It’s a scenario almost any woman can relate too; It’s dark, usually around 10 or 11pm on a Saturday. The night is young – groups of people walking to parties, walking home, chatting idly about their day.
A car approaches, headlights illuminating the group walking. There is nowhere to hide, and you have become the proverbial deer in the headlights. Their windows are rolled down, heads and arms flailing outside the vehicle, and there is no way to avoid the onslaught that is coming. It’s a degrading, powerless situation.
Words and yelps are hurled out the window with the velocity of a bullet, and the malicious intentions of throwing a rock through a glass window, by a group of boys in the car. I will not give them the satisfaction of being called men. Their only intent? to hurt, I assume, and prove an that their position, a male-dominated one, is empowered.
They laugh, I imagine, when they pull their cowardly heads back into the car and turn to their friends. I can’t imagine what they could say about the event, because I don’t know what purpose it served, or how it could have possibly been beneficial to either party.
Tonight, on a 10 minute walk home, I noticed my friends and I were yelled at by 4 different groups in cars. In 10 minutes, we suffered four bouts of intense degradation on the side of the road. The last car threw a handful of Ketchup packets from McDonalds too, along with various lewd and suggestive comments. I heard the small splats of the Ketchup packets hitting asphalt and stood, completely and utterly shocked, trying to come up with some viable reason that a random group of boys in a car would choose to throw something out of a window at a group of women just trying to get home.
The audacity and pure idiocy of the event has me reeling, and my hands are shaking while I type this.
Catcalling of any kind, be it from a car or the other side of the street, does not make you ‘macho’ or make you more inclined to be seen as a viable sexual partner. It makes you a coward. And it makes me infuriated. Catcalling is a form of assault, like any other form of unwanted sexually motivated attention. Throwing words may not be the same as throwing a punch, but the effect is. The disempowered group feels uncomfortable and scared. Not enough showers in the world could scrub the disgusting words, gestures and nuances from your skin.
I have not ever met another woman who has openly told me that they enjoy going for drives and yelling vicious and invasive comments at men, just for the hell of it. We grow up in a world where boys who do this are excused, and shrugged off for “just being boys”. We sit down and accept it because we think it can’t change. We also know how powerless we are compared to those in the car.
Maybe it wont change, or maybe it will. But it takes time, and it takes attention. It also takes someone who gives a damn, who is willing to stand up. Yell back.
I’ve been looking through other articles on the topic that I wanted to share. In an ideal world, the guilty parties would accept the wrongness of their actions. Maybe they’d stop, or try and stop a group of friends. From the side of the road, there is not much we can do, but from the internet, there is.
Check out and share freely this post, and the following:
Also, check out Hollaback, and the work they do to stop street harassment.
One day, all women will be able to walk freely, without the fear of being scrutinized under the microscope of overt sexism.