I was running like I had never run before. The wind was blowing through my hair, adding wings that made me feel extra aerodynamic. I had taken my earbuds out because I wanted to really hear the sound of the cars guzzling gas while I pounded the pavement. I was wearing capri spandex and a tank top. I don’t feel like I have to defend what I was wearing, but it was a hot day, and I wanted to feel comfortable.
It had often happened to me at home, where crime is more frequent and my guard is always up. But I didn’t expect it to happen at Georgetown.
From behind I heard a car slow down. And then they were next to me—some yelling, maybe some clapping. Then came laughter, and finally the sound of the car driving away.
I was being catcalled.
Even as the car began to slow down, I knew exactly what was happening. And how couldn’t I? From the countless times it has happened, even as I traveled in groups, I always knew when it was coming, but that never takes the edge off.
I have met countless people who have been confused when I express anger over being catcalled, some jokingly, and some—mostly men—defensively. “Why don’t you run in the gym if you don’t want people looking at you?” Worse yet, one friend said, “You would be angry if no one said something to you.”
For the last two years at Georgetown, the catcalls have been sporadic. It happened once or twice freshman year, maybe a few more times sophomore year. But it has happened at an increased rate this year—and not just to me. My friends and I now actively avoid certain areas during certain times of the day.
It is unpleasant but necessary to point out that women are always in danger by the mere virtue of being.
Many won’t agree with me—“what’s dangerous about someone trying to be nice to you?,” or, “What does it matter if all they do is yell?” are common refrains to my complaints.
Though maybe words may seem like nothing more than sounds in the air, the anxiety and self-consciousness that they produce is not something that women should have to put up with.
There’s very little fun in being outside and feeling like an object that people can manipulate at their leisure. I don’t go out so that others can ogle and scream at me. More importantly, I’m not going to talk to—much less sleep with—a guy who hits on me from the side of the street.
As someone who has never taken part in catcalling, I still don’t understand what makes it so amusing. It’s one thing to be confident and politely approach a woman during a social situation and let her know that you find her attractive. It’s quite another to see her alone on the street, corner her, and tell how much you would like to “tap that ass.”
Recently, fellow students have expressed concerns regarding the construction contractors on campus, who have been making unwelcome comments or staring at their bodies, giving them a lascivious once-over.
There are a lot of non-community members present on Georgetown’s campus recently because of all of the construction. The university needs to be more proactive about holding these people up to the same standards to which we hold the rest of the community. Why should women have to feel like they must take different routes around campus because of the construction more than they must already just so that they can have the peace and quiet of simply not being catcalled?
My hometown, and probably just about every city, also needs to think about how it handles this form of microaggression. I can think of exactly zero women—or men—who have expressed to me their desire to be yelled at on the street while they go about their day.
About a month ago, Playboy released a catcalling flow chart. And interestingly enough, it was great. So great, in fact, I would like to echo their sentiments here: only catcall her if she a) is literally a cat, or b) has given you explicit permission to do so. Even Playboy has recognized that women in public aren’t sexually available just because they’re walking outside. Not everyone is a centerfold.
I don’t really run anymore, and I think there is a bit more to it than mere laziness. I sometimes go with a friend, but any time I am alone I cannot help but feel self-conscious and paranoid, like I’m being watched. Though there aren’t always people ready to make unnecessary comments, there is something unnerving about knowing that they can come at anytime, in any place.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like this is going to be changing anytime soon.