I can’t remember my first catcalling experience, but I definitely remember the first time I was groped. I was 17 years old, and a few friends and I were at an underage dance club. We were celebrating my friend’s birthday, and having a great time. The club was packed, the music was on-point, and I felt hot. We spent about three hours getting ready and I was wearing my tight gray pants — pants that made my butt look good.
Due to being overweight throughout much of my youth, I had never really felt hot before. During the last two years of high school, however, I worked hard and ended up losing about 70 pounds. My tight gray pants were my way of showing off all my hard work. I liked the way my butt looked in those pants, and apparently someone else did too: While walking to the bathroom, I felt a hand grab and squeeze my right cheek. But when I looked behind me to see whose hand was clutching my butt, no one could be found.
I felt a rush of emotions in that moment. I felt shocked and violated — and somewhat impressed by the groper’s sneakiness. But mostly, if I'm being brutally honest, I felt flattered.
Whenever I hear a woman say she likes being catcalled, I think of that moment. Because as someone who truly hates street harassment, it’s hard for me to not judge her or think she's out of their mind. But when I stop myself and remember this experience from my own life, I’m better able to recall three reasons why I’m in no place to judge— and you probably aren't either.
1. I Used To Be One Of Them
If I felt flattered by a stranger squeezing my butt, you can only imagine how being catcalled used to make me feel. I pretty much loved male attention in any form, mainly because I never really received any as a young woman.
Though I’m fairly modest these days and am a strong advocate against street harassment, this is a complete shift from who I used to be as a young twenty-something. In my early-to-mid twenties I probably would’ve laughed at the idea of Hollaback! or Cards Against Harassment. It wasn’t until I was 26 and was sexually assaulted in a dark McDonald’s parking that I began to understand the darkest side of what street harassment can lead to.
That said, I don’t judge women who enjoy being catcalled because I know what it’s like to enjoy being catcalled. My reasoning stemmed from low self-worth, and being judged by other women for this certainly wouldn’t have helped me in my pursuit of self-love. That’s not to say that a lack of self-worth is always the reason why some women like being catcalled, of course. But because of my own history I can relate — and I refuse to be a hypocrite.
2. Judgement Of Women Only Takes The Focus Off The Harassers
I believe that judging a woman because she likes being catcalled is akin to victim-blaming. Instead of focusing on the perpetrators and the culture that creates them, it's choosing to shame some women for "encouraging" such behavior. That seems like a waste of time to me. Because the real issue isn’t that some women enjoy being catcalled, it’s that we live in a society that views catcalling as acceptable behavior. You can’t cure a disease by focusing solely on its symptoms.
People who are oppressed participate in their own oppression all the time. It sucks, but it’s often because they’ve been taught to do so since birth or they have few other options. At any rate, shame usually does very little to help. Besides, misogynists thrive off of pitting women against each other so that we’re no longer focusing on them, but on each other. Respectful discourse is certainly important, but we can’t let ourselves to be distracted by it.
3. I'm Here For Solidarity
Listen ladies: Unless you’re spewing homophobic, transphobic, or racist hate speech, I’m on your team. I don’t care if you choose to not shave your armpits, if you want to be a stay-at-home mother for the rest of your life, if you work in a brothel, or if you spend all your free time at church. It doesn’t matter to me if you’re a billionaire like Sheryl Sandberg or struggling to feed your kids. I may not agree with all your life choices, but I’m certainly on your side. Why? Because my feminism means I believe you deserve the right to make your own life choices.
I’m committed to taking on the white supremacist patriarchy for the betterment of all humankind. (I’m even fighting for women like Taylor Swift, despite the fact that her brand of white feminism gets on my last nerve.) I’m here for them, I’m here for us, and I’m here for you — regardless of whether or not we share similar views on every single issue. So although I still have a ways to go in not judging others, I’m most definitely working on it.
Can you imagine what the world would look like if we all worked on judging others less? I'm guessing it would look like a world with a whole lot less catcalling.
Images: Getty, Giphy (3)