By Kristin Ingersoll
I have been far out of my comfort zone living in the city, but that’s what global studies is meant to do: challenge you. I have faced many challenges throughout this semester, but the realization that women are not treated equally to men when in the city has been a huge challenge.
Starting off this semester, I got an idea of what I would face as a 20-year-old female in the city. I would walk down the street minding my own business and hear a catcall from a man sitting on a bench. I would step on a train and feel eyes staring me down and get a flirtatious wave. I would walk to my internship as a man in a truck drives past me and blows a kiss. I felt violated in unnecessary ways as I experienced how women are treated in public.
I did nothing to bring attention to myself. I did nothing to invite these actions, and yet they would happen. One day, I was walking to a coffee shop while wearing ripped jeans and a man whispered, “Nice knees.” Most people would think it’s ridiculous that I would call that a catcall, but his tone of voice and oogly eyes made for an uncomfortable situation. I started to notice how some men were able to sexualize any part of a woman’s body.
This last week, I was walking through Union Station wearing ripped jeans when a man walked past and said, “Oh my, what happened to your jeans?” in a snarky way. I cannot comprehend what compelled this man to even comment on my jeans. These words weren’t sexual in any manner, and yet his tone of voice was used to make me feel uncomfortable. I didn’t ask him what he thought; therefore, why did he think he was invited to comment on my appearance?
When a young woman in the city is alone, men aren’t afraid to approach her. Men aren’t afraid to comment on her appearance; they aren’t afraid to make her feel uncomfortable. Los Angeles has shown me what it means to be a woman and how some people see us as objects.
Therefore, I felt challenged in my faith and felt like there would never be true equality until a certain conversation revealed a glimmer of hope. I was standing at my bus stop at Union Station trying to avoid a man who was walking into the personal space of several waiting women. He came toward me yelling random noises, but quickly realized that I was not giving him any attention and backed off.
A man next to me in a suit and tie looked at me and said, “If he comes near me, should I fist bump him?” Annoyed by his question, I replied, “I just ignore people in situations like this, but then again, I’m a woman, so my experience is different than yours.” The man, realizing his mistake, quickly replied with, “Oh yeah, that’s very true. Well, if he comes this way again, step behind me.”
After this moment, I felt a new sense of hope. This man realized how damaging a question like his could be. He realized how his remark encouraged the other man to continue. When people begin to recognize different perspectives and how sometimes there can be gender superiority, changes can be made.
I don’t want people to take this article as an attack on men as pigs who only see women as objects. I’m only saying that gender superiority needs to be recognized, and men need to recognize when a woman feels uncomfortable. When my all-female cohort is able to have an hour-long conversation about what different men said to us on the way to class, there is a problem. I want people of all genders to recognize the problem and to understand that there is a way to handle and react to a situation like this. I want people to understand that encouraging this behavior or joking at the situation is not appropriate.
These experiences don’t come with only a negative side. They have positively shaped me to better understand myself and how I am perceived. I have learned through L.A. Term how to be a confident woman and how not to fear or even acknowledge behavior like this. I have learned not to let these situations hurt me, and I have learned to pray for those in the wrong to realize their actions.
I am proud to be a woman, and I am proud to be able to have a voice and the ability to bring this perspective. Women are bound to face a tough road ahead, but through unity of all genders, gender superiority can be overcome. L.A. Term has the ability to teach you to overcome all types of situations, and this is one lesson that I will be forever grateful for.