Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Yelling at girls from cars

It was a few years ago that this happened, before I was really versed in feminism*. I was in a car with a bunch of guys. One or two were friends but most were acquaintances. We were moving from one party to another and though the night was young as we drove by a pretty girl they cat-called and hollered. I groaned and rolled my eyes. "Really guys? What do you hope to accomplish? Convince her that you have a micro-penis and are a huge douche-bag? Because that is what she thinks of you"

They roll their eyes at me. "They're biddies. You holler at biddies. It's what you do"

"But it makes them feel uncomfortable."

Naturally I was wrong. I mean, I was clearly overreacting and being over sensitive. No one else gave it any thought, why should I?

To this day I don't understand why men do this. I've asked a few, but I made the mistake of asking intelligent articulate men who have not and do not yell at girls from cars, or lie remarkably well about it.

I told one of these men the story above. He sighed "You can't ask them to explain why they do something when they're not capable of having that conversation. Some people are very base. They're driving around going 'dhuurrhurr hard on'. You can't expect self awareness from people like that."

So, in short, these men are doing it... Because they can? Because they want to be obnoxious and rowdy? We dismiss the behviour as "Boys will be boys" but I feel it's time to end that. This behaviour is not harmless fun. This behaviour is toxic.

I want to talk about how it is a behaviour that feeds into rape culture. It takes women from being people and turns them into objects. It reduces their worth to that of their sexuality and attractiveness. I could go on endlessly about it, but I won't. I will make it simpler.

The earliest and most vivid memory I have of this happening to me was when I was about 17. My parents were out of town and it was very late. I was walking home through a parking lot with another friend when a guy from a parked car full of other guys screamed "Hey Blue Shirt! How about a blow job?"

I was shocked. Who does that? Did he expect me to say "Well alright! Why not?"? It wasn't the first time I had been yelled at by a guy in a car, but it was the first time I had gotten a specific suggestion. I was scared. There were more of them then us and they were in a parked car! Heads went down and the pace was quickened. I spent the rest of the walk home casting uncomfortable glances behind me and jumping at every car that drove past us. Now I'm sure that wasn't the intention of these knuckle daggers. They were just being boys! They were having fun! What did I have to go and be so uptight about? It was a compliment!

I was young, there were more of them then us, we were all girls, they were bigger, they were in a car, and I grew up in a culture that taught me from a young age that every man I walk past alone late at night wants to rape me and I shouldn't go out alone at night because there are rapists in every bush**. How am I supposed to differentiate between "Boys being boys" and "boys who want to rape me"? There are certainly enough movies that play with the trope of "group of rowdy boys chase some girl into an alley way and gang rape her" or "Guy on the street starts to harass a random girl before getting handsy before the hero rushes in". The parallels are there, and I don't think that, at 17, it was a strange place for my mind to go. I don't think at 24 it's strange that when I'm walking home alone at night and a guy in a parking lot screams "NICE TITS!" at me that I feel unsafe, either. 

Guys, I'm sorry to tell you this, but even if you don't make every woman feel unsafe and uncomfortable, I'm not the only one you do. You telling me that I should take it as a compliment, and that other women do, is saying "I am alright making you and other women feel unsafe and uncomfortable because I don't make all women feel unsafe and uncomfortable!" You are also telling me that you think your right to be rowdy and obnoxious overrides my right to feel safe walking down the street.

Maybe I'm just being an uptight Buzz-Kill, but I call bull shit and would like to kindly ask you to keep your drive-by "compliments" to yourself, thank you very much.

Standard comment policy of "Differ without being a dick" applies to this post.

*I could build a pretty good argument that "versed" still isn't the right word, but I'm working on it.
**Pun unintended, hyperbole intended.


  1. I am a 100% with you on that. To this day, I still do not feel secure if walking by myself at night and a car slows down close to me or people yell at me. (Even at red lights, I look away.)Sometimes it's not even the yelling, they will slow down and offer you a ride, sounding all normal-like, just being nice and offering the pretty lady to drive her somewhere.. yeah... riiiiight.....

    Thank you for talking about it!

