By Emily Candelario
Today, I decided to wear a skirt since the weather demanded it. It was an interesting find from a thrift store from a family vacation down to North Carolina: the right amount of flowy for a less windy day, and knee-length so I could maintain office decorum. The sun shined while I walked down my street toward my train and just as I reached for my headphones in my bag, I heard it. The irritatingly familiar judgements on my appearance coupled with a few sexual expletives, oozing from behind me from a stranger who’s decided that today, I dressed for him. It’s just all too incessant.
Every single woman I know has heard it. Shouted at her from across a street, hurled from the window of a passing car, whispered on a late night subway car, at the grocery store midday and followed into the parking lot, nonchalantly said aloud in front of other colleagues, suggested depravedly while leaving the gym, shrieked from behind a chain link fence at a park while holding my girlfriend’s hand. It happens everywhere and usually with such little consequence. The problem is that those who may witness it don’t feel it’s necessary to intervene. We’ve all heard the excuses from our male friends who “don’t believe it!” and reason with “well what do you want me to do? Fight the guy?” Yeah. My friends, that’s what we need from you. We need people to stand up for those in the line of fire who are looking out for their immediate self-preservation. It’s the only way that cat-calling and unwanted sexual comments that assault and diminish our place in the world will stop. We, as women and feminine-presenting people deserve to express ourselves the way we want without harassment, persecution, or, even more so, the desire to make us feel so small like we have no place in the world. Everyone deserves to feel confident. I deserve to walk the ten minutes to my train without someone commenting on my outward appearance, making me feel unsafe at 8 o’clock in the morning. This should no longer be a conversation about clothing because it’s never been about clothing. It’s up to us to demand understanding as to why cat-calling has become one of the most disturbingly prevalent phenomenons amongst women but also, to call out our friends and colleagues who refuse to believe, acknowledge and act on the problem.