Heck, let's be honest. I'm willing to bet we've all got stories like this. Smack a hidden camera to follow any woman and you're likely going to come up with something similar.
I grew up in North Philly. At birth, you're instantly gifted several things as a Philly girl.
These are all non-negotiable:
You are also gifted an invisible layer of titanium skin that shields you from the onslaught of cat-calling you will inevitably learn to ignore with the skill of a ninja.
I've worn this armor well. I don't think I remember a time in my childhood or adolescence in which name-calling, cat-calling or even outright bully-ish language used against me caused me much grief. I always just shook it off and kept going. I never - EVER - cared about what other people thought of me.
However, it does eventually take its toll. There have been times where I've felt thoroughly unsafe as men approach to "compliment" me. Plenty of times. There have been times where I've had to physically defend myself against these entitled jerks who believed it was their right to touch me because I happened to have curves. There have even been times where male friends of mine have had to step in to protect me against another imposing male who would not accept that his "harmless flirtation" was inappropriate, unwanted and incredibly degrading.
This is not an experience that is unique to me. It is shared by many (if not all) women.
I'm not suggesting that all men have thus been guilty of this phenomenon, but enough seem to think this sort of behavior is acceptable / appreciated that the majority of women are nodding their heads in agreement with me.
A few months ago, I was the victim of a particularly upsetting cat call. I remember being so upset about it that I didn't go straight home. Instead, I drove to a store - pointlessly - just so I'd have an excuse to not go home right away.
When I DID finally go home, my husband asked why I was so upset. I explained I was fine, but I just wasn't ready to talk about it yet. He understood and let it go, knowing I'd come around (our communication has gotten SO much freakin' better!).
Anyway, later that night, after crying in the shower like an idiot, I came downstairs and had this conversation with John:
Me: I'm ready to talk now.
John (putting his video on pause): Okay. Come sit down next to me.
Me (sitting down with him): I get this is going to sound really ridiculous, and I KNOW it's going to be a funny story later, but try not to laugh just yet because it really upset me. I'll be able to laugh about it later, but I can't right now.
John (curiously): Okay...
Me: While walking home [through Center City Philadelphia], a man started yelling at me from across JFK Parkway [which, BTW, looks like this:]
I walked faster, but he started jogging until he was right next to me. I finally said, "I've got a husband. Just stop."
He said, "I ain't mean anything by it. You're just built like a black woman. I could be your man."
This guy was African American.
I didn't respond, because what the heck do you say to that? He continued, "You've got a negress ass."
A NEGRESS ASS.
Again, WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?!
I ignored him and kept walking as if I hadn't even heard him. But I did, and I couldn't stop churning it over in my mind.
So I tried to explain to John why I was upset. When he first told me I was built like a black woman, I was incredulous for two reasons. Firstly, it seemed like an incredibly racist thing to say. I know he was implying that I was curvy, and I know for certain he thought he was complimenting me, but saying I was built like a black woman somehow implied that white women don't have curves.
Secondly, this guy suggested that I must have a black boyfriend because my physical appearance wouldn't be attractive to white men. At least that's how I took it. I didn't know how else to take it.
Finally, the "negress ass" comment just blew me away. I felt like that was a generally racist comment not just against me, but against black women. I mean, again - WHAT DOES THAT EVEN MEAN?
He was obviously trying to tell me I had a large butt. He was obviously implying that black women have notoriously large behinds which again, by default, means white women don't (or at least shouldn't) have large rear ends.
While not normally a vain individual, I know I've gained a few pounds (15 to be exact) this past year. I didn't need some stranger pointing it out to me on the street.
The fact that he had to run across 5 lanes of rush-hour traffic to do it just rubbed salt in the wound.
And I know he thought he was complementing me which just drives me even more insane.
I just don't understand why men feel the need to be this aggressive. Do they think women will want to date them after an interaction like this?
I assure you, I didn't think to myself, "Well hey! This guy thinks I've got a nice butt. I should totally drop everything I've got planned - including time with my husband and son - and run off into the sunset for some cheap sex. 'Cause wow... I'm just SO turned on by his complete lack of decency and superfluous racism!"
It's just - ARGH!
At this point, John's giggling. I was near tears, but I was grinning, too, because I recognized just how ridiculous the situation actually was. In my mind, he called me fat. I don't think he intended to call me fat, but that's precisely how I translated his cat-call. And it frustrated me that I was upset about it.
It's not like this was my first rodeo. However, this was the first time I was feeling especially self-conscious, so his aggressive comments forced their way through my armor and crawled under my skin.
I've been annoyed, frustrated and even slightly scared of some cat-calilng situations, but I've never been legitimately upset by it before. I subscribe to Eleanor Roosevelt's paradigm "No one can make you feel inferior without your consent."
I had somehow given this man consent, and it frustrated the heck out of me.
Ah well. I'm able to laugh about it now, but that's the only experience I can think of where I was actually upset by something a man yelled out at me.
That being said, I still find the entire idea of yelling out at women to be degrading and off-putting. If you want to say "Hi" or even complement me, fine. I'll smile and nod appreciation. Just don't be a creep and expect some sort of flushed praise for being intrusive as I'm trying to make my way home (or to work, or to pick my son up from school, etc).
How about you folks? What sort of scenarios stick out in your minds with cat-calling?
And if men are reading, can you offer some sort of insight into WHY men do this?