I was walking into a liquor store while on my way home from work to pick up a few things for a party. I have an office job so although I was wearing a dress, it was a very conservative cut with a high neck-line, lengthy hem, and all that jazz (to be clear, what I was wearing shouldn’t have any effect on anyone’s treatment of me, but I just want to set the stage). As I entered the store, there was a stack of shopping baskets just to the left of the door and since there were only a few baskets on the stack I had to bend over to pick one up. I was definitely not sticking my ass out in any way, just bending at the waist so I could reach my basket, and yet this random middle aged man who was coming in the door behind me felt it completely appropriate to loudly yell “Would you look at that ass! Just makes you wanna smack it! Bam!” Needless to say, I was not impressed. I immediately stood up and turned to face him. He had a huge grin on his face like he was expecting a high-five for his “joke” and looked blind-sided when I scowled at him and asked “Are you f*cking serious?” This was obviously a rhetorical question and I wasn’t going to waste any of my day getting into it with him so I just took my basket and went on my way. He couldn’t let it drop at that point though and instead started making some comment about me “giving him a smile, it was just a joke” or something along those lines. I just ignored it as I couldn’t be bothered to address him. “Whaaaat – can’t you even take a joke?” He said loudly as he followed me through the store. Realizing he was going to keep pestering me until I did something, I stopped, turned to face him and very bluntly said, “Look buddy, just f*ck off.” This time he looked appropriately abashed and drifted off to some other corner of the store. No one else in the store, neither the customers nor the staff, had a single thing to say either. As I’m used to standing up for myself, that didn’t bother me, what bothered me was this guy’s total shock at my response. He clearly was used to saying this kind of nonsense to women and getting away with it, either because the women were too shocked or too scared to call him out on his sexist crap. The sense of entitlement was just disgusting. No one should have to put up with this derogatory behaviour in this day and age.
Many things have happened to me over the years, from being followed by a truck full of men when I was walking to my friend’s house at 13 years old to car horns, inappropriate comments, leers and screams throughout the years. The time that will always stand out to me is when I went to a golf tournament. Two young men on a golf cart were making their way through the crowded walk way, I stepped aside to let them pass and one of them remarked as they drove by, “I would have hit you if you weren’t so beautiful,” I knew that to him my self worth, my life and safety is all dependent on my physical appearance, that if I wasn’t so “beautiful” he would have injured or killed me.
I was in a restaurant in Budapest. I was really dehydrated and had mild heatstroke so I felt very sick and weak. My face was pale and sweaty and my lips were white and flaking. I got up to go to the loo and passed a table of men who were drinking. One of them wolf whistled at me- not in the way one might imagine but three short, sharp whistles as though he was whistling at a dog. As I mentioned before there was nothing ‘provocative’ about me (not that it should matter but I’m just emphasising how ridiculous this situation was), though I was wearing shorts. Because it was summer. And over 30 degrees. So this guy was clearly just looking at my ass which annoyed me because you know, objectification. I just glared at him as I walked past him but I let my imagination go wild as I imagined going back there and giving him a piece of my mind and throwing his stupid drink all over him etc. To top things off I was only with my dad and sister and my dad didn’t really know how to react so I felt like an idiot for telling him about it. Anyway, I’m only eighteen and I’ve started to experience more and more sexual harassment and sexism these days, including being honked at by some 50-year old guy in a car (I flipped him off, naturally) to being spoken to like a child as I walked through and accidentally bumped into a group of men in Rome, and being whistled at by the same guy sitting in the street as I walked past a long line of men sat on the floor. Every time it happens I feel dirty and the need to cover or shrink myself. I shouldn’t have to feel that way as I’m not the one in the wrong.
Walking down the highstreet, a guy yells at me something along the lines of “Damn gurl I’d take you if you werent too young for me” and as i walk past he looks at my butt and says “I might change my mind for that bum.”
