Remember back in the day, back when I had never been cat-called? Ah, simpler times.
It’s been about a year since then, and now I’ve stopped keeping count. From the simple, “Hey there, beautiful” to the more complex “pulls-car-over-to-the-side-of-the-road-to-yell-that-he-‘wants-to-get-to-know-me'” there is an infinite variety to the cat-call. A subtle nuance to the ways in which I am reminded that my existence is not mine, that my body is not mine, that I am always and forever under threat.
If you’re a woman, you probably know what I’m talking about. If you’re male, you might think I am overreacting.
As a way to think about this, and all forms of microaggression, I have decided to buy an air-horn and blow it every time someone cat calls me.
Because that is what it’s like.
The first time someone air-horned you in the face, you could probably laugh it off, tell the story to your friends, let it go as just another ridiculous part of living in the city.
The second time, you might be slightly annoyed.
The third, fourth, fifth, sixth, and seventh times you’d probably start looking for ways to avoid this intrusion. Maybe you notice you get more air-horn blasts when you’re wearing certain things, or that more people with air-horns hang around certain corners. So maybe you change your behavior, but you still get honked at no matter what you do. You get honked at for smiling, you get honked at for not smiling. You get honked at when you say nothing, you get honked at when you try to tell them why their honking is unwanted. There is nothing you can do to make the honking go away.
Because the honking is not your doing. It is the system that gave these people the air-horns in the first place. It is the system that decided some people would have air-horns and some people would not. It is the people who have the air-horns who are choosing to use them.
And it doesn’t matter if they think the air-horn is a way of greeting, or a compliment, in the end, it is still an obnoxious and unwanted noise interrupting my otherwise pleasant day.
And perhaps if it were only ever air-horn blasts, we could let it go. But often these air-horns are simply the beginning. When people say things like “smile, beautiful”, I wonder what will happen when I don’t. Will I be hit by a car? Assaulted in broad daylight? Followed home? Or worse?
I’m tired of trying and failing to keep myself safe by toeing the line. I’m tired of the anger that’s made its home in my chest. I’m tired of the weight of silence, that oppressive voice telling me to smile, smile, smile.
So, I plan on purchasing an air-horn of my own. And honking back.