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With Women’s History Month ending, we should take a moment to look back on how far we have come and acknowledge that women should always be celebrated. From breaking barriers in male-dominated career fields and changing society’s idea of what a woman is capable of achieving, we have come a long way. Before these milestones were reached, no one thought it was possible for men and women to even come close to equality in pay, status or power. Although these goals are closer to becoming true today than they ever have, there is still so much room for improvement. We should not only recognize women’s strength in a male-dominated society, but we need to also commend women on the obstacles they still have to overcome despite this continued growth and change. The responsibilities of women are no longer centered around the home; taking care of the children, cooking the dinner and washing the dishes. However, in my mind, there is still so much potential as far as gender equality goes. I don’t need to refer to the large scale such as subconscious inequality in the workplace, in the movies and Hollywood or hidden in a private household to witness sexism towards women. It is out in the world on a run or bending down to pick something up off of the sidewalk where I personally experience sexism.

woman sitting alone looking out window
Photo by Anthony Tran from Unsplash

No matter her age, social status, ethnicity, education or religious affiliation, every woman in your life has walked home scared. Looking back on my first few months of college when I was getting used to being away from home, I would walk home late at night with nine-one-one dialed. It would be after a long day at the library studying or after a night out with my friends and I was alone. All I had to do was press the green button if someone grabbed me past a dark corner or followed me home. There are countless other women who have so many stories to tell like this that come from a place of fear of others, but also a knowledge of what can happen to a girl walking home alone in the dark. Although catcalling is obviously not equivalent to getting robbed or kidnapped, the feeling that comes along hand in hand with getting catcalled is the same emptiness we feel in the pit of our stomachs with the police on speed dial. 

Women Sitting on Brown Wooden Bench
Photo by RF._.studio from Pexels

Not too long ago, I was first getting used to riding a longboard on campus. Most days, it was an outlet for me on a stressful day when it was nice outside with the wind blowing in my face and through my hair. I was overwhelmed at first with scary thoughts about being in the bike lane and traffic quickly whizzing past me only a few feet away, or about the wheels of my board getting caught on some gravel and me breaking an arm. What scares me now is much worse. The attention that comes with being a girl on a longboard when most other people walk or ride a bike instead is something I never thought of before. I was riding down one of the busiest streets in Madison surrounded by bars and pubs when my keys fell out of my pocket onto the pavement. When I bent down to pick them up off of the ground and was catcalled by a man driving past in a garbage truck, embarrassment and guilt immediately were all I could think about. Even though I know it most likely wouldn’t have made a difference, a part of me wonders if I still would have been catcalled if I was instead walking on the sidewalk. It’s sad to say but sometimes it crosses my mind that getting places in half the time compared to walking isn’t worth the feeling of shame that comes with it. 

Person running
Photo by Emma Simpson from Unsplash

Women put up with an infinite number of things that men are completely oblivious to because they will never have to experience them themselves. Catcalling should not be one of them. It’s up to us to make it clear that “praising” women in this way really only encourages us to lose faith in the equality of treatment towards men and women. The change needs to start here on college campuses where it’s not about the excuse of being under the influence or not knowing any better. Instead, it’s about how to diminish the sense of unsafety and shame girls are made to feel by simply existing.  


Isabel Fernandez

Wisconsin '22

UW-Madison Senior, Creative Writing and Spanish major Hometown: Waukesha, WI
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