So I am just going to come out and say it, I hate cat-calls. But actually. As Stevia said very eloquently in her post, “just fucking stop.” It is not a compliment, its not flattering, it doesn’t make me feel fuzzy inside. Just NO. Where does this declaration of such ire come from, you might ask? My friends know that I am a very chill, relaxed person. I don’t get upset easily, and when I do, I usually can talk it out or make a joke, and its all good. Nothing, (except when people say they don’t like NYC), makes me grit my teeth and boil my blood like cat-calling. But, since I like wearing nice clothing and take pride in my appearance, which apparently is an invitation for un-asked for remarks from strange men on the street, I thought I would share with this fabulous blog my best and worst cat-calling experiences and throw in some of the my ways in which I have dealt with the situation to quell the rage.
Before I jump in, a quick mental image: I am a biracial, 23, curvy lady who cannot resist dresses in the summer and a bit of kohl under the eyes. I don’t believe in “uglying” myself in order to feel safe walking around. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, NY, so I am familiar with how to walk safely on city streets and the death glare. Starting from the best, and going to the worst cat-calling incidents, I present a Shout-out to Cat-Callers in the life of Lady Bee.
5) Sean Kingston Tribute
The scene: Somerville, MA, right around Davis Square, a little restaurant and bar area near a college campus. It was summer – so I was wearing a dress – and I had just gone to dinner with friends – so it was a nice dress. While walking back to campus, I stopped to hug a friend going into town, while the rest of my group walked on. I didn’t realize they had walked so quickly until I found myself first powerwalking and then lightly jogging to catch up. Suddenly, I hear, “you make me suicidal, suicidal…” sung at me from a car stuck in traffic. I was more startled than annoyed that someone was singing at me, so I laughed. I had to shrug that the guy had been at least creative in his cat-calling, instead of the normal honk of the horn.
– stop staring, its rude
4) Mind the Gap
Imagine a slightly busy train platform at around 11pm-12am. I am just getting off work from the restaurant in Adams Morgan; I want to say it was my third week working there and my first month living in DC. I am sick from cold, tired and just want to get home to Takoma. I get on the train going the wrong way and in frustration, I get off at U St, and wait for the opposite train to come. As I am sniffling on the platform, a guy around my age approaches me and holds out his phone. No “hello”, no “can I get your number”, nope, he just holds out his phone and expects me to put my number in in. I am seething. Normally, I do not interact with people when they approach or call out at me. I may want to curse them out or give them the finger, but I know that if I engage them in any way, it will just prolong the interaction. But tonight, I was not in the mood. I snapped, “I am tired, sick and want to go home. If you think I would ever give my number to a stranger, you got another thing coming. Leave me alone right now.” He shrugged and walked away. As I got on the train home, I wish I could have seen his face if I had snatched his phone and thrown it onto the train tracks. That would fucking teach him not to talk to strange girls.
3) Can I also check my attitude or is it an additional cost?
Just two days ago, I was on my way to Tynan Café in Columbia Heights from Adams Morgan. I had a proposal to work on for my internship, and needed a change of scene. It was a beautiful day and I was enjoying my walk up Columbia Rd. I saw two guys walking towards me from the opposite direction and immediately assessed the situation: guys, around my age, swaggering a little bit and laughing. Assessment: They are definitely going to say something. – A quick aside, I am always on alert. Some may call it street smarts, but I am always looking at the people around me, slowing or quickening my pace to accommodate the possibility of getting remarked upon or harassed and it makes me mad. Equal treatment anyone? – Anyways, I kept my eyes trained ahead, put a bit more determination of direction in my stride and had my “I am obviously very busy and need to get somewhere pronto” face on. I still hear, from behind me “Hey girl” and “Hello! You are so fine” (I have thoughts on this as well, a) if you like the way I look, a guy should not have to wait to look at my backside to say hello and b) you are such a fucking coward, if you are going to cat-call me, say it to my face and watch me roll my eyes in disgust).
I don’t pause and I hear them as I get out of range, “check your attitude, don’t be so rude.” I was furious. I continued to cuss them out in my mind until I got my coffee.
