Street harassment and sexism hand-in-hand problems

April 13, 2011 6:19 PM9 comments

O’Donnell is a junior secondary education major and can be contacted at caitlin.odonnell@drake.edu

I’m not sure exactly how it became socially acceptable to honk and catcall at girls when you, see us walking around Des Moines, but I assure you it doesn’t turn us on. I promise I’m not jogging so that you can creepily watch me, and these Target gym shorts I’m wearing are not for your benefit.

Here are a few things that girls don’t think when you honk and/or catcall at them:

That boy must be hot and well-endowed.

Oh baby, I love being objectified.

Yes, in fact, I do want to get in your car with you.

Let me just start by informing you that I am not even a little bit attractive when I am jogging. I promise there is nothing about my appearance that could possibly entice you to honk at me. And if I’m wearing high heels and a skirt that goes up to Tahiti, it’s still creepy and misogynistic when you honk at me—I promise.

What exactly do you expect to come of your honking/objectifying slur encounter? I have no idea who you are, and since you’ve now insinuated that I’m a veritable piece of meat, I really don’t want to find out. I promise no level of “Hey girl, what you doing tonight?” will make me want to get into the back of your Corolla.

It does not make me feel excited that I’ve finally caught your attention, which I was so seeking, because I am not seeking your attention. Also, those girls walking a block ahead of me? They don’t want it either. Really. And when my friend flips you off and I yell, “hell, yeah, sexism!” this is not an invitation for you to come back and say “hi.”

When you honk and catcall at us, it may seem like innocent flirting to you. Perhaps you think you flatter us with your witty attention, or you’re showing off for the charming boys also residing in your car. I like to think that you honk because you’re compensating for something. Or maybe you’re chastising me for being a woman jogging at night, a reminder that the streets are not safe for us poor, fragile little girls. Because here’s what it feels like when you call out to me: a threat.

This is what actually goes through my head when you honk: What if he turns around and comes after me? Why does he automatically think he can intimidate and objectify me? Is ‘idiot’ contagious?

When you honk and yell demeaning things as I pass your car or house, it does not make me want to get to know you better. It actually makes me want to slap you.

This street is not yours and neither is any part of me you can see while I walk down University Avenue. It’s ridiculous that you can generally walk around without fear of harassment from passing cars, but for women, it’s expected that we suck it up and take it in stride every time we leave a building.

Weirdly enough, I have the right to walk somewhere without being called out to, honked at or leered at, no matter what time of day or type of attire, and just because you can’t meet girls in a normal context does not make it OK for you to be a jerk. Leave me alone, and take your sexist, drunken, creepy friends with you.

9 Comments

  • Go get ‘em Cait! You are soo right! I can’t understand why boys are so attracted to girls.. I mean, what is their problem? Obviously they are rapist creeps when they try to get a girl’s attention. I cant stand it when they approach me and actually think I’ll talk to them. Gross!!

    • Jess,

      I appreciate your sarcastic response and am very glad you do not feel threatened, intimidated or irritated by passing creepy comments. The majority of women do not feel the same way, so before reinforcing sexist perspectives, I encourage you to educate yourself. A good place to start is Hollaback, an anti-street harassment organization- http://houston.ihollaback.org/myths/

  • Samantha Haas

    YES! Cate O’Donnell Column… Giving the people what they want :)

  • Jamie Howett

    You are awesome!! THat is all.

  • Mary O'Donnell

    You are a gem, saying things that will hopefully be heard!
    Tons of love,
    M

  • SING IT!
    Could not agree more. There will come our day…that day is now.

  • Cate O’Donnell has it right! Her articles continue to spell out the basis of not only third wave feminism but also HUMANISM. That we women are not meat and it is not okay for us to expect to be treated as such. Dare I say there is a new “Cate Factor” to The Times, lending a sophisticated air of argument and reason? Yes, I do dare!

  • “Skirt that goes up to Tahiti” hahaha classic

  • Hell yezz. I’m living vicariously through your feminist humor :) LOVE THIS. Keep beating the beast back