To You, Cat-Callers
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Politics and Activism

To You, Cat-Callers

My name is not "baby girl" nor "sweet thing," and I am NOT your object.

To You, Cat-Callers

Several days ago, while I was on a run through my college town at 8:30 a.m. on a Wednesday, two of you followed me in your truck with rolled down windows and backwards baseball caps. You shouted derogatory terms, negative phrases, and whistled with words like "Whoa! and "Hey, baby," at me as I tried to keep a straight face and broad shoulders. Your words stung me like fire.

I didn't say anything to you there, on that street, though if I could, I would send you these words. I would send them with the hope that you might someday understand what this feels like. As a woman, as a daughter and a sister and a friend, I hope you someday understand what this feels like.

Your words and your derogatory shouts are not a compliment.

It is not going to make me any more likely to turn to you, to give you attention, or to gaze your way. It is not flattering. It is degrading, frustrating, and disturbing to my run or to my walk, to my activity or my moment. I huffed through reddened cheeks and pretended not to hear you. But I did. I heard you, and we hear you. We simply choose to ignore you in order to avoid the fear of worsening humiliation or violence. Though I must ask: Why is that a decision we should be forced to make? Why is that a decision you force us to make with your words, your whistling, your degradation?

It makes us feel like meat to be tampered with, not an individual to be respected.

You may be next to us, and you may think that we perceive your words and your whistles as a form of flattery, but there are about 10 million other ways that you could get our attention that do not have to include derogatory names, terms, slang, or screeching like an uneducated banshee from your car or from the other side of the road. There are so many other ways that would make me feel respected, cared about, and special. This is not, nor will it ever be, one of those ways.

It's embarrassing.

You single us out. It's alienating and humiliating to be called out in such a way. It makes us feel shameful for being ourselves, even when there is absolutely nothing that we have to be ashamed of. We are people, too. We are valued and loved and important, though you treat us as though we are unworthy. In fact, in the moment that a person is being whistled at or degraded verbally/physically, it causes anxiousness and completely disrupts whatever it is that we are trying to do. It is not something we can prepare for. It is something we fear, something that affects the whole rest of our day, both mentally and emotionally.

It's scary.

Cat-calling and being cat-called in general is frightening. Violence is an all-too-common effect of this kind of action, and it leaves our minds spinning, wondering frantically about all of the ways we might fight back if we needed to. It is unfair that we must constantly carry pepper spray, take self-defense classes, or use that advice from our mamas to "keep your head up" and "don't pay them any attention, just keep straight ahead." It is unfair that we cannot exercise or wear pretty dresses or even walk alone on the street in a t-shirt without utilizing or thinking about some sort of protection from the probable, the inevitable. I do not at all view you as more bold nor alluring nor attractive when you call me "baby girl" or holler to me from your Pontiac from the other side of the street. I am not an object. We are not objects. I expect the same kind of respect as the kind I would've given you had you not shouted derogatory and embarrassing and frustrating language towards me.

Cat-Callers, I hope when you do the things you do and say the things you say that you think of your mothers. Your sisters and your friends and your daughters. When you call us "baby girl" or holler at us to "Smile please, princess?" or "Show me what's under that dress of yours," I hope you realize the weight of those words you're stating. The weight of those words that we must carry. It is not okay. It is not all right. Just because we ignore you or keep walking as though these things roll right off our shoulders does not mean that it doesn't hurt and scar and tear up the young hearts inside of us that are humiliated and afraid.

Speak to us as you would speak to an important and respected person in your life. Speak to us with dignity and admiration, with kindness and with grace. I'm guessing it'll turn a lot more heads than all of those whistles, hollers, and words of derision. Maybe it's just wishful thinking, but it's a world I'd be a lot more content to live in.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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