CANTA issue #7, 2017
Growing up in Wellington I often found myself grateful for what an awesome place it was I lived in. Close to the train station, close to school, I had a steady job and was balancing everything nicely. It wasn’t until I was 15 years old when I was first cat called on my way home from work.
everything in his power to get me to acknowledge him.
I walked quickly feeling so confused, why on earth was he trying so hard to get my attention?
Can he not see how young I am?
I asked myself these questions by continuing to walk faster and faster, almost at a jogging speed. It was now when he stopped the car and screamed out to me. I finally turned my head, faced the man who so desperately wanted my attention, only to see him laughing. At me? Why was he laughing? What was so funny about the situation? I felt confused, angry, uncomfortable. I felt stripped of something that was there before.
I decided it was up to me to stick up for myself, as I screamed back at him with all the stress and anger in my soul that had boiled up until that last minute. “I’m only fifteen, you sick fuck!” I screamed. I have never once yelled at someone at that same level I did that day, and what amazed me was the response it gained from everyone around me. The two women in front of me turned around and looked at me uncomfortably, as if I was in the wrong.
though, so that was out. Maybe less time I could try look worse? Not straighten my hair perhaps? Put less effort in? I asked myself these questions as a 15-year- old girl who was so unbelievably clueless. It wasn’t until I spoke to my older sister about what the man had said, where she explained to me the concept of cat calling.
My sister was always an absolute stunner growing up. She was tall, with long brown hair and hazel eyes. She knew the life of being cat called, and knew exactly how to handle it.
“All they want is a reaction” she said to me. I was puzzled, well what’s the point in that? What do they get knowing you’ve been agitated? She explained, that there is something so empowering to a cat caller in knowing that you have been humiliated and left out on the road alone to contemplate how you were the problem, not them.
No sane human thinks yelling out to you from a car will cause you to chase down the car and instantly want that person in your bed ASAP, it’s more than that. It’s the fact that they get to drive away, they get to walk away, they get to leave the scene, having made you feel worthless and weak. That’s what it’s all about.
That’s what they want. Cat calling has never been about the after effects.
If you ever witness someone cat call another person, make sure you call them out. It may seem like a simple act, but let me tell you right now, whenever I have a long day at work, or a stressful time at uni, my mind wanders back to that time I was walking home from work. It’s not something that can be stopped immediately, but the first step we can all take is to address that there’s an issue, and create awareness around the fact that it is not okay and it is definitely not a small problem we can brush off.