It’s 3pm on a hot, summer day in Alabama. I’m walking through town on the way to run some errands. I’m wearing my favorite outfit: a knee-length, maroon dress and sandals. I feel light and fun in my outfit, but I still can’t fight the 100 degree heat which is attempting to suffocate me. I feel a trickle of sweat run down my spine and I begin to feel a little gross. I’m about to duck into the store when I hear a loud shout from behind me.
“D— girl, you’ve got a nice a–!”
So many things happen in this moment. I feel something new crawl down my spine, but this time, it’s not sweat. In an instant, I want to stop in my tracks and start running at the same time. My chest feels tight. My heart feels cold. My stomach drops.
What? Did he just say that?
“Hey! Come here!”
The voice sounds closer. Now I dare to look back. He’s following me. It doesn’t matter if he’s white or black or Latino, fat or skinny or muscular, wearing jeans or a suit or cutoffs. He’s coming closer. And he’s coming fast.
I’m panicking. I don’t even know what to do. I want to run but I want to stand my ground and tell him to go somewhere unpleasant. But I don’t even know what to say.
In that moment, I walk away. I feel disgusting and in danger. I run into the store and call my boyfriend immediately, crying. I don’t even know what to say because it all sounds…
Stupid? Insignificant? Silly?
I don’t want to give you advice on how to deal with catcallers. I don’t want to tell you to walk a special way or avoid certain parts of town. I don’t want to tell you to stop wearing your favorite shorts. I want to tell you how important this problem is.
When I got catcalled, I felt scared, silly, slutty, and violated. I was afraid the man was going to chase me and hurt me. I felt silly because I didn’t think this was as big of a deal as I was making it out to be. I felt slutty because somehow, this must have been my fault – right? I felt violated because a man had chosen to look at me not as a person, but as a sexual object for his pleasure.
Sadly, you and I live in a world where catcalling happens every day. And I hate that. But I want you to know that if you are catcalled, it isn’t your fault.
If you’re wearing your favorite dress on a hot day, it’s not your fault that a man stared at your butt. If you get called nasty names it’s not your fault. Minding your own business and receiving sexual remarks is not your fault.
A man looking at you and seeing a sexual object is never your fault. It’s his.
It’s also not a sign of your worth or value. You aren’t a slut because he called you one. Your (lovely) backside doesn’t define you. While you are beautiful and I’m sure your body is amazing in so many ways, you are so much more than an object. People who look at you like that are not seeing your intelligence, your strength, or your slightly obsessive love of Mexican food.
You are not silly or stupid for feeling upset after being harassed. I made the mistake of feeling like being upset was ridiculous. It’s perfectly normal and appropriate to be disturbed or scared after someone harasses you, but you need to know that you can take control. Don’t let them define you. Don’t let them make you feel any less fabulous than you are.
My advice would be to ignore catcallers. All they want is attention – positive or negative – so why even give them the satisfaction? Ignore their disgusting remarks, hold your head high, and walk tall with the knowledge that you are a beautifully-made, flawless human.