An Open Letter to Cat Callers

An Open Letter to Cat Callers

Or to anyone who harasses women.
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It’s 11 p.m. on a Tuesday. I’m situated in front of the coffee machine at an empty gas station that's dimly lit in fluorescent lights when you walk in.

“Oh, hey baby, what’s your name?” you whistle. I turn, ready to snap some snarky comment your way when the words stick in my throat. Towering over me by a foot and a half and outweighing me by at least twice my body weight, it’s clear that the last thing I should do is anger you in any way. I just smile meekly and turn back to the coffee, hoping that you’ll leave me be.

“I’m talking to you. Hey BITCH, I asked what your fucking name is.”

“Uh, Am-Amy…”

“You workout, Amy? You look like you work out. You’re fine as hell.”

“Ah, thanks.” I’m wearing leggings and an oversize Salisbury t-shirt. No makeup, hair up in a pony tail plastered under a hat, the way I look would be considered bumming it and that’s being generous. My eyes keep darting to the bathroom where my Mom is and I try not to show any fear as I stare behind you at my Dad parked outside, willing him to look up. You pay for a couple packs of cigarettes and turn back towards me, advancing, leering down at me. Even the clerk looks worried from the counter.

“You smoke? How old are you?”

“Eighteen.”

“Oh, eighteen huh? Good age, heh-heh. You smoke? You drink? We should hang out sometime.”

The bell on the door rings and my Dad walks over to me. By sheer presence of another male associated with me in the store, you finally leave. I can confidently say that if my parents weren’t in that store with me that this would have ended very, very differently.

I’ve had so many other interactions like that. When I was in seventh grade (just at thirteen years old), some middle aged man called me a slut in front of my whole family - mind you, I was wearing a gray t-shirt and jean shorts. There’s been at least four instances of guys following me around in grocery stores and gas stations, plenty of times where construction workers have whistled and yelled at me in different languages as I walked to my car, and an infinite number of stare downs with men old enough to be my father in restaurants. If I had a nickel for every time cars honked at me and my friends when we walked down the street, I could pay for all my college tuition.

I would bet my life that every single girl reading this can attest to their own stories of cat calls and harassment. If someone asked any woman what they do to protect themselves against men, it would sound something like this.

“I park as close as I can to the store front and if there’s a spot, I park under street lights. I never park next to a truck or a van, and when I walk to my car I hold my keys between my fingers like some kind of Wolverine. Walking down the street alone I keep a brisk pace, never making eye contact with men that seem remotely threatening or any men at all for that matter and I never leave the house without my pepper spray. I don’t leave my drink out of my sight at parties and I never accept an open cup from someone. I go to the bathroom in groups, I keep my phone unlocked with 911 at the ready if I’m alone at night and I do a check around and inside my car to make sure no one’s in it. If I’m catcalled, I just smile and keep walking; I don't dare make them angry out of fear that they’ll follow me home or get violent. I know too many friends who have had that happen to them.” The fact of the matter is that sexual harassment has reached such a high level that it’s common. It’s common to sexually harass people. So common, that it’s become second nature for us to turn as nervous and alert as a freakin deer as soon as we step outside a store or our house. We are constantly on watch, ready to fight or flee at any sign of danger.

A lot of our first responses to being cat called is to fire back with a retort or flash the middle finger. But we’ve had to suppress that defense mechanism because if we women show any sign of being defiant or fierce, the harsh truth is that we run the risk of being followed, attacked, raped, or even killed.

Catcalling is not a compliment. It’s not flattering, it’s not funny, and it’s certainly not attractive. It is a predatory sound that we dread. It is the sound for literal danger, a signal that we need to get ready to either defend ourselves or search for an escape route and run. So, the next time you think about screeching a “AY YO BABY”, or piercing the public peace with a shrill whistle and a “HEY! NICE ASS”, remember that it doesn't do anything for you. If anything, it just makes you look like the disgusting, low, sleazy piece of trash that you are. Because let's face it, no relationship has ever begun with "Oh, he yelled sexual obscenities to me on the street and I just knew that he was the one!"

Cover Image Credit: Gainesvillesene

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Ilhan Omar Is at Best Foolhardy and at Worst, Yes, Anti-Semitic

Her latest statements seem to lack substance, motivation, or direction.

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I find the case of Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) to be a curious one.

Specifically, I am referring to the recent controversy over select comments of hers that have generated accusations of anti-Semitism. In all honesty, prior to doing research for this article, I was prepared to come to her defense.

When her comments consisted primarily of "Israeli hypnosis" and monied interest, I thought her wording poor, though not too egregiously deviated from that of most politicians in the current climate of bad behavior. After all, Israeli PACs surely do have a monied interest in the orientation of United States policy in the Middle East. Besides, if President Trump can hypothesize about killing someone in broad daylight and receive no official sanction, I don't see the need for the House of Representatives to hand down reprimand to Rep. Omar for simply saying that Israel may have dealt wrongly, regardless of the veracity of that position.

