An Open Letter To The Guy Who Cat-Called Me


Hi, there. How’s your day going?

I don’t know you, and you don’t know me, but I wanted to take the time to talk about something. And considering how you seem to be a very vocal individual, I was hoping you’d be open to this conversation.

Because I heard what you said about me to your friends as I was walking down the street. Hell, the whole block heard it because you weren’t being particularly quiet. In fact, you seemed to revel in the fact that you were being so loud, that you felt big and confident enough to practically shout it out to the universe that my ass was only good for being torn up. I’m paraphrasing here, but bear with me, because I also heard your friends’ laughter, and I heard you continue your creative little wish list of all the things you’d like to do with my backside, despite the fact that I’d never seen you before in my life, and that ass in question does not belong to you.

And I also heard one friend, the meek moral conscience of the group, I suppose, suggest you were being just a little too loud. That there were kids around. And I heard you tell him that it didn’t matter, because I couldn’t understand you anyway.

But I did.

I understood every single word you said, from the very first low hissing that started before I even passed the stoop where you and your friends sat, to the dismissive scoff that “la blanca no entiende.” Except I did. Except I do.

And even if you knew that the “white girl” is Latina and understands Spanish, would you have said what you did as loudly as you did? Because you seemed to revel in the fact that you could raise your voice about this particular topic, the way little kids feel the need to shout the minute they leave a library. It seemed to make your victory at being the first of your friends to comment all the sweeter. You were holding court and being jester all at once, and for what purpose? For your friends to think you were clever and bold and masculine?

Because it certainly wasn’t for my benefit. The last time I took comments in any such vein as flattering, I’d been dating the guy who said them for six months. And even then, his comments weren’t out of the blue, but I don’t need to discuss my sexual history with you. Because there is never going to be anything sexual between us.

I mean, let’s think about this from a purely analytically point of view. Let’s say you catcall six women a day—maybe not as enthusiastically as you did me, but let’s say you offer a hearty “damn, girl” to an average of six. Of those six, how many are likely to respond favorably? (Let’s call this your ROI.) How many are going to give you a smile, or better yet, their phone number? And of those girls who do, how many are you going to date seriously? Maybe I’m not giving you the benefit of the doubt, but if you already told your friends what you’d like to do in private with me, what’s to say you wouldn’t deride your dates with your friends, too? If you invest x amount of time on y amount of women, only to receive a small interest with very little growth possibility, you’ve got yourself a really bad deal. In the end, you’re basically losing what you initially invested.

And I understand. I’ve heard it a thousand times before that I should take the “good afternoon”s and “you’re gorgeous”s in stride, that it’s meant to be flattering, that it’s a compliment. And on any given day, those passing words of having a nice day can sometimes be genuine and kind and nice. I understand that I’ve been leered at one too many times and put on edge by one too many hisses and I am therefore cynical about any attention given to me by any man I don’t know. I recognize the fact that as a woman, I’ve heard one too many comments about my boobs to really think any attention could be coming from a genuine place. But your words weren’t innocuous little compliments. Your words were downright rude.

And what you were saying had nothing to do with me, not really. It had to do with my ass, which involved you projecting your own sex drive on me, and I want nothing to do with you or with having sex with you. In any capacity. At all. Keep on suggesting different activities to your buddies, but I can’t honestly see how being your sex object would benefit me in any way, shape, or form.

Because what you’re doing is reducing me down to a bunch of parts you’d like to play with, like a butcher deciding on the choice cuts of meat. Men get parceled up, too, and women discuss abs and biceps and penises regularly. But I’ve rarely ever heard a woman try to pick up a man as he passed by them, and catcalling isn’t something that’s new or even novel. I have never spoken to a woman who hasn’t experienced at least some form of the catcall, and if you’re all out there, just whistling at anything that moves, how are we supposed to be flattered when it’s such a common occurrence? I’ve been leered at, had my personal space invaded by men leaning in to whisper something awful in my ear. I know women who have been followed by men awful things until somebody else passed by and broke the aloneness. I’ve been catcalled by a man pushing his daughter in a stroller. Do you really think we’ll feel special? Or do you think that because it’s coming from you, that this one particular instance in which you’ve made your opinion known about a stranger you will never see again in your life, and in whose life you play absolutely no role, will be different?

You try being a woman for one day. You try seeing how much attention you get, even when you’re in sweats and buying cat food at the bodega.

And then tell me you’d still like to rip into my ass.

But even then, you’d still have no actual right to say so.