Catcalls and Elephant Pants

As women, we are taught to worry about many things – dresses on a windy day, being “too bossy,” the state and condition of our hair and nails and perhaps one of the most daunting: attention from guys

For years, women have existed in a society where validation comes from a man having a vested interest in them. There are countless movies dedicated to “the guy getting the girl” and driving off in a shit-box car with triumphant music swelling in the background.

Light years away – the reality of being a woman in 2016 sets in. I have yet to meet a woman who hasn’t been catcalled or whistled at by men in a car.

Catcalling isn’t about results. I highly doubt that the men catcalling women are so dimwitted as to expect the response to “Hey baby! Wanna ride?” will be “Of course!” and the two proceed to act out a low-budget porno.

Catcalling is another way for a man to exert dominance in a culture already rigged to devalue people who identify as female.

We should not exist in a world where girls are reminded – from a young age – not walk alone at night, to be wary of strangers and to rely on the company of a male to prevent other men from catcalling us.

Who knew? My full-length Elephant Pants and a tank-top were the ideal clothes to attract the attention of guys in a pick-up truck. Minding my business, walking down State Street Thursday night at around 8:30, I had the distinct pleasure of being whistled at. I gave them the obligatory middle finger and angry glare, and was flipped the bird in return.

My recent personal experience with catcalling has become confrontational because the men who do it expect the women to remain silent – we’re taught to ignore it. The conventional advice is to ignore them and they will go away. I, on the other hand, am terrible at taking advice and have a confrontational personality. I’ve been known to flip off, yell at and confront the men who feel the need to comment on what I’m wearing or the way I look.

One of three things happens – they act surprised, ashamed or angered. It’s as if, until women prove they have a voice – a personality – they don’t exist as people.

I won’t lie – confrontation isn’t always the smartest response. The intensity of a stranger’s response is unknown and I’ve learned that speaking my mind isn’t always the smartest response to degradation.

I know it seems backwards, but I would rather stomach 30 seconds of skin-crawling degradation than end up another headline on an article that gets shared on Facebook 10,000 times and yet leads to no real social change.

If catcalling were only about the appearance of women, it wouldn’t be a year-round occurrence. I’ve been fully bundled up, waiting at a bus stop and had cars slow down, a head pop out and a guy whistle or say something that he wouldn’t dare say in front of his mother.

The strangest phenomenon – I’ve yet to have a civilized conversation with a guy who would admit to ever catcalling a woman or condone that behavior among his friends. And yet – it continues to happen. And it happens with groups of men in cars, standing on street corners or outside of restaurants.

It’s not about what women wear, it’s not about how women look – it’s about the invincibility that straight men are given in society.

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