I have a few things to get off my chest in this post, and it will not be a feel good post. However, there is a time and a place for positive thoughts and a time and a place to just be real.
What I say next, is not a brag or a boast but simply a statement of fact. I routinely have guys stop and either cat call or whistle or yell something along the lines of “hey lady” as I am out walking my dog. I have had to become a pro at ignoring this unwanted attention. I just keep walking my dog and don’t even glance their way, because you see that is encouragement to them. As if by looking up I have given them permission of some kind.
While I find this behavior to be crude and annoying, and yes a little bit worrisome, I typically do not find it very threatening. Do I wish it would stop? Yes. Does it make me feel cornered and instinctually do I want to get away? Yes. Have I cut short my walk and gone back home to get away? More than once. Does it usually make me scared for my physical safety? Not normally. Unless that person won’t back off and gets to close, I am typically just uncomfortable. After two or three ignored calls they typically go away. As soon as they leave, I have forgotten it and the worried feeling doesn’t linger.
The other day though this behavior took a serious escalation. On Friday mornings I go to the gym at 5am which means I am up and walking Penny around 4:30am. I live on a dead end off of a dead end so there is not much traffic and people rarely are there on accident. So at 4:30am I am out walking Penny and this SUV drives down the street and stops nearby. As some of my neighbors work odd hours, this wasn’t concerning just something I took note of. Then it goes down to the cul-de-sac and turns around, comes back to me, and stops again. And that is when the “hey lady, hey miss” starts pouring out of the car. Now at this point I am still walking the direction the car is facing. Thinking this will be a normal encounter, albeit more troublesome because I am alone on the street in the dark, I ignore it but grab my phone just to be safe. I do turn Penny around and cut our walk short since the street is empty after about 30 seconds. This is where their behavior becomes unacceptable. They put the car in reverse and follow me back to my apartment continuously calling at me to get my attention. All the way to my door.
By the time I reach my building this encounter has been at least a full minute, closer to two. A full minute of me ignoring him, and there is no way I could have not heard him given the quiet street. So what in the hell makes him think it ok to stalk a woman back to her house when she is obviously not interested in his attention? Was I wearing a neon sign I couldn’t see that says “she really means yes”?? Does he not get that it is terrifying to a woman for so many reasons – that I cannot see his face, that I am completely alone, that I cannot tell if he is alone in the SUV or not? Who taught him that this was ok?
I know I should have just ignored him completely but as I got to the door and had it unlocked I turned around and yelled for him to leave me the hell alone. Even as I was unlocking my door he was still calling out constantly. What makes this even more despicable, is that in doing so, in blatantly stating my intentions I could have put myself more at risk. Women are told to ignore it, keep your head down, just get away. But men are not told DON’T. They are not told to stop catcalling to stop harassing as if it is the woman’s responsibility to control her actions but not the man’s. Generally speaking, a woman is told to get herself out of the situation but a man is not told to not create it. If you search for “most dangerous activities for women” the top articles tell women how to avoid the situations. And tell women to assume everyone has a dark motive till proven otherwise.
How is the acceptable? How can I not have the expectation that if I say no or don’t respond that my choice is respected? No means no. Silence means no. Anything besides yes means no. End of story. Living in suspicion of ever man you encounter is not fun, healthy, or good way to live. But it is the reality for a woman.
I shouldn’t have to say this part either but apparently I do, do not ever follow someone. Not a foot, not a yard, not anywhere if you have not expressly been invited. This is harassment at a minimum and can easily cross the line to stalking.
For the record, since I know someone will say “but what was she wearing”, this (plus tennis shoes) is what I wore.
This time I made it safely into my own apartment and instantly threw the locks, even though I live in a secured building. My heart was beating faster, my stomach was roiling, and I was hesitant to leave to get to my car. I was worried they might still be there when I walked back out. I opened my garage door remotely so I could dash to my car and threw the locks as soon as I was in it. Thankfully there was no sign of them as I was driving out of my neighborhood but the worry still lingered long after they were gone. For if they can escalate that far past the normal cat call, what makes you think they won’t do worse?
In closing, I would like to make it clear. I do not think this is all, or even most, men. This is a small subset who give all men a bad reputation and affect how women interact with men as a rule. I know many a man who understands and respects these principals and who teach them to their children. For these examples, I am grateful.
I cannot sign this post off with love, I am too mad for that.