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By Olivia Dudley
You may or may not know where this is going, but it really sucks to lose your name. Sometimes I will forget and someone will turn up and remind me and I will be like, “Oh, that’s right…I’m Sugar! How could I forget? Thank goodness that kind man reminded me at eight o’clock at night on the way home.” I hope to myself that I don’t forget it again and I won’t need to be reminded. But darn it, by the time I am walking to class the next morning, I have already forgotten it! Thankfully, and I am oh so lucky, a kind man reminded me that my name is “Baby” as I cross the street. Did I mention that I am thankful? Where would I have been without the help of this man? Probably walking to the café as usual, ordering a green tea lemonade and a bagel without his kind words echoing in my head.
I feel as though I have a new name every day of the week. Many other women feel this way too; because we are forgetful, men feel the need to swoop in and remind us. But these are no friendly reminders, these are reminders that are gifted with in the hopes of a thank you and that is far from okay. I’m just trying to get to class on time. I do not need to know who or what I am right now. All of these names get swept up in the heads of girls and women and we grow up with them. We grow up with the names, the staring, and the uncomfortable sensation of being followed; it is not a nice feeling. Sometimes we don’t know what to do. Occasionally we do know but are too scared to do anything because we don’t know what a stranger is capable of. All Tiarah Poyau, 22, said was “Get off me.” To a man at a J’ouvert festival in New York on September 5, 2016 and he shot her in the face. Killing Tiarah instantly, in front of her friends. If that happened to such a strong and beautiful woman in the presence of other people, what is one girl alone supposed to think?
The safest tactic is to say nothing and hasten your pace. But what happens when they yell or pursue? A crowd will protect you. But what if the crowd doesn’t care? These are the thoughts many women and girls have when that kind man tells them their name and reminds them of their place in society as the object. Those thoughts usually come after a “Please don’t follow me.” In most cases the plea is answered, but in the cases where it’s not. I cannot begin to explain how many girls I know that feel the need to carry mace or pepper spray on them while having the hope that they never have to use it.
Words are powerful; they can boost your confidence or make you feel like an insignificant pebble. But there is nothing worse than being afraid and threatened by the words of another, no matter how kindly they are spoken to you, because you do not know how far they will go to gain your attention. In truth, street harassment is not going to stop anytime soon, and it is difficult to avoid because of the unpredictability of human beings. The only thing we can hope for people to develop some respect for those around them by thinking before speaking and that we all get to our destination safely.