When do compliments cross the line into harassment?
This is the question that we, as members of the Ohio Wesleyan community, have felt the need to ask ourselves in light of recent incidents, specifically students receiving cat calls on campus.
How does one determine when someone is “just being nice,” and when an incident should be reported?
Many people like receiving compliments, but there is a difference between complimenting someone, as a kind gesture, and deliberately making them feel uncomfortable or objectified.
If someone comments on a part of your body, it is your body and not theirs to judge, especially in a public setting.
You have no need to feel inferior, apologize or thank anyone for unsolicited remarks.
In our culture, people, especially women, are objectified by the mass media and it has infiltrated to all layers of society. People are no longer viewed primarily as individuals with personhood, but rather as simple images that are produced solely to satisfy the viewer.
Nobody, regardless of gender, orientation, race, religion, or body type should feel afraid to walk amongst people in their day to day lives – as if by merely existing they are under constant evaluation.
No person is justified in openly passing judgment on those around them, whether they know the individuals or not.
Those who have felt victimized or objectified in this matter should not be afraid to speak out against those who have wronged them, regardless of that person’s higher age, socioeconomic status, position of power or of any other perceived or socially constructed superiority.
They also should be made aware of resources that exist to combat this kind of behavior and console those who have been affected by it.
Furthermore, no one should feel as if they need to be silent or ashamed of their experiences. Whether it is talking to a friend, advisor, family member or counselor, external processing is important and accessible for those who have suffered any kind of emotional distress.
On campus and in Delaware, there are safe spaces and hotlines that you can utilize if you are ever made to feel unsafe. They are available from the Health Center, the Women’s Resource Center, the LGBTIQ Resource Center and other similar offices on campus.
Additionally, by reporting specific incidents to Public Safety, you can help further campus discussion on these issues, and hold others in our community accountable for their behavior.
Even if you choose to remain anonymous, information about incidents such as these on campus help pave the way to a safer, more constructive environment.
Although we may often feel the need to bend to societal pressure as if nothing can be done to help these issues, what comes to the forefront is the need to educate ourselves and others about issues of objectification, discrimination and harassment.
If you see or hear something that makes you uncomfortable, do not hesitate to report it. If someone comes to you about an incident, encourage him or her to seek help from on-campus and outside resources.
Furthermore, when those around you make comments that can be perceived as discriminatory or objectifying, we encourage you to educate them about the consequences of their use of language.
Action, whether big or small, makes a difference.