Ask a fifth-year: Street Harassment

Dear Sarah,

Now that the weather is so much warmer, and the air doesn’t hurt my face anymore, I’ve been wanting to spend more time outside. I’ve unburied all my shorts and sundresses from the back corners of my closet and am excited to finally get to wear them again. I’m worried about the actions that this time of year provokes in people. I’ve had a number of comments, both positive and negative, yelled at me from cars before, and it’s never an enjoyable experience. Is there anything I can do to diminish the likelihood of this kind of harassment?

                  – Wanting to Cross the Street in Peace and Quiet


 Dear Wanting to Cross the Street,

Every spring, this topic comes up again, and I wish that one day people would understand that comments yelled out of car windows are really never going to go over well. Whether it’s derogatory comments made to a couple crossing the street or screaming “NICE BACKPACK” to a student walking to class, it’s generally better to mind your own business. While there is less that an individual walking on the sidewalk can do to help their situation at that particular moment, here are a few general tips that I believe would help make this time of year safer and more enjoyable for all.

How well do you know this person? If this person is a good friend of yours or even a strong acquaintance, perhaps they would appreciate your commentary on their outfit that day. Maybe your best friend will think it’s funny to watch you drive past them as you sing “Happy Birthday” at the top of your lungs. Before you make a comment, think of how the other person would view it. If there’s a chance the recipient of your comment will not appreciate it, it’s best to stay silent.

Please don’t yell. So you’re a gearhead who likes to sit on the front steps of the Chapel and watch the cars go by. Great for you. There’s no reason you need to yell out comments about the drivers and their respective cars. To put it bluntly, don’t be a nuisance. The street, the sidewalk and the outdoors in general is a space for everyone. Your obnoxious and unnecessarily loud yelling is just that—obnoxious.

Keep to yourself, and try to ignore it. All in all, it’s best to just stick to yourself. The other humans on the street do not need to nor want to hear your comments, they just want to get where they are going with as little fuss as possible. In addition, as satisfying as it might be to yell back at someone harassing you, it’s better to ignore it as best you can. A number of forms of street harassment, including disorderly behaviors that are deemed violent, abusive, indecent, profane, boisterous or unreasonably loud, can be reported to the police.

In summation, it’s best to remember the golden rule as your kindergarten teacher taught it to you: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”