6 Ways to Help Your Daughter Deal With Sex-Based Harassment on the Street and In School

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About Soraya Chemaly

Soraya Chemaly is a feminist satire writer and media critic. She is also regular contributor to the Huffington Post on issues of gender and media. Email: soraya.chemaly@gma[email protected] twitter: @schemaly

Comments

  1. I always wished my parents had talked to me about this and helped me know how to think about it and deal with it. It happened all through high school and well into adulthood. When I was a kid, I was often scared. But I felt so embarrassed about it I never told anyone, and I didn’t realize how common it was. I was “pretty,” I guess, but small and not particularly womanly or sexy, and I looked 12 when I was 18, and it was unreal how often men catcalled, whistled, and shouted out really inappropriate things in broad daylight. Sometimes it made me start running, or duck into places to hide. I never saw women do this to boys. I just thought it was part of what it was to be a girl.

  2. This happened to me when I was fourteen years old and was finally able to walk around town without my parents. I had to have a friend of course, but the sexual harassment was unreal to me. I honestly thought my parents were exaggerating because they wouldn’t let me wonder the town by myself until I was able to drive (mainly because a car can serve as a weapon against a potential predator is my guess). But that first day I probably had five catcalls. Even worse was in my freshman year of high school and I went around selling stuff for my band. My mother was with me for crying out loud and I was getting catcalled! Whistles, verbal harassment, you name it. Even more bizarre, if this is bizarre at all, is all the sexual harassment I ever experienced in my town came from Mexican men. I don’t know why, but if anyone can answer, by all means do so!

  3. How about an article naming six ways we can teach our boys not to act like douchenozzles?

    • LOL!!! Must steal that word. But seriously, yes, education of boys would help too. Thank you for suggesting it. I think that if men imagined to themselves how they’d feel if other men were doing to their mothers/daughters/sisters/wives what they are doing to the women walking down the street, they might think twice, but somehow that thought must not occur to them. I dunno.

      • Don’t credit me. I got “douchenozzle” from rageagainstthemanchine.com. :-)

        I’m not “that guy” – at least not any more. I have two boys, one of whom just entered middle school and is in the early stages of puberty. He knows what sexism is and is already able to analyze messages from the media critically, so I hope he’ll be able to use the same good judgment when it comes to peer pressure. Most of his friends don’t really notice girls in the sexual or romantic capacity yet, so it’s too soon to tell. He has female friends that have been, so far, platonic. Though our generation often can’t maintain platonic friendships with potential romantic partners, there’s no reason we can’t teach the next generation that it’s possible. The main idea is that my wife and I instill respect for women in our boys. It’s sinking in so far.

        • I have two girls whom Im trying to teach to look through all the media bullshit, growing up in a society where you can buy lingere for little girls. and most men I know who have boys say “when he grows up i only have to deal with one prick, you have to deal with all of them”. To me, by saying that they are passing off all these problems as MY problem, like by having boys they don’t have to think about any of it. so I just want to thank you for doing what you’re doing and trying to raise good boys, should be more dads like yourself.

          • Keith, what an interesting point of view that really resonates. This problem needs to be tackled by and for both men and women, girls and boys. It is not one gender’s, or only certain parents’ problem. We all make up society, we all live in it, we all benefit from it, and we all share responsibility for it. Thank you!

  4. Great idea! It reminds me of the meme that’s been making its way around Facebook lately on how to “really” prevent rape: https://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=116451521711521

  5. This is a brilliant article. Thank you!!

  6. This is a really intelligent article with lots of sensible suggestions. I’m glad you’ve taken a nuanced approach to this and high-lighted the fact that it’s only a small percentage of men who perpetrate, but equally that doesn’t make it any more acceptable that it happens at all.

    • Not enough men are standing up to those who perpetrate. I like being in a position of management where I can bust some heads when I hear guys on my team talking about what they’d do to high school girls (we work in schools). Don’t hear much of that from the less scrupulous individuals I manage. Most of the guys are younger and more progressive in their thinking, though.

      • Jim, that’s outstanding. And it would make for a really interesting blog post. Would you be interested in submitting something for GMP? Let me know.

  7. I have two daughters and am sensitive to anything that might negatively affect them. There is no street harassment in my community at all.  Were it to happen, passersby would stand up for whoever the victim was.  That’s just part of the culture here.    
    What do I teach my daughters?  The same thing I teach boys that I mentor:  respect yourself and others.  It’s also what I teach regarding dealing with mean girls. Carry yourself with dignity and to respect, treat others with dignity and respect and require that you be treated consistent with how you act, dress, behave, and treat others.   
    This would apply to dealing with mean girls, street harassment, or any form of bullying.  Just as they don’t allow others to be disrespected, they don’t allow themselves to be treated with disrespect.  Just like an adult who tries to avoid dangerous areas and, if they have to travel through such places, simply take precautions.  If you’re in a high crime neighborhood, use the club. Otherwise, leave it on the trunk.

  8. I think in general it is good advice. I have taught self-defense for over 17 years in a major city. One thing I DO disagree with is the idea that it advisable to “shame them” or correct their behavior. This can in fact, be very dangerous. They have NO idea how this person will react. They could pull out a gun a shoot you, they could follow you, and do great harm. I know a friend who has been in the military and trained in the martial arts for years. And he has a teenage daughter. And he talks about how dangerous it is to do this to other men. “Shaming” or embarrassing them can set them off. I saw a case of a woman on the street told someone to stop doing what they are doing and the person she did this too left, got a friend and they beat the crap out of her. And in fact its doubly dangerous if they do not know how to then defend themselves from a physical assault.

    And whether your daughter is in a place with lots of harassment, self-defense is good for a lifetime. They are not always going to be in an insular world, will go to college etc etc. There are bad people, give your daughters skills to be safe. Don’t just “hope” it away.

  9. It’s also crucial that we understand this is not just happening on the streets. Girls face this daily in the halls at school. When I was in high school I had my ass and breasts grabbed, I had guys yelling things at me about my body, loudly speculating about my sex life and even hitting me. All on school property.

    • Ab-so-lutely! It has always been a problem and important, but today we are seeing a real back-slide with all the Herman Cain nonsense that is bringing to light how many people do not see this as a problem, and how, for whatever inexplicable reason, sexual harassment of women and girls is both increasing in incidence AND decreasing as a perceived problem. Infuriating.

  10. superstarjackie says:

    What a good and thoughtful father

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