My night started as it usually does – what shall I wear? Argh. The right mix of attractive but not sexy, to feel good about myself but not to draw attention. It’s a fine balance apparently. And you know, going to see a band you are going to keep it pretty casual. Right ready to go. It’s 7pm. It’s daylight. I park the car at the top of town and walk in to meet my friends. Uh oh. The split second of anxiety in your gut as you see a group of about half a dozen guys in your path, fancy dress, stag do most likely. They are at the cash machine. I should probably cross the road. But it’s daylight, it’s 7pm and it’s my hometown. I don’t need to cross the road or feel intimidated. “Slut.” The murmour of a word catches my attention. “Sorry, what did you just say?” I ask them repeatedly. “Nothing, I didn’t say anything.” One replies. “He called you a slut!” The sting of one little word that probably meant nothing to him. “Banter”. Well he obviously doesn’t know what it feels like to be objectified and intimidated. I’m reeling and I want to get away from them. I check my reflection in the mirror. Was my lipstick too red? My hair too blonde? No, I do not feel ashamed or embarrased about myself, I feel F**king. Angry. And yet once the anger subsided I was afraid to return to my car alone later that night. Having grown up in a society where cat-calling has until recently been socially acceptable and very common I have a sense of what clothes I know draw attention to me and those that don’t. And I suppose after 14 years of that (i’m 28) I was massively caught off guard that night. It was a small, drunk slight that doesn’t compare to the devasting and life-changing acts of sexual assault and rape that are committed against women every day. But it does expose a rape culture in our nightlife and particularly stag dos, where it’s apprently ok to call a total stranger a sexually explicit name. Someone said to me if you wouldn’t want it to happen to your daughter then it is not acceptable that it happened to you. I wouldn’t want it to happen to my son either. So I am calling it out. And I hope that this encourages other people to do the same.
In eighth grade, I was catcalled on basically a daily basis by two of my classmates that I had to pass in the hallway to get to one of my classes (I don’t remember which one). The first time, one of them said, “Nice a**,” and his friend said, “I’d f*** her.” A day or two later, I complained to the dean, and the immediate response was the question of what I was wearing. I was wearing a marching band hoodie that was a size too big, jeans, and black sneakers. First of all, that kind of proves that it had nothing to do with what I was wearing, and second, why should it have mattered? If I had been showing my shoulders or a bra strap and was wearing shorts, or anything more revealing at all, should I have been to blame for vulgarity and harassment? Oh, and not only did the dean do absolutely nothing about it but apologize and send me back to class, I was catcalled for two or more weeks after that, and it only stopped when I stopped in the middle of the hallway and YELLED at them to shut up, almost violently.
Yesterday I got catcalled on a cycle path near our home. Not that it should matter but I was wearing jeans and a baggy top. I didn’t think that it had bothered me at the time. It’s a really hot day today and I wanted to wear a light dress but everything I put on I felt was too short. I got really frustrated and angry and felt like I didn’t want to leave the house, I missed my bus to work and had to walk in late which made me even more anxious. Please realise that when you think you are complimenting me you are actually sexualising me when I don’t want to be sexualised and I have no control over this. I did wear a dress today but have leggings in my bag just in case.
It’s a hot hot day in London and I go out to run to the supermarket in a spaghetti strap top. I get cat called by a man in a van (not surprising) whilst walking along the high street. I cannot win. I wore this top to suit the climate, to avoid sweat patches and discomfort. The fact I cannot enjoy the sunshine and do a weekly shop without feeling self conscious and degraded is beyond me. If women continue to see this sort of reaction on the streets for what they wear, even in 2017, then god help us!
Got catcalled by some lads from a year below me. Scary. They think that it’s okay to do that at that age, what’re they gonna be like in a few years??
I’m a young woman and ride motorbikes – I got my first one at 17. At my school another person in my year had a bike at the same time and so we spent a lot of time boasting about our bikes (being both proud and immature!). Every time (literally every time) I mentioned that I had a bike to someone new and male, the response would be ‘You mean a scooter?’. No one ever said that to my male friend as presumably he was fully capable of riding an actual motorbike. As I got older I started to ferry people around on the back and particularly one boyfriend would ride pillion for trips out and about. Everyone would assume it was his bike and flat out ignore me to ask him what he was riding. More recently a guy I worked with was perfectly normal and friendly – until he found out that I ride motorbikes, at which point I was told that I ‘had’ to give him my number because now I was sexy enough for him to want to sleep with. Not connected but after years of being catcalled I now cross the street if possible, to avoid any bloke in a hi-vis jacket and get extremely nervous if I have to walk past them, especially if there’s more than one person there. It makes me feel deeply self-conscious about my clothes and I avoid all eye-contact. Normally I smile at everyone and I do feel guilty about it.