“Hey Ma, You Lookin’ Good Today”

One part of my workday as consistent as my commute, taking a lunch break, or doing translations is catcalling. Whether it’s the honk of a car horn on my way to lunch or a conversation sparked by my appearance at the bus stop, every day, I always seem to receive some sort of unsolicited attention from the men of Miami. Naturally, the next thought would be, “How does that make you feel?”

Some women deem catcalling to be flattering. They see it as a man finding you just so attractive, that he can’t keep his opinion to himself. On the other side of the coin, some women find it to be very disrespectful and demeaning. I personally, find myself in the middle. I think that it’s flattering to know that someone finds you attractive, however the compliments and slight ego boost are definitely not worth the consequences and repercussions.

For example, I don’t like that I’ve never been to the coffee stop across from Government Center because there’s usually three men around the ventanita, and I don’t want to walk into a potentially uncomfortable situation. But on a larger scale, when men catcall women, it inherently encourages rape culture. Certain kind of comments and persistence turn a compliment from a stranger into street harassment. Street harassment is all about power, and the satisfaction that the stranger gets from disrespecting you and making you feel vulnerable and/or uncomfortable, which is the foundation of rape.

So overall, I think catcalling is okay when it’s a compliment and not harassment. But in the end, sadly, it’s not something I can control. Instead, it’s something women just have to put up with. At least on a micro scale, as one person, standing up against this type of disrespect is not worth putting yourself in danger. On a macro scale, maybe society can eventually learn to lean away from this activity, and in turn, end rape culture.

-Kim Perez

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2 thoughts on ““Hey Ma, You Lookin’ Good Today”

  1. Alikiah says:

    Enjoyed hearing your take on this part of your day. I’m a Duke Alum recently returning from a Central American country where a friend is doing Peace Corps. She complains about the catcalling, but as a guy, particularly one who doesn’t cat call or readily notice when other guys do, it’s something new to think about.

    You said, “Street harassment is all about power, and the satisfaction that the stranger gets from disrespecting you” — What makes the compliment disrespectful? What turns it into a catcall? I’d assume its the tone of what’s said. I typically think of a real compliment as praise offered up without the expectation of something in return, other than perhaps a thank you. So then does a disrespectful compliment may have the tone that you owe the person giving it some extended response or conversation? Or if it were to seem like it reduces you to just your beauty?

    Regarding being uncomfortable and vulnerable, I get that being complimented in public situation can be uncomfortable, especially if it invites others to take notice. Can you help me understand how would a catcall make you feel vulnerable, and what makes it clear this is the guy’s intention? (Maybe it’s unclear but still impactful to the recipient). Again thanks for sharing that.

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  2. Kim says:

    Thank you for your response Alikiah! You’re definitely right about the tone of the comment. There’s a sort of language and tone that marks the difference between a compliment and harassment. In reference to the last two questions of your second paragraph, I think what makes the comment disrespectful is when the man directs himself to you in a way that makes you feel like less of a person and more of an object that’s just nice to look at.

    In reference to vulnerability, at least for me, I feel vulnerable knowing that the individual can shout all sorts of things about my physical appearance in a way that attracts attention and makes me uncomfortable, yet I can’t do anything about it. I suppose I could shoot them a glare or tell them to stop, but even then, that’s risky. I don’t know how he’ll react, so many times I’ll just ignore him. If I reacted the way I really wanted to, then I might make him angry and in turn, put myself in danger. I guess I feel vulnerable and powerless knowing that I can’t react the way I’d like to.

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