An Open Letter To Men Who Catcall

An Open Letter To Men Who Catcall

An open letter to those who violate women in the most fundamental way.
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You don't remember me, but I remember you.

You don't remember that I was walking down the sidewalk carrying a package, or that I was on my way back to my dorm before I had to head to band. You don't remember the impact you left on me. You see, you happened to be the first man (and I use this term loosely) to catcall me.

It was by far the most disgusting thing I have ever had to experience. I won't repeat what you said, because you said vulgar words that are not worth repeating, but they have stuck with me since then. I don’t know why you said them, or what you gained from shouting at me from your moving vehicle, but it made me feel violated in a way I hadn’t felt before.

I’m not sure if you thought it would brighten my day, make me feel empowered, or even that I would be flattered you took time out of your mundane day to shout curse words at me. But I can assure you that I felt none of these things.

Catcalling is something that has been present in our society and media for a long time. I would count myself as lucky--before now, it hadn’t happened to me. Women today live in constant fear of being attacked verbally, physically, and sexually everyday.

We are always prepared to be violated by words and by actions.

It’s a fear we learn to live with, and it’s a fear that men don’t understand. When we are growing up, we’re taught the buddy system. We don’t go anywhere without telling an adult or without a friend or two. While men grow out of having to do this, women are forced to no matter their age. I never go anywhere without going with at least one other girl and letting someone know where we’re heading to, just in case something happens along the way. We joke about going to the bathroom in groups, but assault is no laughing matter.

54% of those who are sexually assaulted are between the ages of 18 and 34, and those ages 12 to 17 are at a 15% risk of being raped or assaulted. This means that any man or woman who falls in that age group is in constant fear of being attacked and violated. Another statistic shows that one in six women in the United States have been the victims of successful or attempted rape.

In order to put that into perspective, think of six women in your life. It could be your mom, your sister or sisters, cousins, aunts, friends, or classmates. One of those special women in your life will be raped in her lifetime, or an attempt will be made to commit this horrendous act. I shouldn’t have to put it into perspective like this, but sometimes in order for you to understand, you have to make it personal.

As a woman, this is terrifying. It could be me, or my little sister, or my best friends, or my roommate, or the girl I sit next to in calculus. This is real, and for us, it’s every day of our lives.

Now I know talking about rape is a far leap from talking about catcalling, but the ways they are portrayed in the media are very similar. While people joke about catcalling, rape does tend to be taken more seriously, but no one wants to talk about either of these things. However, that being said:

We have to talk about it if we want things to change.

What I mean is that it is discussed in a serious manner where the victim is never to blame. You heard me correctly; the victim is never at fault. No matter what you were wearing or what you were doing, or if you were flirting back, or if you were drunk, rape is rape. Sexual assault is sexual assault. I don’t care what your attacker says; it was not your fault.

I hate the phrase "they were asking for it," because that’s never the case. No one is ever asking for it, ever. If someone wants to wear a crop top and short shorts with heels, more power to them. If someone wants to wear jeans and a sweater, go for it. Assault can happen to anyone no matter what they are wearing, and because someone dresses a certain way, it doesn’t mean they want to be pursued in a way that makes them uncomfortable.

I’m talking to the guy who catcalled me now.

Maybe you yelled at me because I was wearing leggings, and you had a view you liked. But I was not wearing those leggings for your enjoyment. I was wearing them because--

  • They were clean
  • They were comfortable
  • I had just left dance class

Women have the obligation to look their best all the time--all thanks to the way society shuns us if we don’t. We may be somewhat required to wear makeup and dress in flattering clothes, but sometimes, we dress that way because it makes us feel good about ourselves. I used to feel awkward in my body, and I was uncomfortable in certain clothes. I’ve gained more confidence in myself, and I no longer dress to impress. I dress the way I feel most comfortable and confident in my body. Whether that’s leggings and a baggy sweater or a spaghetti strap dress, it doesn’t matter.

I’m not doing it for you. I’m doing it for me and only me.

So if you, the man who shouted profanity at me from the cover of your car, think you boosted my confidence and made me feel better about myself, you’re seriously mistaken. Nothing I do is for you. Everything I do is for me. So the next time you, or one of your low-life friends, shouts what you think are flattering comments at me or any other women or girl, think twice about what you’re doing, because girls run the world, and someday you just might find yourself in the presence of a queen (note: all women are).

Cover Image Credit: The Odyssey

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If You've Ever Been Called Overly-Emotional Or Too Sensitive, This Is For You

Despite what they have told you, it's a gift.
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Emotional: a word used often nowadays to insult someone for their sensitivity towards a multitude of things.

If you cry happy tears, you're emotional. If you express (even if it's in a healthy way) that something is bothering you, you're sensitive. If your hormones are in a funk and you just happen to be sad one day, you're emotional AND sensitive.

Let me tell you something that goes against everything people have probably ever told you. Being emotional and being sensitive are very, very good things. It's a gift. Your ability to empathize, sympathize, and sensitize yourself to your own situation and to others' situations is a true gift that many people don't possess, therefore many people do not understand.

