The NPR article came a day after my daughter complained about an incident at the gas station.
Malaka Gharib opens her opinion piece with this:
If there’s anything I’ve learned over the past few days, it’s that street harassment takes many forms and happens everywhere. And it makes women feel super icky — not flattered.
Women from around the world chimed in on incidents where men harassed, threatened and even groped them on the street. Her point? It isn’t just a western trend, some men around the world believe it’s ok to do this. And their overwhelming response when the targeted woman does not respond in a positive manner to their comments? She’s called a bitch, or worse.
I’ve endured this type of unsolicited attention most of my adult life. The positive side of joining the tribe of the invisible middle-aged women is that the comments have slowed to a trickle.
But my daughter, who is now eighteen, is getting the same treatment that dogged me forty years ago. A car full of young men yelled comments across the station bay as she pumped gas the other day.
Her instinct to ignore them was met with louder and ruder comments as she finished getting gas and unlocked her car door. One of the men came towards her and shouted,
“My buddy is just trying to be friendly. He wants your number.”
My daughter got in the car, locked the doors, and drove away.
The anger I feel about this incident is for all women- forty years and nothing has changed. Why do men feel it is ok to treat women this way? We know that it’s about learning to respect women from childhood. My sons were taught to treat women, not as objects or as more fragile than men, but as individuals who deserve the same respect. It’s easy to blame it on upbringing, but there is an underlying issue- in this patriarchal culture, we have men who still feel that they need to regulate and control women. They do this through legislation, economics and even religion.
So here we are in the twenty-first century and women still have to teach their daughters to protect themselves from the unwanted attentions of men. We have to tell are daughters that it is ok to feel outraged, angry and above all- to trust their instincts.
We also have to remind them to protect themselves from neanderthals. To make sure they aren’t being followed by the jerks who yelled across the parking lot. Keep your keys handy and don’t be afraid to dial 911. Go out and have a good time, but beware of drinking too much, some guy may take advantage of your drunken state and violate you.
I’m angry and I’m heartbroken that we haven’t made this a thing of the past for my daughter.