A Letter To The Guy Who Catcalled Me On The Street
Dear Guy Who Catcalled Me On The Street Today,
What did you expect, for me to smile? Maybe you did. Maybe you thought it would brighten my day to know that some random stranger on the street found me sexy. But guess what? It didn’t.
Well, I guess I should have expected it. I mean, here I am, wearing a skirt and a tank top, walking down the street. Obviously I was dressed in a way that meant I would be welcome it, so I should apologize to you for the scowl I gave you, right? And hey, maybe your day was rough, so why shouldn’t you get some enjoyment from ogling young ladies on the street? If I don’t want that kind of attention, I should cover up more, right? Right? Even though it’s hot and the cardigan I was wearing earlier was making me sweat. And you weren’t really threatening me. I mean, you’re probably a nice guy. Maybe you’ve got a wife and kids who you love, or a girlfriend who you treat like a princess. You respect women, don’t you? You love women! Probably. So I guess I owe you an apology for that look, huh?
Oh, wait. I don’t. I have the right to wear whatever I want and not have lewd things said to me by a stranger. Shocking, right? I could walk by you naked and you still wouldn’t have that right. Guess what, friend? You can think you respect women all you want, and maybe you do in a lot of ways, but when you catcall me, you are being sexist. Maybe you’re not being outwardly sexist or intentionally sexist, but you’ve become an agent of sexism.
What you’re really doing is reminding me that I don’t have complete ownership of my own body – that my body is, in a way, public property. It’s mine to walk down the street with, but it’s also yours to get pleasure out of on a sunny day, with or without my consent.
Don’t worry. You’re not the only one who reminded me of that. Women are reminded all the time. We’re reminded by the constant focus on our weight, the way everyone seems to think it’s their business if we’re too skinny, too fat, if our breasts are too big, and who think that they have the right to judge what we eat because of that. It’s the way that females are constantly put down for their looks, even if they’re incredibly smart women whose looks are irrelevant to their careers or what they do. It’s the way that society has decided that a woman’s sexual history is a valid way to judge her character. We’re constantly reminded that we walk a fine line between dressing too “dowdy” and too “sexy,” and God help us if we go too far in either direction. It’s the simple fact that hundreds of male lawmakers have decided that they’re more qualified to make decisions about our uteruses and genitalia than we are, and then accuse us of trying to take away their religious freedom. And yes, we’re reminded when some man needs to make sure I understand that he sees me as nothing more than a sexual creature – even when I’m tired and just walking to get some coffee.
Life as a woman is a constant negotiation with the whole world to try and reclaim our own bodies. As a man, you’ve probably never even considered that a person might need to fight for ownership over their body, over their hands and feet, blood, organs and skin. Every woman deals with it differently, and I certainly can’t fault them for that. Some accept it, try to use it to their advantage. Why not? Let’s be practical, sometimes you have to take everything you can in this world. Some women are going to just grin and bear it, and some are going to be angry about it. Those are the ones who are going to glare at you when you catcall them.
And guess what? They don’t owe you an apology. You owe it to them.
The woman in the striped skirt you catcalled at lunchtime on 9th Avenue
Opinions stated in our editorials do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Feminspire and its staff as a whole, but instead reflect the opinions of the writer.
Header image courtesy of p. klashorst
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