catcalling and why we need to put a spotlight on it
Yesterday I went out with some girlfriends which, because of them being in college, I haven’t seen in the longest time. It was like nothing changed, though; conversation was as fluid as ever, and the friendship was as silly and utterly enjoyable as always.
We were walking down the avenue to go to a park where one of my friends left her car. There were five of us, and me and one of the girls were a bit behind just generally chatting. The three of them that were ahead turned back to us, looking pretty disgusted. I asked what happened, and one of them said: “It was that man there. He looked at me and said: "You’re very white, but you have a damn nice body””. Now, that friend of mine the man was talking to is a bit shy when it comes to her body, and hearing that from her left her extremely uncomfortable. I thought to myself “what a jerk”, and we kept walking.
Not two minutes later, he speaks again saying the same thing with the same snide and curled up smile as before. I got angry. Extremely pissed off because these things happen way too frequently, not only to me, but to girls in general around where I’m from. It’s disgusting to be walking to school or to catch the bus and to be frequently catcalled, honked at, whistled at. This subject is very personal to me, and it ignites my spirit.
I have some anger issues, and I couldn’t control myself so I turned to him and said “Go to hell”. It wasn’t the best response,nor the most clever (or anywhere near it), but the fact that he was laughing at my friend because she was covering up after he said that, the fact that he was having a blast with that absurd sense of control he got out of being completely rude made me want to punch his face out - even though I’m perfectly aware it’s not the way to solve things.
We kept walking, and my group of friends supported me. My harassed friend even thanked me, but I still apologized to her for being cross.
We were getting near the car, and I hear his voice again, behind me. I legitimately thought I was going to get hit, and I was ready to fight back, despite my dislike in being in physical confrontations. He said: “I was not talking to you, you know?”. I kept walking with my friends, who were visibly concerned, and I answered him.
"I know you weren’t, but I don’t care. You have no right to express your thoughts in such a way to make my friend feel that self conscious. Your opinion was and is unwanted, and what you did was nothing more than harassment."
He tried to explain himself: “Miss, I don’t think I did anything wrong, I was just saying…”
"No. What you did was yelling out a sexual statement to a girl a third your age walking down the street minding her own business. You made her, and us, extremely uncomfortable with your mispronounced slurs, and that is far from alright."
I kept giving him a piece of my mind, and I could feel my heart pounding on my chest as he tried to explain himself. I never had the opportunity to say these things directly to someone who did this.
When I was done speaking to him under my friends’ watchful eyes, he said: “Well, I’m sorry if I offended you or something. Nobody has ever said anything…” And he walked away.
I don’t know if he meant it, I don’t know if it was the most meaningful apologize, but the fact that he felt the need to say it, the fact that he was explained what he did and in a way realized it was not alright, meant a lot to me. He was aware that it’s not acceptable to do these kind of things.
"Nobody has ever said anything."
He’s right. Where I’m from, this is pretty much an ignored situation, because everybody thinks it completely normal. And if women do say something, they’re arrogant little sluts who should be happy they’re looked at.
In my country, Portugal, men had, till very recently, very different rights and statuses than women. We changed, but not enough for people to realize that women do not need a male’s approval. That women are not inherently submissive to men. That women have rights and should not be looked down by society as frail beings who have a secondary role when it comes to men.
Double standards feed bad behaviors, and by not putting a spotlight in this daily harassment that seems irrelevant in most people’s eyes, we are perpetuating the acceptance of it.
I should be able to walk down the street without feeling uncomfortable with myself or my body, and that won’t happen unless we explain why catcalling is such a negative thing that must be stopped. It allows men to feel empowered and entitled to naturally dominate women, and worse: It can lead to more serious cases of sexual assault.
Yes, I am a feminist, and I will keep fighting for gender equality even if I am frowned upon and called a slut for standing for myself and my body.