Can I Live? The Real Problem With Cat Calling And Street Harassment From Men

September 27, 2013  |  


Bird calls, snake hisses, and dog barks give you the impression that the men who are directing these sounds toward you were raised in the wild; after all, why else would an adult male attempt to beckon an intelligent woman with farm noises or mating calls? This is something that women all over are all too familiar with. A woman could be walking down the street early in the morning, late in the evening, or in the midst of the day, and she will undoubtedly find a stranger who will make kissing noises at her, eye her like she is tender meat, will tell her to smile, or will call her one of the following things: baby, s*xy, sweetie, beautiful, sweet thang, sweetheart, AYE YOU, angel, darling, honey, mami, ma, or any combination of names in between, confident that this behavior will earn him something–sometimes it does.

Street harassment has the possibility of rattling a woman’s day; it can make her feel uncomfortable about walking down the street –even making her go as far as to change normal routes; it can make her regard most men with distrust because of the actions of a few; and most importantly, it can make her feel like she must change her behavior, her clothes, or her actions because some men aren’t able to keep their thoughts to themselves.

I’ve known the difficulties of street harassment since an early age. At the age of 11 or 12, I had ‘D’ cups or larger. Naive and sheltered at that age, I didn’t understand the attention that I received from men… not boys, but men. I had men accost me and demand my attention when I was just moments before playing with friends, and I had men approach me while I sat in the park reading tales from Sweet Valley High. These types of interactions with strange men never stopped, and when I was a less than confident teenager who had physically matured even more, I, like a lot of young women, began to attach my self-esteem to these exchanges. I started to believe that I was less beautiful or attractive if I was or wasn’t approached by deviant strangers who “just wanted to talk” or “just wanted to get to know me better.” I would think to myself, “Do I look ugly today?” Which is sad. It’s sad that a young person’s self-worth can be surmised by how many horny buffoons decide to cat call her. But not only that, but that we can live in a society, which nods its head in approval at men who are aggressive, and woman who feel happy to be judged by men. It’s a symptom of a sick society that half of its population (or considerably less) find it perfectly acceptable to make the other half feel routinely uncomfortable, and take pleasure in that fact–knowing they would have a problem if there daughters were treated the same way. Media and consumer-based-misogyny congratulates men for their conquests, and eggs on their efforts to reduce women to their parts.

And, as women, it’s hard to know what the best response to this kind of treatment is. Some women find it easy to call men out on their BS, while other women find it difficult to do so and just ignore them; especially since these men won’t retreat for anything less than proclaiming, “I’m married!” because sometimes even a “No, thank you” or “I’m not interested” won’t suffice. On most days, I simply walk down the street with headphones in and sunglasses on, avoiding eye contact with most men and act deaf to the world –which isn’t fair. I, like so many other women, am not able to experience the world as happily and openly as I would like to because some men think that it’s within their right to harass me as they please.

One of the easiest courses of action, in this writer’s opinion, is to tell men who we actually know not to harass women walking down the street, and to tell those men to tell their friends, their fathers, their brothers and their neighbors that it is not to okay to objectify women who are simply trying to get from point A to B. I would also ask those men to question other men about what the objective is when objectifying, and also have those men remind their neighbors that rape culture is perpetuated in these acts. The inability to accept a simple “no” or an even nicer “no thank you” for an answer echoes that fact.

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