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Talk It Out Tuesday Recap: Street Harassment

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Notre Dame chapter.

One thing we love to do at Her Campus Notre Dame is to write it out, and we’ve found a group that loves discussing the same things: Notre Dames! HCND and Notre Dames are coming together to tell you what our Dames are talking about on campus. Every Tuesday, the Notre Dames get together to discuss a topic pertaining to gender, and HCND will give you the recap of the latest Talk It Out Tuesday.  There is nothing quite like a Dame and that’s why we love thee!

This week’s topic: Street Harassment. One would be hard pressed to find a woman who hasn’t experienced it in some form. Why is it that many women feel that they cannot simply walk down the street without subjecting themselves to unwanted comments from complete strangers? Should women just learn to “take a compliment?” Let’s talk it out!

The highlights: This video, created by Daily Show correspondent Jessica Williams, outlines a couple main problems. A camera follows Williams down the street on her morning commute, documenting the unsolicited comments she gets from random men. She talks to a group of women about the unwanted attention they’ve received from guys—which ranges from the innocent to the downright obscene.  

Okay, so these interactions might be uncomfortable, sure. You didn’t want that sweaty old man’s opinion, but it’s just a compliment, right? It’s nothing to freak out about; he certainly didn’t mean any harm.

And that’s what many little instances of street harassment are: harmless. A guy who catcalls you on the street or tells you to “smile” isn’t necessarily plotting to assault you later. Still, there’s undoubtedly a sort of culture that allows street harassment to exist. Why do so many men feel entitled to comment on the appearance of a woman they don’t know? And better yet—why do those same men act annoyed when said woman doesn’t appreciate their compliment?

The stats: It is estimated that 65% of women have received unwanted attention from strangers on the street. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) count “non-contact unwanted sexual experiences,” a category that includes catcalls, as a type of sexual violence. Many women have reported changing their behavior in order to avoid harassment, such as taking a different route to work or changing the way they dress.

The Notre Dame lens: How is a Dame to react? A girl might be less likely to be catcalled on the walk to DeBart than on a city street, but that doesn’t mean harassment never happens, especially at parties or in other situations where she might find herself surrounded by strangers.

Where do we draw the line between an innocuous compliment and a real problem? Are all forms of harassment one and the same? Ladies of Notre Dame, we’d like you to weigh in.

Want to be a part of the dialogue? Come to the next Talk it Out Tuesday, hosted by the Notre Dames club in the Dooley room in LaFortune. Stop by anytime from 7-9 for food and good conversation!


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Sources: 1, 2

Images 1 & 2 provided by Notre Dames, 3, 4

Ariana Zlioba is a sophomore Political Science major and a proud resident of Pasquerilla West Hall. She spends her free time exploring every minor Notre Dame has to offer and imagining the editor's notes she will write after she succeeds Anna Wintour as editor-in-chief of Vogue. Here is what she likes: Stephen Colbert, high heels, and that coconut coffee Waddick's has sometimes. Here is what she doesn't like: Permacloud. At any given moment you'll most likely catch her dashing across campus in between meetings, Dance Co. rehearsals, and other meetings.