“FIRE! FIRE!”… So do I have your attention?

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A few weeks ago Smalls discussed wanting to write about her frustration with the objectification and violation she faced (and knew others faced) from complete strangers. We thought it would be great to bring at least some attention to this clearly present, and frustrating problem. Then, due to a horrific tragedy in California, this issue became one of national discussion. We at Obvi are proud to share Smalls’ words and to stand in solidarity with the #Yesallwomen movement.

Do not tell me to smile. Do not look me up and down like that and tell me my ass looks nice while I wait for the train. Do not whistle at me from your car while I wait for the walk sign to cross the street. Your comments are not flattering. They are uncomfortable, they are violating, and at times they are actually scary. It does not matter how many squats I have done to take care of my body, your comments are neither desired nor validating of my hard work at the gym.

It was 70 degrees in Chicago one day. After the winter we just had, it was more than enough reason to rejoice and wear shorts. During my break between classes in the Loop I went for a walk to move around and bask in the sunshine. After a series of degrading comments and violating stares, my break between classes turned into a rushed shopping trip to buy a cheap pair of pants from H&M so I could cover up. The mindless objectification I faced made me feel somehow wrong, like I should know better than to wear shorts in Chicago, like I was asking for it.

Another day, I watched two security guards use the security camera on the front of a class building on campus to zoom in on a young lady’s chest as she walked towards the building and zoom in on her derrière as she walked away. There is nothing secure about the presence of these ‘guards’. In fact, I now feel insecure walking past them every time I go to class.

Just last week I stopped in Dunkin Donuts to buy coffee on my way to work. Post-purchase, a man mumbled something to me. Thinking he asked a question, I leaned in closer and asked him to repeat it. Before I knew it, I was blocked from the door while this man, twice my size, screamed profanities in my face and called me inappropriate names. Terrified and defenseless, I glanced at the employees and other customers who stood by and watched the situation. Not one person made an effort to help me.

Many women face degrading and uncomfortable situations like these every day. How ridiculous is it that in self-defense classes, women are taught to yell, “Fire!” in the event of being attacked instead of, “Help, I’m being attacked!” because people are more likely to respond? What does it say that we have to constantly remind our female friends to text when they get home from a night out? Will I ever feel safe enough to walk home from the bus stop without gripping my keys in my fist?

Nobody ever “asks for” these situations. “Well what was she wearing?” and “What time was she out?” are two questions that should never follow an incident of sexual harassment. Those questions, and the lack of response from citizens are a big part of what perpetuates this awful behavior. When will society start defending the victims and stop ignoring casual acts of sexual harassment?

As the weather gets warmer, I am going to wear shorts and tank tops and, God forbid, skin will show. I shouldn’t have to worry about the comments or looks that I will receive.  The horrible truth is that I do consider them every time I get dressed.

 

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Annaliese Stockmeier: 90’s Rom-Com Fanatic, Tabata Aficionada, and Chicago Foodie. The next Rick Steves. Please call me Smalls.
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