Editor’s Note: Views expressed in guest columns and letters to the editor reflect the views of the author, not the views of The State News.
Maybe it’s because I’m an angry, man-hating, feminist, liberal b****, but I can’t help but notice the not-so-subtle misogyny that runs rampant on Michigan State’s campus on a daily basis.
I’ve spent more than four years in East Lansing, and during that time period, I’ve learned many important lessons — an unfortunate number of which pertain to how I should dress and act in certain situations. In short, the best way to sum up the lessons I’ve gleaned from sexual harassment on campus is: Don’t be a woman.
Let me give you some examples. My freshman year, I learned not to go for a run on campus on the day of a football game — or anywhere near campus, for that matter. The repercussions for doing so would be to receive an undue amount of unwanted attention and several unsolicited calls of: “Hey, girl.”
As an avid runner, I often have the problem of deciding what to wear when running in the summer.
Michigan summers can get unbearably hot at times, and when I’m preparing to go out for a three-mile-plus run in 90-degree weather, I often contemplate wearing nothing more than shorts and a sports bra.
Although this might seem unreasonable or too revealing to some, I find it can be, at times, the only suitable outfit for running in high heat and humidity. Unfortunately, I often find a string of good reasons not to leave the house dressed as such.
Mostly, it’s my fear of attracting unwanted attention in the form of honking cars, shouts from passers-by and the always-dreaded slow-driving creep who tries to “offer you a ride” somewhere.
Several other incidents have taken place at bus stops. For example, one day I was standing at an overcrowded bus stop, waiting for the bus — let me just say, I was dressed far too warmly for the weather — and a group of young men walked by, each letting his eyes wander toward me, blatantly “checking me out.” Instantly, I felt vulnerable, uncomfortable and slightly disgusted.
On a separate occasion, I was waiting for the bus late at night with my friend. This was during the winter, so we were both wearing large coats. My friend and I were sitting down, facing the road, deeply engaged in conversation, when a car of college-age boys drove by and shouted “nice tits.” Considering both of our chests were successfully concealed at the time by our heavy winter coats, I can only assume this was a joke. I didn’t find it funny.
Clearly, I can’t always blame this behavior on what I’m wearing. Things like this happen all the time, no matter what a woman might or might not be wearing, and I don’t claim to be the only recipient of such attention.
Most women likely will corroborate my story with a shared experience of their own. And for those who might claim it’s all in good fun, that men only mean it as a compliment, well, I hate to break it to you, but not all women are constantly seeking approval from men.
A woman might choose to look nice not to impress a man, but simply because she wants to.
In fact, a 2010 study by the U.K. fashion website, My Celebrity Fashion, found two-thirds of women actually dress to impress other women. This might come as a surprise, but not all women need, or want, the approval of a man — particularly not when that man is a stranger shouting out of his car window.
Some feel it is a woman’s duty to dress appropriately in order to prevent her from being the recipient of unwanted attention. I disagree.
Why should it be my burden? Why must I be forced to overthink every outfit? And why, once I think I’ve found something appropriate, should it be possible that one man giving me a too-friendly look can make me feel self-conscious and cause me to completely regret my choice of clothing for that day?
Personally, I’d like to think men have some ability to control themselves.
Sexual harassment is a problem everywhere, not just on college campuses. I understand those who commit these acts of harassment might not consider it to be a big deal, but it is. Sexual harassment breeds an environment of fear.
When students can’t feel safe in their everyday environment, I believe that is unreasonable.
And women already have too many reasons to be afraid. Several cases of sexual assault are reported on campus each year, and an unknown number go unreported. This is an issue we need to take seriously.
All I’m asking is that the men on Michigan State’s campus take a serious look at their actions.
There is a right way and a wrong way to treat a woman.
Figure out which is which.
Caron Creighton is a guest columnist at The State News and a professional writing senior. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.