Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Men Who Call Out at You on the Street

I love New York. It is the city I have dreamed of living in since I sat in front of a TV and watched West Side Story and On the Town, part of my mother’s grand scheme to turn me into a gay man (it worked). I love the smells, good and bad - I love the subway, I love taxis, I love uptown, downtown, east and west. I adore almost everything about this city.

Everything except the NASTY MEN.

“Hey baby, I like that!”
“Ooh, mami!”
“Sup girl?”

It turns out the men who live in New York will not sing and dance merrily about the town, sometimes stopping to duet with a gal pal or two, as I was led to believe by many musicals.

Any woman who has ever lived here has probably heard any number of cat calls as she is innocently walking down the street. None of the men I know have ever experienced this and may be surprised to learn it happens so often (sorry Dad, this might be an awkward read), but it does. Women are verbally harassed every single day here, in good neighborhoods and bad ones, daytime, nighttime, anywhere, any hour.

The most curious part of this occurrence for me has always been the motivation. Do you, sir, think that I will respond to you? Do you think you’ll win me over with your inappropriate familiarity? When you call out “NICE,” do you think I will turn and say, “Why thank you kindly gent! I thought my sweater looked extra good today too! Would you like to be my boyfriend?“ Has that EVER happened to you with ANY of the women you have called at on the street? If it has, I’d like to meet that woman so I can punch her in her stupid face for ruining it for the rest of us.

"Why m'lady, I believe thou dost protest too much!"

Sometimes Pervy Mc Nastyson doesn’t say anything. Sometimes I just get a hard stare, the guy looking me up and down from the moment I step into his eyeline till the moment I pass. I can always see him in my peripheral vision, and I cringe internally as I maximize the distance between us. Honestly sometimes I find myself wishing he would just say something instead of the gaze - the anticipation can be worse.

It doesn’t happen every single time I go out, so when it does, I always try to figure out what‘s different that day. I barely own any clothing that’s even remotely revealing (NOT that a short skirt is an open invitation to cat call), and most of the time my hair is in a messy bun because I decided to shower at night. I don’t often do what they call “try” in terms of makeup or attire. I really am always lost for an explanation. Guess maybe it’s just the moon’s gravity or whatever shit making the guy super randy and vocal that day.

Though I am almost always alone when this harassment occurs, I never feel particularly unsafe; rather, I get a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach and wish I had the balls to yell something insulting back at them, or flip them off, or respond in any way that made sure they knew what they do isn’t okay. Sometimes I just want to stop and say, “Hey, it’s really demeaning when you do that. Would you want someone to talk to your mother or sister that way?” But of course I don’t - and even if I did, and that guy stopped, there’d be 10 more guys to take his place.

It’s a cultural problem that men think it’s okay to talk to women this way. Popular music and film don’t help, with depictions of women in videos that are merely there to shake their asses in skanky skirts and lyrics that promote degradation. I admit I myself have sung along to more than one song about smackin’ bitches and hoes, even as the whitest girl alive. But it’s not okay, and I sincerely wish rappers would start waxing poetic about respecting ladies and not calling them names or talking to them on the street without solicitation!

Oopsy! Someone forgot their pants! How terribly embarrassing!

Maybe someday we’ll get our equality - til then I will shove my headphones in, give a glare, keep on walkin, and once again take to the interwebs to express my anger.

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