By Meg Crane
I love cats. A lot. I love the cats that live with me. I love my friends’ cats. I love cats on the street.
I love movies about cats, I love cat board games and I love cat shirts.
But, sometimes, I don’t love wearing cat shirts in public.
I don’t love wearing cat shirts in public because I don’t love men telling me they like my pussy or want to see my pussy closer, then giggling like they’ve come up with a very clever joke. I’ve got news for you, buddy, it’s not clever. It’s not funny. It’s fucking harassment.
Unlike cats, catcalling is not cool. But, it’s taking far to long for some fellas to get the message.
And some women, as well. Some women like being yelled at in public. It makes them feel beautiful and sexy. That’s cool. Good for you! I’m sincerely happy that that is your response and that you don’t experience the feelings that I do. But, please, don’t encourage it. For some women, it doesn’t make them feel beautiful. In fact, just the opposite. No, this isn’t women being insecure enough to let men objectify them.
There are many reasons to hate catcalling. Here’s mine:
I don’t always feel safe in public. I know bad things can happen to me when I’m alone. I’ve been in unsafe situations and I’ve experienced less than awesome things from men in public spaces.
When a car of dudes slows down and yells at me how nice my ass is at 7 a.m. when I’m out alone for a run, without my phone, and no one is around, I have a panic attack and need to slink home to bed to cry. When I’m out at night, feeling awesome, and some dude honks and asks if I want a ride, I no longer feel so awesome because I know how easy it would be for him to get me in his car and no one would know.
If you’re a woman, you probably have had experiences like this and you may find it as terrifying as I do. In fact, a lot of women do.
But many of us aren’t quietly taking this harassment.
Making a scene
It’s not always safe to be loud, but when it is, I’ve known plenty a woman who shout back. Usually obscenities. Most often with a rude gesture. It’s most often met with the offender yelling back that she’s bitch or whore and doesn’t stop him from doing it again, but it sure feels good to not just take it.
It can also start conversations. A man on a bus once asked me if I was a virgin. I stood up, told him to go fuck himself and got off the bus. A young man got off at the same stop and asked what happened. I told him. I told him I was tired of men asking me inappropriate responses like that. I told him I didn’t feel safe in public. He looked genuinely upset. I doubt he would ever partake in street harassment after seeing how I felt.
Some folks carry around little cards explaining why street harassment is not okay. If being aggressive isn’t your style or you’d like to approach the issue is a more diplomatic way, this might be the way to go. Especially if you don’t want to waste your time engaging with a street harasser who might not get the message anyways.
You can download cards for free at cardsagainstharassment.com or make your own!
Being vocal, quietly
Probably the most well-known movement against street harassment, Hollaback! works to make noise about street harassment so those experiencing it know that they’re not alone and to help everyone understand that it’s not okay. Rather than actually confront the offender, which can be unsafe, victims post their experiences on an app.
Hollaback isn’t the only space where folks are talking about street harassment. Blogs such as iamnotanobject.tumblr.com, zines like Don’t Tell Me to Smile and movements like Take Back the Night are publicly discussing street harassment.
I gotta say, it feels really good to know that I’m not alone and that other people want change.
How do you deal with street harassment? Any tips? Experiences you want to share? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Meg Crane is the founder of Cockroach. Follow her on Twitter.