Women expect respect
In this oversensitive sue-happy world that we live in, I sometimes wonder when we should take action or let things go. As a female, I deal with this question quite frequently, and I personally feel that when something makes you feel uncomfortable, you should never let it go. This thought crept into my head after my roommate and I had a run-in with workers at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. During last semester, we started realizing that men continually cat-calling us were RWJUH workers. It was nothing that warranted calling the police, but it still made us feel uncomfortable. After a week, we were just tired of it, so we called the hospital and tried to contact whoever was in charge of these workers to get the situation taken care of. Three days later, I had been transferred about a thousand times and no one owned up to being in charge of these men. So, frustrated and annoyed, I gave up. However, the cat-calls stopped; obviously, someone I had talked to did relay the message while claiming not to know anything. It was upsetting that no one would help me, but I got what I wanted. The calls of "Hey baby", "You need some help there beautiful?" and "You're fine" slowed down to almost a complete stop.
We came back this year and expected it to stay the same, but of course it did not. After a RWJUH worker more aggressively cat-called my roommate, she decided to do something about it. She spent a whole morning on the phone with the hospital being transferred. However, she had a little more luck than me; she happened to have all females on the other end of the line, and they sympathized with her story. She was finally put in contact with the head lieutenant of security for the hospital, but he was the least helpful of all. He told her "to chill out and learn to take a compliment. He was only trying to be nice." My roommate promptly hung up the phone and spent the rest of the day feeling like she had been the one who had done something wrong.
Does anyone else see something wrong with this situation? If two people — regardless of sex — complain multiple times about feeling uncomfortable due to the actions of a company's employee, something should be done. No matter if the manager — or in this case, the lieutenant of security — does not think the situation warrants a complaint, they should still ensure the person they will look into it, and that it would not happen again. Were we too quick to complain? Should we have just let it go and given the cold shoulder? No, absolutely not. The statute for harassment states that "any action deemed as an annoyance" can be harassment. Yes, this is a broad definition, but it means that we technically could file charges against their employees, something I know the hospital would not be happy about. If we had let the cat-calling go, what else should we have let go — unwanted conversation or touching? There has to be a line drawn, and I think it should be right at the start of harassment. There is a proper way to engage conversation with a person — it starts with "hello," not some degrading mannerism or saying. Even if the conversation is started appropriately, honor if that other person does not want it to continue. No one should be an object, and as a female, I am tired of being seen as one when I walk down the street. I know not all men do this, but for those who do, think about how you would feel if someone was doing that to your mother, sister or girlfriend.
There are two things to learn from this. One is be respectful and treat every female you meet as you would like them to treat the women in your life. Secondly, even though RWJUH has an outstanding medical record, they might want to work on the rest. They should rethink how they deal with complaints about employees and who they put in charge of security. If a harassment complaint does not warrant special attention, then I don't know what does.
Anna Norcia is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences senior. Her column, "Just the Facts," runs every alternate Monday.