We have a problem, folks. It is our problem. Not just mine. But in this, I will talk a little bit about my experience with the objectification and sexualization of women.
There is a problem that I feel such utter relief when I am walking down the streets and don't hear cat calling or whistling. I shouldn't have to feel relief. I shouldn't have to wonder if the random men who say hi will crop up, or wave, or honk, or shout. I shouldn't have to wonder. And the thing is, I have been subjected to this behavior since I was young. I used to walk home from high school as a teenager. Starting at the age of fifteen years old, I would hear men shout things like, "Hey! What's your name?! Hey angel! Angel!" I would duck my head or look away, or just act like they weren't there at all, standing by their trucks, yelling their objectifying comments. Silence. Ignore. This is how I have always handled it.
Sometimes in the car, men pull their car next to mine while making gestures. It is a constancy through out life that has ebbed and flowed over time. I enjoyed more peacetime for awhile until recently. Today I had a man tell me that "I have a beautiful butt" and that I can't walk by with "that fine ass booty" without saying hi. He said he wasn't getting fresh with me and that it was just a compliment. It didn't feel like a compliment. It was not a compliment. This time I stumbled over my words. I didn't say anything like, "Don't ever speak to me that way. I don't like that." I said nothing of the sort. I realize I have to do better than that. But it angers me to have even be put in that position. I was upset and this has stayed with me all day. This time, I just can't shake it. And you know what? I AM NOT ALONE. That's what is even worse. Every woman I have talked to share stories of the having experienced the same treatment. Just tonight, I was talking to my friend who told me that today as she was running an errand to the post office, men in the parking lot were literally barking at her like a pack of dogs. When she told them, "No," they laughed at her and stared all the more.
Like a pack of dogs.
I am tired of this. I am only twenty seven years old, and my whole life I have been jeered and cat called and have been groped at and on and on and on and on. I AM TIRED OF IT. I think a lot of women are. We all have these stories. Stories far, far worse than mine. I talk to friends and they tell me their daily interactions with the world, and it often includes this behavior. This behavior that is demeaning, objectifying, revolting, and misogynistic. It is not a compliment. It is not a compliment for me to have unwanted advances from older men who think they are paying me a compliment by saying if they were thirty years younger, they'd marry me. Or someone who will email me saying, "If I were thirty years younger...." when that correspondence should be purely professional. I am tired of it. And what do we do about this? Because as far as I can tell, it hasn't gotten better. Not when every friend of mine can stand up and tell similar stories. Not when someone can tell me that "I should be glad men take time out of their day" to do this. To "compliment". To cat call. To objectify. I am done with this. But what can we do, but be silent? When other women walk down the street to men hootin' and hollerin', what can be done? I believe in words. I believe in speaking out. I believe in standing up and not taking it. But really, it is a problem for us all. I don't know what good I am here. But today, I had to say something in this space. I failed at saying anything to the man today. I stumbled for words. I told two trusted people about it, but stewed about it all day. I talked to some girlfriends later, and they told me more of their own stories. This is a problem. And it is a sickening one, at that. I don't know how to make them stop. I don't know how to teach other people to act with decency and respect, and see the humanity in others instead of their sex. It is an outrage.
Here is a link my friend shared with me portraying one woman's experience with catcalling throughout her life: Catcalling Comic Illustrates Street Harassment From The Very Beginning. A lot of it, I have heard myself. I was unsure as to what I thought of her adding in the first three frames of the little girl, I think we all kind of talk to kids and call them cute (because they are). I think we need to be careful not to focus on cute or pretty as adjectives all the time for kids, because they need to hear other things too (of course). But that's a whole other topic for another time.
You know what else is sad? I felt like maybe today, I over reacted by feeling upset. Maybe saying something to the people I did about it, was too much. Maybe it's too much that I was bothered. But it is not too much. It is bothersome. It is not okay. And this isn't about me. It is about all of us. It is about how we take care of one another and how we treat our women. How we see women as people, and not a piece of meat to bark over like a dog. This does a disservice to men and women alike. Men are better than this. Women deserve a hell of a lot more than this.
I know it is not every man, by the way. I don't mean to make gross over generalizing statements. I am merely talking about the individuals who choose to take part in this behavior.
It has to stop. And it starts with us. Any ideas?