I bought myself some rope. I think this learning process is going to prove highly entertaining :)
Learning to love myself has been (and continues to be) one of my biggest acts of rebellion.
If you’re a woman then you have definitely experienced the uncomfortable feeling one gets when some men start cat calling and talking about you as if you are some kind of object to be appraised. Hearing them break down your assets one by one, and reduce you to a series of body parts they “appreciate”. My friend and I were in Kesington Market and had paused to take a picture. Two men started making comments and taking pictures of us with the camera phones.
I am a behavior analyst. I analyze behavior, and every behavior has a function. That function is the thing that reinforces the behavior and makes it more likely to occur again in the future. So I often wonder about the function of this “cat calling” behavior. At first glance, I would assume it’s attention. They think a girl is attractive so they are trying to get her attention, to sleep with her. Except, I have NEVER seen a girl go up to a group of guys cat calling her and then proceed to flirt or show any intention of sleeping with them. So what is the response that we usually give men who do this?
We go quiet. We walk a little faster. We show obvious signs of discomfort. Or anger and rage. And we often try to remove ourselves from the situation as quickly as possible. We feel like we do not have the right to be in that place where we are being harrassed.
But basically our response is some form of discomfort. The response these men get is power over our responses. It’s like when someone criticizes someone else in order to deflect away from their own weaknesses. These cat calling men are looking to feel powerful and in control. The easiest targets to try and control are women as our society has told us to be malleable and likeable and basically, be pleasing. Let others control you.
So to go back to my story with these cat calling men. I was trying to figure out how to best deflect the attention. So at first we just continued on as if they weren’t there, but it gets increasingly uncomfortable the longer you stand there. I suddenly felt very angry that these two men were making me feel as if I couldn’t sty in the public park space. There comments were controlling my behavior (i.e., making me leave) and I am damn well DONE letting insecure men make themselves feel better by manipulating my behavior!
So instead, I very calmly and politely turned to him and started walking towards him asking “what response are you hoping to get from us right now?”
He responded saying “I just asked if you’d hoop for us!” (which was the last thing he said in the 3 - 5 minute non-stop tirade him and his friend had been on about my friend and I)
I responded “No, you have been making comments the entire time my friend and I have been taking pictures and I was just wondering what response you were hoping for? ” The whole time I’m talking I’m walking towards him (not threateningly, just getting close enough to have a proper conversation)
At which point he took a step back and waved his hand in front of his face “look never mind, have a nice night alright.” To which I smiled and said “thank you, you too”.
Can I just say it felt DAMN good to take back the control. It felt DAMN good to watch HIM get uncomfortable as suddenly he was faced with a question he couldn’t answer. I didn’t yell, I didn’t call him names, I didn’t act afraid, I didn’t let him make me feel uncomfortable in my city! I REFUSE to let people make me feel like they have more right to be in a public space because they have a penis.
While I understand sometimes we aren’t always in situations where we feel safe approaching people in this way. I understand that sometimes we aren’t in the right headspace to maintain our cool and maintain control of our frustration, however when it is possible and you can do so calmly, try responding to them the next time they cat call. Try taking back the control and making it clear that they cannot make themselves feel better by making YOU feel uncomfortable.
Jacs Fishburne x ShootBare
4/14/13 | Maryland
Everything about this is beautiful. The pale blue of the silks is so unique and the dichotomy between strength and softness. Yum!
Adventures in Parkdale
Like a bird on a string..