Teenage Girls and Street Harassment

Abby Bozek

Eighty-five percent of teenage girls will receive some sort of street harassment before the age of seventeen, seventy-percent before the age of fourteen.  These numbers aren’t made up, they come directly from surveys conducted at Cornell Unversity. The sad fact of the matter is almost everyone knows someone who’s been harassed on the street, most commonly cat-calling. Why does this happen? Mainly due to the fact that the perpetrator of this act finds themselves superior, and see the victim as an object. And the fact that this happens to not only teenage girls but girls under the age of fourteen is disgusting. An eleven-year-old spends their time at a playground, walking on the street with their parents, playing out in the yard and this should not be disturbed by a man in a car thinking they can call out noise to make unnecessary remarks. 

 

I have personally dealt with something like this on the street twice. The first time was last summer, where my friends and I were walking into Port Chester and two girls and I were significantly slower than the guys at walking. While walking over the bridge, three to four guys (who looked to be in their early twenties) called out to us from the highway. Honestly, I didn’t think much of it but didn’t wasn’t too pleased when we told one of our guy friends and he stated that that wouldn’t have happened if it wasn’t for the shorts we were wearing. I was disgusted by this suggestion, as the fact that we were wearing denim shorts doesn’t warrant my two friends and I getting called at from a bridge. 

 

The second time I was much more frightened by the event. I was in NYC with my mother, and I had seen that on Instagram my ballet teacher wanted us to pose in cool places to show what we were doing for our break. After I saw this, my mother and I stopped by some cool street art and I started to do a simple arabesque (one of my legs stretched back). The traffic that was directly in front of me was stopped at a red light, and as I observed the traffic I made eye contact with a man who looked to be in his forties. He had a weird grin on his face and winked at me as I was doing my poses. Now I know this doesn’t seem like it falls into the category of cat-calling, and doesn’t deserve to be in this article, but it freaked me out so much for so long that I decided to put it in here. I told my mother, and she said to just ignore it. Ignore it? That creepy man just winked at me with a grin on his face and the last thing I could do was ignore it. I was simply uncomfortable and just that wink made me feel violated. 

 

The fact that this happens to as many teenagers as it does largely goes unrecognized. We, as a community, should recognize that it happens not because of what we are wearing or what we are doing at the moment, but because of the people who are doing the act. This act, which leaves young teenage girls feeling uncomfortable and violated.