For the past 18 months the big industrial block next to my gym has been a building site. What was once an empty paddock now contains four concrete warehouses, finished and ready for tenants. I’m sad that the build has finally come to an end because… well, to be honest, I enjoyed seeing tradies every time I arrived for an exercise class. There were hordes of them – electricians, plumbers, concreters, carpenters, landscape gardeners – all in their work shirts and boots, high vis vests and hard hats. For a year and a half I witnessed them pouring concrete, using nail guns, sitting on the kerb having smoko, pushing wheelbarrows, digging holes.
But in all that time, despite my fancy lycra pants, I did not receive a single wolf whistle.
I seem to read an article every second week that condemns catcalling. It’s a hot topic. And I’ve seen the footage of the woman who, in 2014, walked around New York for 10 hours and received 108 catcalls during her journey. Whoa. That’s a lot of sleazy men who felt entitled to make rude remarks to a total stranger. Perhaps the USA is a little different to Australia, but clearly this sort of thing is not uncommon; I’m sure plenty of women endure sexual harassment on a daily basis.
Watch what a day walking the streets of New York City is like for a woman. (Post continues after video.)
So I think what I’m going to write next will appall many women, but here goes: I long for someone to wolf whistle at me.
I genuinely believe that everyone has a right to feel comfortable and safe as they walk down the street. Nobody should have to put up with misogynistic heckling. But here’s the thing: I’ve never been whistled at. Not when I was 18, not in my 20A, and not as a 35-year-old. No driver has ever beeped at me (not in that way, anyway), and I’ve never had a stranger wink at me from across a room or offer to buy me a drink in a bar.
I’m not the most attractive lady in the world. I have been described as “plain” with an “interesting face”, and I’m certainly lacking in the boob department. I was never popular with boys at school, or uni, or at nightclubs or house parties. I do have a fella now, but he’s so long-sighted he’s never seen me in focus. So I kind of get why men don’t give me a second glance when I walk past them.
When I discuss this issue with my friends they roll their eyes and say things like, “Oh God, I hate it when men wolf whistle! I can’t wait till they give up!” They see it purely as harassment and can’t understand why anyone would desire such a thing. I try to explain that I wouldn’t want a random bloke to yell obscenities at me, or follow me home, or flash his private parts in my direction. I don’t want to feel unsafe or uncomfortable, I say. But wouldn’t a single whistle from a man in a hard hat standing on some scaffolding be okay? Can’t I wish for a momentary ego-boost? Or is it totally illogical to be anti-harassment and pro-harassment at the same time?
I realise that there’s not much hope for me now anyway. If people didn’t find me attractive at 18 they’re probably not going to fancy me as I head into middle age. I guess I’ll just have to get over it and appreciate my husband’s wolf whistles. He is a tradie, after all, and (just like Mr Darcy says) likes me just as I am.
A note to all men: But if you happen to drive past one day (you’ll recognise me – I’m the “plain” one with the “interesting face”), feel free to beep your horn or bang your hand on the side of your car. You’ll make my day.
Jean Flynn was one of the short-listed writers on MWN and HarperCollinsPublishing’s 2015 Writers’ Competition.