Any average day in urban America, you’ll find a woman that has a story about street harassment. The cat calling, butt groping, or “accidental” feel ups that women tend to endure remain an ongoing issue that is a blatant example of gender inequality. It is incomprehensible why grown men can’t manage to talk to women like normal human beings. Yet, it’s more disturbing to see older men cat call women young enough to be their daughters or granddaughters. If you are 50 years old, there is no reason for you to be harassing a woman that barely looks twenty. As child molestation and rape continue to plague our communities, isn’t it time that we “check” our “elders” for sexually harassing young women in the street? Or will this form of dysfunction stay buried between silence and nonchalance?
As a young woman, I’ve had 60-year-old cab drivers stick their heads out the window, licking their lips while muttering sexually explicit phrases. While some may shrug it off as simply another old pervert, my mind runs to standard power dynamics between young women and older men. Rightfully so, our communities teach children to respect their elders. Yet, this expectation also can be a tool for intimidation and preserving silence. If we ignore the misbehavior of our elders, it perpetuates the abuse on multiple levels. What if this man has a daughter or granddaughter? Does he lick his lips at her? Does he size up her girlfriends? Worse, does he touch her or her friends? What if our voices could break the silence or better yet, cause legal consequences? When will the voices of women and our allies create an atmosphere in which consequences for street harassment are the norm?
Growing up around strong black men, I have examples to juxtapose this sordid behavior from some of our elders. In general, my tolerance for street harassment is minimal, but particularly, I balk at men over the age of fifty sexually harassing young women. If the young woman could be your daughter or granddaughter, why are you even turned on? Fathers and grandfathers should be the gatekeepers of wisdom when it comes to our relationships with men; sexual attraction cannot coexist in this space. Personally, my father won’t date a woman more than 10 years his junior, and the same standard applies to his admiration of women in pop culture. While Michelle Obama is the apple of his eye, Raven-Symone doesn’t have a chance in hell.
While consenting adults are free to make their own decisions within the dating realm, I consider older men pathologically ill if they are sexually harassing young women. As a high school student, I witnessed men over the age of fifty making sexually explicit remarks to fellow female students in public. School authorities later found that they also privately harassed female students. And yes, these men also were the parents of daughters. Enough said.
Street harassment is street harassment. I’m not excusing younger men from their asinine behavior, but at least the attraction is understandable. Older men sexually harassing young girls are deplorable. It’s time to specifically address these circumstances and provide solutions for young women.