*Whistles* Umph, Girl, You Fill Out Those Jeans

Apparently New York City lawmakers are pondering ways to reduce street harassment, better known as catcalling.

I was happy to read this news, but I’m not optimistic anything on the books will actually reduce catcalling. For example, if we make it a crime, it will be impossible to enforce. *Dials 311* “Um, hello, yeah, some guy just told me he wanted to suck my toes. Then he followed me for two blocks. No, I don’t know where he is now. Yeah, that’s all he did. But…but….OK, good-bye.”

Yeah, not gonna work.

(Ironically, “Beast of Burden just popped up on Pandora….)

The solution, as with so many things, is to raise boys to be men, not imbeciles.

That’s not going to change any time soon, though, sadly. Of all the shitty parenting that goes on in New York City, teaching boys about catcalling falls pretty low on the priority list. Which is too bad, as I’m sure there’s a positive correlation between men who catcall and men who abuse their children.

And if you think catcalling is only something you see on TV portrayals about New York City — usually a construction crew whistling at a scantily dressed woman — the reality is that it’s rampant, especially in Upper Manhattan neighborhoods like Harlem, Hamilton Heights and Washington Heights (though yes, it can happen anywhere).

I lived in Harlem for four years, and was harassed every day. I watched other women get harassed every day. The best short-term solution was to put on headphones and pretend we didn’t hear it. It didn’t matter what you looked like or what your wore or what you did: You were female, so you were subject to harassment, simple as that. The only time I didn’t get catcalled was when I was walking with Brendan.

Moving to Astoria in 2006 was like the clouds parting, the flowers blooming, the music starting: In this incredibly diverse, family oriented neighborhood, street harassment just doesn’t happen like it does in Manhattan. I don’t fully understand why, except that people here seem to have more respect for mothers, and women in general.

I was able to move away, but I’ll never forget what I endured. Every day I would think “is this the day that my brushing off of some guy’s idiotic wolf-whistle becomes the day I get beaten up or worse?”

It’s no way to live. If the City Council can find a way to help women who endure harassment and worse, day in and day out, well, they’ve got my vote.

4 thoughts on “*Whistles* Umph, Girl, You Fill Out Those Jeans

  1. The Eclectic Tripewriter says:

    I totally agree. And yet. And yet. My one visit to New York was after the end of a 21-year marriage, and it was my present to myself. Every moment in NYC was joyous, including one when I walked past two men and one of them said as I walked by, “Hmm-mmm!”

    Two years earlier, this would have put my hackles up and I would have been insulted, but emerging from a difficult divorce, not to mention a 21-year relationship during which I’d only been aware of being attractive to one man alone, it actually meant a lot. It was part of getting my mojo back.

    On a daily basis, the catcalling would be unbearable harassment, but even if in this one instance I was being objectified, I loved it. Probably because that “Hmm-mmm!” was an outward expression of how I was beginning to feel about myself.

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