By Erin Jamieson, jamiesee@miamioh.edu

A whistle. That’s what compelled me to write this article.

I was out for a run, nearing Cook field, when I passed by a green space. Two men—construction workers—were enjoying their break, sitting side by side on a bench. Close to the end of my run, sweat dripping into my eyes, I didn’t really give them more than a passing glance. I went past them, focused on finishing my run.

And then I heard something I have heard many times: a whistle. The whistle. The whistle you hear sometimes when you’re walking down a street, and guys poke their heads out of their sport cars to remark. Or that you hear when it’s summer and you’re wearing a tank top because it’s hot. Or, apparently, when you’re running.

The point is simple: no matter the circumstances, whistling happens. It seems, even in this day and age—where we have women and gender’s studies, where women have a say and can vote and are constantly running campaigns of awareness about any number of  ‘women’s issues’—it seems, women are still used to being whistled at.

A disclaimer: I don’t usually get stirred up about this sort of thing. In fact, I am the very sort or person to brush it off. And don’t most of us do that? We tell ourselves something isn’t a big deal; we move on with our day. I am naturally shy; I am crazy enough that I will write fictional manuscripts in my free time, before I will give speeches in front of people. I tend to keep quiet, even when something bothers me.

But something about this time was different. Maybe it was the fact that these were adult men, employed by Miami University. Maybe it was the way they were talking and laughing like I was their entertainment for their lunch break. And maybe it was just that, finally, I’d had enough.

I went back running past them, and one of them said hello, asked how I was doing. Before I could change my mind, under my heavy breathing, I answered as loudly as I could:

“Don’t whistle at me. It’s disrespectful.”

In true Erin fashion, I ran off right after that, I kept going. I didn’t hear their reaction or see their faces, but I think it’s safe to say they were startled.

But why should they be? That, in of itself, is the heart of the problem. If we do not speak up, we are accepting the whistling, the labels girls get plastered on them: slut, whore, and the like. If we laugh it off, we are contending it’s a good joke.

And the thing is? It’s not. 

Call me a prude, but I no longer will put up with whistling, or labels. Women have worked hard over our nation’s history to earn respect and rights. Why should we relinquish that now? Have respect for ourselves, and for others. Have respect enough to treat us as thinking human beings. Have respect not to whistle a label, and to speak out if you hear it.

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