lifestyle

"Catcalls are about intimidation, not compliments. This time they failed."

Last night, on my way home from the gym, I got catcalled by a group of men.

Which really isn’t all that unusual. Women are often targeted by brutish hollers and wolf-whistles as we go about our daily lives. Even if we’ve just come off the elliptical machine and are drenched with sweat.

Watch what a day walking the streets of New York City is like for a woman. (Post continues after video.)

Sometimes the catcalls are jovial, funny even. Sometimes they’re explicit. Sometimes they’re just downright offensive. Always, they’re intended to make a person feel uncomfortable.

And last night, when three young men made degrading comments about my body, I felt exactly that.

Uncomfortable. Painfully so.

“You shouldn’t cover them up.”

“Excuse me?”

“You shouldn’t be covering those puppies up. You should let them breathe.”

“Pretty sexy legs, too.”

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“I planted my eyes to the asphalt beneath my feet and made a beeline for my car.” Image via iStock.

As soon as the words filled the otherwise silent night air my throat went dry. My face felt like it was overheating. All I could think is that I wanted to disappear. I planted my eyes to the asphalt beneath my feet and made a beeline for my car.

“Jesus. We’re just trying to compliment you, what, you think you’re too good for us?”

“Yeah why are you ignoring us, you stuck up bitch?”

I calmly swung my car door open, turned the engine on, perhaps pushed a little harder than usual on the accelerator, and made my way towards the exit as one of the ‘men’ threw his drink towards my car.

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“C*nt.”

The thing about catcalls is that they startle you, they abruptly remind you that you are a woman, and that to some people, the fact that you’re a woman is the only thing that matters.

Moreso than any other comment those men made, “we’re just trying to compliment you,” is the one that stuck with me on the drive home, and has lingered like a fog in my mind ever since. Because as frustratingly sexist as some of their words were, telling me that such were compliments and nothing more couldn’t be further from the truth.

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I’ve never walked away from a catcall and thought “wow, I feel good about myself”. Never. (Image via iStock)

I’ve never walked away from a catcall and thought “wow, I feel great about myself”. Never.

There’s something both unusual and worrying about a group of men calling out to one woman. It’s a dynamic that is fraught with an imbalance of power. It’s one that says “you can’t control what we say, or what we do to you. You have zero control”.

Even if catcalls are only words, at the very least their purpose is to make you uneasy. At the very worst, it is to make you scared.

Because those men were not trying to compliment me. They were trying to intimidate me. And they failed.

I go to the gym at the same time every Friday night. And, as much as I despise how those men made me feel last night, I will continue to do so.

I refuse to let their words, or the fact that my car is now sticky with dried soft drink, coerce me into staying home. My routine will not be changing for them.

And I hope, that if I do ever see those men again, they realise that their attempts to intimidate and scare me failed.

Have you been on the receiving end of a nasty catcall?

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