For many women, catcalling is a routine occurrence, one that’s obnoxious at best and downright offensive at worst. It’s definitely happened to me on too many occasions to count, but I’m almost ashamed to admit that I don’t mind at all. Does that make me a bad feminist?
I’m all about female empowerment, but I also pick my battles. Before anyone jumps to any conclusions about my alliance with female empowerment and the feminist agenda, I’d like to take a moment to clarify that I wholeheartedly consider myself a feminist. I believe in the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes. I also believe in the strength and power of womanhood. That being said, catcalling seems like small potatoes compared to some of the other crap we face.
The objectification of women is gross and needs to stop. I resent and abhor the objectification of women. I’m the first one to call out sexist representations of women in the media and in daily life and get infuriated when I see women being treated as mere objects for the male gaze. Still, catcalling doesn’t seem like that big of a deal to me.
That being said, the occasional catcall can be kind of flattering. What I’m talking about is a non-offensive, complimentary remark or sound of appreciation. Don’t get me wrong, I take major offense at inappropriate comments of sexual innuendos from strangers and I don’t tolerate anything that implies that my safety or personal space will be jeopardized in any way. However, a dude yelling out that I look hot or jokingly asking for my number is kinda nice every once in a while.
Maybe my former lack of self-esteem makes me feel this way. There’s just something about getting a compliment from a stranger that honestly makes me feel nice about myself. When I was a young teenager, I suffered from low self-esteem. I used to consider myself to be slightly too overweight, slightly too awkward, slightly too weird. When a guy sees the good parts of me instead, it gives me a little boost.
To be honest, I find catcalling empowering. Over the years, as I’ve matured and learned more about myself, I’ve come to love myself thoroughly and completely. I treasure my quirks and appreciate my body. Having someone pay me a compliment, even if it’s from a random man on the street, is empowering. It proves to me that my sexuality and the way that I carry myself are powerful and strong. If some guy on a construction site wants to acknowledge these things about me that I already know, that’s great. I hope he enjoys the way I look just as much as I do.
I never acknowledge the guys doing the catcalling. Not only does this help prevent any further interaction, it also gives me the upper hand in the situation. By ignoring the catcaller, I keep the power in my court and therefore don’t give the dude any satisfaction in the scenario. Why is this important? Because it demonstrates my strength and independence and the fact that I’m not affected by his presence. Basically, it’s a power play.
Sometimes it still makes me feel nervous. As a woman, I’ve unfortunately had to grow up with the knowledge that men can often be my biggest threat. It’s a sad fact, but men can often feel very intimidating to us, especially when we’re alone. Getting uninvited attention from men can often be cause for anxiety, especially at night. That’s why, while I do appreciate the occasional catcall, it’s usually during the daytime when other people are around. That’s yet another reason to never encourage or acknowledge the catcaller.
I do sometimes feel ashamed that I enjoy the compliments. I do feel ashamed that I like catcalling even if it does make me feel empowered at the same time. I hate that men’s attention continues to validate women, including myself, and I hate that being called “pretty” by some stranger does make me feel good. I should probably hate the fact that I’m being objectified, and I do in a way, but I’m positive these feelings of wanting attention are a result of our still very sexist society. The fact that women feel the need to be seen as attractive is so heavily ingrained in our society that it’s difficult to shake.
In the end, catcalling is also an important reminder of how far we still have to go. Although I might get a frisson of enjoyment when some man throws a misogynist compliment my way while I’m walking down the street, every time it happens, I’m reminded of how far the feminist movement has to go and how I need to strive to be a better source of empowerment for myself and for other women.
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