Posted at 7:30 AM Jun 17, 2009By Andrea Grimes
Growing up in the suburbs in Texas, I'd only seen cat-calls on television; I figured that, like sex that doesn't result in STDs or babies, cat-calling only happened on TV. As soon as I started school at NYU, however, I learned that cat-calls are part of a female city-dweller's way of life. I traveled as well, and it was wonderful. But whether I was in New York, Paris, London or Berlin, the calls came all the same.
I think I brushed it off at the time, saying something along the lines of, "Well, what do I expect, an American girl trotting around like I own the place? I'm asking for it!" Which is saddening to think back on, of course, because nobody is "asking" for sexual harassment, regardless of how young and taut and blonde they might be.
After living in Texas for several years, I've since returned to New York City, and the cat-calling has picked up again. And my god, I am tired of it. I am tired of being told, "Smile, baby, I'll fuck that frown upside down," and leered at, "Niiiiiiiiice, baby," and verbally prodded, "Mmm, you wore those boots for daddy!"
But mainly I am tired of being told that I'm overreacting by otherwise sensitive male friends who don't see the problem.
It is not a "compliment" to be cat-called, to be reduced to a walking sexual object that requires only a whistle of appreciation before its panties drop and its legs spread. You want to give me a compliment? Have a damned conversation with me.
I have been trying to explain it thusly to my guy friends: imagine you're walking down the street--in whatever clothing you like--and passing a group of men who weigh, on average, a hundred pounds more than you and are several inches to a foot taller--they could easily overpower you at any time. They're all staring at you hungrily, and making loud insinuations about what they'd like to do to you, sexually, whether you like it or not, frequently making explicit cracks about your asshole or your dick. It is not so much that they will do anything to you, but that they are demonstrating, through their aggression, that they could. Would you want to walk through that, several times a day, on your way to get coffee and shampoo and cat litter?
Thankfully, there's a Twitter that I'm digging: HollabackNYC, wherein harassed folks can "holla back" in 140 characters or less. I love this: "@whitneyhoffman1 why do some men holler every time they see a female? i doubt i'll ever hear a woman say, "it was love at first catcall."