I got catcalled the other night on my way home from teaching FCE night school, and honestly I just don’t know what to think. I’ve gone through a full range of emotions with cat-calling, like Dante plodding through the levels of the inferno.
When you’re young (and it starts really bloody young, believe me, people are nuts, or need glasses or something because the first time it happened to me I was about 8 ) the immediate reaction is fear. Usually you’re so young that “Stranger Danger” is still a concept fairly fresh in your mind. Then as you age, it becomes fear tinged with loathing .
When you get past the fear and loathing stage every woman has her own approach. For me, my next stage was absolute blind fucking hatred. I say was…is. I love what I do, (I refer here to teaching, rather than smashing the patriarchy), and I was just bimbling home from school thinking about how close the exam is for my sweet little angels when I heard “holaaa Chicaaaa” from some moped-riding giblet.
Now, first of all, my childhood dog was called Chica (rest in peace you beautiful blind snuggle-machine) so that was a bad start. I don’t know what the average catcaller expects but whatever it is , you certainly won’t get it by addressing me with the name of my beloved dead dog.
Which brings me to my next question, catcalling men, what exactly do you expect? Has catcalling ever been successful? They say that when you approach death, you see your life flash before your eyes, and when someone catcalls me, I see a similar montage of possible reactions, all at once in a rush, and not a one of them is “make out with him”. Also what’s with the short response window before you say “ah fuck off then”? Is it so I don’t have time to set up the Powerpoint presentation explaining my feminist agenda? I bet it bloody is…
My standard response for about the past decade has been some choice language, emasculating insinuations about the size of the gentleman’s manhood, loud vulgar comparisons between his own sexual prowess, and that of his mother, and on one occasion, a throat punch. But I’m tired! I’m just so tired! Now I know how Batman feels- one by one I take these fools down, but there’s always another one. And I don’t even know if my methods are effective- I have no way of knowing if they just scoot round the corner and reapeat offend, because also like Batman, I don’t carry a gun.
Perhaps for the good of womankind, I should conduct an experiment; I will walk up and down the roadside , and each time I am catcalled I will try a different reaction- speaking in tongues, curling into the foetal position, falling to my knees in prayer, you know, just to see what happens, like Jane Goodall trying to figure out gorillas back in the day.
I think finally where I land on catcalling is that I just don’t get it. I reckon it has a zero per cent success rate and also it’s just really old-fashioned now isn’t it? It’s like riding past on a penny farthing leering “phwoar nice ankles Beatrice”. There are more efficient ways of doing that now, like Tinder, who are these whistling peasants? Or maybe I’ve got it all wrong and just everyone should start catcalling- but nicely : “Big up the tall guy in brogues! Banging novelty socks!” Why does it always have to be some shoddy cheap shot that makes you feel like someone’s just given you the verbal equivalent of a wedgie??
I guess I’m just going to pay it forward. Specifically to other women, every time I get catcalled I’m going to make a point to tell some lady on the street that I like her hat or recommend a good book. I can’t stop anyone from catcalling, but I can counteract some of the negative social side effects , I guess, and I’d encourage you to do the same.