“Damn girl, is all that yours? Let me get some, just a little bit. I’ll marry you!”
It was the year 2000. I was 19. I was walking down 4th Avenue in Brooklyn. I was wearing a black shirt and jeans. A man yelled those words at me. He spoke to me as if I were holding a delicious piece of cake in my hands. Only, it wasn’t food he was after. He was commenting on my body. As he yelled these words down the city block I was mortified. His two friends that were standing next to him slapped him five while they laughed and whistled at me. I folded my arms over my breasts to try (unsuccessfully) to cover them. I can still hear the words in my mind.
Let me get some, just a little bit.
I felt my face become hot with embarrassment.
I’ve heard the argument that women should be “flattered” when men yell these sorts of compliments at them as they’re walking down a city street. Personally, I just wanted to get to the store and buy a coffee. I wasn’t looking for unsolicited comments on my body.
When I saw the viral video where a woman strolls around New York City for 10 hours and is relentlessly catcalled, I reflected upon my own experiences where men shouted pick up lines at me. Immediately I was 19 years-old again, standing on that street corner, feeling anything but flattered. I was holding the tears back from streaming down my face.
Is that all yours?
I needed to wait just five more minutes until I could get home. I would change my top. Then I could feel less self conscious about my breasts. This wasn’t the first time I’d been verbally harassed on the street and I was sure it wouldn’t be the last. I started wearing baggy hooded sweatshirts after that when I’d go out at night.
I’ll marry you!
That was 1999.
It’s 2014 now, and nothing has changed.
Many men still think that it’s appropriate to try to “get to know a woman,” by talking to her/about her like she’s a delectable pastry. A woman is not a human being to these men, she is an object, she is something to conquer, to devour, to take over entirely.
Women are humans.
We are not objects.
We are people.
We deserve respect.
We deserve to walk down a city block without commentary on what we are wearing.
We are entitled to board a subway car without listening to comments about our breasts or our behinds.
So please, the next time you think about speaking to a woman like she’s a piece of food, check yourself, go to a diner and have a slice of apple pie instead.