I remember my first time going out on Franklin Street on Halloween last year. I was with a group of my suitemates. Earlier that evening, I had taken special care to braid flowers into my hair like my favorite painter Frida Kahlo’s, laughing and dancing to music with my friends, who were also getting their costumes. We took selfies, ate candy and later wandered through Franklin Street to experience UNC’s iconic celebration of Halloween.
I have never been catcalled in one night more than I was that evening — fake Frida unibrow and all. Don’t get me wrong, the food trucks were great and other people’s costumes were creative (I never thought I’d see Kim Possible and Hilary Clinton strutting across Franklin street together), but the spookiest part of that night was not the bone-chilling breeze that made me wish I’d brought a jacket. It was the unsettlement and feeling of unsafety that frequently flashed across my mind every time I heard a creepy “hey little lady,” or “lookin good,” from groups of drunk, older men hanging around on Franklin Street. The people in my group received similar comments. In fact, at the end of the night, one of my friends, dressed as a ninja, was followed. She was approached and then encircled by a group of intoxicated guys traveling as a pack, all of them jeering at her. One of them even attempted to grope at her several times until another bystander decided to intervene, pulling my friend away from the group.
Later, I found out that this is only one version of a “spooky” experience that has been shared by many of my friends and peers on Halloween night at UNC.
I don’t even want to entertain the idea that the way a person dresses or appears is inviting rude, objectifying catcalling or any type of aggression. Nobody deserves to feel unsafe. This is just a friendly reminder, especially to this year’s first-years: no matter who you are or what costume you decided to wear for Halloween, Halloween night at UNC can get crazy, so it’s important to be careful with yourself and around others.
Be aware of your surroundings and the people in them at all times. Stay with a group of friends, or at least people you trust — the buddy system is awesome, people! Watch out for cars. Don’t stare at your phone when you cross the road. Watch out for the younger kids and families who might also be walking throughout Franklin that night. Carry some cash if you can — not just to buy food, but in case you need to pay for a way to get back home. Make gloriously spontaneous decisions, but not rash or dangerous ones. Know your limits. Don’t pick a fight. Know that you can say no. Trust your gut.