Walking down Franklin Street leaves a lot of people with fond memories. Eating at Spicy 9, stumbling out of Sup Dogs after a late-night basketball victory or celebrating the end of finals with YoPo. These lighthearted experiences, for most young women, can easily be disrupted by brief interactions of verbal harassment with strangers on that same happy street.
Women are often taught that politeness in any social situation is more appropriate than being blunt. This sentiment might seem outdated, but is it really? Negative opinions of women get them coded as “bitchy,” and when the term is applied to people who aren’t women, the action is still rooted in misogyny.
Women are more likely to take an unwanted interaction with someone else as par for the course, because that’s just how it has been forever. It doesn’t have to be that way though. It is alright not to respond to someone’s verbal harassment. A simple walk down the street is not an invitation for someone to bother you with their uncomfortable remarks.
For those who have never experienced an uncomfortable situation with a stranger, imagine the following scenario: You’ve pulled up at a gas station. The clothes you are wearing are seemingly non-suggestive. A T-shirt and leggings. A cardigan that hangs below the knee. As you pull up to a designated pump, you notice an older man is staring at you through your windshield. You think nothing of it at first.
In the process of opening your gas cap, he mumbles, “How are you?” He does not step out from behind his pump, leaving you only to assume he’s talking to you. You freeze for a second. He could be trying to extend an invitation for polite gas station chit-chat. Repressing any doubt for fear of retaliation, you stammer out, “Good.” No more conversation occurs.