From Girl to "Princess": Experiencing Sexual Harassment for the First Time
It happened a couple of weeks after my 12th birthday. I hadn't entered high school, I didn't have my period or a crush on anyone. I was too young to experience the best, empowering parts of my sexuality, but was apparently old enough to experience one of the worst: sexual harassment.
Even though it was a few years ago, I still remember the first incident like it was yesterday. Brace-faced and bespectacled, I set out (with my mother, no less) on a routine trip to the grocery store. It happened not even a full minute before we split up to get different items.
I walked by a man who appeared to be in his thirties. He whistled and said, "Hey there, Princess."
My immediate reaction was surprise. Before this point, no one had ever called me "Princess," except family members whom I forced to play dress up with me. I made the mistake of looking at him. He gave me a crooked grin and his eyes rested on my body as if were an object. I heard him laugh as I sprinted away.
By the time I found my mother, my heart was racing. I was so scared in that moment that a mark remained from where my nails dug into my palms. I kept glancing over my shoulder, terrified of seeing the man again. My mom could tell something was wrong, but I felt too ashamed to tell her what had happened. I felt inferior and dehumanized, like a useless fool who existed for one purpose only. Even weeks later, I consciously crossed my arms over my chest in an awkward attempt to cover my body. I believed that I was the problem and had caused what had happened.
Eventually, however, I realized I was not the problem. The man was the problem. Anyone who feels the need to terrify young girls like that is sick. The only thing he could have possibly gained from that interaction was a false assurance of his masculinity. I'm not Kate Middleton or a dog, so he had no reason to call me "Princess" or whistle at me.
I hope that my nieces, cousins, and, eventually, daughters will never have to experience this. Cat-calling isn't complimentary or validating: It inspires fear and a diminished sense of self worth. We must continue to speak out about these experiences until all women — from prepubescent to post-menopausal — live free from harassment.
More articles in WMC FBomb by Category: Education, Feminism, Violence against women
More articles in WMC FBomb by Tag: Activism and advocacy, Sexual harassment, Gender bias, Sexism