I have a confession to make: I love being catcalled.“I’m a feminist so I believe in inhabiting contradictions. I believe in making contradictions productive, not in having to choose one side or the other side. As opposed to choosing either or, choosing both.”
Another confession: I gain an inordinate amount of my self-worth from male attention.
I guess I should preface this blog post by saying that I do not have a single ounce of respect for the men that catcall me and, in theory, know that I shouldn’t want them to catcall me. I used to wonder why they even felt compelled to say anything at all. Do you really think I’m going to sleep with you if you say I’m cute, call me “baby”, say I have a nice ass? But I soon realized that we have a symbiotic relationship, these men and I. I gain a sense of self-worth from their comments while they get to reinforce their forever-fleeting facade of masculinity (which, I can very well guess, is tied into their own sense of self-worth).
My feminist sisters, I am sorry but I do not attempt to hide from the male gaze or even hate it. I look for it wherever I can. Walking to class, wandering the village, waiting for the subway—I seek it out everywhere.
God Dammit, just fucking looking at me.
Objectify me, I don’t care, just validate my presence, tell me I’m pretty, tell me my hair is “fucking gorgeous”, tell me something so I can look in the mirror tonight and feel okay about myself.
Walking with my friends a couple weeks ago a man saw me, stopped in his tracks, and told me I was “cute as hell”. I giggled, blushed, and walked on, while my gal pals went on to a rant about how disgusting and sexist men are. If you know me at all, you know that I’m very, very (cannot italicize this enough) into straight male bashing and calling them out on their patriarchal bullshit behavior. While I’m usually the one initiating and leading these misandric discussions, on this specific occasion I was at a loss for words. I wanted to tell them, “But I’m glad he said I was ‘cute as hell’! I wish every guy thought I was ‘cute as hell’! I wish every guy in the whole wide world thought I was beautiful and wanted to fuck me!”
Previous to going to college in New York City, I was neither catcalled nor even really paid attention to by any men besides my best friend (who’s gay) and my dad. I saw myself as sexually undesirable and thus, at least from what I can perceive from the lack (and by lack I mean nonexistence) of sex I had in high school, was seen as sexually undesirable by the general male population. I always have had and continue to have a complicated relationship with sex and recognizing myself as a sexual being which I think might be the root of my seemingly unwarranted thirst for external validation from random men.
My third and final confession: I am terrified of publishing this blog post. I have never talked to any other women or read an article or essay written by a woman that has admitted to having the same complicated relationship with catcalling that I happen to have. Self-declared feminists and even those who would never even dare to identify as a feminist have confirmed the verdict again and again: catcalling is bad and as women we should hate the men that do it (which I do, by the by, but I hate all men in general).
Feminist sisters, what do I do about this? How do I expunge myself of the internalized misogyny that subsists within me? Is the pleasure I receive from a catcall a sign of weakness? Can I be forgiven?
As feminists we are told not to judge other women, to respect their decisions no matter how ostensibly un-feminist they are. But where do we draw the line? If I am dubbed as anti-feminist for gaining a large portion of my self-worth from male attention (disclaimer: I am 100% not advocating that you should use this as means for your own validation) what about all the other self-identifying feminists who participate in “un-feminist” things?
What do we say to the woman who derives sexual pleasure from participating in rape fantasies, the adolescent who receives gratification from submitting her pictures to Is Anyone Up?, even the girl who, like many of us, adheres to stereotypical notions of beauty by wearing a full face of makeup?
Tell me how to think but don’t actually tell me how to think. Tell me how to feel but don’t actually tell me how to feel. Please tell me, but don't actually tell me, how should a feminist be?