Do you know what it feels like in this world for a girl?

I actually meant to write about this about a month ago when a “decent-looking” stranger touched my boob in a jeepney.

It started with me feeling a hand slowly making its way to my leg. So I tried to move to my right even though the jeepney was packed. Then, he resorted to pretending to rest his elbow on the jeepney’s window so his hand happens to just be hanging near my boob enough to be grazing it. Since women are actively speaking out on social media against these kinds of incidents, all I could think of was “Great. It’s happening to me. Either I snap a picture of the pervert and make a long-ass post to shame him on Facebook or I make a scene right here in the jeepney”. But it was a fairly short jeepney ride, so there wasn’t enough time for either. So before I alighted from the jeepney, I swung my bag accidentally-on-purpose and let it hit him on his face and hoped that he’ll get a hell of a lot worse karma than that if he does it again.

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Credits: http://www.duchessofdutches.bigcartel.com

After that, I thought to myself that it was either A.) He’s sexually repressed or he has no access to porn so the only way he can get off is by not-so-discreetly touching unassuming women in public or B.) Dude’s fucked in the head and likes to get off by not-so-discreetly touching unassuming women in public. Either way, or for whatever reasons, behavior like that is NEVER acceptable.

Around three days later, I was browsing through r/AskReddit when I came upon a thread that went something along the lines of “What was the weirdest thing that happened to you as a child that you didn’t understand at the time?” So I was scrolling through mostly amusing but sometimes terrifying anecdotes of people having almost been kidnapped by strangers, walking in on their parents having sex and thinking they were just kissing, stuff like that. But then I came upon this story recounting how a creepy older guy made inappropriate comments to the OP and her sister when she was like 9. The OP then mentioned that it was her earliest memory of being sexualized. The comments then went on and on with other users narrating their own experiences of being either molested or cat called by older guys when they were in their prepubescent years. The comments were so much that one guy user commented that it’s sad how there are so many women commenting their own experiences and that as a guy, he just realized that men don’t have to worry about any of those things happening to them. One guy even commented that it’s just basically impossible to sexualize a kid. Yet it happens.

Off the top of my head, I remember when I was like 8 and I loved wearing these sleeveless tops with childish designs like flowers and Disney characters. Then one day, my mom and I had to ride a jeepney (yep, public transport is basically a free-for-all for perverts) and I remembered seeing her suddenly looking annoyed. Then she told me to put my hands over my chest because the guy beside me was only pretending to sleep but he was really looking down inside my top. I remembered feeling equally annoyed and thinking, surely she must be paranoid? How can the guy be interested in a kid? That time, my young mind couldn’t comprehend that creepy older guys who prey on defenseless kids exist. Then I thought maybe I was doing something wrong, maybe I shouldn’t wear sleeveless tops. I also wondered if other girls go through it, but it’s not exactly an ideal topic of conversation amidst garter games and jackstones so for a while, I actually thought that maybe it’s me, my body, the way I look that’s causing the unwanted attention. Even though it isn’t and I was just a kid who looks JUST LIKE A FRICKIN’ KID. If I were to recount all the instances of cat calling and unwanted attention I got from creepy guys since I was a kid until now, I’d be able to author an entire book of essays.

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Credits: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/

Now, issues on women’s rights and cat calling seem to have blown up yet again two weeks ago in the light of President-elect Rodrigo Duterte whistling on a reporter  in a press conference. Fervent supporters of the President-elect have gone on to disregard, dismiss, and even CONDONE catcalling, saying that it’s a “compliment”. Then last week, the Internet was abuzz with the news of the Stanford rape case and how the judge only granted the rapist Brock Turner only 6 months in jail for his crime. I’ve read a few (yes fortunately only a few, though it’s still sad that they exist at all) comments from people saying that the victim should have never gotten drunk, that she should have been more responsible, etc. Yes, victim blaming, but of course.

