Harassment versus hospitality

Youtube video sparks sexual harassment debate


By Robert Clinton, Sports Editor

“He was so angry that I could somehow ignore his public sexual advances.

All I remember is seeing the shock in my friend’s eyes when the guy returned to punch me in the face as I turned around.

I fell over. I could feel the blood begin to fill my mouth as I lifted myself from the cold tile. That’s when he circled around and hit me in the face again.”

She said she would never forget what he said as she lay there, bleeding on the floor inside a Burger King, surrounded by her high school classmates.

“I bet you’ll speak next time bitch,” he said.

Racquel Spencer told me this terrifying story about street harassment turning violent.

Recently a video posted to YouTube showed a modestly dressed woman filmed by a hidden camera as she walked the streets of Manhattan, New York. Men approached her over 100 times in a 10-hour period.

The conversation surrounding sexual harassment has become divided because the video was edited from its original 10 hours of content down to the 2-minute YouTube version that primarily depicts men of color.

The larger question of how to balance the contrasting experiences of women and street harassment versus, the somewhat universal idea of social hospitality, can and should be addressed.

Throughout her encounter filled day, the subject faced everything from “hello” to blatant comments about her body. One man even followed her for over three minutes.

This isn’t a phenomenon limited to the streets of New York. Women at Contra Costa College have their own experiences in dealing with street harassment.

“Whenever someone speaks, I speak back,” liberal studies major Ebony Daniels said. “I’m not saying girls who ignore guys are wrong, I just feel if say hi and keep it moving, it lowers my chances for getting in a bad situation.”

For women, bad situations usually come at the hands of men. Men are the leading cause of injury to women age 15-44 in America. More so than car accidents and muggings combined according to the United States Senate Judiciary Committee Violence against women report.

Men who argue saying “hi” or “good morning” to a passing woman is different than open sexual advances, or admiring the view as she walks past in yoga pants, are inauthentic.

People conveniently choose when they want to accept words that have double meanings. Some men have no problem rising up in protest when politicians speak of inner-city culture synonymously with Black culture. But deny the real meaning behind “Hi, I think you’re pretty, I’d like to get to know you better. Can you stop and talk to me so we can maybe exchange phone numbers?”

“Dialogue is needed to un-blur the line,” Vice President of Academic and Student Affairs Tammeil Gilkerson said. “I think the interactions are different for every individual, we need to teach our young men and boys to have more respect for women.”

The first national study on street harassment, commissioned by Stop Street Harassment in spring 2014, showed 65 percent of women have experienced general street harassment, 57 percent verbal harassment and 41 percent physically aggressive harassment.

No man compliments another guy’s exotic hair, then reaches out to steal a stroke of his beard as he passes.

Men rarely get inappropriate sexual statements barked their way such as, “Hey man I like those new Jordan’s but they would look better on my shoulders.”

Some men would argue statements like that would be grounds for justifiable homicide.

“If they speak I speak, even back to some of the ignorant, inappropriate things,” Spencer said. “After what I went through, you never know someone’s story and you can’t judge intent.”

For women, stepping out of the house shouldn’t be like walking the gauntlet and having to anticipate the advances of hoards of “thirsty” men. One of these men could erupt and increase the statistic of violent acts against women.

Every 9-seconds in the U.S. a woman is assaulted or beaten.

It all seems kind of off. I’m an admitted greeter, I am open and willing to speak with anyone, but I don’t need 51-percent of women to tell me “it’s not cool” for me to recognize that adjustments need to be made in my approach.

I respect that, for some women, walking through the world in a skirt can generate the same feelings someone might have walking through a bad neighborhood. You have to be aware because the lowering of ones’ defenses can lead to unfortunate circumstances.

In the best-case scenario, you give up some of your time and personal space to placate a strange man’s need for attention.

In the worst, you may end up like Spencer having to consume dinner through a straw because your jaw is wired shut.

There is a wide spectrum between those two extremes and neither seems particularly inviting. Men worry about getting their feelings hurt because a girl won’t talk to them, women have to worry about serous injury or sometimes even death.

There should be a standard of how to conduct ones self when approaching the opposite sex. Where is our collective moral compass or do we all just gravitate to the lowest common denominator’s amongst us-and accept it as our only option?