Fairfax Campus, 5:36 AM on a Thursday, and I’m bundled in a hoodie, hat, and pants because it’s 34 degrees outside. A car drives by packed full of college-aged men, and I’m called to: “Hey, baby!” You know, BAE-BEE!
Um, excuse me?
This is an example of street harassment, which often includes sexual harassment, as is the case here. Why? Because ‘hey, baby!’ is a catcall, and sexual in nature.
It’s not my first time dealing with these kinds of comments. But I have a lot of questions for the perpetrator: What are you doing awake at 5 AM on a Thursday, a school night? Why are you driving around campus? What gives you the right to talk to me like that? And, very importantly, are you always this much of a plague on society?
At the moment, I was frankly half asleep and not really threatened by this encounter. Mostly, I was disappointed. I could not respond because it happened so quickly, which is why street harassment is so difficult to get justice for. A call to Mason PD would not help me after the incident, or likely find the perpetrator; I had too little information about the vehicle, license plate, or physical description of the individual to be helpful.
I carried on with my day as usual, but have been thinking about how I want to frame this incident in the framework of my life.
I was not a target for any specific reason, and this is the case for all sexual harassment and assault. My experience rebukes anyone who falsely claims that we’re ‘asking for it.’ Instead, the blame falls only, and squarely on the perpetrator.
Related: Me Too: A Letter to My Abuser
Even though I can never know for sure, I think he wanted to feel powerful. He probably thought that by objectifying me, it would give him some sense of control. That I would be weak at that moment and he would be able to feed off that vulnerability.
Let me say, he did not succeed. Not from my perspective. I don’t feel weak, or scared. If anything, I feel stronger than ever that I’m the one that holds the cards here. I have a fierce confidence, purposefulness, and presence that these men do not have. And they will never have. My voice will not be smothered by rude, reprehensible men.
I feel like the most bada** b**** on the planet, so if it can happen to me, then I worry about more vulnerable members of our community.
And, tbh, I really feel like I could dropkick any of them. That’s the kind of power I want women to radiate. I want them to be at peak Beyoncé queen 24/7, to feel strong in these situations, and as equipped as possible, too.
On the flip side, I want men (and everyone else) to get with the f***ing program. Sexual harassment. Is. Not. Okay. Sexual assault. Is. Not. Okay. Stop talking to women. How about… don’t?
Mason students are all spoken to about this issue, but even if not, there is never an excuse for this behavior.
It’s unacceptable that on my own college campus, my home, there are those who condone sexual harassment and sexual assault. I feel uncomfortable belonging to a community with individuals who either don’t care, or don’t know about the consequences of these types of actions.
What assures me that “hey, baby!” is not in the same vein, and does not evolve into, date rape drugs in a drink, sexual assault, or stalking?
It’s a symptom of a culture that commonly questions the stories of survivors and struggles to condemn perpetrators of all magnitudes.
From my own experience, I can say that #MeToo is still a problem at Mason and that our campus community needs to work much harder to advocate, educate, and prevent these behaviors. Victims, men and women, need to be uplifted, validated, and believed. My encounter can not speak the full volume of this issue, and I am grateful for that, but we need to take it for what it is: harassment. And harassment is not allowed here at George Mason University.
Mason Police: 703-993-2810
Mason Sexual and Intimate Partner Violence Crisis Line: 703-380-1434
Counseling and Psychological Services: 703-993-2380
Student Support and Advocacy Center: 703-993-3686
National Sexual Assault Telephone Hotline: 800-656-HOPE (4673)