By Kat Chu
I love adventuring around, but wherever I go, I’m always surrounded by people; there is nowhere to hide. Especially in the cities, there are always people outside. Often, men outside. Men who think they own the road, purely because they’re men. Men who think they are entitled to make a comment about women’s bodies. I’ve been catcalled while alone. I’ve been catcalled while with my friends. It doesn’t matter what we’re wearing, whether it’s sweatpants or dresses. Sometimes it’s in the morning on the way to coffee. Sometimes it’s at night coming home from a show. I see it all the time. It’s an awful verbal violation. Our bodies are not yours to comment on.
And what do we do? Sometimes, we yell back, but it’s terrifying. We confront them, and we get called disgusting things, or get put in physical danger. They reply with “Why can’t you take a compliment?” So often, we do nothing but keep our mouths shut and feel gross and vulnerable about it.
But that’s part of the problem. The fact that we do nothing just makes them feel more powerful and normalizes catcalling. It’s verbal dehumanization, not a compliment. It tells us that they don’t see us as a human with a soul and mind, but only as a body. Dehumanization is how people are able to carry out acts of violence. If they already have this attitude towards a complete stranger just because of her appearance, imagine what they might be willing to do to you, physically.
So what do we do?
Emma Mercury of The Messy Heads, an online blog and print magazine, says to use these three sentences:
You just_________ . It made me feel_________ . Don’t _________ again.
You just catcalled me. It made me feel degraded and scared to walk down the street. Don’t catcall again.
You just harassed me. It made me feel uncomfortable. Don’t do that again, please.
Speak up for yourself. Do it with power in a strong firm voice. Make eye contact. This often shocks your harasser and forces them to think about what they’ve done.
Make sure you do all this while assessing your safety. If you’re all alone in an alley at night, maybe choose to keep walking. They may have won that battle, but nothing is more important than your safety. We have the obligation to make this world a better place, but we also have the right to feel safe, so make a wise choice.
But if you’re in a place where you can speak up, where you feel strong enough to and you want to, then do so. When you’re done, walk away. Don’t let the harasser think you’re open to starting a conversation. If you don’t feel safe after, if you’re being followed, walk into a public space like the mall or call 911. Let mall security or someone know. Get help. It’s always better to feel safe than sorry. Remember, you are not to blame. This is not your fault.