Fearing the Public: On Catcalls and Boxing

My ethics class is currently covering feminist ethics.  It has been a nice reminder about how angry I am over women’s place in the world.  So I will now subject you to one of the many topics I climb on my soap box about.

Over the past year I have gotten pretty serious about boxing.  I have gone from approaching it rather lackadaisically to attending daily classes.  I have been meeting with my coach, getting involved in teaching, and getting back into sparring.  I have found this to be an amazing journey of personal growth and discovery.  It has changed the way I approach kink, porn, and school.  It has done this by making me face my fears of weakness, and come out victorious.

But right now I want to discuss the part of this adventure which has sad implications for our culture as a whole.  Because of boxing, for the first time in my life I feel safe.  I am no longer scared when I am walking by myself; I don’t feel the need to wear baggy clothing when I am outside after dark.  Every time I am in public without a man, catcalls threaten violence everywhere I go.  And yes, I fully tend to explain to you why catcalls, which some think are innocent compliments, contribute to my lack of safety in the streets.  But I would like to start out with a couple of stories.

Not too long ago I was out with a lovely female partner of mine in the city. We had decided to drive to a diner to get a midnight snack.  As I got out of the car a large man started yelling compliments after me.  I ignored him and kept walking, it was just two blocks to the diner.  He followed me all the way into the diner still yelling “compliments” at me.  He then decided to try to join my partner and I at our table so he could tell us how beautiful we are.  He didn’t leave until the restaurant’s staff got involved.  I didn’t take a single thing he said as a compliment, because all of it had a threat of violence attached to it.  This was harassment.

Another great story is about the last time I went to buy a cell phone.  It took about four times longer than it should have because of how I was treated.  There were two male salesman working at the time.  Within five minutes of talking to the first one he’d asked me if I had a boyfriend.  He didn’t ask if I was interested in him, or if I was available; he asked me if I was the property of another man.  I quickly exited that situation and went to talk to the second man.  This one spent the whole time it took to get my cell phone telling me I was beautiful and very persistently asking if I was interested in him.  He refused to listen to me when I said no, only listening when I made up a fictitious boyfriend.  When I was about to leave he said, “Oh, you must get this all the time. You are so pretty you deserve to be treated like this”.

This infuriated me.  Because I am pretty I deserve to have my “no” ignored?  I am attractive, so I have to be the property of a man or I am fair game whether or not I consent to it?  I deserve to have to take an hour out of my day to get a cell phone when it should have taken 15 minutes?

The worst part of this is that over half the time I use this story as an example of aggression towards women I am told I am wrong.  People say, “Oh honey, you’ll miss this when you are no longer beautiful.  Take it as a compliment”.

I will not take any of these actions as a compliment, and I would never miss this harassment.  I have dozens of stories like this.  In fact, even though I am no longer scared of their aggression, I still “dress down” as often as possible, just so I can get through my day without being objectified.

When men catcall me on the street it is a reminder of what they could do to me.  It is a reminder that they might be the next person to try to follow me home.  They could be the person who gets offended when I ignore them and chases me down the street telling me what a bitch I am.  Even when they are telling me I have a nice smile, or other seemingly innocent “compliments”, it is a reminder that I am not a person in their eyes, I am a just a compilation of attractive features to them.  To them I am just a sexual object.  This is terrifying, because once someone can dehumanize you to that point they fail to attribute you your basic human rights.  It is so much easier for them to attack.

Catcalls are an ongoing reminder that streets do not belong to the public, they belong to men.

So every time a stranger tells me I am beautiful I am mentally calculating their size, if they look aggressive, the time it would take them to reach me, if it’d be smarter to run or fight if they come after me. I am preparing myself if they decide to verbally assault me for ignoring them.  Making sure I won’t take their insults of “bitch” or “cunt” personally.

Boxing has given my confidence in this calculation.  Sometimes I don’t even bother to look at who’s yelling at me.  I know that if they come after me I will be okay, I can handle myself.  So it is in that way I no longer fear walking down the street.

And that is incredibly sad.  I shouldn’t only feel safe because I can fight.  That is not a cure for the sickness of sexism.  I don’t want every woman to have to take up boxing in order to feel safe in their own neighborhoods, their own cities.  I want women to feel safe because men finally realize how fucking scary their actions can be.

And yes, I know not all men do this.  But quite a few of them let it happen.  When their friend makes a rude comment they stay silent, or they refuse to believe this is happening because it doesn’t happen to their female friend when they are around.  Of course it won’t happen when a woman is with a man, catcallers have more respect when it looked like a woman is already owned.  Not enough people are explaining to men how catcalls are a symptom of the systematic oppression of women, or how disturbing it is not to feel safe in your own city.

The privilege to be able to ignore this problem is not the same thing as innocence.  This isn’t a problem just concerning a few rude comments.  Woman are being made to fear walking down the street, they are being taught that they have no autonomy over their own consent.  This is a problem, and it needs to be addressed now.

 

Here are some good recourses for stopping street harassment.  This is a hotly debated topic so do some research on your own and figure out what works best for you!

Stop Street Harassment

Catcalls and Military Strategies

 

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5 thoughts on “Fearing the Public: On Catcalls and Boxing

  1. I think you enjoy the attention. Otherwise you wouldn’t write about it. Imagine, one day you’ll have a little grey and a couple of wrinkles and nobody will give a shit about you. Just like everyone else, you’ll be so sad.

    Congratulations, you’re good at being a troll.

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  2. > Catcalls are an ongoing reminder that streets do not belong to the public, they belong to men.

