Okay this is take 2 of this post. I typed it all out on my phone yesterday while on the train, only to come home and find that the title and tags of this post had been saved but none of the actual text. Oh, technology, how you both baffle and undermine me! Of course, it doesn’t help that I’m not very tech savvy…
Anyways, I’ve recently discovered xojane.com. I know, like, where have I been?! That site so came out two years ago! Wild how the Internet makes something two years old seem ancient… or at least no longer cutting edge. But anyways, basically I want to read all the articles on xojane. The articles are such a good mix of political and fluff topics. Ah-mazing. Cuz a girl in the DV field is political but damn, does she need some fluff every now and then!
Anyways so I was reading this article recently in which a girl decides to go on a date with someone who catcalled her. As a social experiment. It’s hilarious and really provides some insight into how catcallers view the world, and women (assuming the catcaller is a straight man, that is). And of course, 99.9% (my estimate) of straight men who do this are sexist jerks and likely batterers too and this article is very tongue in cheek. Still. It got me thinking about my experiences with this topic.
Fortunately, this occurrence happens far less frequently to me now that I’ve hit the ripe old age of 30. Though truthfully and thankfully, it probably started happening far less often during my late twenties. Often I just ignore the person who hollers at me to try to get my attention. Sometimes I give them attitude. And sometimes I just smile and keep walking. But no matter how I react, I’m never happy or okay with it. I mean there’s a reason it’s called street harassment. And for real. Like I’m just trying to walk down the street and go about my day (cuz it usually happens during the day) and I just want some quiet time. The only thing I want from those around me is for them to leave me alone.
So why do I sometimes smile at them? Doesn’t that encourage them? Well they don’t seem all that discouraged if I ignore them or am snarky to them. I mean I’ve seen guys get ignored by a woman who is fifty feet in front of me and when she ignored him, he proceeded to catcall me instead. He didn’t seem too discouraged to me.
But moreover, I believe why I sometimes smile and sometimes even smile and say hello has to do with my socialization as a girl/woman. If I don’t respond to catcallers I’m not often insulted or called names. But sometimes I am. In Spain, I flipped off some guys who blew kisses at me and was promptly called ugly and fat. This does, of course, beg the question that if they think I’m fat and ugly and that’s a bad thing, why did they blow kisses at me in the first place?? Anyways, even if some guy doesn’t say anything, I imagine he’s thinking all sorts of awful things about me. Yes I can read minds (jk). But as a woman, I’ve been taught all my life to please others. And the times I have been called names tell me exactly how these guys view women and I can make a pretty educated guess as to what they’re thinking if I ignore them. And I feel uncomfortable knowing that this person might be thinking bad things about me. Because being called names means this person is not happy with you. And that is like the worst thing to happen for a woman. I mean, what are you as a woman if not there to please others? You’re a b*tch or c-. At least, this is what we’re led to believe. It’s like my favorite (sarcasm) example of this… A guy sees me and says, “smile.”. Like I can’t, as a woman, be anything other than happily submissive? Because a guy that says this is very likely to say you’re a b*tch if you don’t just smile and look pretty. This is a very clear example of the batterer mentality of “Do what I ask, and with a smile, or there will be consequences.”. Think what you like about my feelings but y’know since I was a baby, I’ve been spoonfed this idea of being ladylike, polite and making others feel good, never mind your own feelings. It’s not okay and I don’t agree with it one bit, but it’s super ingrained in me and so my knee-jerk reaction is often must. please. others.
But you know what? Like I said before, these guys are jerks and it really doesn’t matter how you react to them. They’ll end up treating you badly no matter what. So even if you do smile and they’re then nice to you, it’s just prolonging the inevitable. Because if you were to get to know them, it’d only be a matter of time before they mistreated you, no matter how you act or what you do.
So you decide what’s most comfortable for you and do just that. If you want to smile and (hopefully) avoid being called a b*tch, which btw is totally understandable, then go ahead. But if you want to tell them off, go ahead too. After all, they’ve made up their minds about you and your status in this world so it’s not like you owe them anything.