May 19, 2013

Cat Calls and Other 'Manly' Antics

I brought this one up the other day with a couple of the women I work with, after hearing one of the local radio stations discussing the idea on their morning program. They had done a poll of female listeners for their thoughts on “cat calls” and I was curious as to what others had to say about it.

Now, for those who are not familiar with the term, a cat call is best described as a verbal/aural comment from a man directed to a woman whom he does not know. The stereotype is the woman walking past a construction site and all the guys whistling and calling out to her.

One of the male hosts asked their female co-host if such things still even existed – other than at places where you would expect bad behavior by boys, such as night clubs. She confirmed that it is very much an issue between the sexes, but noted how times have changed in the content being offered. Apparently, it’s no longer just the traditional whistle. The language of appreciation has been replaced with some of the most foul and graphic sexual descriptions a woman can imagine.

So no wonder the concept rarely works.

My one coworker laughed and commented that she gets the occasional comment on her walk to work from her parking spot – having to pass through a local park that isn’t always filled with the most upstanding citizens. She said she usually just laughs them off and added, “At my age I should be happy they notice.”

Interesting perspective…

I would have expected the majority of female listeners would have said different and that they find cat calls as degrading and sometimes frightening – as sexual harassment on the street can be more than a bit intimidating. But the radio station’s poll turned out to be exceptionally close, with a surprising percentage of women saying they didn’t mind the occasional cat call as long as it wasn’t a sexually-graphic statement.

Personally, I tend to agree with that: as long as the man is not being overly aggressive or describing in graphic detail what he would like to do once he had my skirt lifted, I think there can be some harmless banter among the sexes. Lord knows, there are enough women now who behave far more outrageously towards a nicely put-together guy. And we seem to have legislated and policied ourselves so far away from friendly banter that many of us no longer know how to relate to the opposite sex.

But at the same time, I also feel there isn’t a lot of respect between people anymore. Women, as much as men, need to share the blame when it comes to the overt sexualization of our society. We haven’t exactly embraced our equality fairly. There remain a lot of double standards – which serve to create a lot of confusion (not to mention ridiculous HR policies).

 … Huge debate over a woman’s right to feel safe on the street and not be sexualized by men for her choice of clothing, etc. can now begin amongst you and your classmates …

I had to really think about the last time I actually received a cat call; that I recognized as such. Some days I guess I am just obvious to the commentary, if it is directed my way. Anyway, I was walking on the Vegas strip – with my husband. We were both dressed up because we had been a celebrity cocktail party and were headed back the couple blocks to our own resort. I was wearing a nice summer dress that exposed a lot of shoulder but not an outrageous amount of leg, and a pair of high heels that I could actually walk in.

I don’t even remember exactly what was said by the guy in the passing car, but I do remember smiling and then kind of laughing because I thought if he really knew the truth, it would be a disappointment. And, I guess since I was with my husband at the time, I didn’t feel exceptionally threatened. Add to that, the sexually-charged atmosphere that is Las Vegas – and the fact we were headed back to our own room with a specific purpose in mind.

Yeah, it was a cat call but it didn’t exactly spoil my evening. I didn’t take offense to the idea of even being noticed and quickly identified as cat call-worthy on a somewhat busy street. In a way, I was kind of flattered.

At work I think it is more common for the men around me to make comments they perhaps didn’t carefully proofread in their minds before they opened their mouths. I’m not certain I consider these cat calls, because these are men I see daily and know a fair bit about who they are, their personal lives, etc. But it would still be hard to classify some of the comments as appropriate compliments.

To be honest, if I put the effort into dressing up and trying to look my best, it is usually a very intentional decision and I fully expect that someone will make a comment. I can almost predict who it will be and what they will say. But, because I am secure with my situation, I chalk that up to them not thinking about how their words will be interpreted.

However, I am also a big believer in sharing a respectful compliment when the occasion occurs. As a woman who tends to think a bit more openly about her sexual desire and attractiveness, it’s important to me to know that I can turn some heads when I’m trying to do just that.

I enjoy a compliment because it is a bit of an ego-boost; I enjoy those not-so-subtle glances because catching you looking is also a bit on an ego boost. And it in the right context, I appreciate the comments and even the occasion need to remind you that my eyes are about 12 inches higher than where you are looking.

Frankly, if I’m in the right situation wearing something I fully intended to use as attention-grabbing fodder, then I'd love for a handsome stranger to make a slightly amusing and innuendo-directed comment. But we can’t always plan for the fantasy to be realistic.
Andee     xoxo 

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