On harassment (and other hilarious topics)

So, when I was in college, I wanted desperately to be a man. I cut my hair short, wore traditionally “masculine” clothes, and spoke and moved and behaved like a typical twenty-something guy. I even created a male persona on OpenDiary (an ancient diary site now probably covered in cobwebs and dinosaur bones) and used it to finally experience what life would’ve been like if I’d been born male.

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Answer: Pretty great, as it turns out.

So, am I transgender? No. This wasn’t a case of me feeling like a man trapped in a woman’s body – this was a case of me wanting to feel strong. When I wore make-up and had long hair and wore feminine clothes, the men around campus treated me like something lesser, an object of conquest rather than a human being of equal standing and importance. I was hit on, harassed, touched, spoken down to, etc. (This was in the early 2000s and not the 1800s, in case anyone was wondering.)

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Pictured above: Me in college.

I didn’t want to be weak, and I sure as hell didn’t want random guys shouting things at me or hitting on me at every available opportunity, so I started dressing and acting like a guy and it all stopped. (And then I saw Boys Don’t Cry and it scared the ever-living crap out of me, but that’s another story for another time.)

Anyway, here’s the thing: Why did I have to do that? Why did I have to emulate the men around me before I could feel strong? Why couldn’t I wear whatever I wanted, act however I wanted – whether it be stereotypically feminine, masculine, or somewhere in between – and still feel like a strong, capable, worthwhile human being?

I’m sure my male classmates never thought they were doing anything wrong, and would’ve been shocked to learn that they’d made me feel belittled and insignificant with their comments and behavior.

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(Who could’ve known that calling someone a sexy-sweet-tush-mama might be in the least bit degrading?)

And I hear that again and again from guys, even now. When they see a woman walking down the street and shout something at her, they seem shocked and puzzled – even hurt – when she doesn’t appreciate it, or when anyone dares to suggest that making comments about a perfect stranger’s physical attributes (or your desire to molest her) might not be the best way to get on her good side.

“But I was complimenting her! Why wouldn’t she be happy to be complimented?”

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Well, imaginary puzzled man, this is why. When I’m walking down the street and some random guy says, “Hey, sexy,” or “Hey, baby,” or, “How about a smile, beautiful?” it doesn’t make me feel complimented or appreciated or beautiful. It makes me feel small. (And pissed off, but that’s another topic altogether.)

Being catcalled is like being lessened, being turned into something less than human. You’re an object, a conquest, a prize, something a man wins if he’s worthy enough, someone who only exists to be dominated. And that shit don’t feel good, yo.

These days, I tend to wear whatever I feel like wearing, regardless of where it falls on the stereotypical “men’s clothes” / “women’s clothes” spectrum. But every day – every single day – I will generally get at least one comment or leer or catcall from some random guy passing by me on the streets of Chicago. Now. In 2014. And that’s pretty freaking depressing.

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Is it because I’m just so damned sexy? Must be.

But yes, any men who are reading this, I beg you. Stop catcalling women. Just stop it. It’s not charming, it’s not cute, and it’s not something the vast majority of women want to be subjected to. If you’re interested in a woman, talk to her like a human being or even, God forbid, like an equal. Because that’s what she is, and if you don’t think that’s true, then you don’t deserve to have her in your life.

*mic drop*

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