The only thing that made me smile after that was how I fantasized about these assholes coming to sit at my bar and finding that I was their bartender. They would realize who I was, the girl they had cat-called at, and try again to be “charming.” I would smile, hand them their drinks and ask sweetly, “do you only say hi to fine people or to anyone in the street?” They would respond, trying to compliment me, “only the pretty ones.” And I would look them straight in the eye and say, “Oh! you too?” and move on to the next people without saying a word to them again.
2) Nagging Neighbors
I had the pleasure of staying at a pretty awesome house in Columbia Heights with 4 really cool people in it for a total of 4 weeks spread out over 3 visits, while I was house searching. The first time was in June, and as I was leaving the house on the way to work, I noticed 3 older black men chilling on the front porch. As I started walking down the street, I heard them call out to me, saying I was so beautiful. I felt uncomfortable, but kept walking. Then when I came back to the house, hours later, they were still there. Since it was a new lock, I had trouble opening the door, giving the men plenty of time to call that I should go over there and why wouldn’t I say hello? Now I was more than alarmed, but I finally got inside and promptly forgot….Until the next time I left the house, and the time after that. I tried being polite, because I didn’t want to be continually harassed, saying “good afternoon” as I left one day. Only to have one of the younger ones follow me to the fence of my friends’ house asking for my number. Luckily, I had found a place to live in Takoma, and was leaving the house, and its neighbors, for a new location. Except, that I was always aware of the people on that porch and would every time when I crossed the street based on if only men were on the porch or if there were any women or children. They bothered me less the second time I stayed there for a week and even less so in December when I stayed for two weeks (less skin to remark upon perhaps), but the silent possibility of being called at still haunts me.
In the time that this was an issue, I debated breaking it down for them, but once it abated, I haven’t really had any problems. So I let it go. I still feel bad about it sometimes though, but not enough to stir the embers.
– to do: find a “stop requested” pull cord for cat-callers
1) Stop requested
Again, I am leaving work at an extremely late hour, and I am lucky enough to catch the Circulator Bus to Columbia Heights. Or so I think. The bus is empty except for the bus driver, and these two guys who come on. Its summer, so I am wearing a sun dress. They approach me as the bus starts to drive. It’s the usual, “Hey girl, aren’t you pretty. What? Won’t you even say hello?” I am so angry, and tired, that I actually snap, “I don’t want to talk to you, so why don’t you just sit down and talk to your friend.” He snaps back at me, “you don’t have to be so rude. I can do what I want and I don’t have to sit down if I don’t want to.” I don’t answer, and just look straight ahead, waiting for my stop. They pass me and sit in the back of the bus. After a few minutes in which they are talking to each other, the talkative one says to my back, “I once knew a girl like you, who was so cold-hearted and bitter, and she met this guy and he treated her badly and she had such a negative attitude and now no one wants to be with her, and if you don’t fix your attitude, no one will ever want to be with you.” I was upset, but I didn’t want to say anything to make him come any closer or directly confront me. Especially since the bus driver hadn’t intervened and I was alone. So I just kept quiet, hating him and his evil attitude, unsure whether I wanted to scream at him or burst into tears. All I had wanted was a quiet ride home. I saw my stop ahead, pulled the cord and got off the bus.
This was a situation in which I felt the most unsafe. He seemed aggressive and even though I was on a bus, a place I should have felt safe, I was afraid he would try to physically injure me or continue to verbally harass me. I thought that silence, after the initial remark, was my best option. Though, if I am ever in that situation, I don’t know what I would do.
A lot of us have had situations similar and dissimilar to this one. I would like to say that I have found a tried and true method to disarm cat-callers, but I haven’t. I know that it’s not cool, it’s not a compliment, and it won’t be tolerated. But as angry as I get, I also try to keep a positive attitude and keep it from ruining my mood, especially long after the cat-caller has exited the scene. So until I have found a manner in which to stop cat-callers in their tracks and make them re-think their words (besides super freezing powers), I will just keep telling my stories and hopefully, they will make a mark.