Never let someone's negativity toward this gift of yours get you down. We are all guilty of bashing something that is unfamiliar to us: something that is different. But take pride in knowing God granted this special gift to you because He believes you will use it to make a difference someday, somehow.

This gift of yours was meant to be utilized. It would not be a part of you if you were not meant to use it. Because of this gift, you will change someone's life someday. You might be the only person that takes a little extra time to listen to someone's struggle when the rest of the world turns their backs.

In a world where a six-figure income is a significant determinant in the career someone pursues, you might be one of the few who decides to donate your time for no income at all. You might be the first friend someone thinks to call when they get good news, simply because they know you will be happy for them. You might be an incredible mother who takes too much time to nurture and raise beautiful children who will one day change the world.

To feel everything with every single part of your being is a truly wonderful thing. You love harder. You smile bigger. You feel more. What a beautiful thing! Could you imagine being the opposite of these things? Insensitive and emotionless?? Both are unhealthy, both aren't nearly as satisfying, and neither will get you anywhere worth going in life.

Imagine how much richer your life is because you love other's so hard. It might mean more heartache, but the reward is always worth the risk. Imagine how much richer your life is because you are overly appreciative of the beauty a simple sunset brings. Imagine how much richer your life is because you can be moved to tears by the lessons of someone else's story.

Embrace every part of who you are and be just that 100%. There will be people who criticize you for the size of your heart. Feel sorry for them. There are people who are dishonest. There are people who are manipulative. There are people who are downright malicious. And the one thing people say to put you down is "you feel too much." Hmm...

Sounds like more of a compliment to me. Just sayin'.

Cover Image Credit: We Heart It

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Pride? Pride.

Who are we? Why are we proud?

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This past week, I was called a faggot by someone close to me and by note, of all ways. The shock rolled through my body like thunder across barren plains and I was stuck paralyzed in place, frozen, unlike the melting ice caps. My chest suddenly felt tight, my hearing became dim, and my mind went blank except for one all-encompassing and constant word. Finally, after having thawed, my rage bubbled forward like divine retribution and I stood poised and ready to curse the name of the offending person. My tongue lashed the air into a frenzy, and I was angry until I let myself break and weep twice. Later, I began to question not sexualities or words used to express (or disparage) them, but my own embodiment of them.

For members of the queer community, there are several unspoken and vital rules that come into play in many situations, mainly for you to not be assaulted or worse (and it's all too often worse). Make sure your movements are measured and fit within the realm of possible heterosexuality. Keep your music low and let no one hear who you listen to. Avoid every shred of anything stereotypically gay or feminine like the plague. Tell the truth without details when you can and tell half-truths with real details if you must. And above all, learn how to clear your search history. At twenty, I remember my days of teaching my puberty-stricken body the lessons I thought no one else was learning. Over time I learned the more subtle and more important lessons of what exactly gay culture is. Now a man with a head and social media accounts full of gay indicators, I find myself wondering both what it all means and more importantly, does it even matter?

To the question of whether it matters, the answer is naturally yes and no (and no, that's not my answer because I'm a Gemini). The month of June has the pleasure of being the time of year when the LGBT+ community embraces the hateful rhetoric and indulges in one of the deadly sins. Pride. Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera, the figures at the head of the gay liberation movement, fought for something larger than themselves and as with the rest of the LGBT+ community, Pride is more than a parade of muscular white men dancing in their underwear. It's a time of reflection, of mourning, of celebration, of course, and most importantly, of hope. Pride is a time to look back at how far we've come and realize that there is still a far way to go.

This year marks fifty years since the Stonewall Riots and the gay liberation movement launched onto the world stage, thus making the learning and embracing of gay culture that much more important. The waves of queer people that come after the AIDS crisis has been given the task of rebuilding and redefining. The AIDS crisis was more than just that. It was Death itself stalking through the community with the help of Regan doing nothing. It was going out with friends and your circle shrinking faster than you can try or even care to replenish. Where do you go after the apocalypse? The LGBT+ community was a world shut off from access by a touch of death and now on the other side, we must weave in as much life as we can.

But we can't freeze and dwell of this forever. It matters because that's where we came from, but it doesn't matter because that's not where we are anymore. We're in a time of rebirth and spring. The LGBT+ community can forge a new identity where the AIDS crisis is not the defining feature, rather a defining feature to be immortalized, mourned, and moved on from.

And to the question of what does it all mean? Well, it means that I'm gay and that I've learned the central lesson that all queer people should learn in middle school. It's called Pride for a reason. We have to shoulder the weight of it all and still hold our head high and we should. Pride is the LGBT+ community turning lemons into lemon squares and limoncello. The lemon squares are funeral cakes meant to mourn and be a familiar reminder of what passed, but the limoncello is the extravagant and intoxicating celebration of what is to come. This year I choose to combine the two and get drunk off funeral cakes. Something tells me that those who came before would've wanted me to celebrate.

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