Alba Rosa | Opinion Director
In my first article for PantherNOW, Women should feel safe wherever they go, I discussed my struggles feeling unsafe on campus as a commuter. Two years later, a lot about my situation has changed, but the dreadful feeling persists. And it happened – I felt harassed by a professor.
He might’ve assumed his comments were trivial, and it might’ve been the first time, but I should’ve raised alarms by the second. On one occasion, he complimented a new look I had, red lipstick; on the other, he found my black dress unusual, since I had a “particular” sense of style.
I’ve realized in all these years that feeling safe on campus isn’t limited to cat-calling on my commute to campus, or verbal harassment coming from petitioners stationed in front of the Green Library. A lack of safety even occurs within a classroom’s four walls, by a professor or mentor you once trusted.
Take journalism for example and the intense investigative nature of the job. To me and many other women pursuing a career in this field, there’s nothing more satisfying than seeing women dominate their career and be respected along the way.
But a toxic workplace environment, especially one led by men, makes it harder to fully realize their passion. Even strong women. Either on the field as they’re cat-called, or distastefully teased by a coworker in their own cubicle, a hard-working woman will never catch a break.
We notice these women act indifferent towards unsolicited comments. A defense mechanism that didn’t start when they worked their desk jobs or out on the field, but instead within a college classroom. Something many female students can relate to.
A professor is meant to educate and guide us towards our college career. In order to do so, they must ensure safety in the classroom to discuss and learn from their lectures. That’s the purpose of our courses and our learning as well.
But it’s hard to understand the material after those unsolicited comments about my lipstick and clothing choices. They unnerved me so much that I can no longer concentrate on the material. Had he not complimented my lipstick, I would’ve paid attention in class.
I shouldn’t need to wear anything besides my usual wardrobe just to protect myself.
Suddenly, I understood all too well of the indifference adopted by women established in their careers. They’re strong, as they refrain from responding, because they want to protect their legacy. They want the awkward feeling to end.
Regardless, women shouldn’t endure any more disrespect. It’s about time we are treated as equals, in the classroom and in the workplace.
Our professors, our mentors especially, should be more wary of what they say and who they say it to. They’re human, capable of making mistakes and forming connections with their students, but boundaries should exist between interpersonal relationships.
My professor should tell me about the opportunities available to me as a student, not how my lipstick looked or how odd it was to see me in a dress.
Way too much is said on women being on-guard at all times, but people don’t scold men for these behaviors. Let’s change this — let’s start holding them accountable until we see actual change.
The opinions presented within this page do not represent the views of the PantherNOW Editorial Board. These views are separate from editorials and reflect individual perspectives of contributing writers and/or members of the University community.
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