Shouting suggestive words at a woman isn’t a compliment. It’s a a way of saying, “If I really wanted to, I could.”
I don’t want to belabor a point that has been made more eloquently (or funnier) by better writers, but until it stops, I’m going to write about it. The time to end cat-calling has long since passed, but still I see it. It’s not cute. It’s not complimentary. It’s not endearing. It’s threatening, and it’s de-humanizing.
I was sitting on my porch, watching the sun go down and the woman riding her bicycle down the other side of the street. I watched her because I thought she was pretty. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. She, riding down the bike lane, passed a man on the sidewalk. The man on the sidewalk leered at her as he ambled along.
“Pump, baby, pump.” He shouted as she got closer. “Pump, baby. With yo fine ass.”
I’d like to mention that she was wearing a skirt, flowy and ankle-length, and a sweater that covered her up to her collar bones (it was even long-sleeved). So, no, her clothing had nothing to do with her treatment. That’s a complete non-starter with me, and I won’t tolerate it.
She was wearing, in that one outfit, more fabric than the entirety of my running clothes collection. Sometimes women yell at me as I’m running. The difference? The average woman can’t overpower me. Is it okay for someone to shout suggestive things at someone he/she doesn’t know? No. Is it scary when a woman shouts at me? No.
I don’t know what he was thinking when he shouted at her — probably something along the lines of being complimentary or funny. He was neither. What he was saying when he said, “Pump, baby, pump” was actually, “You have things that I want and if I wanted to, I could take them.” How the hell is that funny or sweet or anything positive? This man was easily double her weight and close to a foot taller. I’m assuming they were complete strangers as well. Does he seriously not know he’s behaving in a threatening manner? I want to believe that he doesn’t (or other cat-callers for that matter). I know that sometimes it’s just not true, but I want to believe it.
So, if you have ever cat-called a woman, stop. Stop now. If you haven’t? Good. Don’t start.
Someone reading this may think something along the lines of “You treated her like an object, too. You only noticed her because she was physically attractive.” I noticed her because she was moving. I watched for a few seconds because she’s physically attractive. I don’t think I objectified her. I noticed her skirt, too, and thought, so that’s why women’s bicycles have that silly drop bar thing. The most important part, though, is that I didn’t accost her. I didn’t stare overly long. I didn’t invade her personal space. I didn’t shout at her. I did nothing (I hope) to make her think that she was a thing to be possessed or stolen.
Photo—Flickr/ Gandalf Cunningham