Catcalls are not a Compliment

I was recently in downtown Los Angeles for meetings, and needed to make an “emergency run” to the local Rite Aid. As I was sitting in my meeting on the 15th floor of one of the high rise office buildings, I realized I had to google the nearest Rite Aid because I didn't know the streets of downtown all too well. Although I thought I'd feel pretty safe and confident visiting a local drug store in my heels and dress suited for the boardroom. My strictly business ensemble was a far cry from the provocative stilettos and mini dresses onlookers see wandering the streets just hours later when the bars flood with traffic.

So I hopped in my car, drove about six blocks, and then realized it was rush hour. I had to give a parking attendant five bucks to watch my car before walking a block and half around the corner to the drug store. In this small span of probably three minutes, I heard a half-dozen whistles as well as catcalls, and witnessed creepy old men turning their heads as I walked by. I must state the disclaimer that I don�t consider myself a �Hollywood looker," and this is not about having a good hair day or feeling particularly sexy. I have a petite, somewhat athletic body and was wearing a long-sleeve fitted dress with a skirt that grazed my legs maybe an inch above the knee. I can only imagine the reactions had I been more of a Marilyn Monroe-type with cleavage and long legs.

As I walked into the Rite Aid in a neighborhood that clearly had not yet been gentrified, I was feeling a tinge of stress and strain from the attention. I took a place in line and a man in his 70s, holding onto his walker no less, turned to me, then looked me up and down at least three times over before staring me in the eye and saying, "Impressive.� I didn't know how to respond, so I just stood there and looked down at my shoes. He then snapped at me and said, "You're supposed to say �Thank You.�" Really? You consider that a compliment?!

I was grateful to find my car about 30 minutes later, and depart that neighborhood as quickly as I had arrived. I was tense, upset, and in need of some alone time to process the fact that this behavior has become culturally acceptable. I parked my car in one of the newer and nicer neighborhoods, then felt a sigh of relief when the parking attendant across from my friend's building kindly came over to offer reassurance that he would keep an eye on things. I walked across the street thinking the moment had passed and was preparing for an enjoyable start to the weekend when an SUV filled with three men honked and whizzed by me so close that I jumped straight up. The one in the backseat leaned out the window screaming vulgarities of a suggestive manner.

I walked into my friend's loft a moment later, and it took all of my will power to not burst into tears. Is this what really passes for a compliment nowadays? I find this treatment of women offensive and disgusting. It’s truly tragic that we are allowing men to behave this way, and condone their comments by responding with coy eyes or simply not responding at all. I haven't quite figured out how I plan to address this issue, but perhaps we need to start a school for manners.

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