„Stop! That’s just not okay!”
It’s that easy to call someone out for cat-calling. And yet it’s so hard. Why do we feel that we have to take it, just ignore it and pretend like we didn’t hear it? Why do we have to be the “bigger” person? Why is cat-calling even still happening so often?
The other day I was in NYC with my friend. She was taking pictures of me with her camera in Bryant Park. On the side of the road stood a hot dog truck. It was morning time, around 10 am maybe, so the truck wasn’t busy. The man working in it, took the liberty to lean out his window and watch us. And then he proceeded to cat-call us.
The first and second time it happened, we pretended like it didn’t happen and just kept on doing what we were doing – my friend taking pictures of me, me “posing”. The third time he yelled something, my friend whirled around, looked him dead in the eye, pointed her finger at him and with a strong, clear and loud voice told him: “Stop! That’s just not okay!”
And I applaud her. I wouldn’t have dared to say a word. I would’ve packed up my stuff and moved somewhere else in order to avoid the verbal abuse that was going on. But she was brave enough to say it as it is. This is just not okay. And way too often we just accept it. We just take it because we think there’s nothing we can do to stop it from happening.
But can we actually stop it? The man ignored her words of warning and kept going. He only stopped when another man passed by and told us to take a picture of the guy and go to the police with it, the hot dog guy would lose all his business if we did that. And hot dog guy heard that. So, he stopped. But he continued to stare at us until we left shortly thereafter.
So even if you dare to speak up for yourself that doesn’t mean this other individual is going to respect you. The cat-caller ignoring your words is the better thing that can happen when you call out a cat-caller. What if it isn’t Bryant Park in broad daylight on a busy day, but a little street corner with nothing going on at night? What if the guy doesn’t like you telling him “no”?
What if it makes him angry enough to assault you? To physically hurt you or worse?
It’s unbelievable that in 2020 women still have to take this kind of verbal abuse. Because that’s exactly what cat-calling is. It’s verbal abuse. And most of the time we just take it. Because we’re afraid of what will happen if we speak up. What if it just gets worse? They probably won’t stop doing it anyways, so what’s the point? What if he gets angry and hurts me physically? It’s sad that this is what the reality looks like for a lot of women. The only thing we can really do is stick together. Call out another women’s cat-caller. Watch out for one another. Educate our children. As au pairs we can even educate our host kids. So that the future generation of women doesn’t have to take the verbal abuse we do.