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CatCalling: When The Street Holla Turns Into Sexual Harassment

Toya Sharee examines if street harassment is just another exaggerated movement or a form of disrespect that's been tolerated for too long.

Dating

When I was thirteen and swore I was grown, my friends and I would put on our press-on nails and steal whatever lipstick we thought we could make work from our mothers' purses. This was the 90's, a time before Youtube make-up tutorials. We got our make-up tips from YM magazine and wondered why the olive eyeshadow they suggested for “brown girls" never looked quite right. We did all this to take the long way to the corner store with the hopes that some boy would ride by on his bike and try to “talk to us". Because back then a “Yo, shawty. You look good as hell," wasn't street harassment, it was a damn good day.


Where do you draw the line between a “street holla" and harassment?

I must admit, I haven't had any man yell at me from a block away in a long time. What I have noticed however is a difference in their standards. I had more men come on to me while I was 8 months pregnant waddling to work then I ever had when I was fresh to death for happy hour in my skinny jeans. Not to mention I was rocking an engagement ring as well. But men would make U-turns in the middle of traffic just to say, “Take my number if your husband starts acting up."

Wait…what? Would you want a man approaching your wife with a get-out- of marriage-free card if she ever started having problems with her husband?

Street harassment is officially defined as a form of sexual harassment that consists of unwanted comments, wolf-whistles, "catcalling", and other actions by strangers in public areas. I'm not necessarily down with movement for men to completely stop approaching women they're attracted to; I appreciate direction communication over a direct message any day. But I am down for stopping disrespect and men have to understand the anxiety that single women, in the city especially, go through daily. If you're making sexual comments about my anatomy, insulting me because I turned you down or believe it's acceptable to embarrass me by being loud and obnoxious, you're harassing me and it's not flattery. In 2014, Stop Street Harassment commissioned a 2,000-person national survey in the USA with surveying firm GfK. The survey found that 65% of all women had experienced street harassment. Among all women, 23% had been sexually touched, 20% had been followed, and 9% had been forced to do something sexual.

Fellas, if you're trying to get a woman's attention, here are some simple guidelines:

If I'm with a young child or family members, please be considerate of what you say and how you say it. If you can't approach me with courtesy, don't approach me at all.

If you're following me in a car and I'm walking by myself I think you want to stick me up, not take me out.

If I'm married I'm not looking for friends or adding your number to speed dial the minute I get mad at my husband.

If I'm pregnant I have bigger concerns on my plate, then giving you a call, but you CAN hold the door or that elevator for me.

No I don't want a ride. You're a complete stranger and possibly a serial killer.

If I say no, I mean no. And no need to say, “I was wack anyway." Or get in your expletive bag. Take your L like a man.

If you wouldn't want someone to say it to your mama, mother of your kids, girlfriend, grandma or any woman you respect and care for, don't say it to me.

The goal of “getting talked to" as a teen is now an inconvenience for adult women like myself who find themselves taking the long way home just to avoid areas where they're walking through a literal rude comments section. Whether you believe street harassment is the real deal or you think it's another exaggerated movement consider this: No woman should feel like harassment is a daily part of her routine.

I asked a few ladies what were their worst experiences with street harassment and here's what they said:

“The other day, I was walking from my building to my leasing office and this man sitting in his car, windows down, said something. I looked his way and he said, 'Aye I like your walk'. I say, 'Thank you.' I smiled as I inherently do and kept walking. He proceeds to creep alongside me with his vehicle, 'Aye what's your name?' I say, 'No thank you' and keep walking and try to walk in over a hill where he can't drive. I can still hear his voice, 'I'm not going to stop until you let me take you out.' This n-word probably thought that was cute as hell, but it was scary and creepy, Like why does no make some people think try harder?" -S.G.

______________________

“I just went out for my coffee & I usually speak back & say hello to men who say g'morning or hello. But this one dude goes YO. Ninja, get the phuck. I keep moving. He SCREAMS YOOOOOO! Now you REALLY don't get a hello b/c you were MAD IGNORANT." - E.H.

______________________

“I'm walking to the bodega to get some snacks. The cat calls begin.

Dude: wassup sexy ass my little pony. I like your hair. What you doing tonight?

..... shoot me to the moon." -S.M. (a Facebook friend with the most gorgeous ombre lilac hair I've ever seen.)

______________________

“I had a guy follow me in his car while I was walking on 5th street and once he realized I was ignoring him, he shouted his number at me and sped off. He didn't follow for long but it scared the s**t out of me. I don't walk on 5th street anymore. Those guys are truly thirsty." -D.Y.

_______________________

“I was walking my mom to bus stop one night and this guy proceeds to run from the playground and approach us like, 'Hey, sexy ass Grandma,' and waits with us at the bus stop. It was funny and rude at the same time. I mean my 8-year-old son was there and sometimes you just want to have a moment with your family, not feel like it's $2 Tuesday at the club every time you walk outside your door." -L.W.

What was your craziest experience involving street harassment?

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