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"I'm not pretty enough to be cat-called." My roommate said this to me. This sticks in my head constantly, and I think about it often. It pops into my head now every time I get cat-called while out being busy with my life. I cannot get over how unfair and awful it is that I heard this. Not to just me, but to her, too.
I get cat-called very often. It can happen anywhere for me. I've been followed, harassed on public transport, and I've even been followed and cat-called in France during a wonderful study abroad, an experience that left me crying and shaking.
I do consider myself to be an attractive woman. I am smart, funny, beautiful, and humble. The whole package. I personally don't struggle with my body size or looks, but I worked hard to get there. I made it through the long journey of loving myself and being okay with how I look. This attitude was earned, not given. And I also still have to work for it every day.
My roommate said this to me during a road trip with our group of friends. We were playing the "Don't Get Me Started" Game. I don't remember my exact topic, but to simplify it: Don't Get Me Started On Men. I was ranting on and on about how awful it is to be treated this way with verbal harassment. I talked about how I didn't wear certain outfits anymore because I got cat-called in it so often. I expressed my frustration and anxiety with it all. I told a story or two of when I was cat-called. Like the time I was walking with a male friend, and I was cat-called as we walked by. My male friend didn't even notice it happened. I was wearing a thick jacket and warm baggy pants since it was a snowy day out, but I still got stared down and cat-called.
I finished as she said, "I'm not pretty enough to be cat-called." This rang through my head. It shocked me silent when she said it at the time. I took it personally, almost got mad at her, but then I realized what had actually happened here. Our value as women were tied to how often we were harassed by men.
I don't need to explain why it's bad to cat-call women. Let me put it this way to all the men reading this: how would you feel if a man told this to you on the street? "Baby, you are gorgeous. How old are you?" "Morning, beautiful, need a strong man to carry that bag for you?" "C'mon, mami, let me take you out. I don't take no for an answer." And my personal favorite, I got in a very bad car crash (luckily everyone survived and had minor injuries), "Hey, beautiful, need a ride? I can take care of you just fine."
Now, here's the thing. How is this any better? How can anyone be jealous of my experiences like this? How can anyone wish this happened to them? There are women in this world that tie their self worth to how much they are objectified and harassed by men, and honestly? I can't fault any of them for that.
Whether or not my roommate believes this too, feels like she isn't an equal to me because she doesn't get harassed on the street, I can see where this comes from. There was a moment after she said she wasn't pretty enough, and I thought about what she meant, and I felt this sick sense of pride. Immediately, I hated it, but I felt it nonetheless. Why? Because we are taught that if men find you attractive, then you are attractive and have value. If they don't, then clearly you are unattractive and have no value. While Pretty does not equal Valuable, it is hard to tell the two apart in our society, but that's a whole other article to write.
My beautiful women, my ugly women, my average women, I am sorry. I am sorry that we feel this way about ourselves based off of how often we get treated like an object while trying to go through our daily lives. I fear every time a man does this for me. I get scared and it ruins my mood every time, and some people almost hope to be cat-called so they can be considered "pretty enough."
We have to let go of these ideas. Because we are all two sides of the same coin. I would give anything to not get cat-called, but there are women in this world who don't feel the same way. Some women take pride, and that's how they cope with it. Some women don't get cat-called at all and feel bad about it.
I wish I had a way to fix this. I wish I had an answer for all women out there, but really it all just comes down to us. I wish it didn't. It would be better to nip it at the source and tell cat-callers to disappear and leave us alone. But we aren't able to do that right not. Instead, we should try to stop feeling like this. We shouldn't worry about whether or not we are pretty enough to be harassed. Instead, we should have each other's back, and most of all we must work on self-worth. Our beauty based off of any standards should not lead to our self-worth. We need to find that within ourselves, and move forward.
I hope for a day where I don't have to feel like I need to defend myself to other women for being cat-called, and I hope for a day where women won't feel like they aren't "pretty enough to get cat-called."
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