    The scenario you describe of being followed into a diner was not catcalling, it was harassment. The guy followed you in and tried to sit at your table and the staff had to remove him.

    Suppose some Bible bashers knock on your door and you say you were not interested and then they try to barge in and force you to read their leaflets. You eventually have to call the police to have them removed.

    Does this give you the right to label ALL religious types as aggressive bullies who threaten your safety? What about the 99% who just knock on your door, give you short sales pitch for religion with a plastic smile and shove some leaflets into your hand?

    They are annoying (for sure!) but is it fair to define them as harassment… as a threat to your safety?

    Is it fair to say door to door ‘god squad’ types are “an ongoing reminder that the streets do not belong to the public, they belong to the church”?

    Men are statistically more at risk of violence in public than women. Yet women generally feel more unsafe than men. This is because society actually cares about women’s safety and wellbeing.

    This concern for women allows certain ideologies and mass movements to exploit that concern for women and profit from it by going around telling everyone we live in a ‘rape culture’ and that women are like little lambs surrounded by big bad wolves.

    And if you promote this emotive threat narrative (a narrative which is contrary to all the FACTS) you can make big bucks on the conference / book/ sponsored youtube channel/ lecture circuit. And many women do. And they all have shit eating grins. Selling ‘rape culture’ is big biz these days.

    But it is destroying the confidence of young women as a result.

    You are right about assertiveness. Studies show that a course in being assertive (not even self defence, just self assuredness in public) not only helps women to feel safe in public, it will significantly lower the risk of harassment, assault and rape for them. (which are already very low risks anyway for women).

    But you try telling feminists and SJWs that and they will tell you it is not women’s place to help themselves!!!!! … they will tell you a women’s place is to be an ‘acted upon’ object at the mercy of the patriarchy. They will say only men should have the power to dictate women’s lives and women’s feelings (he for she).

    Dealing with catcalls, taunts, harassment and actual threats of violence is par for the course for boys growing up. And so by they time they are adults they have developed many strategies to deal with such anti social behaviour and are well equipped for the real world (a world where assholes exist!).

    The more we wrap girls in cotton wool, put them in ‘safe spaces’ and treat them like entitled princesses (he for she) and ‘acted upon’ objects, the less well equipped they will be as adults to cope with everyday living. This is why so many women today are falling apart at the seams, unable to cope with walking down the street, or surfing the web, or being a boss, or dealing with a cat call.

    Instead of toughening up young girls and women, we see SJWs like Sarkeesian literally invited to speak at the UN where she advocated censorship of the internet to protect women’s feelz. And we are seeing increasing calls for white-only gyms and train carriages and other public spaces …… sorry I meant women-only gyms and carriages and other public spaces. And we are seeing blacks literally being arrested and thrown off public transport now for having thick lips and wide noses …. sorry I meant men getting arrested and thrown off for having narrow hips and balls (it all gets so confusing!).

    Eventually – if SJW’s get their way – women in the west will be protected by a truly ‘he for she’ segregated society. And men will be expected to chaperone women, and using vulgar language in front of women will be taboo. And women will wear veils to protect themselves form the evil male gaze. And women will be seen in groups, all anonymous in their uniform veils, not openly participating in society, but just quietly shuffling along the sidewalk – while their men act as their interface to the wider world. And relationships and sex will be strictly formalised into lengthy rituals – or evn arranged marriages – in order to protect the women from the ‘rape culture’ that is liberated recreational sex and sexual autonomy.

    And then something amazing will happen……

    A few women will rebel against all of this and demand women be treated like actual grown ups, instead of fragile, ‘acted upon’ objects….. and these women will call themselves … feminists…. and the whole cycle will repeat over the next century.

    And once women gain (once more) the status of adult, some more women will get scared and say this is horrible and women need more protections again ……. and they will start demanding men protect the wimmins (he for she)….. and round and round we go!

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  3. This is a really tough, disheartening problem. I think it’s really hard for men who do this to understand in a visceral way why it’s so unpleasant… they (we?) are generally people for whom a compliment would be welcome, and frequent sexual tension is something within us rather than visited upon our persons.

    I’ve certainly been guilty of not calling other people out on this. As a non-confrontational guy in general it’s really uncomfortable to do this to friends and acquaintances, much less strangers. I’m getting better about it. It helps that I’m in better shape and more confident than I used to be, but it’s not like you can generally have a whole discussion about power dynamics and how harassment feels with some random bus skeeve. I try to frame it as “inappropriate” and leave it at that, but that invites the kind of response as commenter #2 up there gives, basically “well she should have thicker skin” or something.

    I think that instead of putting up with assholes it would be nice to destroy the norms that create assholes, or at least this kind of asshole in particular. It’s a harder goal than telling women they should have thicker skin but way more satisfying.

    Of course I’m also scared that my intervention will make things worse or will seem like I’m walking over the right of the woman/girl/person in question to speak for themselves, or that the subject will disagree with me for various reasons. It’s a tough social situation. It would be nice to have, like, scenario training or something… “here is a way to give a compliment and/or indicate romantic interest without freaking out the woman (tip: not in a public forum, for starters. Sometimes you just silently admire)”

    I’m not really sure what the other two commenters were on about…? One of them was straight up dismissing you and the other one was kind of reinforcing the idea of assertiveness but then went on a rant about “SJWs” and some kind of g***rgate rant against the idea of safety in the wider culture (why would Sarkeesian be relevant here other than as a g***rgate signifier?). I left this long comment so that it wouldn’t seem like everyone who passed by here was blind to what you were saying.

    There are all kinds of people I guess.

    Stay safe.

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