To all the guys out there: I’m sure you have at least one positive female figure in your life. It could be your mother, sister, best friend, maybe even your girlfriend. Here’s some food for thought: have you ever walked down the street with them and found them walking closer to you or reaching for your hand as you passed a group of men? Maybe they have asked you to follow them to the shops at night, even though the task at hand is easily a one-man job. Let me suggest why they do these things. Every one of my female friends whom I’ve spoken to on this topic have experienced at least one of these: being catcalled or having their body commented on as they walk down the street, being blatantly stared at or eyed up and down by strange men, being followed as they travel to their destination on foot, being touched unnecessarily without permission or straight up having sexual acts forcefully performed to them.
This is how you can help protect your girlfriends or relatives from possibly experiencing these things. Start small by being alert of your surroundings. Maybe you’re on the train and notice a man staring at a woman when she is obviously uncomfortable; move so that you block his view – I promise that she will appreciate it. Or if you’re sending your friend back home, wait at the doorstep until she is safely in the house before you drive off. Let’s say your sister is going to run an errand at night, make it a point to tag along or at least stay up to make sure she gets home safe. Maybe you take the bus and notice someone getting too close for comfort to a woman and they are clearly strangers, stare at the person until they back away or simply call them out for it.
Even in seemingly harmless situations where your guy friends are making inappropriate comments or jokes with a female friend within earshot, you can make a positive difference by simply changing the subject or telling your friends that they shouldn’t take it too far. Sure, they might tease you for being ‘uptight’, but the right thing to do isn’t always popular. In more serious cases like if a friend tells you that she has been sexually harassed, you can be a listening ear to her and gently encourage her to report the incident; or in more urgent ones where she is being followed and has called you for help, contact the police. Never discount someone’s fear or uneasiness as an overreaction or as illogical.
At the end of the day, we cannot deny that the incidents mentioned above do take place. Though we alone cannot stop them from happening and turning a blind eye sometimes seems like the safer or easier option, it is up to us to do our small part in stepping in whenever necessary. Together, we can keep each other safe.