A whistling noise comes flying across the street. You keep walking, praying to yourself that wasn’t for you. He yells. Of course it was for you. You ignore it and keep walking, but this time much faster, as you get called petty names for being afraid. Afraid, because you know if you keep walking, he will eventually give up.
If you stop, you’re giving into his objectifying ways, as he catcalls you. It’s supposed to be flattering and a compliment, right? So when girls ignore it, we’re the ones in the wrong, right? Wrong. Read all the stories about girls who were harmed, raped, and or killed just because they tried to run away or stand up for themselves. A woman in Detroit was shot and killed because she refused to give a stranger her phone number. A woman in New York got her throat slashed because she refused to go on a date with a stranger.
Even take my story, for example. In April 2016, I was sexually assaulted by a man who tried to rape me, because I wasn’t responding to him. I didn’t tell really anyone for a few reasons. Reason one, I was embarrassed. Reason two, I didn’t want other men to look at me the same way he looked at me, like dirt, a sex object, nothing. He taught me that I was nothing, so I believed it. Reason three, I physically and mentally hurt myself over what he did to me.
It took me a while to believe that it was his fault, not mine. It was him taking his frustration out on me. Even the police officer at the station, when I went to report it, said, “Was he led on?” No, he was not, but even if someone was to be led on and then told to stop, no means no, not ‘convince me’ or ‘do it anyways.’ What if that were your daughter? Wouldn’t you want her to feel safe walking downtown with her friends, going to the bathroom alone in public places, driving by herself, even lying down at night?
Men think of cat-calling as harmless or, say that it’s supposed to be taken as a compliment. But it’s not. It’s a part of damaging culture that disempowers women and treats them as objects at the disposal of men.
When we start making street harassment okay, it makes groping okay. When groping becomes okay, it makes assault become okay. When assault becomes okay, murder becomes okay. It’s as if women are public property, just there for anyone to walk on. People make up many excuses for men when they do this. Reasons such as, “It’s a compliment,” no. Comments that are demeaning and disempowering are not considered as a compliment, it’s an expression of aggression. “She asked for it” is another excuse that people use to give men permission to say these things.
No matter how a girl looks, what she wears, or how she acts; she did not ask for you to consider her as an object. Women are getting raped, shot, stabbed, and ran over for declining or ignoring cat calls. If cat calling is okay, then we are saying what was done to me and millions of other women is okay. It scares me to grow up and have kids living in a world like this. I will raise my daughter to be respectful, but to be careful and to not go anywhere alone. I will raise my son to respect women and know that every human being is precious, and to never take that for granted.
Top photo: Broad City
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