I’ve always thought walking down the street should be a peaceful affair. For the longest time I couldn’t figure out why I was so angry at all the “attention” I was getting outside. It was only until I started talking to other women that I realized this is a battle we’re all facing and there’s actually a name for it! I don’t mean the everyday “hellos,” “have a nice day” or other pleasant greetings, I’m referring to the hoots, the hollers and other expletives that make up street harassment.
Getting from point A to point B became emotionally exhausting. It may seem dramatic but, there were times when I didn’t want to go outside for fear of what I might be told that day. Unfortunately as a woman we have to consider a few extra things before leaving home:
#1: Is my outfit going to bring me attention that I want or don’t want today?
#2: Is the shape of my body ..or other body parts I possess going to bring me more unwanted attention?
#3: If I speak to a stranger, are they going to think more of it than it is?
All these things begin to take a toll on the spirit. Of course this is just my opinion, but in my experience as a female traveling around the world (14 countries to date,) I’ve never been more objectified than in my own homeland.
Perhaps because this is the land of “free speech,” people think they can say whatever they want without fear of consequence, but it’s with a higher consciousness that men can realize the power of their words. Just because you CAN say it doesn’t make it okay. Just because it feels good to let foolishness roll off your tongue from time to time doesn’t mean it won’t cause harm.
I have two teenaged nieces who are growing into their bodies as young women and though they can’t even drive yet, they already have to be schooled in handling street harassment. They’re being taught at an early age how to protect themselves.
I wish someone had helped me understand not to internalize the commentary I get from some men on the streets.
Over the years it’s contributed to me disliking parts of myself. To this day, I don’t see my big butt as an asset. It’s only been a hinderance and a distraction from attracting partners intrigued by my heart and not my hind parts. I’ve pondered to myself, “I really can’t be that beautiful. These men must be attracted to some weakness they recognize, thus under the lure of a ‘compliment,’ a chance to pounce on their prey.”
But it’s not just in the US that this problem exists. There was that time I was waiting for the train in Berlin and a random man pinched my bottom. I was shocked and appalled. I let him have every sharp and threatening piece of New York attitude I could muster. I’ve even been followed home in London. Some of you still ask the question: “What’s the problem if someone’s giving you a compliment?” The thing is, what some might think is a compliment is the quickest way to make women uncomfortable. “You have a nice mouth.” “Why don’t we go half on a baby.” “Look at your butt girl!!”
Cat in Reverse, a series produced by the author.
For a long while I wanted to do something. Then it came to me that I should give these men a taste of their own medicine. I enlisted the help of 5 gorgeous friends who volunteered their time to go catcalling in reverse, or “Dog Whistling” as one of my good male friends put it. Through this process, we discovered how empowering it felt to be on the giving end of unwarranted attention. We realized that it was fun to get a little pay back. But more importantly, we were introduced to a population that hadn’t engaged in catcalling. There we saw an opportunity to share our experiences with them in hopes that they might tell their friends and the word might spread.
Thus far it’s been a conversation resulting in heightened awareness as well as improved male/female communications. Taking a comedic approach to a serious issue doesn’t always diminish its importance, but alternatively can create a window of opportunity where people are more willing to listen. That’s why you may find “Cat in Reverse” funny and sometimes light-hearted, but by no means are we forgetting the root of the issue and why we started this whole thing. I want to talk to as many people as we can, explore all types of view points and eventually create a movement where people exercise the act of respecting one another.
Let’s just THINK before we SPEAK.
About the author: LaAerial is a creative in every sense of the word. She comes from a background in music performance. Her passions include writing, video production and photography. She’s an avid traveler and a lover of language and cultural studies.