10

An Open Letter to The Woman Who Catcalled Me:

Hi.

My name is Emma. I’m 26. I work for a Non-Profit and I’m going through a huge life change right now. Who are you? What’s your name?

The reason I’m writing to you is because as I biked away from my place of work a few days ago, a group of men stuck their heads out of their third floor window and started to shout about how lucky my bike was to be between my thighs.

And then you joined them.

And you used some language they did not.

And they cheered and high-fived you.

When I stopped my bike and shouted back I ended my usual rant with, “And as for you! Yes you! Hey! Lady! You don’t have to live this way!”

What I meant was this:

You don’t have to buy into the Patriarchal System that allows those men to objectify me. None of them really want to be intimately acquainted with the space between my thighs. That’s not what catcalling is for. They want to frighten me. They want to assert their power over me. They want me to know that this is their world–that I’m biking on their street–and I’m simply not going to allow them to get away with that. They don’t own this world and they won’t so long as I and my fellow Feminists can fight against them.

But you. I see you. I really do. I’m looking right at you. I was like you once. I too thought that I had to play the game in order to survive. But then I got schooled.

If you’re catcalling me because you also want to assert power over someone in a world where your power is limited, then let me be the first person to say that there are other ways of gaining power. Let me be the first person to say that you are worth it–that you are worthwhile–that hurting other people doesn’t give you more control. It takes control away from you. If you want control, if you want power, you can get it by doing good work. You can be kind. You can fight against the system that asserts that you don’t have inherent power at the moment of your birth.

(But in my opinion: Fuck that. You absolutely have inherent power.)

If you’re catcalling me because you honestly want to engage in a relationship with me you can come down here and talk to me like I’m a person. Which I am.

If you’re catcalling me because it is the only way that you can gain the respect of that group of men then HEAR ME WHEN I SAY THEY ARE NOT GOOD ENOUGH FOR YOU. There are better men out there. There are really. Really good men out there. Feminist men. Men who are allies. Anything less is a waste of your time.

I’m gonna say that again.

Those men aren’t good enough for you.

I see you. I used to be like you. I used to buy into the system.

But then I got my ass kicked.

I hope you don’t have to get your ass kicked as thoroughly as I did to realize what you’re doing.

Sincerely,

-Emma

-And her bike.

Although honestly–do we have to bring my bike into this? She never did anything to anyone. She’s just a sweet little blue cruiser. Leave her alone. I’ll fight you.

‪#‎feminism‬ ‪#‎fourthwave‬ ‪#‎riseup‬ ‪#‎dobetter‬ ‪#‎makeitbetter‬‪#‎stopthewaronwomen‬

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9

It’s been a full week since The White SUV.
I’ve spent this week muddling through. Living in a bit of a fog. I’ve dropped the ball on a few projects. Slept more than I should have. Not applied for as many opportunities as I could have. Stared at too many walls. Resisted the temptation to respond with “I’M ALIVE!” any time any one asked me how I was. Resisted the temptation to dress down everyone who called that incident a win when to me it felt like such a failure.
At the beginning of the summer after a week of two public assaults I was talking to a dear friend who said, “Man, sometimes I wish women would just post about this shit every time it happens.”
My initial response to his wish was, “You can’t ask us to do that. Documenting it is traumatizing too.”
And then. I started to do exactly what he asked me to do.
To be fair, I don’t post every catcalling incident, or every microaggression, or every comment on my sexuality. I don’t post every assumption about me based on my body, my age and my gender. Because to be quite frank, I don’t have that kind of time. I have to…you know…eat and sleep on occasion.
But my tendency to shout about the blatant misogyny I and my fellow women face has been met with an interesting reaction. One friend, who I think was very well meaning, put it pretty eloquently. He said, “Whether you’re somehow a lightning rod for these types of confrontations, or you’re just more vocal about them than others, I applaud your bravery.”
Another friend, as I told her about the evenings misadventures said, “I don’t know why these things happen to you so often. I mean–walking down the street we don’t look that different and I don’t think this happens as often to me.”
After my friend said that to me, I asked her to tell me the last time she got catcalled it was just a few days before. And it sounded like a pretty scary situation to me.

In the time between now and The White SUV, I’ve been catcalled five times, once pretty violently.
In that space of time, unrelated to my experience, three other friends of mine have posted about their experiences with assault.
In that space of time, unrelated to my experience, at least one of my friends has posted about her experience with domestic violence.
In that space of time, unrelated to my experience, two of my friends have posted about trying to dress in the morning whilst preparing for the amount of street harassment they anticipate that day.

The thing about lightning rods is that not only do they attract the electricity, but they absorb it. They take it in. And though they protect their houses, they don’t fight back.
Which. Honestly. Does sound a bit like me. At least it sounds like me before I started to call myself a feminist.
All the women posting about every-day misogyny; we’re not lightning rods.
They haven’t invented a thing for what we are yet.
We don’t absorb the fire, we harness it and turn it back to the clouds that sent it our way.
We look to the sky and dare it to defy us.

‪#‎bringitonzeus‬ ‪#‎nottoday‬ ‪#‎riseup‬ ‪#‎feminism‬ ‪#‎fourthwave‬‪#‎stopthewaronwomen‬

8

So I’m standing outside of my regular Monday night bar with my best friend. I’m standing there, enjoying the weather and the summer. It’s Monday night–and I’ve committed, for the past several years, to spend Monday night in this fashion. So here I am. It’s Monday night.
We’re sharing war stories from the week and shortly, we are joined by two other Monday night regulars. There is no place in the world where I should feel more safe. These people are family. I am surrounded by three men I love and trust.
Gently, quietly, a white SUV pulls up to the corner, the window rolls down and a white boy sticks his head out the window.
“I could kill that bitch right now!” he shouts.
There is a brief moment of silence whilst I and the men I am surrounded by process what he’s just shouted.
He says again, “Hey! I could shoot that bitch right now.”
I step forward. One of my friends, puts his hand on my shoulder, “Hey. Emma. Don’t.”
I know, viscerally, that he is scared. I know, viscerally, that I am scared. But I also know the kind of world I want to live in and what I am willing to do to get to that place. So I step forward. I present, to the asshole in the SUV, a target clear of white men, and I say, “Excuse me?”
He rolls up his window.
As he does so my best friend steps up behind me and shouts, “What “bitch”? Who are you calling a “bitch”?”
And I shout “You got something to say to me, you say it to my face! Bring it on! You think I’m scared of you?”
He drives away.
But the truth is that I /am/ scared.
I am so. So scared.
We stay outside because the bad guys do not get to win.
And this asshole, circles back around.
He circles back around to show me that he may or may not have a gun.
He circles back around to show me that at the very least he has something that looks like a gun.
He circles back around to show me that he thinks he lives in a world where I deserve to be frightened.
And I stay outside. I stand my ground. With my friends behind me, knowing that the best thing I can do for the things I believe in is to keep my feet firmly planted.
Several hours later, I am still crying; still shaking; still frightened. My best friend looks at me and says, “Yes. But you didn’t let him win. He circled back around but he couldn’t do anything. You said no. He never expected you to say no.”
There are days you win and days you lose. Days when you let the misogynists win because you are just. so. justifiably terrified. And days when you say nothing because of….well, exactly the same reason.
Today I stood at the edge of an intersection and made eye contact with a man I knew wanted to kill me because I am a woman. That’s what today was for me. That’s what this fight means to me. ‪#‎fourthwave‬ ‪#‎riseup‬ ‪#‎nottoday‬