Catcalling has increasingly become a mainstay in my life. I’m not sure whether it’s the colder weather or simply the fact that my moving off campus has made my time on public transportation increase exponentially, but it seems nearly everyday I can’t escape the unwanted attention. I can’t differentiate between the innocent hellos and the gateway conversation progressing into an uncomfortable territory.
Everyone has a catcalling story. The most impactful story for me occurred during one of the many times I missed the shuttle to the metro station. I decided to brave the 12 minute walk to the station as my feet and back weren’t yet at the point where they ached due to the weight of my too heavy tote bag or my black heeled boots. Walking down Georgia Avenue in Washington, DC is always interesting as one passes through the mixture of students, faculty, people waiting or the bus, street vendors, and those hanging around, everyone soaking up the atmosphere of faint GoGo music and construction work. As I was walking past a corner store with my earphones in, but not playing anything, two men having a conversation on the side of the street stopped to say hello. I gave a small nod and continued on my way, just wanting to make it to a train leaving the city. As I passed one of the men made an “oh” sound and asked for my number. My face warmed and I flinched, about to look back, but remembering that replying in any way was more trouble than it was worth. One girl, who I assumed was still in high school due to her backpack and khaki pants ,must have sensed my slight panic. As I continued to pass, much slower and more visibly uncomfortable she whispered “just keep walking.” I whispered back a “thank you” and continued down the street. Luckily, the man had no more words for me.
What this young woman did was one of the nicest things a bystander could have done at that point. In that situation I felt alone and embarrassed. What that simple phrase did was assure me that I wasn’t alone and that someone was paying attention and gave me a reminder that the best thing to do for myself is to keep moving. I had never had anyone do that for me, and I have never done that for another woman, but I will now.
I want to thank that girl again, even though she most likely won’t read this. Thank you, that small act brightened my day and encouraged me to help others. It reminded me that even during times I feel alone, I am connected. May bystanders continue to be brave in face of crappy catcalling.