For the record, I am the textbook definition of boy crazy. I fall in love with like 5 different men everyday and have always had an abundance of positive and very platonic friendships with men. I was raised by both of my parents, who are still married and my father has been such an amazing dad, husband and friend to my mother, brother and I. I have a younger brother who I couldn't be more proud of. He is my polar opposite - responsible, money-savvy and a man of few words. I'm so thankful that the universe gave my parents one golden child because they have had to deal with my crap for 24 years.
Alright, so why am I giving y'all this information? Well, because I am tired of encountering the opposite of what I have described. As a 24 year old woman from NYC, I have been ignoring ( and sometimes challenging ) cat calls from men for about 12 years. I am simply fed up with trying to explain my lack of interest to men in the street. But I think it’s time I break it down for them, and I’ll do it right here…. so here we go.
Like many Latinas, puberty came knocking on my door early. While I still liked playing with dolls and was losing my mind every time a Disney channel movie came on, my body was developing quickly and I started wearing a bra when I was nine years old. That same year, I got my period for the first time. I wish I could give it back because,
WHY AM I BLEEDING TO DEATH?!
Anyways, I’m nine years old now and my mind cannot comprehend the fact that my body was functioning like a woman's when I was so young. So while I was worried about the science fair and fretting over Hello Kitty stationary; like most nine year old girls -- grown men started to notice me in a different light. I would come home from school in my uniform and would proceed to ignore the usual calls of 'hola morenita' or 'que tal chiquita' (both meaning hey little one, or hey girl) or MY all time favorite - the f*cking hissing. I learned at a very young age that most men who try to approach me should be ignored. I learned that some men did not care about how old I was and therefore I learned that some did not even care about who I was. This stands true today, 15 years after the I began to be cat-called.
Sadly, that's what a lot of women go through and have gone through since we've been prepubescent. I know it might not seem like such a big deal to men who innocently try to talk to women but please understand the history of our relationships with men. We have felt unsafe, disrespected, objectified, sexualized and uncomfortable at the behavior of men who we do not know. We have had to take alternate routes home in attempt to avoid a group of guys who repeatedly try to talk to us and are now angry that we ignore them. We have had to switch train cars because of a man who wouldn't stop staring at us. We have had to invest in mace and knives to comfort us on the walk from our office to our cars. Some of us have even had to go to counseling and therapy because we have been the victims of a mans refusal to respect our bodies. I have not experienced any form of abuse from a man but I deeply sympathize with women who are survivors of such treatment. To say it’s unfair is an understatement.
I say all of that to say this, gentlemen - please make a conscious effort to understand us. Please carefully read our body language when you feel compelled to approach us - the blank face is not an invitation to talk and the look of annoyance should not be perceived as a challenge. Sometimes, we just want you to leave us alone because we just don't want to talk to you. Our day wasn't going badly, we weren't upset and we don't have a complex - we just want to be left alone. I know that most men don't consciously try to make women feel uncomfortable but a lot of y'all have a talent for doing so and I think it's because people don't talk about these things enough, as these subjects can be complicated and uncomfortable. Well, I'm complicated too, and yes - I got time. So the next time you think the girl on the train who is waist deep into her book wants to have a pointless conversation with you - please consider what I'm about to say:
Life is not like the movies and you're not about to sweep us off of our feet in this packed 1 train during rush hour. This isn't speed-dating, we didn't choose to sit next to you because we want to talk - we sat there because we wanted a seat. We're trying to get to our destination harassment free and while you might be coming from an innocent place of intrigue - we are not obligated to engage you, we’re not even obligated to be polite... so if you get ignored just charge it to the game and keep it pushing.
