So, I had an interesting experience yesterday. It was 5 o'clock, I was leaving work, dressed in a fairly plain top and skirt, and on the way to my car I received unsolicited comments from 2 different guys. One was kind of polite, if creepy, saying, "You look very, very nice today..." The other was your more traditional, skeevy "Hey baby" shouted out of a car window. Classy.
Here's my question. What's up with this? How do you feel about it? I always feel super weird-ed out and awkward when this happens. Part of me feels complimented - at least they're not pointing out the two-day old shave job on my legs or any of the other characteristics I'm less than pleased with. But at the same time, I don't really feel that my body or appearance should be a subject of public examination -and discussion- for perfect strangers, especially not strangers yelling out of moving vehicles.
I know that part of this experience is cultural. I work at an urban school and the men who make these types of comments tend to come from a certain demographic. I know friends who've spent time in Latin American or Spanish areas experienced EXTREME cat-calling on a daily basis. Perhaps women from these cultures find this behavior acceptable - or maybe they don't? In most of the places I've traveled, particularly in Asia, men will stare intently, but no one made comments (that I could understand, anyways) or tried to touch me, thankfully.
But whether you're here or abroad - what do comments like these mean, how do they make women feel, and what can we do about it? The worst thing is that I think in a lot of ways cat-calling behavior can make women feel unsafe. Whether suspicion is warranted or not, things we've heard in the news or past experiences make us wary of men commenting about our bodies because we assume the attention is sexual (which, basically, it is).
Having that go on at our place of work can be more disconcerting because we try, as women, to not have our sexuality affect or even be involved in or work. We try not to be too "sexy" - heck, aren't we just dressing up as men when we put on a suit? Because if we don't, we fear our femininity will detract from the work that we do. It's sad, really, because having to repress our femininity in order to be respected at work is just as bad as having to hide any other facet of our personalities.
So, I leave work, where I already have to ascribe to a certain standard of asexuality, only to be confronted by the inescapable truth that my sexuality makes me a target for uncomfortable comments about my appearance. Sometimes it feels like you just can't win.
Tell me ladies, what do you do in situations like these? And men, what's your take? Is there any way to stop it, short of dressing in a paper bag?
Oh, by the way, your boobs look super hot in that shirt.