I’m a self proclaimed catcall vigilante. I walk the streets at night and take public transit and have no fear of whom I may encounter. I don’t carry mace. Though, I’d love to learn how to wield a samurai sword- or maybe archery too! I’m of the opinion that to survive as a woman in the public world, one simply ought to be crazier then the crazies you may encounter. When I’m approached, with a jest or blown kiss, instead of hiding my head down, and pretending not to notice, I respond. And sometimes with ferocity.
But I wasn’t always this way. Like all great superhero’s, I too have an origin story.
I was walking my dog one hot summer afternoon, in the congested metropolis of an LA neighborhood. I was in my own world, enjoying my own thoughts, with my pup searching for a grassy knoll. Minding my own damn business. And then a shitty red utility vehicle pulls up to my curb, with four men sitting inside staring at me. I kept my head down, as years of training has taught me to do, when encountering these situations. CARRY MACE! HOLD YOUR KEYS OUT! PRETEND TO BE ON THE PHONE! IGNORE IT. Ignore it. Ignore it.
They slow down, undress me with their eyes. I feel their presence and it’s unescapable. I feel gross, thinking I’m somehow dressed too sexy, as if I’m asking for this attention, even though I’m just in a T-shirt and flip flops. They say things - to me, and to themselves. THEY CATCALL ME.
And then I snap- this complicated twist of raw emotion- both of shame and anger consume my minds eye, and all I can think is - "What would Catwoman do?”
They zoom off and around the corner, but get stuck in the bumper to bumper traffic. "I bet Catwoman would fuck them up” I think to myself.
So I chase after them, with my dog doddling behind on her leash. I meet them at their window and stare at them, as they did to me. I ask “HEY! DID YOU HAVE SOMETHING TO SAY TO ME?!”. They stare back at me perplexed. I’m loving it. “WHAT?! WHAT DID YOU WANT TO TELL ME? I”M HERE! SAY SOMETHING!”. I smack their window with my hand, and wait for the response. My heart bursting out of my chest. This is delicious. This is power. This is what it feels like to not be afraid of being a woman walking her damn dog, in her own damn neighborhood.
The second they can, they zoom out of traffic.
I know that this is a radical story. I know your thinking this is stupid and potentially dangerous. I get it- they might hurt wittle tiny whiny me. I know I’m not preaching to the choir here. Most woman I know are catcalled regularly during the week, sometimes daily. It’s been accepted as part of the norm in what we as a society say is harmless, typical, and annoying. But it’s more then that, isnt it? The mace, the school campuses, the buddy system… It’s a psychological burden that keeps me from experiencing freedom in public spaces.
And in this moment, I realized that maybe they do what they do, and say what they say, because no one has ever said anything to them before. That possibly, by breaking the behavior of acceptance and solitude. Maybe, just maybe - they will think about that crazy girl who nearly broke their window. Maybe they’ll think twice, because someone may stand up to them.
And Maybe it’s our responsibility to own the streets, because they were always ours to have.
So now, I'm some weird mashup of a Catwoman and Amy Schumer love child. I confront catcallers in different ways depending. Sometimes I stop and have a conversation and genuinly tell them “Hey man, that aint cool. Not my jam. Do you have any idea how annoying it is for strangers to bug you everyday? blah blah blah.” Sometime’s I offer mommy-like tough love with “I know your a nice guy and want a healthy relationship, but this isn’t the way to start." I love it! I get off on walking around as I see fit. In the words of Walter White “I’m not in danger. I am the danger.” Catwoman would agree.
Try it sometime! I have had wild and very interesting conversations with men. I have learned this - they are as scared of us, as we are of them, and our silence is taken as a license to continue catcalling and harassing women on streets. It’s ignorance, not boogeymen, who are out there, and all it takes is a conversation, or smacking a window.