No Dudes, Catcalling Isn't Flattering

A woman walks past a group of construction workers gathered on the street during their lunch break Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, i
A woman walks past a group of construction workers gathered on the street during their lunch break Thursday, Oct. 28, 2010, in New York. Although these men did not harass any of the passersby, a New York City Council committee heard testimony Thursday from women who said men regularly follow them, yell at them and make them feel unsafe and uncomfortable. The man whose arm is raised in the background had just finished holding onto a beam. (AP Photo/Tina Fineberg)

It's 8:30. I'm running late for work, so I decide to hop a cab. I walk up 81st to Park because I know I have a better chance of getting a cab there. I'm in flip-flops, a skirt and a blouse.

I call my mom like I always do in the morning. And as I'm walking by construction workers on 81st, I get catcalled.

"Hey sexy."

"God damn, girl."

Some comments come in Spanish, and while I don't speak it I'm sure they're not "you look like a smart woman" or "have a nice day."

"Who's that?" my mother asks.

"Some stupid construction guys."

As I continue ignoring them, trying to talk to my mom, I'm later met with "stupid bitch."

Yeah, because not responding to an old man's cat call by turning around, dropping panties and making love to you right there on the street makes me a stupid bitch.

Doree Lewak, who penned a piece for The New York Post entitled "Hey, Ladies -- Catcalls Are Flattering! Deal With It" seems to think women like myself -- educated women who don't need the flattery or commentary of random men on the street to feel beautiful, sexy or attractive -- are "sanctimonious." That women like myself who find cat calling embarrassing and awkward all went to Vassar apparently.

No, women like myself just prefer the ability to walk up a block on a summer day in a sundress, showing skin not to attract attention but because it's hot out and we're about to stand on a crowded subway platform with four hundred other people, without feeling like a piece of meat. Without having other people around us turn around and look at us like we're doing something to garner loud, rude, obnoxious attention. I was also taught -- as were the men I choose to date -- how to speak to people respectfully.

Catcalling isn't about flattery, and the men doing aren't trying to make you feel beautiful or special. They're doing it because of a sense of entitlement. Because to them, every woman is fair game regardless of what time of day it is or where you are or what the woman is doing. It's not because women want attention, it's because the men do. And when the whistles and comments garner nothing but a dirty look and a desperate effort to ignore, the man's ego -- that only moments previous told him despite his beer belly, his unshowered body or his lack of any idea of how to speak to a woman, he deserved that chick walking up the block simply because he existed and is a man -- gets a blow and suddenly the woman is a bitch, or a skank, or ugly.

We're not ignoring you because we find you appalling, or your tactics vile and insulting. No, it's because we're all prude bitches who aren't grateful enough that a man as upstanding and awesome as you is showing interest in us! And there is nothing I love more than walking up the block to work and being loudly addressed as "bitch" while surrounded by professional men and women I will probably be interacting with throughout the day.

Sorry Doree, the problem isn't sanctimonious or prude women. It's men who feel entitled to speak to a woman however way they feel regardless of how it makes the woman feel. It's older men who want to prove to their buddies that at 45, they can still talk to hot 20-year-olds. It's men who don't know how to strike up an actual conversation with a woman because they are not intelligent enough that they use the most basic of sexualized commentary to try to initiate contact. That's the problem.

I've always wanted to see a pack of flamboyant gay men catcall the catcallers. Stand in front of a construction site and shout at those burly, straight masculine men.

"Ohhh, nice pecs hunny."

"Damn boy, you look good in orange."

"Mmm, that hard hat makes me hard."

Let's see how quickly these men change their tunes. Let's see how quickly these men enjoy being "complimented" by someone they aren't interested in. Sexualized by someone they would never have sex with. Turned into a piece of visual meat for someone they don't want. Reduced down to nothing more than a sexual object and told so in public. Embarrassed in front of their coworkers for doing nothing but walking to their job.

Maybe then they'll realize that this concept of "every woman wants me to tell them how sexy they are" will pass, and that all we really want to do is make it to work without our mothers asking us why that man just called us "little mama."