy grab’s my hand, follow’s me to my apartment building or make a huge disrespectful scene if I choose to ignore him. Even worse than the whistling, sly comments or getting attacked by a dog while walking down the street (well maybe not worst as getting attacked by a dog), is the silence you encounter when you walk past a group of men. You know they were just talking and chopping it up and when you walk by, complete silence and stares. Talk about self-conscious.  I never knew getting hollered at was a form of harassment until last year. I was sitting in one of my women studies classes in college when my classmates presented a project on the horrors of sexual harassment. I always knew that the hissing, whistles, and comments about my derriere were distasteful but I had become so desensitized to hollering as a normal part of life that I never questioned if this was an actual problem.

When a line is crossed, you will know it. When someone touches you or follows you home that’s a problem. When a man disrespects you or acts in a violent way towards you this is a huge issue. Even worse if we continue to allow men to objectify us on the street in an unpleasant way, we are ultimately making the situation worse for our daughters. I love the compliments, but I will be a fool to disregard that sometimes guys go way too far with their hollering schemes and what we are experiencing is harassment. 

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