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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Sexism alive and well at UA

    Lauren Myers columnist
    Lauren Myers
    columnist

    It’s probably happened to any female UA student who has walked alone after dusk. She sees a car approaching, the windows rolled down, music blasting. The car slows down as it comes near her, and a leering face appears in the window.

    “”Hey, baby, what’s going on?””

    Almost every woman I know at the UA has at least one story about being yelled at on the street. These comments range from “”Hey, baby”” to obscenities so vulgar this paper won’t print them. The men who make these comments seem to think that their boorish behavior is all in good fun. They yell, they laugh about it, they drive off and they forget about it.

    But this sort of behavior is not “”all in good fun.”” It’s sexist and incredibly humiliating to the women it targets, reducing them to objects that can be treated in the foulest ways for the sake of entertainment. A verbal hit-and-run may be funny or ego-inflating for the aggressor, but it leaves the woman feeling frustrated and humiliated. Moreover, it leaves her powerless: her cowardly aggressor drives off without consequences, never having to face her reaction or acknowledge her humanity. Objecting to this sort of sexually aggressive behavior is neither prudish nor oversensitive. Anyone who has been on the receiving end of a line like “”Throw some D’s on her!”” or “”Nice ass, baby!”” knows how degrading such an experience can be.

    Unfortunately, this behavior isn’t solely the province of bored guys cruising campus solo. For a small but scary minority of UA men, aggressive catcalling is a misogyny-based male-bonding experience. Crude impulses become magnified in groups, as men feel pressure to act cool and are simultaneously emboldened by having their buddies around. The worst comments I’ve ever received, comments so dirty and disgusting that simply remembering them infuriates me, have come exclusively from large groups of men. In such situations, a woman is treated as little more than a prop for a debasing performance in which the aggressor parades his masculinity for his buddies. It should be incredibly disturbing that some UA men equate this sexual aggression with manliness. How in the world did humiliating and degrading a woman become a proxy for masculine virility?

    Of course, being screamed at by passing strangers isn’t only debasing. It can also be very scary. On one memorable occasion, a group of men followed me down the street in their car, honking at me until I escaped into my dorm. Chances are, those men were just your run-of-the-mill brand of chest-thumping idiots. But there’s always the slight possibility that a man who displays such sexual aggression to a complete stranger will escalate from honking or words to physical violence. It’s a complete violation of a woman’s rights – indeed, of her basic humanity – to put her in a situation like this. No woman should ever feel frightened or threatened for the sake of somebody else’s entertainment.

    While this behavior is perpetrated by a small subset of UA men, many more men are inadvertently part of the problem. A lot of guys who would never catcall at a strange woman on the street seem unaware that this happens, or think it’s no big deal. When I shared my idea for this column with several male friends, they didn’t understand why I was upset. These men are not sexists or misogynists; in fact, they have thoroughly respectful, progressive and enlightened attitudes toward women. And yet, their response seemed to be, “”You’re a girl, there are jerks out there, it happens, move on.”” They’re right – it does happen – but this behavior should be properly understood as an act of sexual aggression. Moreover, women shouldn’t be expected to “”get over”” sexual harassment in the places they live and go to school. It may be common, but that’s no reason for the UA community to shrug and accept it.

    In the end, it doesn’t matter when a woman is walking or where. It doesn’t matter how much clothing she is wearing, or how little. It doesn’t matter how drunk her aggressor is, or how much pressure he feels from his buddies. A woman is not a piece of meat: she shouldn’t be treated like one.

    Lauren Myers is a sophomore majoring in math and microbiology. She can be reached at letters@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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