“Hey babe, why don’t you come over and stay up all night with me?”
“Come play with me.”
“Why don’t you show me what’s under that dress of yours?”
“Dang, she thick!”
“Smile for me, baby.”
These are just a handful of phrases that have been flung my way in conversations on the streets, in text messages, in grocery stores, in gyms, in elevators, EVERYWHERE. I don’t walk outside by myself at night at all, for fear of who/ what is lurking in the shadows. Going about daily life in broad daylight hasn’t been much better. Accompanied with once-overs and intense stares, I have felt unsafe, nervous, and have even been followed back to my apartment by a STRANGER (thank goodness for automatically locking gates).
What kind of society is this? What happened to being polite? Respecting women?
Am I no more than my body? My “juicy” butt? What about the GPA that I have worked so hard for? What about the fact that I have been classically trained in dance and piano for 15 years? What about the fact that I got into the early optometry school acceptance program? What about the fact that I am accomplished in making puns? What about the fact that I can make the BEST chocolate chip cookies? Do all of my accomplishments and my personality not matter? Am I nothing more than a sexual object?
I don’t want to hear things about my butt, how good I look, and don’t even mention that three letter word that begins with “s” and ends with “ex”. Listen. Get to know me. Please, I’m begging you.
You must be thinking, this girl is a skank. She got what she deserved because of the way she dressed. That’s not the case here. I have been catcalled in a baggy t-shirt and leggings as well as in a turtleneck sweater and jeans. That time that I was followed to my apartment by a stranger? Yeah, I was wearing professional attire– a dress with a neckline at my collarbones, and a hemline down at my knees. It wasn’t revealing in any way.
Okay, so if it’s not the way that I dress, I must be walking through “sketchy” parts of town, right? Wrong again. I live in a well-rated, gated apartment complex right off of the UAB campus. Surrounded by a supermarket, and restaurants, it’s a pretty safe place to be. Where am I walking? I’m walking 0.7 miles to my classroom from my apartment, through the research/ medical side of campus. Considered a safe area? Definitely. Does it feel like a safe area to me? Not so much.
At first, I was consumed with guilt. I felt bad that I was causing all this turmoil around me. I was causing people to yell out of their cars, honk, type inappropriate things into their phones, and pause whatever they were doing. However, after months of trying to remedy the situation, I’ve officially given up trying.
What can I do? I’ve tried dressing modestly. I’ve tried confronting those who say these demeaning things (this was hard because I’m usually too scared to respond). I’ve avoided the “sketchy” parts of town. I’ve avoided boys (this failed, I was catcalled by girls ). So I repeat, what can I do? What more can I do?
Should I just let these people taunt me? Is there nothing I can do? There’s nothing more that I would like to do than to kick the offender in a very sensitive area, with no consequences. However, this action usually warrants rape, a fight, or in very rare cases, a reluctant apology. And just like that, I’m back to square one. What more can I do?
Flustered and frustrated,
PS- I know that not everyone is like this, but this has happened to me so much that I felt I needed to write it out to stay sane. I know this isn’t my usual happy/ awkward post about my life, but this has been something on my mind for the past few months, and it’s really started to bother me recently.