I had made a plan with my friends to meet them for dinner, but I’d gotten off of work early and decided to head there to kill some time. I browsed for a while, and then picked out a face wash (I was running low at home), purchased it, and headed out into the parking lot to my car.
There was a family in front of me who was walking particularly slowly but I didn’t mind, because I still had a little bit of time before I had to go meet my friends at this restaurant. I walked patiently behind them, pacing myself, when I felt a hand on my arm.
Turning around, I was alarmed to see a large man in a Target vest and uniform, with one hand clamped on my spaghetti-strapped shoulder and holding on to a row of shopping carts with the other. He didn’t seem like he was going to let go, and I was too scared to move. The family in front of me was too busy helping their two kids cross the street to notice what was going on behind them.
The Target man with the hand on my shoulder smiled toothily at me. “Hi,” he said, giving my shoulder a squeeze. I jerked my arm away and started walking faster, accidentally knocking into one of the kids in the family in front of me. The mom gave me a dirty look.
“You’re beautiful,” the Target man called after me.
Sweaty and anxious, I hightailed it to my car and locked the doors.
Last summer on my way to my internship in the city, something similar happened to me. (I wrote about it here.) It’s not as if I haven’t experienced cat calling before, or experienced it in between last summer and now. I wrote about these two occurrences specifically because these men touched me without my permission, rather than just shouted or called out at me.
I’d like to reiterate what I wrote last time– there was no reason for that stranger to talk to me, let alone touch me. I never said it was okay, and nothing would have made it okay. Regardless of what I was wearing, regardless of my gender, that man did not have a right to touch me. Yet somehow he felt that he was allowed to do it.
I’d also like to reiterate that I was not flattered by his unwarranted advances. I was unnerved, because a stranger had disregarded my bodily integrity and touched me without my permission. I was terrified, because I should be able to go shopping at Target without fear of being harassed by someone. I was embarrassed, because it had happened to me and I had let it happen and not said anything. I was not happy that he had complimented me, I was not pleased because he’d picked me to talk to or touch. I was not annoyed because someone had interrupted me while I was walking to my car. I was scared.
Another instance– yesterday, when I was walking to my car with my sister in the condominium complex where we live, two older men were outside in the parking lot working on their car. One of the guys gave me and my sister the up-down, clearly not seeing us for anything other than what we looked like and making us extremely uncomfortable, and shouted at us, “Hey, how you doin’?” The other one smirked at us.
First of all, this happened where I live, my home, where I am supposed to feel safe. At that moment, I did not feel safe. Second of all, my sister is seventeen years old. She is a minor. And the fact that these men catcalled at her terrifies me.
Women are susceptible to things like this happening every day. Men who catcall and harass women see it as a compliment, as something that women aren’t bothered by. They see women as sexual objects, not as real people with feelings, and that’s the problem. They don’t respect personal space, they don’t respect women, and they definitely don’t respect themselves enough to see that they’re doing something wrong.
I write this post as a repetitive plea– catcalling is not okay. Invading someone’s personal space without permission is not okay.