I guess one good thing about the hype on social media is I get to read about other women’s experiences and realize that I’m not alone. I was never alone in feeling terrified and annoyed at unwanted attention from strangers. One time around two years ago, I was on my way to buy something from a bakery a few steps away from my dorm. There was a condominium being built two doors away from my dorm so naturally, construction workers were working on it. One of them greeted me “Good morning” in a tone that definitely doesn’t suggest respect or the intention of being just a greeting. Well, I just woke up and I haven’t had anything to eat so to say that I’m not in the brightest of moods would be an understatement. So I got annoyed and mouthed “Putangina mo” through gritted teeth coupled with what I can only imagine as my bitchiest facial expression on top of my already resting bitch face. Yes, I only mouthed it and I didn’t actually say it out loud. But I guess the guy read my lips so he said defensively “Anong problema mo? Anong ginawa ko sayo?” That time, I actually thought that maybe the problem is with me. Maybe I shouldn’t have been a bitch to him because he only greeted me? Maybe I shouldn’t be too masungit to strangers? But it would be stupid to disregard how it made me feel. I didn’t appreciate him saying good morning in that kind of tone because I didn’t know him, and I know that if I had responded positively, it would most likely be followed with a more inappropriate remark. Reading other women share experiences about strangers unnecessarily greeting them when they passed by only affirmed it. No, a suggestive “Good morning/afternoon/evening” from a stranger is not okay.

Another thing that irks me about cat calling is how some people (yes, even women)  can easily dismiss it as a compliment. Some even question why (allegedly) if it came from a good-looking guy, it’s a compliment and is flattering; whereas if it came from someone who’s not good-looking, it’s harassment? Ha, in all my life, I’ve been cat called by different kinds of guys, from basketball shorts-wearing guys hanging out in front of sari-sari stores, to construction workers, to decent-looking guys inside cars. In all  instances, I was not amused. Believe me, coming from someone who has pretty much developed a complex due to stupid kids in high school not finding me pretty and having no problem rubbing it in my face, I’d take a compliment anytime. But then again, once I’ve gotten to know how a compliment is like and how it made me feel, I also came to realize that those “Hi beh”, “Hi ganda”, “Hi sexy” comments from total strangers are definitely not compliments. They make me feel unsafe, they don’t make me feel good, and combined with the leering faces of the commenters, they are totally uncalled for. Besides, what girl in her right mind would be magically attracted to someone who clearly doesn’t have good intentions?

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Credit:  http://www.rivaldc.com/cat-call-later/

To put it simply, there’s a big difference among flirting, giving compliments, and cat calling or street harassment.

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Credits: Catcalled in the Philippines

As a guy, I imagine it’s easy to not understand what it’s like to take public transport alone, to walk in front of a group of guys alone, or to think twice about wearing something that might surely attract unwanted attention. Some guys even easily dismiss women’s stories explanations about consent and cat calling as kaartehan or being whiny or overdramatic. Those kinds of viewpoints hurt. Especially since women know that some guys would never get the feeling unless they experience it themselves—which they cannot. Cue Madonna’s “What It Feels Like For a Girl” 🙂 But seeing some guys on social media keeping an open mind and just understanding, reading those make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. Because it just shows that not all men are predators, some of them are just entitled pricks who never learned how to respect women as equals. I also acknowledge the fact that men could get cat called, too. Of course they’re welcome to fight against it too but realistically, cat call victims are mostly women.

In this day and age, I like to believe that we don’t live in a patriarchal society anymore, that we live in a world where women’s rights are already being considered, that women are not seen as objects or extensions to men anymore. With women being able to vote and becoming engineers and astronauts, it’s fairly obvious that we’ve moved past the dark ages. But when things like honor killings and girls being forced to marry older men are still being practiced, I start to think that maybe we’ve still got a long way to go.

Equal gender rights doesn’t mean that men should let women carry heavy things that they physically cannot carry (come on, wag magpaka-pilosopo *rolls eyes*). Equal rights means equally treating all genders with respect. That includes EVERYONE being able to walk and move in public spaces safely without invasion of personal space and inappropriate remarks. I believe that this isn’t necessarily a fight for women only. It includes people of all genders too.

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Credits: http://www.thebcw.com.au

As for the cat callers? Well sometimes I imagine that commuting or walking to get someplace is like an adventure video game. The cat callers are like those enemies in Super Mario that you have to step on. In my case, the enemies can be fended off by bitchy death stares and a one good juicy serving of the dirty finger.Well I only hope that they don’t catch me in one of my PMS moods where I’m literally just pissed off at anything. If they do, I’d be definitely pulling a Harley Quinn.

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Credits: Catcalled in the Philippines

Featured image by Johar Miranda

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