BY EMILY MAY
Check this out from Slate’s “Dear Prudence” column:
Q. Catcalled: What would you say to a young women who gets catcalled often during the summer? I live in the city, and as the weather gets warmer, catcalling gets more frequent. Although I dress normally (typically shorts and a blouse in the summer), I find that I’m yelled at by old men and young men, standing on corners, driving by me, etc. It makes me tense, and now when I walk down the street, I see every man as a potential threat. It’s annoying and demeaning, but I know I can’t haul every weirdo on the street to a sensitivity class. How should I deal?
A: Wait, my dear, just wait. When I walk down the street with my lovely teenage daughter, men passing in trucks will honk their horns and make appreciative kissing sounds at her. They apparently think the prune standing next to her is deaf as well as old. Yet, their catcalls spark a vestigial memory in me—a couple of decades ago I used to hear vocal judgments from men. At the time it was annoying. Yet given their absence, I have to admit it wasn’t all bad.Since today is apparently the “men are pigs” day at the chat, this also falls in the category of there’s nothing you can do but ignore it. And maybe a catcall is better than finding you’re being photographed and your image swapped around by horny married men.
Ok, we’ve all heard this one before. Just a few weeks ago I was at a fancy-pants gala event and struck up a conversation with a woman about Hollaback!. She said completely straight faced, “well honey, they are just trying to compliment you.” I started to laugh, only to realize she was completely serious. And fancy. So I explained to her, and now I will explain to dearest Prudence, who seems intent on perpetuating crappy myths, the difference between harassment and a compliment.
MYTH #1: HARASSMENT IS A COMPLIMENT
Compliments do not make you feel “tense.” Compliments do not make you see every man as a potential threat. Compliments do not make you want to send your complimenters to sensitivity training.
MYTH #2: KISSY NOISES ARE APPRECIATIVE.
Let’s break it down: Appreciation is getting flowers on boss’ day. It’s being told “thank you” for staying late and working your buns off. It’s that gentle smile from the parent struggling to get the baby stroller through the door. Appreciation is not kissy noises from strangers. Unless you are under the age of 2.
MYTH #3 THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO ABOUT STREET HARASSMENT
And lastly, there is something you can do about this. You can tell the harassers “that’s not OK.” You can share your story, start a Hollaback!, do a workshop, make a film, or write a blog post. You can make a ruckus. You can start a revolution. Because even if your mom is Ms. Prudence, you have the right to feel safe, confident, and sexy when you walk down the street.