As I was walking to work the other day, a young man decided to address me. At first, I ignored it, thinking he was catcalling me. But he was kind of insisting, so I decided to remove my headphones and listen to what he had to say. Let me tell you about the conversation I had with him while he was constantly walking beside me.
Him: I have never seen you around here, are you new in town?
Him: Where are you going in such a hurry?
Me: I am on my way to work. Did you want to ask me something? I’d like to finish my walk without being disturbed.
Him: I’ll leave you alone in a bit, but tell me what nationality are you? Are you Moroccan? What’s your name?
Me: (confused) Yes, but I am taken.
Him: I don’t see a ring, which means it isn’t official, which means that you’re not really taken. But I see that you don’t want me to talk to you so I’ll leave you alone.
He then decided to cross the street and leave me alone. I did not put my headphones back in as I wanted to stay alert to what would happen. And as my intuition was right, when I took a turn in a less crowded street, I heard him calling me again. At that moment, I started getting worried as it was an empty street and he had been following me.
Him: How do you want me to leave you alone while you are walking in front of me like this (imitates a feminine walk). Just tell me your name… Hey honey, even if you’ll be married, you will never be left alone with that body of yours.
I started getting really mad and scared as he was imitating me, sexualising me, insinuating I was the one seducing him.
Me: Listen, I am not going to tell you my name. Now I will kindly ask you to leave me alone because you are being incredibly disrespectful. This will be the last time I ask you.
Him: Don’t get mad, honey. I was respectful until you decided to ignore me, you are the one being disrespectful as you can’t even have the decency to tell me your name.
Me: I don’t HAVE to tell you my name. Leave me alone.
Him: Ok, I will leave you alone. Damn, you must really love that man of yours… But hey, if you ever change your mind, I own a café in the neighborhood, please come by whenever you want to.
Now let me tell you that I had never been so scared of a man catcalling me before. He was following me throughout the whole conversation, coming closer to me, intimidating me. I wanted to type out our conversation so you could feel how aggressive he got towards the end. Knowing that we were walking in an empty street, he knew he could easily scare me off.
The worst thing of all? That man made me doubt myself. Am I too present? Too provocative? Was I dressed okay? Throughout the whole conversation, he decided that he was entitled to follow and verbally attack me. Why? Because I am a female and I am asking for it. How so? By not being officially taken, by walking alone, and because my body is shaped a certain way.
I often hear men say: ‘Catcalling means that we are just complimenting you, I’d love it if a female complimented me like that.’ But do you see us as a physical threat? Do we scare you, intimidate you? Do you grab your phone and hold an alarm number on dial when we come too close? The answer is no. Catcalling is not about complimenting someone. It is about asserting power over women, even if they respectfully decline.
Stop dismissing our struggle, stop imposing yourselves and stop minimalising the issue of street harassment. We women, do not owe you anything, not a greeting, not a smile and not our name.