Two weeks ago as I walked a short three blocks from the subway to my home in Brooklyn at 11pm I was harassed by seven men. Sorry, I meant seven monsters. These horrid creatures don't deserve the privilege of being called men.
This isn't anything new, for as long as I can remember creeps have bothered me in the street. Forever creeps have bothered all women in the street. This type of harassment has been given the gentle name of "catcalling"" as though it were an endearing and sweet act of love performed toward adorable kittens. I'm not a f---ing kitten, and "catcalling" is far from endearing or sweet, it's degrading, disgusting and often times terrifying. I vote we call it something more appropriate like "cat vomit."
I suppose I deserved to be harassed, after all I was wearing a dress with boots and we all know only whores wear such outfits. (If you don't recognize sarcasm, please stop reading now). But I love to wear dresses with boots and refuse to censor my style because too many guys learned about hooker uniforms by watching "Pretty Woman". It doesn't even matter what I wear, I could have on a snow suit and a hockey mask and these losers would still yell things at me. To them, wearing a vagina is reason enough to be degraded.
My love for dresses and boots began my junior year of college while studying a semester abroad in London. I traded in my upstate New York college uniform of bell bottom jeans and Tevas for a more chic city style. During my second week in London I wore a black dress with tall black boots to the theatre. After the play I walked back to my flat around 10 p.m. which was only five blocks from the tube station and located on a normally busy street. Half way home a van pulled up next to me, a voice called out
"Hey you in the boots, come here!"
I was too scared to look at the man's face so I kept walking. The van parked and he called again
"I said come here!"
As I began to hear foot steps behind me I started to run. I got to my building, went inside and never turned around to see if anyone was still behind me. When I entered my apartment I had tears in my eyes and blood running down my face, apparently when I am petrified and running for my life my nose bleeds. My roommate asked what happened, I told her "I wore a dress and boots."
Last Thursday the first of the verbal attacks came from four men sitting in a parked van which of course set my internal memory alarms ringing. They sat with the back door open, hanging out as if the van was their living room.
they called. I HATE being called "Mami" by guys. If a woman calls me "Mami" it's cute, if a guy does it's condescending. I know "Mami" is slang for "baby" but when i hear it, I hear "Mommy." What are you an orphan? I'm not your Mami! And if I were, why do you want to bang your mommy? I kept walking.
"Where's Papi tonight?"
they yelled. I responded,
"He's home and if you'd like I can call him down here to come kick your ass!"
They oooo'd and awed saying
"Damn Mami is rough, I like that."
Now had my "Papi" been by my side, no one would dare say a word to me. God forbid one of these jackasses upset my man, but upsetting a vulnerable woman walking home alone, is no problem. Unless I'm spoken for, I'm fair game. In fact, my nerve to walk home alone clearly indicates that I'm looking to get molested by a pack of total strangers. Why else would a lady, especially in a dress with boots, be out at night?
I write this as though this stuff only happens at night. Ha! If only predators worked after dark. There are plenty of guys so pathetic, so shameless, so stupid, they will say vile things to women during broad daylight, in front of other people, even children, and no one does a damn thing. Just yesterday I was walking down 6th Avenue at 1 p.m. when I sneezed. A man called out
Wow, could it be that manners still exist? That was quite kind of this gentleman, so I said
which he apparently translated into "please rape me with your eyes and words!" because he proceeded to lick his lips and say
"got to take care of dat nice body of yours and not git sick."
Gee thanks, well now I feel sick, if only I had the special skills to have vomited all over his face. How dare he trick me with kindness and fool me into engaging him! Well at least he put his pay phone call on hold to sweet talk me, maybe he is a gentleman after all. (Insert vomit here).
But let's return to last Thursday, shall we? As I stormed away from the misogyny mobile a two guys walked past me, looked me up and down, made teeth sucking noises and then one said "
can I go home with you?"
and then the other chimed in
"yeah, me too?"
While the idea of a threesome with two ugly 40-somethings both wearing wedding bands, sounded like such a blast I kept walking. I wonder how these guys would feel if someone talked to their wives this way? Oh wait, they're trying to have sex with someone outside of their marriage, I don't think respecting their wife is something they're into. Then again I don't think most cat-callers, sorry cat-vomitters, are actually trying to get laid when they harass women (God help me, if such tactic has ever gotten one of these idiots any action other than a kick to the nuts). I think for these sickos it's a power thing, they get off on getting away with saying whatever they want to us lil' ol' dumb bitches.
So then how would they feel if someone spoke this way to their mothers? Their sisters? Their daughters? How would they feel? Do they even know how to feel? Do they know how it feels to be gawked at, bothered, threatened, followed, terrified? Do they know how it feels to know that by being a woman we are automatically at risk for being raped? No, they don't know how that feels. They will never know how that feels.
