By Ellen Stenstrom, For The Miami Student

I’ve always hated heated political and social rights debates. It’s not because I don’t care about the issues, but because I feel the confrontational “I’m right and you’re wrong” tone is counterproductive and often causes more frustration and anger than it solves.

So I avoid these discussions like the plague. This past weekend, though, I couldn’t help but wonder if the discussion of catcalling and its implications is one we should be having here at Miami.

Sunday was sunny and warm and the Frisbee crew of MET quad (Morris, Emerson, Tappan) had emerged from hibernation. They weren’t the only ones.

Around 4 p.m., some 1,000 first and second year women streamed out of Armstrong and toward Millett, where they would soon receive bids from their new sororities.

As we turned onto Tallawanda, we were greeted by four or five fraternities stationed in their front lawns. Complete with booming music, beers and rows of lawn chairs, they stared, cheered, whistled and catcalled as we hurried past.

The thing is, this wasn’t the first time my friends and I had experienced this kind of unsolicited behavior at Miami.

I’ve been honked and whistled at while dressed in a (quite modest) skirt and heels on my way to auditions and interviews, and I’ve heard similar stories from my friends.

Maybe I sound like a naïve little first-year who hasn’t adjusted to college life. Maybe you’re reading this and thinking this is normal behavior for college students and the rest of us need to toughen up, deal with it and stop taking things so seriously.

But the thing is, new students shouldn’t have to just “get used to it.” Just like no one should get used to being teased, name-called, beaten or discriminated against, no one should grow accustomed to being sexually targeted and objectified.

I don’t want to get into facts, statistics and politics of the objectification of women and gender double-standards. While this is a conversation that needs to be had, this isn’t my point right now.

My point is about respect. It’s that simple. When 16,000 people are living and learning together, there are bound to be differences and disagreements and variations in opinion, and those things are good because they make Miami diverse.

The problem is when people with so much in common (mostly age 18 to 22, going to school at Miami, living in Oxford, etc.) can’t show a level of mutual respect. Really, the big issue is when human beings in general can’t show respect.

For the most part, my experience at Miami has been very positive and I very rarely have encountered rude and unpleasant people. But rarely is not never.

And while I hate to be cheesy, “Love And Honor” is the foundation of life and community at Miami. To me, the phrase “Love and Honor” does not mean that we love and honor our friends; it does not mean that we love and honor ourselves first.

“Love and Honor” means that we love and honor each and every person, all the time, no matter what. Not because we have to, or to impress anyone or to get a recommendation, but because it’s the right thing to do.

The catcalling and jeering I experienced this weekend was not a direct assault on me. It was not violent or damaging. But not everyone here is that fortunate.

I shudder every time I open  another email reporting a sexual assault on campus, and I think about how that could be me while walking home from dance at 10 o’clock.

Again, this is another issue for another discussion. But for now, my wish is that people would think twice about their actions and words and the impact they may have.

Comments