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'That's not a compliment': Woman speaks out against catcalling in viral post

Christen Brandt was headed through the 34th Street subway station in New York during her morning commute when a man passed by and mentioned her "great legs."

She ignored him, but he followed her.

"Did you hear me, honey? I said you have nice legs. Damn! Thank you," he said as she continued walking.

That day, Brandt was wearing a parka and knee-high boots, with only 5 inches of her legs exposed — the small gap covered by dark brown tights.

But it wasn't his repeated nagging that got to her. In a Facebook post that has since gone viral with more than 86,000 shares, Brandt explains the moment in which she grew most frustrated.

"It was the 'thank you' that got me. As if my 5 inches of legging-covered skin were there for him. Given as a gift wrapped in brown tights. Existing in the world for him to appreciate or not," the Facebook post read.

Street harassment and catcalling, which happens to women of all ages around the world, can impact the way women perceive their own bodies, Brandt believes.

RELATED: Coping with catcalls: How some women brush off street harassment

"I think there are lot of elements in our culture that teach young girls that their bodies are for consumption, for someone else and not their own enjoyment. I think that’s a problem," Brandt told TODAY. "Girls need to learn that their bodies are their own to dress how they want and do with it what they want."

What's most troubling to Brandt is that catcalling has become so "normal" within the world we live today.

"The bad part about it was that I wasn’t shocked — this happens so often to so many of us," she said. "I didn’t feel particularly in danger. I felt fairly confident that if I walked away, that would be the right move. But the point is that it wasn’t abnormal."

Brandt feels that catcalling lends itself to a larger issue, and that alone was reflected in at least one of the comments left on her post when a Facebook user suggested that she should have just accepted the "compliment" and moved on.

RELATED: Viral video shows woman harassed more than 100 times in 10-hour span

"Oftentimes men and even women interpret these types of situations as simply 'giving a compliment'. But when you have someone commenting on your body when you didn’t invite that — that’s not a compliment."

In her post, Brandt is very clear about the fine line that was tampered with, and using her words, she only aims to empower girls around the world.

By day, she's the co-founder & director of international operations for She's the First, a non-profit organization that sponsors education for girls in the developing world. By night, she is a self-defense instructor at the Center for Anti-Violence Education.

"I work with girls all around the world through She's the First. So I'm constantly reminded of the ways girls and women are facing daily oppression," Brandt said. "If I can help women and girls to feel stronger and better able to navigate these situations in the world, then I want to do that."

RELATED: Unofficial 'no catcall' signs go up in NYC

Though this wasn't the first time Brandt's been a victim of street harassment, she does see it as an issue that can be improved upon in the future.

"Harassment against women happens everywhere, to varying degrees. What happened to me was so common that it's almost banal. But I have to believe that street harassment is something we can put a stop to, and I do believe we can — if we have men on our side."

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