Everyday I walk through the parking lot next to my apartment. I usually feel relatively safe, at least for a woman walking through a parking lot alone. But even behind a well lit, government-owned building I still clutch my keys between my knuckles while on high alert.
When it is dark outside, I clutch those keys even tighter. Somehow, I manage to pass under the same light at the same angle every time, resulting in a shadow of myself behind me. Every time I turn around in fear and feel the same sense of relief when I realize it was only my own shadow.
I am so fearful of someone lurking behind me that I am scared of my own shadow. Even living in a safe city constantly patrolled by police and never far from a bystander, I am frightened. I am frightened of a man following me, robbing me or even worse. I know many of my fellow females, or any noncisgender males, feel and live this fear.
I can’t speak for all sexes and genders, but I know fear is a part of womanhood — a part of my womanhood. Women are taught to not only to avoid the dark alleyways but also the populated public streets. And there is good reason for this. I have been catcalled by two middle aged men on State Street at 11:00 a.m. My best friend has been approached late at night by men in a car offering her a ride home because they could see her “nice legs” from under her parka.
There is no doubt women have people and things to fear. We are treated like objects, not people. In our society, a woman’s sexuality is not for herself but for the pleasure of any man who feels he deserves it. This concept manifests itself in catcalling.
University of Wisconsin and its beautiful campus full of friendly people is not exempt from this pervasive issue. It is rare to walk around on a busy street during a weekend night and not be catcalled. Catcalling is how men display their perceived ownership of a woman’s sexuality, of my sexuality.
In that moment, I am not a female majoring in psychology who works in a preschool and has career aspirations and friends. Instead, I am seen purely as a sexual object that can be exploited for someone else’s enjoyment.
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If I am not considered a full human every moment of my life by everyone I encounter, something is terribly wrong. I refuse to accept my status as an object, even if it is part-time.
The people and men who do not consider women fully human are why we live in fear.
If women were seen as the powerful, equal humans they are, I truly believe our disproportionate amount of harassment would subside, along with the fear entrenched in our being.
I want to live in a world where I am not scared by own shadow.
Stacey Sukoff ([email protected]) is a sophomore majoring in psychology.