All around the planet, females have to fend off catcalling from when we’re toddlers, topsy-turvy teenagers, ‘hot moms,’ middle aged, finally slowing at matron until we’re almost invisible at ‘peri-crone.’
If we’re smirked at, whistled to, insulted, kissed at, patted, pinched, grabbed, sang to, leered at, winked at, had lewd gestures performed in front of us, yelled at, scolded or called names even once a week—after 20 years of that—it’d be overwhelming. For some of us who regularly walk in cities, it’s outside of 10 times a day. Check out this comic strip by Ursa Eyer and especially this 2-minute video of a woman who walked around the NYC for 10 hours (in jeans and a tee-shirt) and was catcalled 10.8 times an hour!! plus, creepily, had one guy silently walk next to her for five minutes!! (exclamation points extremely necessary here)
Besides the obvious intrusions written above, this stuff starts with saying ‘cute’ comments to children, like: S/he’ll be a heart-breaker or You’ll have to beat them off with a stick, are despiritingly objectifying. Kids don’t like it and they feel uncomfortable.
Then there’s the ‘nice harassments’ women endure: You pretty Baby, Don’t you wanna talk? Niiiiicce or the ubiquitous, Smile. This is still harassment. Feeling uneasy while out walking, riding the bus/subway or getting into a store or work makes it that much easier to decide to drive, but if you live in big cities, you often don’t have that choice. Frankly, I’ve even gotten this obnoxious bedeviling while biking.
Hearing the dictum, Smile, arouses anger in me and others. I used to call my regular face “neutral mad face” because if I walked along any street, some wanker would tell me to smile. Why must I smile when I’m out? Lots of men don’t smile while walking and us women don’t command them to show their teeth. There’s a 2 1/2 minute faux public service announcement that gently ‘advises’ us how to view women wearing a “resting bitch face.”
Contrary to media driven messages, my life purpose is NOT to make men happy. None of us are here for your entertainment. I didn’t wear my skirt/shorts/top/yoga pants/jeans/swimsuit for you. I don’t have to smile if I’m not feeling it no matter how much “prettier” I’ll look to you. If you’re male, I’M NOT HERE FOR YOU; it’s not about you. Please leave us be. Say hello to us as you’d talk to a child, a grandmother, a dude, a nun. Wouldn’t talk to them? Then don’t talk to us.
Erin McKean succintly said:
“You don’t owe prettiness to anyone. Not to your boyfriend/spouse/partner, not to your co-workers, especially not to random men on the street. You don’t owe it to your mother, you don’t owe it to your children, you don’t owe it to civilization in general. Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked ‘female.'”
And neither is smiling.