I’m eighteen years old and I’ve been catcalled twice. One of those times was a guy honking his horn at me at a gas station in Grants Pass, OR; the other a creepy dude swinging tree branches followed me on the opposite side of the street in Seattle before asking if he could check out my “hardware store.”
At least, these are the events that I’m aware of. Being Aspie, it is entirely possible that other instances have occurred of which I am blissfully ignorant.
Here’s the thing, though. Part of me is grateful, yes, that I do not have creepy guys slapping my ass, wolf-whistling, and yelling obscene things at me as I commit the crime of existing while female. But there’s another part that wonders, “what’s wrong with me? Am I not attractive? Are my breasts/butt too small or is my stomach not flat enough? Am I too fat?” That I have these thoughts is in itself a sign of both low personal self-esteem and ridiculous ideas of the “ideal” female body. The fact that I have these thoughts because I am not being objectified by crass teenage boys (and creepy older men) is an indicator of something profoundly wrong in our society.
What kind of world is it that women are told that being dehumanized is a compliment? Why should I be embarrassed that I have a fuller figure and form-fitting dresses emphasize my belly? Who gave fashion designers the right to say that women should have skinny calves, so I can’t wear regular rain boots? Why am I told to cover my bra straps so I don’t look “slutty”? What is wrong with our society that women are judged by what they look like, rather than what they can do?
It’s not just that catcalling isn’t a compliment. It’s that the idea that it’s supposed to be one is so pervasive, failing to be harassed walking down the street is as hard-hitting to a teenage girl’s self-esteem as being the only one not to get a party invitation – and teenage girls are constantly being lowered by the messages sent to her by everyone from models in catalogues to her BMI (debunked here).
So please. For the love of all that you hold dear. Forget the idea that catcalls are compliments. Ignore the people who say it’s just “boys being boys.” Reject the people who tell you you’re being too sensitive. The messages young women are being sent are damaging, and I have a case study for you right here. Please, teach the young men in your life what a real compliment does – and doesn’t – look like. Thanks.
P.S. Yes, I’m a feminist. No, that doesn’t mean any of the bad things you hear about it. Feminism is the idea that men and women are equal, and should be treated equally. That’s all.