And yet, seemingly discontent that she had not drawn enough ire, Omar continued firing. She questioned the purported dual loyalty of those Americans who support the state of Israel, while also making claim that the beloved former President Obama is actually not all that different from the reviled current President Trump.

In short, the initial (mostly) innocuous statements about the United States' relation with Israel have been supplanted by increasingly bizarre (and unnecessary) postulations.

Those latest two controversies I find most egregious. Questioning the loyalty of an American citizen for espousing support for a heavily persecuted world religion and in defense of a refuge for practitioners of that self-same religion that has existed as an independent state since 1948, seems, in really no uncertain terms, anti-Semitic.

After all, is it not her own party that so adamantly supports persecuted Palestinians in the very same region? Is it not she and fellow Muslim Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) (who is not without her own streak of anti-Semitic controversy) that have rejected challenges to their own loyalty in being ethnically Somali and Palestinian respectively? Is her claim not akin to the "racist" demands that Obama produce proof of his birth in the United States, and the more concrete racism that asserted he truly was not? And (if you care to reach back so far) can her statement not be equated to suggestions that President John F. Kennedy would be beholden to the Vatican as the first (and to date only) Catholic to hold the presidency?

From what I can discern amongst her commentary, in Omar's mind, the rules that apply to her framework on race, ethnicity, religion, and culture as sacred idols above reproach do not extend to her Jewish contemporaries.

Oh, and may I remind you that over 70% of Jewish Americans voted for Hilary Clinton in 2016.

And yet, beyond even this hypocrisy, is the strange disdain Omar suddenly seems to hold for Barack Obama. Even as a non-Democrat, while I can find reason for this, it is still largely perplexing.

To begin with, I recognize that Ilhan Omar is not your prototypical Democrat. She would scoff at being termed a moderate, and likely would do the same to being labeled a traditional liberal. While she doesn't identify as an outright democratic socialist, one would have to be totally clueless to avoid putting her in the company of those who do, such as Tlaib or Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY).

As such, she's bound to have some critical evaluations of President Obama, despite the lionizing that the Democratic establishment has and continues to engage in. Two points still stick out to me as obvious incongruities in her statement, however.

First, Obama and Trump are nothing alike. Again, this coming from someone who does not regularly support either, I can at least attempt to claim objectivity. While Obama might not have been faithful to all the demands of the far-left during his presidency, his position on the political spectrum was far from the extreme bent that Trump has ventured into.

Secondly, there is the style of the two men to consider. While Obama had his share of goofs and gaffes (I still think it somewhat juvenile that he often refused to say "radical Islamic terrorism" when referring to Islamist extremists) he pales in comparison to Trump. Every week Trump has his foot caught in a new bear trap. Obama is enormously tame in comparison.

And in addition to all of that, one must beg the question of Omar's timing. With Republicans emboldened by her controversies and House Democratic leadership attempting to soothe the masses, why would Omar strike out at what's largely a popular figure for those that support her most? There seemed no motivation for the commentary and no salient reasoning to back it up, save that Omar wanted to speak her mind.

Such tactlessness is something that'll get you politically killed.

I do not believe Barack Obama was a great president, but that's not entirely important. I don't live in Ilhan Omar's district; her constituents believe Obama was a great president, and that should at least factor into her considerations. Or maybe she did weigh the negative value of such backlash and decided it wouldn't matter? 2019 isn't an election year, after all. Yet, even if that's the case, what's to gain by pissing off your superiors when they're already pissed off at you?

You need to pick your battles wisely in order to win the war, and I'm highly doubtful Omar will win any wars by pitching scorched-earth tactics over such minute concerns.

Her attitude reminds me not only of that of some of her colleagues engaging obtusely and unwisely over subjects that could best be shrugged off (see the AOC media controversies), but also some of my own acquaintances. They believe not only in the myth of their own infallibility, but the opposition bogeyman conjured by their status in a minority or marginalized group. As the logic goes, "I'm a member of x group, and being so gives me the right to decimate anyone who has any inclination to stand against me in any capacity, tit for tat." So much for civility.

I initially came here to defend Rep. Ilhan Omar, and I still do hold to that in certain cases. The opposition to some of her positions is unwarranted. She is allotted the freedom of speech, as are all Americans.

And yet, in certain other cases she has conducted herself brashly, and, one could argue, anti-Semitically.

All I can say is that I am content living adjacent to Minneapolis, not in it. You'd be hard-pressed to find me advocating for leadership that makes manifest in such impolitic fashion.

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