Some remaining thoughts from readers:
There is a difference between catcalling and men noticing you as a woman and smiling at you or giving you a second glance. The first is based on anonymous objectifying and the latter is normal human attraction/attention. And if both women and men can't tell the difference, that's sad. I've always wondered what men who catcall actually hope to achieve. Do they imagine the woman stopping and engaging them and then magically hooking up with them? Please, in what universe is that going to happen?
Isn't making insulting comments to someone a form of assault and couldn't that assault require police intervention? With cellphones having cameras, women should film their catcallers as they walk by and provide the evidence to the police. This would seem to be something that could be solved through technology. People film everything else, why not this?
I work out almost every day with a friend of mine, who cycles to the gym in a bicycle skirt. She told me one day about the catcalls she got on her way over, and when I asked her what she did (I assumed she just rode her bike faster), she said, "Well, I stopped and pointed to my skirt said, 'Yep. I did it for you.' And they shut up." As I like to wear short skirts myself, I made a note to try this.
About a week later, I got my chance. On my way into work, a group of men started in ("hey baby! nice legs! oh yeah!") and I turned to them and said, "Yeah. I did it for you." Sure enough, their jaws dropped. I'm sure I didn't stop them from doing this to someone else, but it was mighty satisfactory to shut them down that way. I use the line all the time now, and it works.
I've been reading the series on cat-calling and had a moment where the tumblers finally clicked, opening a door to a new understanding regarding behaviour I witness frequently. I live in Toronto and commute every day to work on public transit. This offers the opportunity to people watch and of course, appreciate the beauty of women on the bus/streetcar/subway I am taking to and from work. I have definitely noticed a certain pattern whereby more objectively attractive women appear somewhat harried, never making eye contact and very briskly sitting down at the front of the vehicle (instead of walking down the aisle to seats further back). Of course not all such women do this, but I have noticed this approach being taken more often than not among the "most attractive" group.
I wondered at this sometimes and let it lead me to negative thoughts like "what's her problem" or "wow I guess she wants to avoid everyone cause she's so beautiful – don't kid yourself honey you're not that great". In reading the series of reader comments on this, many coming from women describing in detail the way cat-calling/ogling affects them, I realized why these women pick the shortest path to a seat and avoid making all eye contact: its likely based on years of being cat-called, stared at and otherwise harassed by men on public transit!
What I saw as perhaps the result of a big ego was rather more likely the result of years of men wearing them down until a simple ride on a streetcar – something I think nothing of – can become a gauntlet of sorts for them to navigate. All of this is to thank you for providing the venue for a series that has given me a fresh understanding and more empathy.
(Photo: "American Girl in Italy" (1951) by Ruth Orkin)