Opinion | Please do not talk to me

By Livia LaMarca, Senior Staff Columnist

A little bit less than a year ago, I was on my way to Carnegie Mellon’s campus to pick up a Valentine’s Day gift. It was super bright out and the air wasn’t too chilly — I don’t even think I was wearing a jacket. I was walking along Forbes Avenue next to the Cathedral, truthfully not paying much attention to my surroundings, when all of a sudden I heard multiple cars right next to me start to honk. I looked to my right to see a young man bolting in front of cars driving on Forbes, and before I knew it he was standing right in front of me. I reached into my pocket and realized the pepper spray I’ve never used was gone —- I had forgotten it at my dorm. 

Thankfully, the man had stood far enough away from me to keep my racing heart from falling 

outside of my chest. The only reason he ran across Forbes Avenue was to tell me that 

“I looked good” and to ask if I was single. When I told him no, he simply said okay and quite 

literally sprinted off in the other direction. 

I didn’t know what to think of the situation and after a few moments of standing there in shock, I carried on with my mission. I went straight home after my trip to CMU to tell my roommates what just occurred. We spent the night joking about it, and in retrospect, it was a little bit of a goofy situation. But I learned a valuable lesson that day. And since then, I have never left home without my pepper spray.

While my experience was ultimately outlandish and wild, there’s no doubt it could have gone significantly worse. I was in broad daylight with cars driving beside me, but ultimately I was alone on that street without any method to defend myself. I was all by myself. Luckily, it wasn’t a much worse situation.

If you see a woman walking by herself, at any time of the day, simply do not interact with her. It’s one of the easiest tasks, but even the smartest of men fail. Women can never be sure if they are safe with a stranger. Even if they mean well, that is a risk most of us are not willing to take. My coldness may hurt your feelings, but I would rather ignore you than trust the wrong stranger and be put in a terrible situation I can’t get out of. My safety comes before your feelings.

I’ve had other odd and even terrifying interactions with men while walking alone since that 

moment last year. In fact, it was only a few months ago when the string of sexual assaults took place around campus and last year when the “blanket guy” became the talk of campus. It was just a few weeks ago when my roommate was waiting at her bus stop when a random man tried to put his arms around her. It has never been 100% safe to be alone.

There are many reasons for women to be afraid when walking alone in a big city. So, if you — the person reading this column right now — want to do something to somewhat quell the fear that many women face on a daily basis while out living our lives — please do not talk to us.

According to statistics from the End Violence Against Women organization, one in every two 

women feel unsafe walking in a dark, busy and public place. This data increases to four in every five women feeling uneasy when walking alone in a dark open space. Luckily, Pitt’s campus after dark is relatively lively. But as someone who lives off campus, the walk from Cathy to my apartment building is always a little terrifying. Even the walks to some of the further dorms on the outskirts of campus can make anyone a little uneasy.

If walking alone in the place we live already puts women on edge, you know what makes it worse? Strangers talking to us.

Do not, under any circumstance, walk up to a woman who is walking alone by herself. This rule 

should apply to all times of the day, especially at night when we are already on edge. If you 

are in desperate need of assistance, seek out a larger group of people. People should actively try to make each other feel more safe and more comfortable while out and about living our lives. There is already so much to stress and worry about. Fearing that someone might randomly walk up to us and hurt us shouldn’t add to that list of fears. 

The unfortunate reality is that we do have to worry in order to keep ourselves safe. Here are some ideas my friends and I do to stay safe while out and about in the city — calling each other on the phone, carrying pepper spray, keeping whistles on us and, if need be, taking SafeRider or calling the Pitt Police to take us home. Until we can trust the world outside of our homes, precautions must be taken in order to keep ourselves safe. 

One step that can be taken until then is to stop talking to women who are walking by themselves. It’s a small and easy step to take on and a standard we should start setting as a society. Women can only protect themselves so much. It is up to others to change so that we can comfortably walk by ourselves and live our lives in peace.

Livia LaMarca mostly writes about American political discourse and pop culture. Write to her at [email protected]