Monday, May 26, 2008

Cat-Calling and Misogyny


When Catcalling Isn’t Just an Annoyance
by Latoya Peterson

A while back, I wrote about how catcalling affects women, specifically saying:
When a man feels like he has the “right” to force me to stop and speak to him, it is a whole other game entirely.

Complicating matters are the risks faced by women in our society. One in six women will become the victim of a sexual assault. Most people (men and women) do not recognize what is defined as sexual assault. According to Byron Hurt’s documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes reveals more statistics: Black women are 35% more likely to be assaulted than white women. Only 7% of black women report being assaulted.

I have been sexually assaulted. The majority of my female friends have as well, running the gamut from being groped and restrained to molest to being raped at 13 years of age.

What men think is a game has completely different stakes for women.

Essential Presence writes about the terrible aftermath to some of these situations. In a post entitled “Why Bother With Calling me a Bitch When You Can Just Shoot Me?” she notes:
There was a time when if you rebuffed a stranger’s advances, if you didn’t give him your phone number he would just call you a bitch and tell you that you aren’t shit. And as his friends laughed at his witty response they would all walk or drive off.

Now, young Black women have to choose between some bug-a-boo calling their cell phone or risk getting shot. 18-year-old Mildred Beaubrun and her friends were getting gas and something to drink at a gas station after a night out when they came across a vehicle of animals who wanted a phone number.

“Hey, baby, what’s your phone number?” they called out as the cars traveled west through Orlando.

Then the banter grew more aggressive. The men threw a T-shirt, then an AA battery, at the Nissan. One of the women threw a broken cell-phone charger back. At one point, the HHR swerved into the Nissan’s lane and tried to run the car off the road.

When the Nissan turned north on John Young Parkway, the HHR followed. Then, at Princeton Street, a shot rang out. Shrapnel flew as the bullet pierced the door and struck 18-year-old Beaubrun, who was sitting in the back seat.

Now, instead of preparing to graduate from high school next month, she’s lying unconscious in an Orlando hospital where doctors aren’t sure if she’ll live, and if she does whether she’ll walk again. Mildred’s two friends, who were in the car with her, are okay…physically anyway.

But I can’t help but wonder how they will react and feel when another man asks them for their phone number. I can imagine the fear of entering social settings for fear they will attract the attention of the opposite sex. At such a young age, already jaded by the opposite sex (if they hadn’t been already). Now, instead of the possibility of coming across a violent, dangerous lover they are made to fear all men. How sad to feel fear instead of that tingle or giddiness when a guy seems interested.

[This was not a jilted ex-boyfriend] but a random guy, strangers who thought they had the right to have whatever woman they wanted. In their eyes, after all, Mildred and her friends were nothing but property; they definitely weren’t people (of equal standing and deserving of respect) able to make their own decisions about something as minute as giving out the phone number to the cell phone they pay for.

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