-- A woman in New York City recently recorded herself walking around the city streets for a day, catching men catcalling her, to show what she goes through on a daily basis.
Her video, which went viral this week, is hard for me to watch because it highlights the belittling and fear that I go through every day. I thought that “catcalling” and feeling like “street meat” was a personal problem for me, but seeing this woman makes me realize that other women are feeling just as harassed as I do.
The first time I ever got catcalled was when I was 11 years old. I weighed 80 pounds, nowhere near puberty, and I remember exactly what I wore that day: My favorite yellow and white overalls from Limited Too.
As I rode my pink bike with a pink basket down the street, a 15-year-old boy says “Hey Sexy.” I knew he was talking to me as I was the only female in the street, but I froze. I never thought about being “sexy” at 11 years old.
As I ignored him and continued to ride my bike back home, he came closer to me and said, “F*** you bitch, you’re not that cute anyway.” I was floored, I didn't know what to say or do but hurry up and get home because he said it with such anger I thought he would attack me. Later that day, I thought to myself, "What did I do to deserve to get cursed out like that?" I figured it was my favorite overalls attracting unnecessary attention so I never wore them again.
Over the years I have been catcalled by all types of men, regardless of race, religion, age or economic background. If I am their type, self-control is completely thrown out of the window and nine times out of 10 I will be approached inappropriately. I've heard it all from “Hey baby, smile” to “Will you marry me?” to “God bless you” and “Hey beautiful.” Sometimes, men just disrespect me immediately by saying “DAAAAMN girl, you have a nice body" or "nice a**” and “Giiiirl, the things I would do to you in bed,” or “Miss, you dropped something, just kidding, I just wanted to see you bend over.”
They may just seem like words, but how these catcallers approach me makes me feel belittled and afraid.
Usually when a catcaller talks to me, they are very loud and near a huge crowd of people, which instantly turns me into the elephant in the room. They start to get other friends or random strangers to join in on their jeering, making me feel completely embarrassed. When I continue to walk away, their comments get louder, and will often turn into inappropriate comments about my figure and how they would like to “get in that,” whatever that means.
Catcallers will do this in front of my colleagues, my fiancé and parents. They have zero regard for me and who I am with and will insist that I give them the attention that they are “giving” me. That’s what catcalling is truly about. These harassers feel that they are “giving” you a compliment by making a scene about your looks. When it is not reciprocated all hell breaks loose.
When I am being harassed on the street, I am left vulnerable with little to no options. When I ignore these harassers, I get followed, grabbed, touched or cursed out, leaving me afraid that one day I will get attacked. When I acknowledge them, I am once again followed, grabbed or touched or if I do not engage in more interaction I get cursed out. When I choose to stand up for myself and tell them to back off, my two seconds of random harassment turns into a verbal altercation. Leaving me feeling angry and unaccomplished knowing that this situation will happen again shortly.
I’m sharing my story now because this behavior must stop, and I think it’s an important enough issue to put myself out there, so people can see what this woman experienced is very real, and very widespread, and she too is not alone.