If you know me, you know I love shoes.
I never discriminate against a cute pair of high top sneakers or turn down an opportunity to wear five inch heels. I have about 109 pairs, and my collection continues to grow.
The Transcript’s editorial staff and I lay out the paper every Tuesday, and because I operate under the look-good-do-good principle, I always dress up on Tuesdays so I stay in work mode. Dressing well makes me most confident and keeps me constantly alert, and for me, dressing well equates wearing nice shoes.
That is why this morning en route to Phillips Hall to get the paper ready for all the editors coming in to lay out their pages, I was wearing a pair of Zara Italian leather booties with a two-inch heel. The treacherous ice sheet that has become the residential side of Ohio Wesleyan’s campus did not welcome the leather soles warmly. As I exited Hayes Hall to walk to my car, I carefully watched my feet as I walked down the exit ramp.
I told myself “Ellin, you cannot fall. If you fall you will ruin your whole day. You cannot afford to ruin your whole day. Whatever you do, do not fall.”
I was off the ramp and on to the even icier parking lot when I heard a man whistle at me.
I looked up to see who it was, and the second I stopped looking at my feet I felt my beautiful boots fly into the air. My arms flailed, and my brown leather fringe bag went flying and simultaneously expelled all its contents.
I fell on my thigh and my right wrist. My lipstick was about 30 feet away. Next to it was my wallet, and in the opposite direction were my vitamins, all my credit cards, my phone, my makeup bag and my iPad. My white t-shirt was soaked under my thin leather jacket, and didn’t have time to go inside and change.
Then, the same voice that whistled at me started crackling.
It was someone smoking a cigarette outside of Smith Hall. Instead of coming over to help me, he and his friend laughed and catcalled me. One of them yelled, “Get yourself wet there, sweetie?”
As if it wasn’t enough that I had a long day ahead of me, that I was already running my usual ten minutes late, that my beautiful leather boots now had a massive scuff mark.
As if all of those things weren’t enough, the universe threw in a couple sexist assholes.
I’ll never understand what these men want to accomplish. What do you want me to say?
“Yeah, let me just drop the tens of millions of responsibilities I have to attend to today and we can get it on in the back of your beatup Honda that smells like meth.” Nope.
I didn’t respond, and I was fine. I’m writing this in Phillips Hall with wet clothes and a strong desire to punch someone, but I’m fine.
Unfortunately, this kind of incident does not always turn out okay for women like me.
Let’s take, for example, the 33-year-old women in San Francisco who, Jezebel reported, was stabbed in the face last January when she rejected a man who was sexually harassing her on the street. Or the 15-year-old girl in Chicago whom. the Chicago Tribune reported, was hit by a car and killed after she leapt a from a bus trying to run away from attackers.
These women were not okay. They didn’t just get a wet shirt or a scrape on their hand. Me falling on my butt and getting a late start worked out fine. I still shouldn’t have had to fall because of two jerk guys, but comparing that to being killed or seriously injured by dangerous attackers, I consider myself lucky.
This kind of thing happens every day, and obviously happens here. Apparently, it happens relatively frequently here, too. Just the other day, my best friend was walking to the gym and a male student yelled at her from behind, “Damn girl, I’m going to rape you!”
Not okay. Not in a million years is that ever okay.
If you believe that sexual harassment isn’t serious, that it’s funny, that it’s flattering—you are dead wrong. No one appreciates being treated like a piece of meat in leggings. No one likes to be yelled at the creepy guy from Smith Dining Hall whom you have to ask to make you gluten free pizza upon request.
We have to stop shrugging these incidents off as just “some asshole yelling at you on the street.” It isn’t flattering, and it isn’t funny.
Not every woman is lucky enough to keep walking by that asshole and go on with her day like I did, or like my friend did. We have to remember that.