The unsolicited greeting — half jeer, half mumble — cuts through the morning air and sends a rivulet of revulsion slithering down your spine. Straightening up, you instinctively yank at your hem, cross your arms, or do whatever your go-to version of the don’t-look-at-me dance is. You avoid eye contact like it’s your job, and quietly curse the fact that you braved the early hour and Saturday morning streets for a breakfast run, at the same time (righteously, might I add) asking yourself if a peaceful, harassment-free half-block trek for one lousy pretzel bagel with pesto cream cheese REALLY TOO MUCH TO ASK FOR?
Ok. This hypothetical is getting a little heated (and suspiciously specific.) But we’ve all been there. Even those of us whose go-to look is more often than not characterized by baggy sweats and bed head. Because let’s be real: in spite of what GOP candidates, bros, and other various breeds of a-holes say, nobody asks for this. No woman, whether she rolls out of bed for class or struts to the bar in six-inch heels, is dressing for, or in any way considering, the approval of leering sidewalk spectators. Like getting your period or tax season, no matter how used to catcalling you’ve gotten, it always seems to catch you a little off guard. Which is why getting catcalled can make you a little, well… tongue-tied, among other things (infuriated, devastated, thoroughly grossed out — the list is endless). How to respond when catcalling’s got your tongue? Well, that depends on your mood.
Well, who could blame you? You’re pounding the pavement in your favorite power outfit, Beyoncé bumping on your head phones, and your hair blowing around like it’s auditioning for an Herbal Essences ad, when some f**kboy tries to throw you off your game with a “Nice tits!” Yelling back “Tiny penis!” is admittedly perhaps not the most mature response, but it’s definitely in the running for most satisfying. Oh, your feelings are hurt? Sorry, I was under the impression that we were offering unsolicited assessments on strangers’ bodies now. My bad.
On the rare occasion that getting catcalled doesn’t piss me off, it kinda fascinates me. From an anthropological point of view, I mean. It’s pretty bizarre and counterproductive, as far as mating rituals go. Like, do dudes actually think it will work? What exactly are they expecting to happen? How many love (or hell, even hookup) stories start with: “I knew he was the one the moment he romantically yelled ‘BEND OVER!’ from across the street”? Next time you’re wondering that, why not go straight to the source? Once he’s done leering, look him in the eye, and ask: “What’s your end game here? I’m curious. I’ll wait.” And watch him squirm like the squiggly sexist worm he is.
It’s worth noting that the above options are best executed in a well-populated, well-lit area. Calling out street harassers might be sweet, but it’s definitely not worth the risk of putting yourself in danger. Should women have to stick to main roads, stay on high alert, and stock up on a fully-charged cell, whistle, and maybe some pepper spray? Absolutely not. But is it a good idea to? Probably. And remember if someone makes you feel legitimately scared for your safety, it’s best to GTFO first, and get revenge second. And on that note…
Catcalling is a deeply-troubling social practice that’s an indication of a universally misogynistic culture. It’s also a huge bummer. And you don’t have to take it lying down! (Or more realistically, race walking away, fervently avoiding eye contact). Is a certain frat house’s front porch particularly vocal on Friday nights? Go to the dean. Do you double your commute to avoid construction site or street corner whistles? Speak up to supervisors, storekeepers, or other employers who have a vested interest in protecting their business’ or neighborhood’s reputation. Of course, authority figures have a history of disappointing when it comes to issues like these. If that’s the case when you reach out, don’t give up. Awesome orgs like Stop Street Harassment offer support and guidance when it comes to changing your community.
Feeling… like a total freaking badass?
Try this. Seriously, these chicks will inspire the hell out of you, and maybe even give you some hope.