In Defense of Cat-Calls


(A few months ago, Chicago Tribune reviewer and Team Gerdes friend Nina Metz wrote a controversial article defending hecklers in the world of Stand-up Comedy. This is my version of it, but about sexual harassment.)

Back when I moved to Chicago just about 13 years ago, I was a skinny young thing. Freshly 21 and new to adulthood, I was just a kid, but I looked good. Back then, too, it was way more common that people would randomly compliment you and whistle and say crude things about you on the street. I remember walking down Belmont and constantly get harassed, which is odd, cause I was living on the edge of the biggest homosexual male neighborhood in Chicago, but yet, there were always straight guys on the ready to make a public comment about your body and what they wanted to do with it.

At first when it would happen, it was shocking, and I'd want to fight back and tell the cat-caller where they could go (hint, it was to hell). But then, with the frequency of the comments, I just started to ignore them and grow a thicker skin. The comments would just bounce right off. It's sad to me, that women have to tolerate other people judging their bodies on a constant basis as if they are public domain, and that we have to just ignore the street harassment. It is no one's right to comment on what I look like or say anything sexual to us, no matter how good we look.  But yet, it happens constantly day in and day out.  Thankfully, I think that, at least in some areas, as time evolves, it's become less acceptable to do, and I hope that women are sometimes getting a respite from that type of abuse.

Over the years, I've matured and grown up and now I am rapidly approaching 34. My body has changed and evolved. In some ways I am stronger than I was before. I am definitely more of a woman than ever. And along with that, I've put on a great deal of weight. I am not overweight, but it's certainly the most I've ever weighed, and our society teaches us that we are practically worthless if we aren't a size 2. I've done a great job about staying confident--I try to stay active and am now training for a 10 mile run, and I eat fairly ok. But I am rounder in the thighs and stomach and my hips are larger than ever. My clothes don't fit the same, and I try to not beat myself up about it. I find ways to make it work and still love myself for who I am, what I have been through, and what my life is like now.

On Thursday, I had a person that I adore, admire and respect innocently tell me that I had gained a great deal of weight. I was told that I was "big." He compared my body to what it was in 2004.   In the moment, I maintained my composure and explained that I was a real woman, not a model, and that I was now well into my 30s. This was the body I had. I told him that I can't change who I am, and I love who I am. His comments did not come from any malicious intention, it was coming from the world he operates in,* and I knew that. At first, I laughed it off, but as the day wore on, it started to get to me.  I'd like to say that I let it roll off my thick skin and I went about my business, but instead it sort of added insult to injury to the already hard times I am trying to navagate right now. I did a great deal of crying that day, and I am still working on recovering from it. Now, when I get dressed, when the clothes don't fit, I hear in my head "you look really big." His comments took my off guard--I was not expecting it-- and got to me more than I ever thought something like that would. It's a crappy feeling.

On Saturday, I met up with some friends in the afternoon. It was the day before St. Patricks Day, so the younguns in Lakeview were drunk and street sloppy by 10am. It was quite the spectacle. At one point, I found out that there was free parking for the restaurant we were at in the nearby Walgreens parking lot. I walked through a group of men and women who were lingering by the parking lot. I don't know if they were homeless or street-dwellers or what, but they were not like the others drunk on the street; they were dirty and had lots of bags around them. After I re-parked my car, I headed back to the restaurant. I heard one of the men say "Wow, she's got a booty on her" or something like that. I instantly prickled at the comment--Yes, I have a very large butt, always have, always will--so I didn't even look at them and just kept walking. Then I realized that with all the half-naked girls on the street, there was a pretty good chance that they weren't talking about me in the first place. And a weird thing happened--I got sad about it. Like, here I am, old and fat, why would anyone want to cat-call to me anymore?  I felt ashamed that I would WANT someone's salacious comments to be directed at me.

I later thought more about it, and I made a decision--to believe that he WAS in fact talking about me, cause why not? I needed to feel like I was worthy of receive the attention. There isn't anything wrong with that.  I mean, my booty IS banging, man, especially for a white girl. Thank you for noticing!!

The truth of the matter is, the only person who can make that sort of comment towards me is my husband, and he's the only person who I care about what he thinks of me and my body. And guess what--he loves me and thinks I am sexy just the way I am. And that means the world to me. I am so lucky that I have a husband who thinks I am beautiful and attractive. But as much as I don't want to admit it, there is that part of me that wants to be hot and attractive to Joe Schmoe as well, and as much as it pushes feminism back a million years, sometimes that little bit of attention from a stranger on the street can give you the boost that you need to hold your head a little higher.

And if it keeps happening as I get older and my body keeps changing, I won't mind that either. I can handle it.  I might even enjoy it.


*I am not going to publicly blog this story, but if you run into me, I would be happy to tell you about it. It's pretty hilarious and surreal and a great story.


Oof, so many thoughts here.
I do feel like since I've gotten to the other side of 30 and stayed in a job that mainly involves sitting on my ass all day, it is hard to feel good about myself, or feel sexy most of the time.
And many of my friends and I catch ourselves doing the whole "Wow, so and so has filled out!" and then I have to remind myself that people probably say the same thing about me all the time. What right do ANY of us have to judge someone we know like that, let alone a random stranger on the street?!
But you are right that what matters most is that Fuzzy finds you beautiful (and I am sure he does, with good reason!).
You are amazing and strong and do things I could never dream of doing. THAT is what matters. We're never going to look like we did in our 20's ever again. I for one am okay with that, because while I was a pretty little thing, I didn't have the wisdom I have now, and I'd rather have that anyway. :)

So true. Oh man, thank GOD we're not in our 20s anymore, right? So much insecurity and stupidity. I love my life experiences, even the shitty ones--they've made me stronger and less tolerant of BS.

I personally think we are way more gorgeous now than we've ever been.

And I think YOU are amazing, in every way!

You're beautiful and amazing!

No, YOU are. xo