  2. My boyfriend and I have had discussions about what exactly constitutes a permissible and non-permissible display of sexual interest. He gets touchy about this subject because he doesn't like being blindly accused of being a rapist or creeper just because of his gender. We both would agree that the car-riding, cat-calling assholes were out of line.
    I don't really get it myself, because why would you insult/threaten the person you're hoping to get naked? Then again, it's less about romancing a girl and more about him looking like a (engaging maximum sarcasm) stud.
    So in the interest of having fewer dickheads in society, I hope to squash this behavior whenever I might find it.

  3. They do it because they want to look good in front of the boys. Or because they really do think that's a compliment, because they're so awesomely macho/studly that every woman should fall at their feet and worship them.

    It's all pseudo-macho bull, mixed in with unhealthy amounts of peer pressure.

    At least, that's the best explanation I can think of.

  4. I think silveradept has it right: it's performative sexuality. It's more about impressing their mates. The women really are just objects to them.

    By the way: your second footnote doesn't seem to come from anywhere in the main text.


    1. I just realized that the thing the second footnote connected to had been edited out. WHOOPS! *edits and hopes no one else notices*

  5. This catcalling out of a car window happened to me an hour ago, and trust me I've never been so flustered in my life. The worst bit was that I was just standind at the gate of my own house! What gives a man (rather a douchebag) the right to behave obscenely with women? For them its all fun and giggles but I was seriously troubled. Such shmucks should be given a good kick on their stupid asses.

  6. I completely agree. Catcalling has always made me feel uncomfortable, and to be perfectly honest, every woman I've ever spoken to about it has also said it makes them feel uncomfortable. And you know what? Sometimes it *does* progress from catcalling. Sometimes they stop the car and try to harass you into accepting a ride home. Sometimes they actively chase you and yell at you for not acknowledging them. I think "some guys don't stop at catcalling" overrides "some women maybe like it". It's the mark of privilege that dudes feel their want for shits and giggles overrides women's right to feel safe. The only exception is when certain friends or acquaintances do it, but that's just me.

  7. I completely agree. This kind of thing is exactly what gets you into the mindset of "I am about to be raped."

  8. And what you are doing is again feeding into the rape culture. The only exception is... No, no exceptions! It's either a rule or not and you are part of the problem. Plus most rapes happen not from strangers, but from people you know.

  9. That's sexist. I haven't yelled that stuff in weeks.

  10. I know this is a serious subject and shame on the guys who demonstrate this little of caring for women, but I think I have a funny story related to this. I was out walking - around dusk last night - and someone yelled at me from a car passing by. And what is different was that it was a female. Based on the sound of the 'whoop' I would guess the women in the car were in their late teens or early 20s. I'll have to say I was pleased that I could still elicit that reaction. It hasn't happened to me in nearly 30 years, but I wondered how those women would have felt if they were told that they were yelling at a 51-year-old grandfather!

  11. I hate this kind of thing, its awful and completely drops my confidence. I normally walk the way home crying. I wish people wouldn't do it.

  12. I cannor begin to explain how rude, obnoxious, demeaning, and disrespectful hollering from car is. Men who do this are the lowest assholes. Not because they are giving you unwanted attention - we get it, it's part of the game, but because they holler at you from the safety of their car at a time when you are trying to get home or to work and should feel safe doing so. Come to that, many times they yell obscenities, which then, in addition to you feeling unsafe and annoyed, makes you feel verbally assaulted. It's pure harrassment and should not be tolerated by women and spoken against by men. At times I feel so violated and disturbed by it, it makes me want to cry. I should be able to get to work/home without such blatant disrespect on almost a daily basis. I should not be hollered at as if I am a prostitute. I should not be blatantly confronted as nothing more than a sex object by complete strangers. Men who do this: Stop it hollering at women from cars! Men whose friends do that: Educate your friends! Women subjected to such verbal assault: Stand up for yourself and spread the word! It is not right!

  13. Boys (not men, regardless of age) do it because they think it's okay. Other boys do it and nobody gets hurt, and after all they'd LOVE women to yell similar, and it's totally okay, right?
    In other words, they do it because they're taught it's okay, and taught not to think about it harder than that. And as has been said, to "prove" how "masculine" they are.

    And because, regardless of age, they're boys. They're incapable of being men.

  14. i totally agree with you except for one thing...you wrote that you shouldn't be hollered at as if you were a prostitute. To me, that sounds like you think it is okay then, for men to yell at prostitutes but not "other kinds of women." Very biased statement.