I guess I'm lucky. I've never been raped. So maybe I should be thanking these types of men for respecting me enough to not physically hurt me, just verbally and mentally violating me. Thanks guys! But really you are raping us, by degrading us with your words you perpetuate the idea that women are objects to be sexually controlled by men, which adds to problem of women being abused and raped by men, which makes the oppression epidemic never-ending.
Oh but boys will be boys! Right? Well then, it's about time these types boys start acting like men. Respectable, compassionate, intelligent men.
Once I finally reached my block last Thursday, a car pulled up to me.
"Mmm mmm mmmm,. I like what I see. Want a ride sweetie?"
I had had it! Without flinching I turned toward the car and at the top of my lunges screamed "
SUCK MY DICK!"
The car rode off, leaving me standing alone on the corner of my block, across the street from a Hasidic Jewish family walking home from a Sukkot celebration staring at me yelling about an oral encounter with my non existent penis. They were, understandably horrified. And I was, understandably, horrified. I looked like a crazy person, meanwhile it had been the guy in the car, the guys on the sidewalk, and then guys in the van who were crazy, and disgusting, and horrible. I live in a very conservative Jewish area and already feel looks of disapproval from my neighbors when exposing my bare ankles in public, now I was screaming profanities while wearing a not-Kosher dress and boots combo, this must have been like committing murder to them. All the terrible guys I had encountered that night had really succeeded in shaming me tonight, even when they weren't there.
I don't even know why I'm writing this post. I'm assuming the men who read the Huffington Post aren't the ones calling me "Mami", asking to come home with me, or chasing me home. I'm assuming the men who do that can't even read. But if they are reading this, I am asking you, on behalf of all women to please leave us alone. I am also asking you on behalf of other men to please leave us alone. It because of this ( I hope small) demographic of creepy guys that men get a bad reputation, when the truth is lots of guys are respectable, wonderful, men. Real men. Men women actually want to sleep with. When I got home Thursday night and told my boyfriend what happened he put his arms around me and said
"on behalf of men, I'm so sorry."
That broke my heart, my boyfriend who I know loves and respects women, does not need to apologize for the actions of these animals. According to a study by the University of Connecticut
"In addition to feeling upset, women were more likely to take the sexist remark as an insult to their gender, and feel greater anger and motivation to take direct action toward men in general."
So basically, these assholes are ruining things for everyone!
So before anyone starts harassing me via the comments section, let me make myself clear, I love men, and I love women. I do not like threatening, disrespectful people. That's a whole other issue in it of itself, the predators that prey on women with a web presence. Rarely am I able to enjoy an opinionated article or video created by a woman without noticing at least one if not one hundred, anonymous irrelevant comments about her body or her bedroom habits. I guess the guys who harass women in the street are at more brave than ones who do it online, at least the street predators don't hide their identity behind lame avatars and screen names.
But I digress.
So what do we do? I'm not going to stop walking my city streets, I'm not going to stop wearing dresses and boots, and I'm not going to stop being a woman. It's frustrating when you don't know the solution, but you are extremely aware of the problem.
There are some small things we can do to help, we can join forces to take back our streets, organizations such asHolla Back (a site where you can submit photos and videos of street harassers) and Stop Street Harassment (where you can share your harassment stories and find news stories about harassment) are working to raise awareness about street harassment.
We can stop turning a blind eye, if you see a woman being bothered, say something, especially if it's one of your buddies who's the culprit. Look, I'm not suggesting guys never try to talk to women, but there's a huge difference between, talking or complimenting someone and harassing them. We're all adults here, we damn well know the difference between what's appropriate and what's not.
If you're the victim of harassment, don't be afraid to say something. I'd like to suggest you say what I said and scream "suck my dick!" to a guy trying to lure you into his car because the confused and disgusted reaction on his face is priceless, but that's probably not the safest thing to do. For all I know, that guy could have gotten out his car and beaten the crap out of me. Luckily, my aggressive reactions have yet to be met with any physicality (and luckily I learned self defense from the amazing women at Girls Fight Back). I do suggest you simply say "leave me alone!" Hell, scream it if you'd like. As women we are taught to be polite, but you don't have to be polite to someone who is being anything but. If you're afraid to yell then tell a nearby police officer, the harrasser probably won't be arrested but at the very least, he may scared straight.
We can be nicer to each other, I'm a big believer that being nice is contagious, the nicer you are the nicer the world will be. Call me an idealist, i don't care, I have to believe that underneath all the hate in this world is good energy, it may buried, but it's there.
And if you're one of the guys who is guilty of being a total jerk, I'm surprised and happy you read this entire piece, I hope it makes you think before you act.
It's 60 degrees today in New York City which for me means perfect boot and dress weather.
(photo credit Petras Gagilas)