You are walking a few minutes from your home with your friend. The silence turns into heavy stomps and deep laughter behind you. Your friend reaches for your hair, pulling it out of its ponytail, and tucks it into your cardigan.
“Stop being so bait,” she says, confidently striding down the street as you feel your palms become moist. You can tell that she’s nervous too- she tucks her key between her left middle and index fingers, her right hand firmly on your forearm as the laughter turns to howls.
“What?” you hear the voices say. “You shy? Come on sexy, keep shaking that ass!”
More laughter. You aren’t finding this very funny at all. You want to bolt, but you know that will only feed them. Your strides do not reflect the fear in your eyes that you refuse to move from a point straight ahead of you.
Minutes pass, but it feels like hours. The voices fade. Your heartbeat slows. You don’t know if they were a real threat, but you couldn’t be more relieved that they didn’t do anything to you. You are safe.
My catcalling experiences have been particularly petrifying. Maybe it’s because I’m not very bright and follow my wild best friend wherever she decides to take me at crazy times at night, maybe I’ve just ended up at the wrong place at the wrong time a bit too often. Maybe I’m more sensitive to the world around me, maybe I wear the wrong clothes in the wrong side of town.
These are all reasons for male behaviour I’ve heard when I describe my street harassment stories. With an overwhelming boys-will-be-boys attitude, I’ve heard every excuse possible for the cheers, the comments, the suggestive gestures, and applause (not my own story, but a strange one) that my friends and I have experienced over the years. My clothes are too revealing, I’m told, how could I not expect it? My friend’s legs are long and gorgeous, she should take it as a compliment.
Men, feminists are your biggest supporters. We believe in your intelligence and your humanity. Feminists know that you can do better than street harassment. We know that you are not wild beasts set on hunt- you can see a woman wearing revealing clothes and not attack. We know that you can tell the difference between a “You’re gorgeous” and a “Hey sexy, suck my dick!” This behaviour is completely learned, and you have the power to end it. You have the power in your hands to choose not to objectify women, and to call out your friends if they do. Change can very well start with you.
Men, we believe in you and your ability to be decent human beings. You are our brothers, our fathers, our teachers, our friends. No more “boys will be boys.” It is time to destroy street harassment, and I invite you to lead the way.