I am angry right now. And I am rarely angry.
So, everyday I walk to work. Its about a mile to the office and another mile on the way home. Then after I eat dinner, I usually go for a bike ride down by the lakefront. I like walking to work and usually even turn down ride offers from co-workers unless its raining. The walk gives me time to think, call my mom, or just enjoy the sunshine before I have to sit in a climate controlled office for the next eight hours.
The only thing about this routine that I don't like is the constant cat-calling, wolf whistling, and harassment I have to endure on these walks. I walk on the sidewalk by a pretty busy road and haven't made it through one walk without at least one comment or wolf whistle. It doesn't matter what I'm wearing: a sundress, a skirt, shorts, pants, sweatshirts, or sneakers. The attention is even worse when I'm riding my bike for some reason. I rode about six miles today to a meeting downtown, but I specifically rode out of my way on the bike path to avoid the catcalls I usually get when I ride on the street. But, even on my short street detour to the bikepath, I was harassed.
And yes, I'm calling it harassment. Because it is. It is not a compliment, as my mom tried to get me to believe. It is someone harassing me, propositioning me, and verbally assaulting me for simply being on the sidewalk, on public space. Walking to work on my birthday last week, I had an old man tell me to suck his dick. That is harassment, plain and simple.
So, how do I respond? As long as there is a safe distance between me and my harasser, I just flick them off. I hate doing this at 8:30 in the morning, but how else should I respond? I've usually barely even finished my coffee. I'm not in an understanding mood. And as a feminist, I can't just ignore assaults on my presence in the world, assaults that I endure just because I'm a woman with long hair, who dares to wear a skirt on a warm day.
How do you usually respond? Any suggestions to this far-too common problem? Any male readers want to give their perspective? I've never lived in an environment where I am constantly walking before, so as much as I've read about this problem, this is the first time I'm experiencing it on a consistent basis, and I am angry angry angry.
P.S. Please read my follow up post. Let's take action!