The other day I ran down to the grocery store on my corner, wearing a tank top and shortish shorts. What should have been an unremarkable journey became remarkable when I was ogled appreciatively by no fewer than ten men on the street (within the space of about seven minutes), and verbally catcalled by four of them. This blew my mind.
I didn't think at all about my attire before leaving home. Granted, I was wearing significantly less clothing than I normally do, but nothing I don't see other women wearing every day. And, in my estimation, I did not look good. At all. This was errand running at its quick and dirtiest. But the dramatic response from passersby quickly made me very self-conscious. I wanted to go home well before my errand was complete. That angered me.
I've wondered for years what men who catcall at women perceive the benefit of doing this to be. I've heard some defend the behavior as "paying a compliment," but is that really what it is? I personally don't feel complimented by hearing "hey, baby," especially when it's uttered in a tone rife with implication. It makes me feel nervous, embarrassed and in extreme cases, even attacked.
I know some women don't mind these mild advances, or may even feel flattered by them. But they just make me uncomfortable. And to be totally honest, it bothered me that this happened when I was utterly unprepared. I hadn't made any effort to look nice; I was simply, inadvertently showing a bit of skin. It reminded me that no matter what women do or how we act, some men will only be able to see us as physical bodies.
I can't control how I feel in response to these comments, but I'm still working out what to think about them. Are they appropriate? Complimentary? Degrading? Does it depend on the situation, the woman, the man?