“He was man enough to unzip his pants for me”

Imagine this: a girl walks up to a group of students- the majority of them males- to take a picture for the student newspaper. Instead of being able to take the picture and walk away she had to endure being ‘teased’, as one of the boys decided he was man enough to unzip his pants for her.

Mortifying as it is – it was made worse as everyone just stood around and laughed, including the only two girls were part of that group of 10- 15 students. Somehow, that kind of obscene behavior, at Centennial’s Ashtonbee Campus was accepted.

That girl was me.

For the courier, we are doing a series of stories that explore social disconnect and integration on our campuses. I was at Ashtonbee with Seljan Gryphon to get a feel of whether or not girls feel out of place on the campus’s male dominated environment.

Though, I don’t necessarily believe that social disconnect is a bad thing – in fact, I think that necessary in certain cases – I believe that accepting situations just to be integrated, among social groups, needs to be questioned.

We spoke to a number of girls at the campus, all of whom acknowledge that harassment did occur but that they weren’t threatened by it. All of them brushed it off as mere teasing or flirting. None of them, spoke about it as if it could be embarrassing or difficult for them. Me on the other hand- my experience was definitely and extremely unpleasant.

The alarming factor is that none of these girls want to be quoted in the paper. They specifically asked for their name to be left out and therefore we have either changed names or not given any for our story.

Sexual harassment is a delicate issue. I don’t have the experience or education to be able to point fingers and say that it is wrong for students to just stand around, watching inappropriate behavior occur, without standing up or saying something about it.

It is easy to question why female students seem to tolerate this kind of behavior or don’t want to be insinuated as the ones who are ‘talking’.  It almost seems like a forbidden topic.

However, there is more webbed to it when it comes to just saying ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to being harassed, or witnessing harassment occur. There seems to be some kind of fear in standing up against it. I’m not surprised. If I attended a school where the majority of students were male and if in fact, sexual harassment was an ongoing issue – I think I might watch what I say or do, as well.

The puzzling part is- why are students taking this lightly. When students are asked, why aren’t they reporting the times that they have been harrassed?

Laurie Sanci, Centennial Colleges Sexual Harassment Officer syas, “There are often practical reason why a woman wants to deny that they are experiencing problems. They might not want to be seen as ‘stirring up trouble’. They may be worried about being labeled as a feminist or being called a ‘bitch’ by the men at school. Some may be eager to be seen as fitting in to the culture, to be seen as ‘one of the boys’.”

I do not want to make Ashtonbee sound dangerous or monstrous. The girls we spoke to, seem to comfortable there which proves that it hasn’t been a bad experience for everybody. But after spending an hour and a half at that campus and experiencing what we did, I can definitely say that it is not an issue that should sit on the back burner. Easy as it may sound, I think students should feel safe to speak out against unacceptable and inappropriate behavior.

~ by muskanohri on December 14, 2007.

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