Warning: f-bombs below!
There was a recent article on EJ about how to respond to male catcallers that made me my insides pound with anger.
The article said that we ladies should “lighten up” and that an appropriate response to diffuse catcallers is to respond with a grateful “Thank you.”
Now, I wholeheartedly respect that this works and feels empowering for the author.
There is no way in hell that I can say thank you.
I wish I could, but my body won’t let me utter those words.
I wish I wasn’t so hurt and offended by catcalling, but I am and that’s the truth.
A sick feeling rises in my stomach just from thinking about all the scenarios I (or any woman) could face on a daily basis:
When a man drives by in his red pick-up truck and honks, hollering “Hell yeah baby,” I really want to throw up.
When he says in low, suggestive tones “Damn girl, you’re cute,” I freeze, like a deer in headlights and want to hide.
When he looks me up and down and grunts “Mmmhmmm,” making zero eye contact, I feel violated and used.
It doesn’t feel good at all.
I feel scared.
I feel rage.
I’ve been sexually violated and verbally abused by men.
I’ve been made to feel like I’m nothing by men.
So, for me, a catcall is not just a catcall: it reminds me of all the times in the past that I didn’t speak up loudly enough or boldly enough on my own behalf.
It opens old wounds and they sting and burn and I have to honor that pain.
And that means I will never say thank you.
I will never thank a man for shouting at me on the street.
I will never thank a man for grunting at me.
I will never thank a man for being presumptuous.
I will never thank a man for treating me as an object.
I will never thank a man for verbally assaulting me with crude sexual innuendo.
I will thank a man for being thoughtful and supportive.
I will thank a man for listening and receiving my words.
But, I will never, ever thank a man for hooting or hollering at myself or a fellow woman.
I don’t like or accept catcalling and I never will.
Because I don’t want to be called “pretty” or “cute” or “sexy” or “hot.”
Because I don’t want to be looked at as a sweet little plaything.
These are not compliments, and for me, they don’t warrant a response of gratitude.
Because I am a fucking woman, who can breathe fire and nurture others like fucking crazy.
Because I am a fucking woman, and I have opinions and thoughts and a shit ton more to offer than just my body.
Because I am a fucking woman and I want my power to be recognized, my booming inner voice to be heard.
I want all of our brilliant female voices to be heard.
And no, not by saying “thank you.”
We don’t need to smile pretty and accept something that is unacceptable.
We don’t need to giggle sweetly and pretend to bask in a strange man’s empty “compliments.”
We are allowed to be firm and authoritative.
We are allowed to have a fierce response that aptly honors our struggle while at the same time makes us feel safe.
Maybe we all need to carefully craft a specific response that feels comfortable for us.
For me, a very firm and cold “not interested,” while walking briskly by seems to feel right.
I’ve also given a catcaller a nice middle finger in the air (I’m sorry-not sorry, but it felt good!).
I’ve also ignored a crude remark, and walked right past, which didn’t feel very empowering.
At this point, I’m still experimenting with responses.
But, I know that I won’t say “thank you.”
I know that I want to relay to the catcaller that his behavior is unacceptable.
I know that I want to honor my anger.
I know that I want to speak up.
What response, dear reader, honors your experience and feels right to you?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Sarah Harvey
Editor: Renée Picard