By Janet Drake–
Ninety-nine percent of women admit to experiencing it: a suggestive whistle in your direction, being leered at as you walk in the room, a “hey baby, you got a man?”
This is commonly known as catcalling. But these actions (which are 94 percent of the time perpetrated by men against women and/or LGBTQ people) are street harassment, which is illegal in Kentucky.
This was the focus “Cards Against Catcalling,” an event by the Women 4 Women student board at U of L April 6. Lead by student Hadley Hendrick, this event featured Title IX coordinator for the CASE project, Megan Willman. Four U of L students spoke candidly about their personal experiences with catcalling.
“It’s my thing because I have been publically objectified since I was nine,” Hendrick said. “I realized that this is something that I’m experiencing, and I know so many other people are experiencing, and yet no one’s really talking about it.”
Megan Willman – who works to educate students about their Title IX rights, and to provide legal resources to people who have experienced harassment – posed questions to the audience. “How old were you when you first experienced some kind of street harassment?” Hands shot up. Answers ranged from nine to 16.
Several of these people shared very personal stories. These ranged from being sexually objectified while walking their dog as a 9-year-old, to being told “you should kill yourself” based on their religion.
U of L student Maria Martinez spoke about her experience as a Latina woman with street harassment. Martinez, from Colombia, is familiar with the machismo culture that heavily objectifies women in many Latin countries. “We [the United States] view ourselves as such a progressive country, but it’s really not so different. We still have the same problems,” Martinez said.
Speaking alongside Martinez, Elizabeth Peña added, “Street harassment has no racial or ethnic boundaries.”
Men made up roughly one-third of the attendees at “Cards Against Catcalling.” Throughout the event, several guys voiced their personal stories with experiencing or witnessing street harassment.
“Men don’t really experience it [street harassment], and they’re not usually around when it happens to women, so it’s hard for them to understand that it actually occurs,” junior Thomas Lawrence said.