By Chelsea Seifer

It was sunny. I was going to the post office, midday on a Wednesday. It was not a holiday, it was not 2 a.m., just 12:45 p.m. on a regular Wednesday. I had missed the delivery of a package so I went to the office to pick it up. Following my errand, I walked to my internship. I work just two short blocks away from the USPS, so I walked. During the span of these two blocks, I was catcalled three times. Three times by men who were probably four times my age; and my first reaction was to blame myself. I thought, “You’re wearing a skirt and walking in front of a crowd of old men, Chelsea. What did you think was going to happen?” Granted this is not my first “rodeo” with street harassment, it can and often does happen everywhere to women. Regardless, and especially in today’s social climate of anti-sexual harassment movements, why do we accept it? Why do we just blame it on something menial and brush it off? The fact of the matter is that catcalling is a form of harassment that plagues women every day. It is a 24/7 worry of every girl and a problem that should not exist. 

Catcalling, the practice of unwanted whistling, hooting or comments of a sexual nature regarding the body of someone walking by, is the root of street harassment and an issue that affects women most prevalently in their youth. According to the Los Angeles Times, “the ages that [they] are most frequently catcalled are young, adolescent girls ranging from 11 to 17 years old”. 

My older sister is a sophomore at the University of California, Berkeley, and my parent’s greatest worries for her are not her unwritten future, studies or even student loans. The majority of their concerns with her have to do with her getting harassed. They constantly send her articles about college girls being raped, roofied or kidnapped. She’s living in a new city, away from us, and instead of getting to ask how her study groups go or what she’s learning, we have to ask if she walked home alone or if she got home safe. That is the world we live in. A world where even though there is a magnanimous sexual harassment movement circulating nationwide, the thought of being raped or abducted is still in the back of the head of every girl. A world where even when I am at school, the thought to not walk in front of guys so they can’t stare and to remember my earbuds so I can pretend not to hear the whistling catcalls are always there. 

The root of this problem is obviously the men going after young girls, but it is also in the bystander apathy of the problem. A great deal of harassment occurs during the daytime in public places. People see harassment unfold, hear comments made and they do nothing. I was walking from 7th Street to 5th Street on curbs that border with a major freeway. Tens of drivers and fellow residents walking likely saw the crowds of guys harassing me and checking me out, but no one said anything. We cannot solve a problem if we are not willing to confront it.

In the way that the Big Mac and Facebook-ranting one’s political views are ingrained in what American culture is, the threat of sexual harassment is forever ingrained in the mindset of women. 

I volunteer for a crisis hotline, a hotline where I often get calls about rape. Calls from girls who have been taken advantage of and hence have been destroyed. Every time I get one, I always reinforce with them that it was not their fault. There is no piece of clothing small enough or drink strong enough to justify someone raping you or furthermore to put the blame on the victim. And while I push that they are not responsible for what transpired, when I myself get catcalled, my first instinct is to blame myself. My skirt is too short, I should have worn tights, constantly trying to find a tangible reason for why it happened to me. 

I just cannot make sense of it. I completely understand that everyone has their own battles and that this situation could be so much worse. If someone’s worst problem in life is that once every two weeks they get a wink and smile from a 50-year-old stranger, their life is probably pretty good for the most part. I just don’t understand why harassment happens in the first place. It is not like there is a worldwide shortage of women ranging from the ages of 30 and above. There are people of one’s own age for everyone, but men choose to be predators. They choose to go after the young girl jogging in Palisades Park. They choose to DM the girl whose Instagram bio clearly states “Samohi ‘20”. They choose to catcall the sixteen-year-old girl who just wanted her Levi’s jeans package. I do not get it. 

Chelsea Seifer is an intern at the Daily Press