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).