This first week back on campus there are many aspects of student life I am so glad to be a part of again, and then there are a few I could easily live without. Within the first few hours of my return came the whistling and jeering from outside my window. The routine came back instantly despite its vacation this winter break: avoid eye contact, close the window, then the blinds and turn the lights off until they’ve gone away.
Perhaps this all sounds foreign to you. In my short time at North Dakota State, I have met individuals with ranging familiarity with catcalling, sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus. There are those people, male and female, who have been lucky enough to avoid any contact with the subject whatsoever, but then there are those, like myself, that have had one too many experiences feeling like a target.
I have met individuals with ranging familiarity with catcalling, sexual harassment and sexual violence on campus.
My own familiarity began when I was 16 and visiting campus on a tour. While passing Reed-Johnson, a group of several boys laughed at my passing, one whistling at me and asking for my number. The tour guide assured me it was just some buddies playing around, and I swallowed my reservations.
In the first week of classes in the fall I became familiar with window callers, passersby on the street in front of my dorm who felt obliged to talk to me through my third-story window. My roommate’s father reminded me how much worse things were when he went here, and I chided myself for getting so worked up.
Soon, like many other girls in my dorm, I learned to adjust my own behavior and avoid thinking of why it felt so humiliating to do so. The rules come quickly: never walk alone at night, carry your keys in between your knuckles, never walk around your dorm room with a sports bra on, watch your drinks at parties and so on.
Maybe I’m being naive in assuming it would be better at any other school. Maybe the new reality for young females is a nationwide state of fear. Maybe I should be thankful that when a man groped me he didn’t go farther. Maybe it’s good that I only know a few people who’ve been raped.
Or maybe this school and all those individuals within it need to take a little more time to consider the environment in which so many of its members live. Maybe the standards should be higher. Maybe one day we can create an environment where girls can always leave their windows open.