Today’s topic may be more appropriate for my friend, Charles, who runs a feminist blog and website. I’ve seen this subject covered on women’s pages before, but between my incident yesterday and a discussion with Erin last night, I wanted to add my insight.
My commute home on the D.C. beltway generally takes around 40 minutes if I leave after 3:30. I left at 4 p.m. yesterday and moved at a fairly constant pace towards Rockville, mentally creating stories for the people in the cars around me and letting my brain relax. It’s hard for my brain to relax, and since driving requires a lot of concentration (if you’re doing it right), I find driving to be an unexpectedly relaxing part of my day.
Somewhere near the American Legion bridge, I noticed a trucker in the vehicle next to me yelling out his window. Since I was not weaving in and out of traffic–where do those people think they’re going to get in rush hour?–I assumed his noises were directed elsewhere. Over the next 15 minutes, however, I watched as he hurried to pull up in front of me in the lane adjacent to mine, leaning out the window and making suggestive faces at me.
The dreaded catcall.
I’ll say up front that it gives me a momentary ego boost, but that fleeting moment turns quickly into self-consciousness. Am I showing too much cleavage? Is my skirt unknowingly hiked up? Thankfully, the catcalls usually come from a car passing by while I’m outside walking, and I know I won’t see that person again.
Catcalling is something I think many men have a hard time understanding. It’s just a compliment, right?
In college I went for runs around the Mary Washington neighborhoods. I brought my cell phone and keys with pepper spray. It was usually the middle of the day. At some point during one particular run, a truck full of young guys catcalled me, and it 1) messed up my running flow and 2) made my hand instinctively go to the pepper spray.
I got back to the dorm and told my then-boyfriend that a group of guys yelled at me from their truck. Chris replied: “Were you running in the middle of the road?”
Catcalling did not occur to him as a possibility. Why would it? He doesn’t think about running with pepper spray, and, in fact, he initially made fun of me for it.
Yesterday I was stuck next to this guy for a decent part of my commute, unable to escape his leering. It made me really uncomfortable. This is not ok. Unless someone cuts me off in traffic (then God help you), I don’t interfere with other cubicle dwellers’ commutes, and I’d like the same courtesy extended to me.
I mentioned this incident to Erin at dinner last night and brought up the discomfort that came with being unable to “escape” this particular guy. She recalled an incident from this past weekend in which she was stopped by a man sitting outside at a local cafe to compliment her look. This was fine in and of itself, and I certainly welcome strangers to tell me they like my outfit–male or female. But the stranger continued, “Where are you going? Where do you work? Do you live around here–is this your neighborhood?”
Before I get hounded by Redditors, let me say that Rules #1 and #2 do not apply here. For those of you unfamiliar:
Rule #1: Be attractive.
Rule #2: Don’t be unattractive.
Erin and I both agreed that even if these men had looked like [insert attractive male here], the way they went about hitting on us was creepy. Period.
I get it–how am I supposed to meet women then? For starters I’m sporting a shiny diamond ring to let you know I’m off-the-table. If I were in a polyamorous relationship I’d make that known in some other way, but since I’m flashing my ring at you it means leave me alone unless you legitimately just want to chat.
Well what about Erin? She’s single as far as we can tell. If you see someone on the street purposefully walking somewhere, they probably have somewhere to be. If you see someone in their car on the Beltway, wtf, they definitely have somewhere to be. Erin commented that if the same interaction had occurred while waiting in line somewhere or in a restaurant, it would have been an acceptable conversation. I agree.
Bottom line: just because you find me attractive does not mean I have to stop my day to make yours.