So one week ago I went to a football game here in Calgary. It was the Stamps vs. the Argos and it was a great way to spend a Friday night. The game was a lot of fun, but something really pissed me off. I know what you’re thinking; some drunk guy high on testosterone did something totally stupid and inappropriate. Well, although that probably does happen, that’s not what this story is about. The game passed without incident and I actually had a really good time, but what’s important to this post is what happened after the football game.
I carpooled with a friend of mine who had a parking pass to one of the university lots, which was on the other side of campus where McMahon stadium is. After the game, we trekked through the U of C campus and made our way to her car. We were about 50 metres away when a silver Matrix came zooming by and what do I hear? “Owe, Owe!” Yes, the very definition of a catcall smacked me right in the face. What’s even more “exciting” is how the car turned the corner for round two: “I’m lookin’ at you baby!”
So what to do? I had half a second to pick my weapon of choice. Ignore the whole “wert whirl” incident and continue on my way as if nothing happened? Obviously shake my head to insinuate how immature the 5 boys were? Giggle and smile at them(as if!), or go over there and give them a piece of my feminist mind? Well I guess my subconscious didn’t want to do any of the above, so without any effort I raised my hand and extend my middle finger.
Now this isn’t to say that what I did was necessarily appropriate, but it felt damn good. Never had I taken the time or had the courage to do something like this. Had I been a couple of years younger, I would have rushed to the car and pretended that nothing happened. I would have been unhappy about the incident, but I would have passed it off as boy will be boys. Today, I have a different perspective. I understand the dynamics of homosocialism and the heavy burden that men must carry to prove their “masculinity.” So even though I understand the reason behind the actions, I will never support the manner in which they carry out their goals. I am not a walking sign that says, ‘Hey, I want to hear you shout all of your oppressive and objectifying crap!”
What I really want is to be seen as a person; a human being with feelings and thoughts. I am not a piece of meat that needs to be whistled at or laughed at.
Another aspect of these catcalls is how women interpret them. I’ve encountered some girls who don’t mind being whistled at, and maybe even think of them as compliments (of course this is a objectifying social structure, which will be addressed at another time.) On the other hand, when I was in the parking lot, I did not find the whistling complimentary. But a common discussion did arise between myself and my friend:
“Oh, that was totally directed at you.”
“Uh, no it wasn’t it was for you.”
We were confused as to what this random whistling meant to us. Was it good, bad, annoying… What I realized was that this conversation occurred because I knew on some level that I didn’t want this attention, and neither did my friend. We have grown up in a world where young women are expected to “appreciate” this kind of attention so why would we not want it? Well for one, it’s embarrassing and degrading. In other words, even when I didn’t understand the issue, I knew in my gut that these acts made me feel small and less of a person.
So where do we go from here? Do you just flip the bird every time someone harrasses you? Well that could certainly get some results, but it’s not going to make things better. It’s going to have to come down to parents and mentors teaching our younger members of society to see everyone as equals. To understand that just because you have a thought about someone doesn’t mean you can scream it out of a moving vehicle. But it’s also about educating our boys around surviving the male dynamic, so they can surpass the pressure of hypersexualism and understand how to see women as equals.
I don’t think the group of men in the car were horrible people; just a group of friends who have something to prove, when they really aren’t proving anything. (Except, of course, that they can act like a bunch of assholes).
So the next time this happens, which I know it will at some other point in my life, I know it’s not something that I have to take lightly. I also understand that I’ve learnt so much about myself and the world around me, due to all of this research and analysis. CCASA has taught me so much about these issues and where the seeds are planted in society. I know I can’t prevent these kinds of men from harassing me, but I know I can influence my friends. Every little bit counts and hopefully one day everyone will see each other as equals, and act like it too.