We don't wake up in the morning and dress ourselves to please y'all. We don't wear makeup because we think you'll compliment our razor sharp cat-eye that took us 20 minutes and we sure as hell don't walk around with a note-pad making tallies of all the unsolicited compliments we get. We don't care if you think we're beautiful and we do not owe you a 'thank you'. If anything, we simply want to be recognized for our individual awesomeness, not just because you find us attractive. Underneath the beautiful skin, the gorgeous figures and the fly mane of hair - we are people, just like you. And most people don't feel the need to conceal their true sentiments - so when we roll our eyes at you because you're standing too close or if we slap your hand away as you try to grab our arms - please remember that we are not here for your entertainment.
The other day as I was waiting for my date to the James Blake show outside of Radio City Music Hall - a very foolish man decided to approach me. He was working for the venue and was chatting with two other men while I stood about 10 feet away. I was simply smoking a cigarette, deep in thought when he walked over and told me he liked my hair - so I said 'thank you' and smiled. I should have ignored him instead because sometimes 'thank you' translates as 'tell me more about the nonsense in your head' to some men. He asked what I was doing and I said 'I'm waiting for my date'. Can you guess what he said next? Of course you can girl, because most men who do this dumb sh*t are not very creative. He says 'I wouldn't have you waiting' and I looked at him like he was crazy and said 'Cool, but that's not what this is'. He took my sarcasm for light humor and decided to joke with me and said 'Well, I'm just hanging out with this forklift I found for work and I should kidnap you' to which I responded 'that is not funny in the least bit and I don't understand why you would ever share that'. When he finally understood that I would rather eat a bowl of nails than talk to him, he walked away and I overheard him say 'I wish people were grateful for compliments'. That interaction is what gave me the idea to write this.
Can y'all grasp how crazy that sounded to me? Can you understand how uncomfortable that made me? How could he have found humor in the idea of taking me somewhere against my will and what would compel him to actually say that out loud? Was I supposed to laugh? Did I take it the wrong way? I think a lot of women feel like this - like we did something wrong because we're not down to entertain bullsh*t. I also think what a lot of men do is talk AT women, instead of engaging us in a real conversation. Like, some of y'all seem like you don't care what is said as long as it leads to the reaction you want. Well, we are all fed up with your bad jokes and your lackluster attempts to impress us. Please do better. We're tired of having to be kind to men who don't have the capacity to understand that we don't want to talk to them. We're tired of being scared that their retaliation to being rejected or ignored will be physical harm. We are tired of having to lie about having a boyfriend because we know you won't understand what 'I'm not interested' means.
PLEASE. DO. BETTER.
And to all of my ladies, I hope that you never feel unsafe or disrespected by any man. I hope that you never encounter harm and never feel victimized. It's up to us to set the boundaries and limitations that we need in order to feel safe. Unfortunately, our society does not have a system by which to educate boys and men on how to approach women and when to back off - however, we can change that. We can educate our brothers, friends, sons and boyfriends on what sort of behavior they should refrain from. We can teach them how to treat us and how to better understand us, but it will take some time. I would like to raise my own daughters in a world where they don't have to lie about having a boyfriend to deter someone's advances, a world where they don't have to walk home with mace in their hands. If men are willing to learn then we need to be willing to teach. I also understand that some of us don't want to teach grown ass men about things they should already know and girlllll, I feel you.
One day we will live in a world that honors the complexities of women. We will live in a world where our sons, brothers and friends will be perfect examples of the gentlemen we conjure up in our minds. I cannot wait for that day to come so I am making efforts to correct that behavior in the men who are in my own life. I also make an effort to understand things from a male perspective, which is a lot simpler than I previously thought. Women are really amazing creatures, we are a portal between the unknown and the known world - it's time we start honoring ourselves for that and it's time the men in our lives recognize that power. I'm ready for that and I know all of you fly señoritas are too! So if you know of a man in need of some lessons in talking to the ladies, don't hesitate to send this to him. Don't you ever hesitate to demand the treatment that you want and don't you ever settle for anything less than you deserve. You're amazing, girl. You are beautiful, brilliant and worth your weight in gold. Remind the world of that at every opportunity you get.
- Frankie Reese
(image by lookhuman.com edit our own)