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It's Really Not You -- It's Men: The Redefining of What is Means to Be 'Woman' is Among Us!

Updated on June 16, 2016
Chaunice Benton profile image

Chaunice Benton, born and raised in New York City, always knew she had to use her voice to make a difference in the world -- and she is.

Now Before Y'all Get Upset...

Let me explain why I titled this article "It's really not you -- it's men".

Because it really is men! How men are raised, treated in society, and how their actions are constantly excused. Women, I know what you're thinking: "We make our own choices. Men are not responsible for how I act" and ladies, I applaud your independence & proclamation of Womanhood. Raise your flag up high and represent for the top of the class! But, honestly? You really think you decide these things? Well, let me ask you a few questions, just for quality assurance purposes.

Do you ever change the pace of which you are walking and the direction of which you are looking when approaching a group of men on the street?

Have you ever ignored the vile and sexually-charged comments made by men when being cat-called?

Do you recall being taught at a young age that if you present yourself a certain way that you will attract male attention in a negative way?

If your answer to any of those questions is "Yes", then grab a seat and get comfortable -- we have a lot to uncover.

Damn, baby! You lookin' good!


Let's Familiarize Ourselves with 5 New Terms

Hyper-masculinity is a psychological term for the exaggeration of male stereotypical behavior, such as an emphasis on physical strength, aggression, and sexuality.

Men exhibit this behavior in moments where they feel their 'machismo' is being questioned or not being acknowledged. They do things like flex their muscles, grab their genitals, and are overly aggressive in their speech to women saying things like, "Come over here, b*tch or I'm going to slap you" are typical of this behavior-- because intimidating women proves their strength as men.

Cat-Calling is a whistle, shout, or comment of sexual or provocative nature to a woman passing by.

In a 2014 article titled "I Don't Like Catcalls. Why Do You Care?" written by Jessica Critcher, she spoke about feeling that if she decided to speak up to her cat-caller, that she would somehow be harmed.

"I would like to point out that I have never been rude to a catcaller. It’s not because I enjoy being harassed or I’m concerned about their feelings. It’s because I’m afraid of confrontation and physical violence. Ever since I read a news story about a man punching a woman in the face for refusing his advances on a train in my city, I’ve been especially wary of male hostility."

This feeling stems from the hyper-masculinity men exhibit, causing women to fear for their safety. Women are not being allowed to express their disinterest in advances from these types of men out of fear of how they may react.

Critcher goes on to talk about the lack of understanding and support she received when expressing her discomfort with cat-calling. The lack of support and understanding she experienced came from speaking with an older woman. "Just accept the compliment", she recalls being told by this older woman in order to hush her worries. Critcher was confused. Was she supposed to allow men to speak to her any way they wished and transform her discomfort into flattery? "Any time I share an anecdote about street harassment, about feeling gross or anxious or enraged, people rush in to tell me, as if this had never occurred to me, that perhaps I should take this as a compliment", Critcher writes.

Too long and too often do Women get placed in the "Just" box. 'Just don't say anything', 'Just get over it', are a couple of ways that keep Women silent & disallows their feelings from being validated.

Let's jump back a year. In 2013, an article titled "Damn Girl: How to Beat A Catcaller at His Own Game" written by Molly Oswaks addressed her day-to-day discomfort with being catcalled in the street. Oswaks displayed no signs of subscribing to the "Just take the compliment" remedy for catcalling. Instead, she challenges the common sense of these catcallers, demanding understanding. Oswaks writes,

"The difference between a compliment and a catcall, as I see it, is that they're never directly addressed to the cat-call-ee (the cat?). They're more like inner monologues of lust spoken aloud. I want to be able to walk to the dry cleaners, pick up a few groceries, even just enjoy a sunny day, without feeling hungry eyes on my backside...What do these cat-callers even hope to get out of the exchange? Whistling at me from across the street and commenting how nice my ass looks in a pair of polka dot shorts is not the type of behavior I find attractive in a potential mate."

Oswaks asked the same exact question that I ask myself when I experience cat-calling: What do these men expect my response to be?

I remember being at work one day and I was catcalled by a guy who worked next door to my job. I was walking, drinking iced tea out of a straw, and he yells out, "Looks good. Can I have some?" The statement stopped me in my tracks. After a few obviously awkward moments, I walked over to him & said, "Now what do you expect my response to be? Yeah sure hold your head back? Or something else to suggest I knew you weren't talking about sharing my drink?" He was stunned and had no other response besides "I was just kidding." Yeah, I bet you were.

Oswaks continues to explore the male psyche in her article and comes across an incredibly hypocritical discovery.

"Later that day, wearing the same outfit, I walked with my boyfriend to a nearby restaurant for an early dinner and got not so much as an eyeball in my direction. In fact, I've never been catcalled in his or any other man's presence. His explanation is that no man would encroach on his "territory" in front of him, out of a fraternal respect."

Okay, wait a minute. Are you telling me that men don't catcall women who are seen with other men out of respect for the man? Where's our damn respect!? This just further proves how women are not seen as human beings in the eyes of, well, the World. It's society as a whole that made this okay.

I ask you catcallers, why is it more important to show your fellow Man respect but the slight thought of showing your fellow Human respect doesn't cross your mind? It has to be in there. You show respect to the Women in your family, children and elders alike, but can't seem to muster up any more respect for a Women you do not know?

What's up, beautiful?

Man Catcalling Woman During Anti-Catcalling Report

An Apologist is a person who defends or supports something that is being criticized or attacked by other people.

Statements like , "You must want attention coming outside looking like that" are typical of an apologist man in regards to catcalling. Because Women wear dresses and skirts and even jeans and sweatpants because we want attention from Men we do not know on the street. He's got us figured out, ladies.

