I had my first experience with catcalling at age 12, on my way to a Halloween party dressed as a cat. My friend and I were walking past a pub and we didn't know that the way we were dressed was prime material for men three decades older than us to wolf-whistle, jeer and make us feel uncomfortable. We had been taught by society to accept these behaviours and compliments from men, and to be grateful for the attention.
I didn't know that what they were doing wasn't okay. I didn't know that they were robbing me of my innocence and my joyful anticipation of the night ahead of harmless trick or treating with my friends.
Over the 7 years that followed, I have only had to deal with a handful of situations from men. These range from a much older man ogling at my breasts as I walked down the road to the shops with my sister, walking past a builder's site—many women fear that—a man outside a club in Barcelona making gross advancements towards me, and most recently, me walking back from a soul-enriching brunch and being subject to a man wanting to reduce me to being only for his pleasure.
The most recent is what this post is focused on. I had never felt such rage, anger, or confusion. I think that is because only in the past year or two have I become so much stronger in my feminist agenda and my passion and interest in campaigning and arguing for the liberation and freedom of women and our rights.
The following is the post I made to Facebook. It comes from a raw, honest, dry, fed up, done-with-this-sh*t, perspective. In my opinion, my experience so far, can fairly and literally be labelled as something minor street harassment. Not trivial, because the micro of a system makes up the macro. But minor, yes.
I have not had to face physical danger or abuse. When I think of the thousands, and most likely, millions of women, my sisters, who have faced abhorrent abuse in their lifetime... They are the ones with the deeper scars. I recognise this fact, but I also embrace the lesser depth of my own scars. They charge me up enough to feel the need to scream from the rooftops that we need societal change.
Here Is My Facebook Post:
I'm often torn about making posts such as this one because this happens every single day and becomes normalised... But I think we should expose it every time it happens, and not brush it under the rug or say "its just one of those things" - no, it doesn't have to be, "boys will be boys" - no, they will be held accountable.
I did launch my own verbal response to this man... I didn't walk over to him and tell him what he did was wrong, although that might have been brought across in my articulate "f*ck off". Often saying that and continuing walking is all you can emotionally deal with.
Following my response, this man then proceeded to say that because of my appearance, nothing would happen "anyway". Thanks so f*cking much, I'm relieved.
We live in a society where millions of women are sexualised one way or another but *some* men then have the audacity to provide a disclaimer and say, "lol the fact these women actually think anyone would even want to assault them"
Its important to acknowledge that not all men are out to objectify and see women purely for just their physical appearance, but the frequency of these verbal attacks, and what so often turns into physical attacks, is too much to ever ignore.
I will always expose harassment, no matter how minor the incident. The micro makes up the macro. Someone walking past saying "sexy" is a small cog in a fixed societal structure.
This experience of mine is not unique.
Its not okay to walk past a woman and say "sexy", "nice" or any kind of derogatory or predatory statement. Or sound, for that matter.
Catcalling. Don't do it. It is not welcome.