By Glenne Fucci, Regular ContributorNovember 12, 2015
image via little things.com
If you’re of the female gender, it’s likely happened to you. You’re walking down the street, maybe you’re wearing a top-notch outfit, maybe you’re wearing sweats; either way, you’re doing your thing. You’re just trying to get from Point A to Point B, when all of a sudden, out of nowhere, you hear, “Damn, girl. Give me a smile.” You keep on walking, head held high, trying to pretend that you don’t feel just a little bit violated by this man. In all honesty though, we do feel violated.
We do feel uncomfortable. We do feel like our day has just become a little bit darker.
Those feelings are even more severe when the remarks become more harsh, more graphic, and more sexual. See, no one likes being accosted by a stranger based on their appearance, as if the girl is nothing more than an object walking by for the pleasure or delight of the catcaller. No one likes being treated like an object who is only objectified because of her gender. But despite how much we dislike, detest it, despise it, we can’t seem to find a solution to stop it.
As in every big city, New York is a place where walking is more commonplace than driving a car. This means that you’re exposed to the big world and all the humans that populate it more so than your average person. This also means that catcalling becomes a part of your daily existence. When I first started school in New York, I walked by a construction site on my 1.5 mile trek to school everyday. Weighed down by law books and the permanent sense of exhaustion, I’d get the full body scan, paired with a few “damn, girl”’s, and followed by some other less than appropriate comments. By the time I got to school, I’d be in a pretty horrid mood.
So, I did what I vowed I never would: I changed routes.
Yes, I so badly wanted to avoid being remarked upon by strangers that I went out of my way, pounds of books in tow, just to have a less stressful morning walk.
The most likely time for me to be catcalled, though, is while I run. Even when I’m out in the freezing cold with all but my nose exposed and looking like the least attractive tye-dye blob of color on the planet, I often get crude gestures, nasty sexual comments, and the occasional, “Damn girlie, look at you run” (I still don’t know why catcallers begin all their calls with damn, but alas here we are). One time I complained to someone about this and they told me, “it sounds like they were just giving you a compliment.” No. A random person standing on the side of the road, making eye contact with you, and looking you up and down is not giving you a compliment when you run past them. I would find it weird if another runner ran by and remarked on my running in a non-race setting, so it’s even weirder that some random man driving by in his car prefaces his “compliment” with a “damn, girlie.”
A compliment is when you go up to another girl at a party and say, “I like your jacket” or when you tell a guy you’ve been seeing, “you have nice eyes.” A compliment is not hanging out the side of your car window and asking whether you want to go for a ride because you’re lookin fine. How foolish would everyone think I was if I went up to a random guy on the street and said, “Damn dude, give me a smile?”
Turn the tables around, and no one would think that a bunch of ladies yelling the same phrases at men would be a compliment.
The problem with all this, though, is how do we fix it? As someone who is trained to think like a lawyer, I want to find some law, rule, or constitutional provision to address this pervasive issue. However, this is not a problem the law can solve -- it’s a problem that only society can. Because what it comes down to is a lack of respect. We need to do a better job ensuring that women and girls get the respect they deserve and ensure they are treated as something more than objects or desires. But until that changes, we just need to keep holding our heads high, not be ashamed when we need to change routes for our own peace of mind, and believe that one day it will get better. One day it must get better.
How do you feel about catcalls? Have you ever been catcalled at? How did y=it make you feel about yourself? Tell us below!
Glenne is a third year law student hailing from NYC, University of Michigan ‘13 grad and Beyonce enthusiast. Currently residing in Korea, her interests include duathlons/triathlons, traveling near and far, documentary films, consuming sugary cereal, watching mid-2000s teen dramas and singing her heart out at Betty Who concerts. You can watch her attempt to navigate Asia and beyond on Instagram @glennefucci.
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