A couple of weeks ago, Humphrey posted an piece saying how much she disliked it when she was cat-called on the street. See Don’t Call Me Baby, from Wednesday 5th October. This piece is in response to that one.
Spot the idiot.
Do you know what? This might come as a surprise, but I actually love being wolf-whistled at. I’m a young woman who identifies strongly and unabashedly as a feminist, and an independent-minded one at that, but I just love it. I mean, okay, if it happened every day, I’m sure it would just get boring/piss me off/I’d resent it/take it for granted/whatever. Which is all to say that it doesn’t happen every day. BUT. When it does, do you know what? I feel invigorated, enlivened and empowered.
Now, I know that that last sentence makes it seem that I like the ol’ wolf-whistle in that “I need male attention and reassurance (preferably centered around my sexual attractiveness to men) to feel successful in life” kind of way, but I assure you, it’s not. The cat-call to me means much more than that. It’s not that it makes me feel okay with myself ’cause guys find me attractive (“momma, you can stop prayin’ ’cause your little girl’s gonna make somethin’ of herself after all – Johnnie just proposed!”). It’s that, when a guy wolf-whistles at me, I know I’ve cracked him.
Let me try to explain. Here’s a fairly typical cat-call situation. A woman is innocently walking down the street, minding her own business, not thinking about guys/mating/whatever, and a dude watching her from the footpath sees her pass, finds her sexually attractive and makes an animal noise to demonstrate this. Classy and sophisticated.
Broadly, two things can come of it:
1) The woman is taken aback and immediately starts to think, “ergh, this guy is a total douche and I’d never go for him”. THEN she also thinks, soon afterwards, “oh no, but omg, he’s making me look like an idiot, too – everyone else around is going to check me out now. I’m such an object, guys only see me as a piece of ass, what do I do?” Now, I’m just guessing that this goes through a lot of women’s minds ’cause it used to go through mine, but obviously, comment on this piece if you think differently. Anyway, in this scenario, the focus is, crucially, on the woman in the situation, and she’s seen to be put into a worse position. Denigrated. Belittled. Objectified.
Now the alternative (which is also the way I’ve started to think, of late):
2) The woman is surprised and thinks the dude is a douche, but also thinks, “wow, this guy is SUCH a douche that he’s willing to show his douchyness to the rest of the world by making an animal noise at me in front of them. Everyone around us thinks he’s a douche, too. ‘Cause he is one. But they didn’t know that until two seconds ago when he made that sound. And guess what? I did that. Because of me, this dude made everyone around him think he’s a total knob. I just (indirectly) put him into a worse position, and me into a better one, and I didn’t even have to do anything. Hello female dominance!”
Today’s world is male dominated. Still. It is. Sure, women are out of the kitchen and in the voting booths, they’re having kids but still being politicians and doctors and pilots, they can do more than just mop and have more powerful positions in marriages and relationships the world than ever before, but the situation is still far from perfect. Further, worryingly, through some kind of backwards, missing-the-point misconstruction of the situation, society, from being (broadly) supportive of the feminist struggle a few decades ago, has started blocking the validity of feminism and suspending the progress of feminists and their goals in this 21st century. I guess that the second wave feminism of the 1970s, with radical feminists at its helm, had such a strong image in the media and popular culture that people simply got scared, got suspicious, and started questioning whether it should exist at all. Basically, the smell of “burning bras” got under too many people’s noses and as a result, feminism and women today have just not progressed as far as they could have in the past few decades. (I still love those radical femz, though. Total trailblazers.)
So what do we have today? Women in a weaker position than they should be. If feminism had run its course, if it had achieved its goal of gender equality, today there’d either be no cat-calls at all, or women would be wolf-whistling at men just as much as men do at women. And yet there’s no equilibrium even there, and that’s just looking at wolf-whistles.
So what can we do? As a woman, a feminist, a promoter of women in any capacity necessary (even to the detriment, if necessary, of men), I choose to flip the wolf-whistle situation on its head. I rarely if ever find my wolf-whistler sexually attractive. I usually see him as a downright knob and relegate him to the idiot drawer in my filing cabinet of men. But vitally, I choose to see his act, his wolf-whistling, not as an act of belittlement and ridicule for me, but rather as a whistler-destructive, whistlee-empowering example of the uncontrollable male libido. I thank goodness that I’m a woman in this day and age, endowed with self-control and intellect and the ability to make men do things they could end up regretting later. Kind of like an awesome Cruciatus curse. Now obviously, having control in this situation doesn’t even out the gender situation, not even one iota. Not even close. But when a cat-call happens, I enjoy it, and choose to ignore for the moment the fact that wherever that footpath is taking me afterwards is a place of male dominated bullshit… Call it a moment of paradise. (Yup, I went there.)
- Barry Blanc