An Open Letter To Men Who Think Street Harassment Is Flattering

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Sexual Harassment: Dear Men, Catcalling Is Not Flattering—At All

I'm sure, by now, you've seen the video (below) of the woman who recorded herself walking the streets of New York City for 10 hours and enduring sexual harassment and catcalling. The video was meant to be the absolute proof that women, especially in a city where you pass hundreds, if not thousands of people a day, are constantly subjected to unwanted comments and, in some cases, advances. If you can watch the video and not be enraged, then there is something wrong with you, or better yet, then there’s something wrong with a society that makes you think it’s OK to harass a woman in such a way.

Since living in New York City I have received thousands of catcalls. The comments, just as they did in this video, range from, "Good morning," "God bless," "You're beautiful," "Smile, baby," and right on down to specifics about my body. I have never welcomed it. I have never enjoyed it, and I sure as hell have never, ever seen it as a compliment. It has always made me feel uncomfortable, self-conscious, and in some situations threatened. I've also yet to meet a woman who has ever said, "Oh, I totally love it when a guy says, 'Hey, mami! You're so beautiful.' It's exactly the reason I get out of bed every morning," and I doubt I ever will.

If the video of the street harassment doesn’t piss you off enough, one glance at the comments responding to the video will make your blood boil even more. The woman, who's dressed in black jeans and t-shirt, is condemned for her attire, saying that she "wants" the attention, and the forever ridiculous, "was asking for it." There were other commenters who questioned what's wrong with rape, concluding that women should be "happy" that a man wants to have sex with them, clearly not understanding there is a huge difference between rape and sex.

Seriously? Are we really living in a world where people actually believe that women enjoy this sort of thing, and rape is some sort of validation of how good looking and "lucky" we are that a man wants us? If you're a man and you honestly think this, then you shouldn't be allowed to share the world with the actual thinking people of our population.

Dear men:

First of all, women do not wake up every morning and choose what they will wear for you. We do not wear tight jeans for you, low-cut shirts for you, or even summer dresses for you. We wear what we want for ourselves without even the slightest concern as to what some random jackass on the street is going to think.

Secondly, you are not entitled because of your male privilege to comment on our bodies. You do not have any right, and no matter what delusion you may try to convince yourself of, you are not paying us a compliment. You are making us feel low. You are tearing us down. You are putting us on par with an object that doesn’t have feelings or emotions. You are degrading us.

Thirdly, "Good morning, beautiful," or anything similar IS harassment. I know, I know… it's confusing, because you think you're paying us a compliment, because, well, what woman wouldn't want to be told she's beautiful, right? Wrong. I know this is going to come off as breaking news for some, but a lot of women do not equate their self-worth with a man's input. We just don't. We also realize you're not saying it for us, but for you. You're not thinking about trying to make our day better, but how you can benefit from us, what you can get from us. This is power play on your part, even if you can't see it as such.

Lastly, has any man anywhere, in the history of the world ever gotten a date or a hookup from catcalling a woman? Like, ever? Has a woman ever chased down a car of men who just told her she had a great ass and asked for their numbers? No. Why? Because street harassment effing sucks.

The objectification of women in this society is a painful reality that will not go away. Even though this woman made this video to educate and bring awareness to the issue, what's going on the comment section is further proof that men just don't get it. For those guys, women were put here for them; women are their playthings, and objects that don't deserve respect. That is scary assessment, but it's also an accurate one.

I won't try to delude myself into thinking that street harassment is something that will be eradicated anytime soon. I won't even get into an argument with male commenters who are likely to provide their two cents on this piece and tell me I'm wrong, because I know that I am not. This is not an opinion; this is a fact, and you can't argue facts.