Dog walking and catcalling: Being a human woman in 2018
There’s something chilling about passing a group of men that will make you unbelievably hyper-aware of your entire body.
I took my dog out to pee last night. It was 7pm on a Sunday, which means there was a 99% chance that I was sweatpants-hair-tied-chilling-with-no-makeup-on.
I approach them. Epinephrine shoots through my veins. Instant. Lightning. They smoke their cigarettes. My vision focuses. They chuckle. My palms clam. Kissy noise. Pounding heart. Laughter. I am acutely aware of each step that I take. Their bodies turn to face mine. I minimize the swinging of my hips. They smile. I straighten my posture. They wait. I try my best to look unthreatened, nonchalant, unfazed, confident. I try to look like them.
“Hey baby you look good!”
“It’s a compliment can we get a smile?”
“Fucking rude ass slut keep walking”
Wolves. Meat. Ass. Tits. Flesh. Shame. Anger.
Catcalls come in all different shapes, sizes and levels of offensiveness. On a scale from invasive to downright terrifying, this one falls somewhere in the degrading-but-probably-mostly-harmless category. It was 7pm on a busy street. It was light out. There were cops walking out of the Starbucks ten feet away. I had my dog with me.
So I don't say anything. I don’t say a word. And then I beat myself up for the rest of the day for it.
This is a particularly direct kind of harassment. They’re not always. Sometimes street harassment will disguise itself as a seemingly harmless “Good morning” that escapes through the slithering smile of the crossing guard at the corner of your street. There’s a sexual undercurrent that makes the hairs on your arms stand taller than you suddenly feel you do. He didn’t wish any of the men holding their briefcases a good morning and you suddenly feel naked. It’s a harmless phrase, you tell yourself. It’s a polite phrase, you convince yourself. Why does your skirt suddenly feel so short? You fiddle with it and tell yourself that maybe you somehow invited that kind of attention. “Good morning” you hear yourself reply, looking down.
The thing about catcalling is that it is, ultimately, an assertion of power. One word. One whistle. One look. One gesture from one asshole to rob you of your dignity, strip you of your confidence. You worked hard for that shit. We need to stop with the “boys will be boys” bit. It turns into “men will be men” and then into “rapists will rape.”
The truth is that I still haven’t really come up with a way of dealing with catcalling that makes me feel good. Mostly I’ll ignore it and daydream all the different ways I could make this idiot feel small. But instead I am mute. Instead I lose my voice and I lose myself and instead I am angry. I want to be resilient. I want to be convincing. I want to be unafraid and unashamed. I want to walk my fucking dog.
Image Source: Tony Futura