Viewpoint by Mandy Derfler
On the 10-minute walk from my apartment to my regular bus stop half a mile away, I am honked at, whistled at, yelled at, leered at, even called over to vehicles.
People have looped around the block because one catcall just wasn’t enough.
Then I still have to endure the initial bus ride and get around the rest of the day, which is chock-full of men wanting me to know my presence made an impression on them.
Women and men, every day, are facing this same scenario or worse.
Catcalling is not sexy. It’s not a compliment. It’s not boosting anyone’s confidence.
Unfortunately, street harassment is so pervasive, a simple hello can be taken out of context.
To avoid accidentally, or even intentionally, harassing someone, follow these three, very simple, rules.
One: Don’t drive-by catcall. Ever.
Not only is it rude, I’ve seen several near accidents because the driver isn’t paying attention to the car stopping in front of them.
Two: If you are going to engage strangers in any interaction, they are not required to respond. If you are ignored, stop the attempt. It’s obviously not welcome.
Three: Don’t comment on someone’s personal appearance if you are not already engaged in a personal conversation or relationship. They did not dress for you.
If you do feel the need to voice your opinion on random strangers’ looks, don’t expect them to accept it, however well-intentioned, as anything other than harassment.
Everyone deals with unwanted attention differently based on experiences and personality.
I try to be generally amicable. Normally, I ignore the drive-bys, smile at the people passing on the street and thank the forward comments as casually and quickly as possible.
Why? For one, not everyone is trying to be lewd.
Also, safety is a factor. I don’t know what these people are capable of or what might set them off.
On top of that, being angry all the time about something, sadly, unavoidable is exhausting.
I lost my cool once. I shouldn’t have, but I reached harassment overload.
This particular instance, I was graced with a honk, whistle, yell, stopped vehicle and wave over all at once. I returned the gesture with a sustained middle finger as I continued walking.
In his side view mirror, I watched his face fall and a hurt look replace the toothy smile originally there. He drove off.
I was furious. What gave him the right to get his feelings hurt? I was the one being treated badly!
Well, his actions have been accepted for so long, he may not have even realized what he did was offensive.
This is definitely not an excuse or justification for lecherous behavior. It’s an observation of the culture built around street harassment seen as OK, even wanted.
Jessica Williams, correspondent for “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart,” does several great bits on street harassment and rape culture. “Totally Biased” did one as well.
Playboy magazine did a fantastic infographic on the two times catcalling is OK: If you have a mutual understanding catcalling is allowed in a relationship or if you’re calling an actual cat.
I’m seeing more and more individual comic strips addressing harassment on Imgur and Facebook. Stopstreetharassment.org is a website solely dedicated to the topic.
Catcallers are being called out.
If you’re one of them, it’s not wanted; it’s not welcome, so stop doing it.