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Feminspire | April 23, 2014

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Why Your Cat Calling Makes Me Scared to Wear Summertime Clothes

Why Your Cat Calling Makes Me Scared to Wear Summertime Clothes

Let me tell you a little story. Last week I made a coffee run from the office, grabbing some for myself and several of my co-workers. It was a warmer day but not hot, I was wearing a long-sleeved collard shirt and long black frumpy pants. Bustling across the street, balancing four coffees in my hands and feeling good because it was Friday, I hear the sound of lips smacking and “mmmm” coming from a car parked at a red light. A man was hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.

After feeling violated and angry about what happened on the street, I did what any modern young internet addict would do: I turned to Twitter. My tweet was met with an outpouring of support but there were a few that echoed the “but why are you angry, you should be flattered!” sentiment.

It’s difficult to describe what it feels like to be cat called if it has never happened to you. You feel sick and exposed. You feel violated, worthless, and degraded. You feel as though your intellect and your personality have been entirely squished, flattened and run over by a truck. All of the accomplishments you’ve made in life – in school, at work, in relationships – they don’t matter. You are not a human.

If when you walk by a group of teenage boys or the classic group of construction workers and “please don’t say anything, please don’t say anything” runs through your mind, you’ve experienced one cat call too many (quite literally, one cat call is too many). It begins to creep into your life to the point where good, genuine compliments from trustworthy people can feel cheap.

So what do we do after an incident or two? We carry on. We let it slide off our backs. We ignore it. Do you know why many of us ignore it? This is the part that many cat callers that just say “har har har, it’s just a compliment” need to understand: We are likely alone at that moment and you are a strange man. See the problem? If we acknowledge it or (god forbid) verbally retaliate, there is a voice that has been pounded into us that there is a chance this man could hurt us. We ignore it.

As girls we are taught over and over to not go out at night alone, to have a buddy at all times and to not go into that part of town. How can anyone expect a woman out alone any where – day or night – to not be on guard, especially when a stranger begins saying things as a “compliment.” I cannot claim to know what goes on inside a street harassers mind, but I’m willing to bet they do not see themselves as threatening or they “do not look creepy” so that must make what they are doing alright. I have news for you: if you have ever made a comment to a stranger about her appearance thinking it was flattery, you have made another person feel threatened, not flattered. Do not let polite smiles fool you.

Written by Laura Anderson
Follow her on twitter and check out her blog!

  • Sara H.

    Well said, Laura. Well said.

  • Liane

    Couldn’t agree more. Also, that video was AMAZING.

  • Ollie

    The voice that has been pounded into you is the voice of Feminism appealing to the primitive female instinct to be worried about one’s safety. Men are actually in more danger to get “hurt”, take a look at some crime statistics. Another thing is that there are of course compliments from strangers that women will like if they find the guy attractive, and find threatening when they don’t like the guy. The reason is once again evolution.

  • Veronica

    You know, there’s very little that bothers me about being transsexual. On a personal level that is. I’m not ashamed of my identity or my history.

    This will be my first summer with a female body, and yes, hormones have been nice to me the past year. I dress as modestly as I can, but I already get those disapproving looks from many men (and some women) on the bus because I’m obviously gender-variant, and I know that it will get worse. It always does. I know too many people who’ve gone through the same process.

    I get to experience the downsides of being a woman, and I realise it and it makes me sad and insecure. Things that my friends have had to deal with their entire adult lives. If I’m also seen as trans, which is sort of passing now, the added risk of violence is significant. The world would have been a much better place without all the assholes.

  • Chloe

    Were the TLC lyrics intentional or did you genuinely say “hanging out the passenger side of his best friend’s ride, trying to holler at me.”

    • Rhiannon Payne

      i’m DYING, i just noticed that. so good.