Monday, May 19, 2008

Definitely creepy!

A recent article asked whether catcalling is creepy or a compliment (thanks to Zipporah and Abby for sending it to me within minutes of eachother ;) If I'm offended by random men telling me to smile, you can imagine how I feel about catcalling, but I wasn't surprised that women "take both sides" of the issue... maybe just surprised so many had no problem admitting it...

Interviewee Kimberly Fairchild, an assistant professor of psychology, made an excellent point when she said "there seems to be some evidence that it increases self-objectification." I think it's probably a chicken/egg situation. Women who take it as a compliment (and I'm not entirely excluding myself-- it's impossible to live in this culture without somewhat absorbing it) already "look at themselves as body parts instead of as full, whole, intelligent human beings"-- or at least align their self worth a bit too much with their appearance-- and then catcalling serves as an affirmation of that self-objectification-- and then if the catcaller elicits a positive response, that affirms his f-ed up view of women. [Sigh] ... it's a vicious cycle, isn't it?

Another thing that bothered me was the "women are asking for it by wearing short skirts, low-cut tops, etc." arguments made by readers. First of all, it never ceases to amaze me that this excuse is still being used... It's the same f-ed up justification neanderthals have been using for sexual assault probably since the beginning of textiles. Some men wonder if the feminist whining will ever stop; I wonder will the victim blaming ever stop??? And second, it's not even true. I get more comments and catcalls from random men on the street when I'm bundled up-- and unshowered-- than when I'm all dolled up for a night out (and let me just say, I don't dress for warmth on Saturday nights).

Just this afternoon I was walking back from picking up a Tasty Turkey for lunch, and a man I passed on the sidewalk shouted at me, "I could fall in love with you! easily!" Hm. I was wearing flip-flops, bleach-stained cargo pants, a tank top under a t-shirt under a sweatshirt and no makeup-- and I hadn't showered in two days, greasy, unbrushed hair piled atrociously on top of my head.

I remember one year my college roommates dressed as Double Dare contestants for Halloween. They printed the logo on $10 sweatsuits from Wal-Mart, which they wore with safety goggles. But despite sporting these awesomely unattractive outfits in a sea of naughty nurses and sexy security guards, they were still groped (breasts, butt, crotch, you name it) by many a drunken college boy during the annual parade down State Street.

Can we PLEASE stop blaming women when men behave badly? This sort of behavior stems from the belief of some men (not all) that women have a place-- as objects to be gawked at-- and should be put in their place-- by reminding them via creepy looks, gestures, remarks, etc.

On the other hand, I did agree with a reader's point that there are degrees of creepiness. From the instances above, for example, the man telling me he "could fall in love with me" was obviously less creepy than frat boys grabbing my friends' private parts. And here's another recent example: I was riding back from a hangover-cure lunch with a friend I was visiting (one of the Double Dare contestants, in fact!) yesterday when two cars full of boys started yelling at us. (BTW we were both sitting in the car, sporting unshowered up-dos and giant sunglasses-- for me this was just day one-- she showered this morning before driving me to the airport.) The first guy who stuck his head out of the window simply shouted something like, "I love you!" and I actually laughed. Wasn't really creeped out. But then a few minutes later another guy in a second car shouted something similar and then stuck his tongue out and shook his head so it wiggled ... quite creepily. That made me feel uncomfortable.

So to conclude this rant, which I swear had a logical outline when I started it, I would most definitely say that catcalls-- or more generally street harassment-- is creepy. And while there are varying degrees of creepiness, the most "innocent" are certainly not complimentary, they are simply ... stupid. And to the couple of arguments I read that basically said women only consider catcalls creepy when they come from unattractive men, I would have to admit I'm stumped: I thought all catcalls came from unattractive men.


Pam said...

I want to know why men do this. I'm sure it's not to get a date or be noticed. They'll never see you again. Is it more about power than making a connection? Are they showing off for their friends? Are they trying to overpower you verbally since they can't get their hands on you? Kind of a verbal rape....maybe that's a little paranoid.

Amy said...

I definitely think it's about power. And my theory-- after noticing that it happens more often when I'm not dressed up-- is that they're reminding me that I SHOULD be dressed up. Like they're saying, "Hey, what are you doing in those sweatpants? Don't you know you're a sex object?"

But maybe I'm just paranoid...

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