Walking home from the SPARK Summit, I feel powerful, eager and ready to make a difference. After my afternoon workshop on sexual harassment in schools and on the streets with Girls for Gender Equity, I know that I am not alone and that I have a voice.
However, with all these positive feelings, I also feel irritated and frustrated about what I’ve learned. In the workshop, we watched a clip of a movie about street harassment. A moment that stood out to me was a man, who after being asked about the issue, claimed that it takes a man and a woman to make a child, which ultimately makes the world go round. All the girls in the workshop were extremely confused by this so called “excuse” to street harassment. How does making a child in any way linked with girls being devalued, degraded, and violated on the streets?
Trying to understand this evidently ignorant man, I’ve concluded that he was trying to say that street harassment is natural. As some people say, “boys will be boys” and there is nothing that we can do about it. However, that belief is foolish and dumb. Our society teaches girls and boys the way they are “supposed” to act. Through media, boys learn at a very young age what the society defines as “manly.” The media creates a vicious cycle, where practically no one fits the very limited box of “perfection.” One of the definitions that society provides for the idea of “manliness” is that a “real” man can get girls. Thus, boys are forced to believe that harassing women on the streets is just a part of being a man.
So what do we do? How can we change this? In my opinion, the first step is realizing that it is unfair to put all the blame on men. Men are brought up in this society with expectations to act a certain way, and at times it’s far from easy to do what seems morally right. This is also not entirely the media’s fault. A basic assumption in the study of economics is that all corporations want to make as much profit as possible. This might seem obvious, yet we still fail to understand that at times. As long as we keep buying songs with vulgar and degrading lyrics and as long as we keep watching television shows where girls are portrayed as sex objects, we are encouraging this type of media. Where there is demand, there is supply.
After realizing the problem, we should take a good look at ourselves by examining what we buy, watch, and read. If women are more than half of our society, how come we feel voiceless? We should speak out and let our opinions be heard. We can tell our friends about the implications and outcomes of what they are watching. Even if some of them disagree, this will still makes a difference. We, women and men, should take control of what we internalize and help others do the same.