I Can Admit Catcalling Sometimes Gives Me A Little Boost Of Confidence
I remember the first time I was ever catcalled. I was about 12 years old, living in Washington Heights, and I was walking from the grocery store with my grandmother. I was wearing camouflage shorts, a tank top and was super excited about some silvery lip gloss I had just gotten from Delias — Ya’ll remember Delias, right? We were walking back to our apartment, when I heard a group of guys starting to speak loudly and in my direction. Being the somewhat angsty pre-teen I was, I had walked several feet ahead of my grandmother so these fellas on the corner thought I was by myself. An older boy, probably around 18 or so approached me and began asking me for my name and what I was up to. I, having never really attracted the attention of any boys in this kind of setting, was like a deer in headlights. I could barely think of a response to these simple questions and definitely didn’t have the sense to just keep walking. To my relief, though I’d never admit it to her, my grandmother strolled up, asked the boy if he knew me and when he said no, asked why he would be talking to me. Boy was stunned and we kept on marching home.
It wasn’t until these sorts of encounters became more and more frequent that I started to put the pieces together. I began to understand these guys weren’t simply trying to make conversation, they had something else in mind. As time wore on and I got older and obviously was rocking a lot more on top and bottom, the catcalls continued and increased in intensity. It wasn’t just whistles from a group of construction workers; it was grown men on the street yelling all manners of inappropriateness.
As women we all know what it’s like to deal with unwanted attention and affection. Though initially it might be amusing, maybe even kind of flattering — when you’re young and don’t know better — there are certain points where it becomes just downright uncomfortable and scary. The last thing most women want to hear when they are walking on a darkened street after work is a group of men yelling aggressively at her. But I would be lying if I said that there weren’t some days, now that I’m a little older and not on the man hunt prowl (#wifey) that hearing a little bit of that manly ignorance gives me a slight pick-me-up.
OK, before I get crucified on a cross of feminism, hear me out: I am by no means condoning catcalling. It is probably one of the least discussed, though most pervasive instances of sexual aggression and harassment in society today. It really pains me to think about how many young women are intimidated to walk by themselves past a group of men for fear of the comments that could fly or what could happen if those same men suddenly felt like acting on their urges. But as I’ve gotten older, I have come to find at least a little pleasure in lingering glances, drive-by whistles, and even the occasional comment.
When I was that 12 year old girl walking with her grandmother, I had little self-confidence and even less self-awareness. With each year and more experience I have gained the confidence to embrace the compliments I had once dismissed or not understood and shun ignorance and people not worthy of a reaction or my time. That is how I view the passing acknowledgment of men whose spirit moves them to make their little comments. To have a nice looking man make a respectful comment like, “Excuse miss, can I just say you look beautiful. Have a lovely day,” isn’t something I’m going to instantly pop off at. Sure, can the case be made that as women we shouldn’t acknowledge these sorts of interactions? That they reinforce unhealthy dynamics in which a woman’s worth is justified by the patriarchy of our society? Or course it can. But on the reverse, sometimes it’s nice to get that attention. To hear a compliment from someone who isn’t your boyfriend or husband or fabulous gay best buddy. Sometimes just being acknowledged as the beautiful women you are can give you a nice, though fleeting, boost in confidence.
I’m not going to try and convince women far and wide that suddenly catcalling has become the sport of gentlemen. I still hear those inappropriate and sometimes disgustingly uncalled for comments from men who clearly have too much time on their hands and not enough interaction with actual women. But believe me when I say, those men, unwittingly give me a confidence boost too. No longer do I cower when the comments start being thrown my way. I don’t cross the street, I don’t turn up my headphones and I don’t give a forced smile to keep them at bay. No, no, I prefer a different means of recognizing these special guys. On probably more occasions than I needed to, I have told disrespectful catcallers all about themselves. I have berated them in front of their friends and tried to school them, albeit loudly, about how they need to learn better ways to interact with women.
I don’t think my tirades will change the world, but I’d like to think that I’m at least imparting a little bit of wisdom to a group of men who clearly aren’t used to women dishing back the outspokenness they feel is OK to serve up every time a lady walks by. And I take immense pride in the degree of confidence that I display by not just letting this disrespect continue unaddressed. I’m no longer that 12 year-old-girl who didn’t know any better. I am a self-assured, confident and proud woman who is happy to accept a little passing praise, but isn’t about to tolerate anything that makes me feel uncomfortable either.