Ever since this video debuted there have been a lot of articles & blogs about the subject of cat calling. A lot of them are skewed to the “white female” perspective but this really is an issue across all races.
I am no stranger to this phenomenon, and yeah, a lot of times it makes me uncomfortable. In my youth (when I thought the only way you gained confidence was from people telling you how pretty you were), I thought it was flattering. I was in my early teens walking around the beach with friends, and guys in pickup trucks and fancy cars (I couldn’t drive yet so it was desirable) driving by whistling & yelling “hey girl” (not in the Ryan Gosling way), “dayum”, “you’re beautiful” etc. etc.
I thought it was especially funny when we took a cruise that stopped in Jamaica and on an excursion one of the Jamaican men pointed down to the deck and said “you dropped your smile”, I laughed, he laughed, it was a polite moment between strangers. I figured, oh he works here (judging from his branded shirt) he’s just being a good customer service rep.
The fun part is when you’re in the Dominican Republic, at a flea market with your mother, and the vendors start hurling Spanish at you thinking you have no idea what they’re saying and that they’re getting away with it until you turn around and spit some Spanish back. The looks on their faces are PRICELESS. And then they’re silent.
It wasn’t really until I turned 18 that I started getting uncomfortable with some of the attention. I was becoming an adult, I would have to handle this on my own as such, as a kid I always had my parents not far behind, I knew they would protect me. But when I moved to New York City for a summer internship (I was 20), I was a little nervous about it. Now, granted, NYC is a little more flamboyant, I knew I could handle it as long as I kept my nose down and kept my fast walking pace (which I still get yelled at for…. Sorry friends!)
My normal day in the city would be to walk the couple blocks up to the bus stop, stand with strangers, get on the bus, avoid any type of eye contact and go to work. Then do the same thing to get home. Every now and then, on a day off, I would wander around the city. Yes, by myself. My go-to solution for walking alone at night was to call my parents. That way, I thought, at least someone would know where I was/what I was doing in case something happened. Basically, that someone would hear my scream and call for help. How AWFUL is that thought! That you have to think that way at all!
Tangent: I am now the woman who, in a public place, typically has a small knife within arms reach. Especially if I’m running alone on the bike trail. Don’t judge me.
One time, I was coming up from the subway that I had taken from Coney Island back into Manhattan… There was a large group of people waiting for a bus on one corner and a single space for both lanes of pedestrian traffic trying to pass through them. I found my opening and hustled through, accidentally bumping someone with my bag. I said “Sorry!” and kept moving. Apparently that wasn’t enough and I heard a male voice behind, yelling “HEY F-YOU! DON’T TURN AROUND OR I’LL F-ING KILL YOU”. Awesome. Called my sister right after that 🙂
My mom, sister, and I went back this past February… Not like we don’t go back EVERY year (sometimes just to shop for boots!)…. But this time in particular, for the Justin Timberlake Concert at Madison Square Garden (my Christmas gift to them…… and myself 🙂 ).
As we were walking out from lunch off one of the side streets in Times Square, a guy on a bike was riding past us. He stopped, let us pass, and then kept following us. For 4 blocks. At one point he pulled out his camera phone and started snapping PHOTOS of us. My sister (7 month’s pregnant at the time) looks at me and goes “hey miss….. Turn around” right as we heard the shutter sound again.
That’s not OK. That’s even more invasive than just yelling out at someone. Who knows where those photos ended up. Its super creepy if you give it too much thought.
Now I had a roommate a few years back when I was living in Richmond who was from the Boston area. She’s tall, thin, athletic, pretty. Her response to catcallers and stares always made me laugh, she would look them straight in the eye and yell “WHAT?! I AM NOT A PIECE OF MEAT“.
Usually it did the trick, but it makes me think…. is this how we have to respond now? If we have to respond at all?
I’m not saying men don’t get catcalled either. Women, be honest. We’ve all been there.
It’s no different.
We need to keep ourselves aware of how we look, talk and act towards each other. And no, the appropriate response is not “what were you wearing?”. Get your sh*t in check before you blurt out something that idiotic. It’s not my responsibility to make sure you can keep it in your pants & your thoughts to yourself.
I know I was not put on this earth to be your source of entertainment, and you were not put here as mine.
A genuine compliment is different. Between friends, family, acquaintances… but it needs to be delivered in the right place at the right time.
com·pli·ment noun \ˈkäm-plə-mənt\
: a remark that says something good about someone or something
: an action that expresses admiration or approval
Full Definition of COMPLIMENT
a : an expression of esteem, respect, affection, or admiration; especially : an admiring remark
b : formal and respectful recognition : honor
plural : best wishes : regards
Realize that a compliment is given freely, without any requirement of acknowledgement or confirmation. I said it because I felt like it, because I wanted the other person to know I respect them or admire them. I am not entitled to a response, and I will not get angry if there is none. It was respectfully delivered, the end.
For more information on putting an end to street harassment – check out Hollaback!