Aggressive sexual comments make streets feel unsafe
I’ve trekked across Washington, D.C. in the dead of night by myself without blinking an eye. I’ve made my way home from downtown to my apartment in Philadelphia unsupervised and never thought twice. And I’ve walked home from The Peanut Barrel to my apartment past Harrison Road more times than I can count.
Most of the time the worst part about the journey is how long it takes me to get from a booth in What Up Dawg? to my memory foam bed, but my walk home Saturday was outright miserable.
I was too stubborn to take my friend up on an offer to walk me back. It’s not a short trip, and I didn’t want to inconvenience him. I can take care of myself, or at least I like to think I can.
So I started power walking, motivated by the prospect of munching on the chips and queso waiting for me in my apartment.
I wasn’t stupid enough to delude myself into believing that I’d join hands with strangers and sing showtunes on my way. I once saw a man lurking in the bushes on my walk home in D.C. near the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. It was a Tuesday night.
But I didn’t expect men to lean out of their car windows and scream “p—-y” at me as they zoomed down Michigan Avenue.
Not exactly an uplifting message to hear at the end of your night.
At first, I wrote it off as a group of drunk guys trying to be funny (likely the case). Words hurt, but I likely wasn’t in any real danger from them.
Then it happened again. And again.
I’m not saying it’s dangerous to walk in East Lansing if you’re a woman, but getting called a whore (and worse) by three separate groups of guys as I trudged down a desolate Michigan Avenue late at night didn’t exactly make me feel comfortable. That never happened to me in D.C. or Philly, and it’s shameful that I sometimes feel less safe walking on Collingwood Drive than I did in West Philadelphia. Unfortunately I don’t have an aunt and uncle in Bel-Air to live with.
The city crime rates pale in comparison with Philadelphia and D.C., but I sometimes feel less safe walking home alone here because there aren’t even other pedestrians I could call out for if someone decided to attack me.
Philadelphia was the scariest city I’ve ever lived in. Still, I could hover behind a group of people so it didn’t look like I was walking alone. I had the courage to check on a drunk woman who was being grabbed by a man because someone else noticed and went with me. The police can’t be on every corner, but we had each other’s backs in the City of Brotherly Love.
I shouldn’t be so terrified of walking the streets of East Lansing that I hole up in my apartment or drive everywhere. If everyone felt that way, no one would use the streets and it would pose more of a threat.
I’m not going to stop walking at night, although I’m not saying “no” the next time my friend offers to escort me home. I’ll certainly think twice the next time I’m alone and want to avoid a cab ride for the sake of saving $3, and I’d recommend the same for anyone else.
Don’t be afraid of the streets, and don’t make walking any more uncomfortable than it has to be.
Walk with friends and stay alert for things that don’t look right. If you see someone walking alone, don’t scream aggressive, lewd comments at them. I’m sure they’d appreciate an offer to walk a few blocks together much more than a nasty cat call. I would.
Summer Ballentine is the State News opinion editor. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.