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“A world where, from the time of pubescence on, you can feel the constant and palpable weight of the male gaze, and not just from your male peers but from teachers and sports coaches and the fathers of the children you baby-sit, people you’re supposed to respect and trust and look up to, and that first realization that you are being looked at in that way is the beginning of a self-consciousness that you will be unable to shake for the rest of your life. Even if they are never verbalized, the rules of bodily conduct for females become clear early on: when school administrators reprimand you for the inch of midriff that shows when you lift your hands straight in the air or youth group leaders tell you that the sight of your unintentional cleavage is what causes godly young men to fall, you learn that your body is dangerous and shameful and that it’s your responsibility to cloister it in a way that is acceptable to everyone else. ”—Stop Catcalling Me - Thought Catalogue
Yes, many women are insecure. Most of them are insecure not because no guy has ever expressed a desire to fuck them, but because of the dangerously unrealistic standards our society sets for women’s appearance and for the behaviors they must perform in order to maintain that appearance.
So as nice as it would be if all that could be solved by noble, kind-hearted men taking valuable time out of their day to compliment female passerby on their appearance, that’s not gonna happen. Women don’t need men to save us from insecurity. We need to stand up and speak out ourselves against the ways in which our culture keeps us fearful and insecure, and the ways in which we help it to do so.
[…] The result of all this is that many men, even kind and well-meaning men, believe, however subconsciously, that women’s bodies are for them. They are for them to look at, for them to pass judgment on, for them to bless with a compliment if they deign to do so. They are not for women to enjoy, take pride in, love, accept, explore, show off, or hide as they please. They are for men and their pleasure.
[…] When you compliment a random woman who doesn’t know you, no matter how nice you are about it, there’s a good chance she’s going to freak out internally because for all she knows, you could be that latter type. And I get that it’s really unfair that women would just assume that about you. I get that it sucks that sometimes, expressing totally reasonable opinions like “hey you’re hot” will make women terrified of you or furious at you. That’s not fair.
But if you’re going to lay the blame for that somewhere, for fuck’s sake, don’t blame the woman. Blame all the guys who have called her a bitch and a cunt for ignoring their advances. Blame all the guys who may have harassed, abused, or assaulted her in the past. Blame all the people who may never do such a thing themselves, but who were quick to blame her and tell her to just get over it. Blame the fact that if she stops and talks to you and then something bad happens, people will blame her for stopping and talking to you.
Just Another Day on the Sidewalk
Yesterday, I decided that today would be the day I hiked Runyon Canyon. I used to do it a lot, but that was almost two years ago, before I got hit by that horrible drunk driver. This was to be my first real exerted exercise I’ve done since then as well. Oh yeah, also, the canyon is 4 miles from my apartment, and since the parking is horrible, I decided I would walk there as my “warm-up”.
In anticipation of today’s event I scheduled for myself, I was worried about being able to do it physically, but also, I got really upset/scared about the accident and how things played out. I’ve probably mentioned to some of you how in this accident I was hit from behind and went over the freeway and down forty feet into an embankment, only after spinning around twice and hitting a couple of trees on the way down. First responders said based on the scene, it looked like I should have died. Not a fun thing to remember.
Kind of a big deal for me.
Anyway, I start my walk towards the Canyon, and get cat-called twice before going a block. Whatever, shake it off. Then, after a few more minutes of walking, I hear a man - through my headphones, and he is making comments about my butt. He’s basically grunting at me, as a way of commenting that he “likes what he sees”:
Uh. Uh yeah. Uh, uh. Shake that thing. Yeah, shake it more for me. Like that. Yeah. Uh.
It sounded as if he literally had his cock out and was masturbating, as he walked behind me. I heard this and felt immediately sick to my stomach. I stopped, pretended to be doing something on my phone that I needed to stop and focus on. I just wanted him to not be behind me, to pass and be gone. As he walked by though, my fear and sickness briefly subsided, and I grew with anger. “Hey,” I called, even though he was inches away from me. He made eye-contact… with my eyes, and I said:
Stay the fuck out of my face.
I was not making a request. As soon as I said this to him, and he responded with unoriginal words, we both continued to walk, only this time I made sure he was in front of me. We reached a crosswalk, and although I don’t have to, I cross so I can maintain space between us. The fear had returned, because I had stirred a beehive, his ego. I had enough gusto left for him to flip him off, lifting my arm high above my head so he knew.
