Something is bothering me quite a lot actually at this very moment. I am always very aware of my appearance not per sé because I always spend a lot of time on my appearance but because I always feel as if someone is looking at me. This weekend I felt extremely uncomfortable and below I’ll explain why.
Saturday morning: It was just past 8 am and I was on my way to work. I had not really slept that well that night so getting up in the morning was particularly hard. Normally I like to put on some make-up when I have to work but I just did not have the energy so I just put on some mascara. After I put my bicycle in the public garage (yes we have special places where you can park your bike under surveillance) I made my way up the stairs and walked into the city centre. On Saturdays there is a market and this Saturday was no exception. They were putting up their stands which means there were trucks everywhere. I was making my way through the market crowd, trying not to get hit by vehicles which were backing up. At one point I passed a little van from the city council. I kept my eyes down trying to avoid the eyes of others because I just had one focus: getting to work. As soon as I’m up to the window of the van this man, probably in his early fourties, looks at me with an uncomforting smile and says “Good morning beautiful.” His grin made it very clear that his intentions were to unnerve me. I looked him straight in the eye with a stare that said ‘Who the f- do you think you are calling me out like that.’ and then I quickly went on. Some other guy started yelling something but I could not make up whether he was yelling at the driver for catcalling me that way or at me for not responding. Surely am hoping for the first option. As I got to work my boss asked me if I was okay because my face matched the colour of my hair: bright red.
Since it’s a public favorite question I will answer it before anyone asks: what was I wearing? Answer: The most sexless navy blue high-waist work pants which are on the short side because I’m 1.86m, a beige tanktop which was tucked in those awful pants on top of which I wore a white zip-up hoodie and finally black ankleboots which were obviously showing because my pants are too short. My hair was up in a messy bun (the homeless style one, not in a fashionable way) and I only wore mascara. Was I in any way asking for it? Heck no! But still that man chose to humiliate me like that because he felt the need to objectify me. Now I know that a lot of people don’t seem to understand how unnerving catcalling is but that does not make it okay. Catcalling tells women no matter how smart, strong or independent they are that at any moment they can be reduced to a (possible) victim. It tells us that we should not feel safe on the streets by ourselves which is really unforgivable.
That day I seemed to have hit the jackpot because after work I was bothered twice more. My bicycle had a flat tire thus I got myself a little self-help kit to fix it. I’m really clumsy so when my colleague offered to help me I could not say no. We walked to her place and after only 4 minutes we passed two men standing on the sidewalk. Now this man did not say anything and I tried to avoid his stare because he was eyeing me from top to bottom about three times while having this crazy look in his eyes. I felt so incredibly uncomfortable and I could feel my blood boiling again. How dare you objectify me like that and no I’m not flattering myself I could see the way he was looking at me and it basically said ‘Hi, I’m undressing you in my mind.’ Imagine how 100m further down the road another creep cycles by and starts eyeing me from top to bottom and even turns his head once he’s past us. At that point I felt as if I would throw my bicycle at the first passerby who looked at me the wrong way. I wasn’t wearing anything which could be considered indecent and heck even if I was those men did not have the right to treat me that way. You don’t see women harassing every single guy who walks down the street or staring them down with crazy eyes. If women are capable of normal and acceptable behaviour than how is it so hard for these catcalling guys. I always tell myself that the next time something like this happens I’ll ask the guy how he would feel if his mother, grandmother or sister was approached this way? I have not had the guts yet to do so. This is partially because society teaches women that it’s best to ignore such behaviour or we might find ourselves at risk and thus having called upon ourselves any following action.
I’m tired of this crap. I want to be able to walk the streets without having to worry if I might be wearing too much make-up or if my clothes are too revealing. I should feel comfortable in my own skin. I am not a public object, nobody has the power to claim ownership over me except for me. So don’t treat me as though I am nothing more. The next time you are on the verge of catcalling someone please think about the loved ones in your life and how you would feel when they told you how they were embarrassed, humiliated and scared because they were harassed in public. One should not thrive on the feeling of making another person at unease.
I am curious, how do you feel about catcalling and what is your experience with this subject? I notice I got angry even while writing this because it really bothers me that much. Be sure to note that I don’t make all men out to be catcallers but catcalling is a serious issue and it needs to be taken more seriously.