Yesterday around 7pm, I took my pup out for his usual evening walk. I was wearing a black fitted turtleneck, black jeans, and white socks with my flat black fuzzy slip on sandals (in other words, I wasn't "trying"). We turned a corner and as I was waiting for the lil' guy to catch up, a car passed slowly and out the window, a guy I couldn't see yelled "BIIIIIIIGGG TITTIESSS," before speeding off. As I write this, I wish I could say I had a reaction- surprise, anger...something- but I felt nothing and just continued on with the walk. That feeling of nothing is years of dealing with this sort of behavior. It's become so normal to me that I felt nothing. And that's the problem.
The first time I can remember being cat called was when I was 11 or 12 walking down Shelter Rock Road with one of my friends on a summer day. I don't remember why we were walking down that busy road, but I do remember wearing lilac soffe shorts and a truck driving by with older men whistling at us, leaving us feeling disgusted. Was it what we were wearing? Were we "asking for it?"
I was 12 when boys at school began objectifying my changing body. They used to compare the size of my breasts with those of one of my close friends, sometimes grabbing at them to gauge the difference in size.
I was 15 the first time a "nice guy" forced me to do something I wasn't comfortable with. At the time, I was too nervous to actively say "no" and leave, and to some that came off as consent. It wasn't.
I was 18, fresh out of my first serious relationship, and out with friends at a club (lol), when I was literally grabbed by the ***** in public by someone I had just met on the dance floor. I sat in the bathroom the next hour or so, waiting until my friends were ready to leave.
A few weeks after that, in my first weekend away at college, I was taken advantage of when I drank too much at a frat party. I've never told anyone about it.
I've been called a "slut" by strangers for ignoring their cat calls. Also by an ex (we were already broken up at that point), for saying something that made him angry- he poured a bottle of beer over my head as he said it.
Women are constantly told what NOT to do- "don't wear anything too revealing," "don't stay out too late," "don't drink too much," etc. The truth is, no matter what we're wearing, no matter how much or how little we drink, or what time of day it is, sexual harassment happens in plain sight all the time, and somehow the onus is on us to avoid it.
I used to get angry at cat callers and yell back, but in the same way that their cat calling accomplishes nothing except, maybe, stroking their ego, having a negative reaction in the moment at best, achieves nothing, and at worst, initiates stalking or violent behavior in return.
The good news is MOST men aren't low-life street harassers and/or sexual assaulters. The bad news is most women can't walk down the street or stand on the subway platform without feeling a little bit uneasy and/or hearing some unwarranted comment that minimizes her existence down to her body. Even worse, before this Harvey Weinstein stuff blew up, a lot of men were unaware or ignorant to this being a wide scale problem, not to mention our very own president is allegedly guilty of the same, sick behavior as ol' Harvey boy and he gets to keep his job (for now).
I debated whether to write anything in regards to this #MeToo bandwagon because it was a social media thing and oversharing on FB is not my thing these days (I will forever cringe over the past posts that come up on my Timehop each morning). These experiences are so incredibly personal and uncomfortable, but it's just that- every woman I know has her own version of the same story, some worse than others, and we've all held it in for so long, embarrassed, ashamed, angry, but it's only in solidarity and in sharing these all-too-common experiences that we can affect change. There's a comfort in knowing we're not alone and that this behavior is in fact, not normal.