I know what you’re wondering:
Was I able to finish and get to the top of the canyon? Did any other guys feel entitled to you? Yes, I did. :-) Yes, they did. :-/ Of course, right? And I made a list to share, making notes in my phone as it happened. *clears throat* In no particular order:
- You look like a good doll, yeah?
- You could at least smile and say hi. I just want to see if you can do it
- You’d give me what I want, right?
- Ooooooooohweee! Nice badonk, baby girl!
- I think she’d let me touch that… (dude talking to his fried about me, in front of me)
- (Two sounds were yelled at me from cars, that while “prow-ly”, I wouldn’t know how to begin trying to spell)
- (One bark…)
- (Five aggressively continuous honks from men in cars)
- (I stopped looking back to check/counting if I caught a guy ogling me after I walked by him, after I totaled 13)
I should mention that I only took notes on the way to my hike. I repeat, this is only from the walk there. It grew too tiresome to keep taking out my phone and document this shit. They’d already proved my point.
So, what is the solution? Should women have to stay inside? I mean, this cat-calls started less than 100 feet from my home. Should we not be allowed to wear revealing clothes? Oh, damn. I was wearing pants and a long-sleeve shirt, so clothes must not have anything to do with it…
What the fuck are we going to do about this? This should not be just another day walking on public sidewalks… but it fucking is.
TRIGGER WARNING for catcalling, rape, etc.
Before I came home I stopped at Walmart to use the facilities~* and on my way out I got catcalled. These guys in a huge truck just kept saying “Hey baby come over and talk to us. Hey, play nice sugar. We want your number. We want you. Come here baby.” I yelled “FUCK YOU” and they responded “EXACTLY. THAT’S WHAT WE’RE TRYING TO DO.” I couldn’t think of a response because I was so angry and a little scared, so I got in my car and drove away.
I wanted to pull out my phone and be like “Yeah, 911? There are some guys here threatening to hurt me. I have a gun and I don’t want to use it, but I will.” See, I DON’T have a gun, but they don’t know that, and it would probably make them leave and stop bothering women as they left the store.
I cried all the way home.
Like, dude, I just left the most amazing place with my favorite person in the world and you SERIOUSLY ARE YELLING AT ME RIGHT NOW?!
I hate people sometimes.
I’m just furious that this is acceptable. I’m furious that I can’t go into a fucking store to pee without feeling threatened. I’m pissed that at 1:00 AM these guys have nothing better to do than yell at me. I’m fucking angry that I feel like I can’t wear dresses in public at night without feeling like I’m bringing too much attention to myself.
It’s rape culture.
One of the things I see most often on Tumblr is womyn talking about being catcalled and how hurtful and degrading it is. I have read some very powerful, and empowering accounts of this, and all my respect to them. It takes a lot of courage to speak out when your voice and concern is not acknowledged by society as a whole.
But today, I am going to talk about the flip side of this.
I have known catcalling from a very young age. I hit puberty at the age of 9, and at that age, I already looked like a, well, a 12 year old, if not older. Catcalling, being whistled at, “undressed by a man’s eyes” was something of a common thing for me, and as time passed, it was also something I started looking for, craving for. It made me feel beautiful, desirable.
Now, before you rush to take the above paragraph as evidence of “see, feminazis just make a big deal out of nothing, it is a compliment!” wait a second. As I hit puberty and I started filling out my natural, God given, beautiful curves, my parents went to war on me on how I was becoming fat, and as inevitably happens, I had a bit of an acne problem in my younger years, my parents weren’t happy about that too.
And then there were the other things too. I “dressed sloppily”. I was bullied at the time for body odor (it’d take sometime for my cousin sisters to figure this out and come to my rescue). I was clumsy. There were a bunch of other things.
So what did I do? I took the whistles of strangers on the street, and tried to build my self affirmation through that. The days I didn’t receive any? I mentally beat myself up for it.
Twisted irony in all this, but patriarchal and colonialist beauty standards fucked with my self image. It was those same beauty images that pushed my parents to do what they did (I love them, they meant well), and patriarchal notions meant that it was other men, men with whom I had nothing to do with, to whom I went looking for a bit of self affirmation. At the end of the day, I had no agency of my own.
Catcalling hurts. Even if you mean it as a compliment. It comes back to pound on a woman in various other ways, its invasive, and well, why do you want to make obscene pigs out of yourselves anyway?