Entitlement is the feeling or belief that you deserve to be given something or the condition of having a self-proclaimed right to have, do, or get something.

Statements like "I'm just trying to make you smile" and "I'm just trying to brighten up your day" are said to women who are not responding to cat-calls in a positive, flattered way.

Brief intermission for any of you catcallers reading this:


Moving on...

An article from October 2014 written by Dale Thomas Vaughn (yes, a male weighs in) titled "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman...Is She Asking for It?" is the PERFECT source to prove my earlier proclaimed thesis: It's MEN that are the problem. Now, of course, we've all seen the video of the young women dressed in all black walking down the streets of New York City by this point in our lives. If you haven't, it is included in Vaughn's article that has been so conveniently provided to you via hyperlink. My thoughts when I first saw the video? Hmm, looks like a typical day to me -- which is the problem. Are we starting to realize a theme yet?

When I come across articles like this that are super-charged with opinion, I go straight for the comments section. Ah, the comments section. it's sort of like the reject line outside of a club that's not even hard to get in to but everyone in line is upset and wants to talk to the manager. The gold that I struck in the comments section was from an anonymous user (the shiniest comments always are) who exuded nothing less than a hyper-masculine, apologist, entitled attitude.

"Ha ha ha what the heck if I give a compliment or say hey babe that's my free right. It ain’t harassment till I lay a finger on you...this bird is crazy"

Let's take a small moment to appreciate the ignorance and hilarity of that statement. Okay, enough time. It is his right? It's not harassment until he lays a finger on you? No, sir, I believe that's when you crossover from harassment to assault. The nerve of these Men to think that it is their right to say whatever they want to Women. Freedom of Speech does not apply when it involves making another person feel unsafe or uncomfortable. Again, I ask you catcallers, if you wouldn't want this done to the Women in your family, why do it to others? Why is it so damn hard to show respect to BOTH sexes? Why are we referred to as 'birds' because we don't want to talk to you or want you talking to us? Why do you feel we must respond to you? What does it take away from you as a Man to keep your mouth shut when a Woman walks by? We don't need to know your every critique on our appearance when we pass by. We don't.

And last, but not least by far...

Rape Culture is a term that was designed to show the ways in which society blames victims of sexual assault and normalize male sexual violence.

Jessica Critcher (I Don't Like Catcalling) mentioned in her article how societal norms disregard Women's feelings and the right to their own bodies.

"We live in a society that places men’s ego, men’s feelings, men’s opinions, in a position of greater importance than women’s desire to feel respected or safe."

Countless times a day, I feel the need to recluse and not be a part of the society outside of my bedroom door. I remember growing up and saying to myself that I wish I wasn't pretty or had certain features because I didn't want to be blamed for any attention that I received from Men. For a little girl at the age of 9 to already recognize that her Womanliness can be abused and controlled by Men and to wish it away is all too familiar in young girls today.

Hey beautiful. Let me get your number.

The Usual Comments Heard in a Day...

The Hurdles Women Go Through by Simply Walking Down the Street
The Hurdles Women Go Through by Simply Walking Down the Street | Source

Street Harassment as the New E-Harmony

What A Great Way to Meet Women!
What A Great Way to Meet Women! | Source

This comic, created by Matt Bors of AlterNet, speaks volumes on how men who cat-call women think this is the way to start a relationship. Never have I ever in my 25 years of life witnessed a successful cat-calling. I have never seen a man say, "Hey sexy. What's your name?" and hear the cat-call-ee respond with "Jessica ::blushing:: What's yours?"

It's not realistic.

Oh, you can't talk? Fine. F**k you, b*tch!

Let's Take A Vote, Shall We?

Have You Ever Witnessed (First-hand or By-standing) Cat-Calling that was Received Openly & Positively?

See results

You should smile more.

Closing Argument

We raise our daughters, our sisters, and our nieces to believe that being beautiful is something to be wary of because there are Men out there who will take advantage of that. We are raised to watch how we walk because if we switch our hips more than what's allowed, we'll invite unwanted male attention. We're taught that if we dress too well or present ourselves too well that we'll be responsible for the crude comments we receive from Men. We are taught so many asinine things growing up and I am tired of it.

Tatyana Fazlalizadeh, creator of "Stop Telling Women to Smile", has dedicated part of her artwork towards putting a stop to gender-based street harassment. Started in Brooklyn in 2012, Fazlalizadeh created portraits of everyday women she spoke to about their experiences with street harassment across the spectrum -- from 'hey beautiful' to more aggressive advances from men. Statements like 'I Am Not Here for You' and 'Critiques on My Body Are Not Welcomed' can be seen in her many portraits posted around New York City. Fazlalizadeh's campaign to stop street harassment has traveled as far as France and New Mexico and she does not plan to stop until a conversation is had to put an end to it.

Women should be able to dress how they want, walk how they wish, and feel beautiful without caution. Men should be held accountable for their actions and told that what they are saying or doing makes us uncomfortable. The longer we stay silent, the more we perpetuate the idea that Women are powerless and we leave Men responsible for how we operate. Men are not the batteries by which we are powered, ladies. We are our own source of power and we have to start utilizing that.

Enough Needs to Be Enough Already!

Street Artist Wants the World to Fight Catcalls, One Poster at a Time
Street Artist Wants the World to Fight Catcalls, One Poster at a Time | Source

Just in Case You Didn't Hear Her the First Time...

In Case You Care to Hear A Man's Perspective on the Issue...

Below is a link to an article written in Complex magazine. This is...interesting to say the least.

If you care about the Male opinion on this issue, I've provided the link to the article below.


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