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Got catcalled: 20 representative seconds as a modern ladyperson

So there I was, turning the corner back to my house with a fresh cup of coffee, completely in la-la land as I thought about different ways to present some competition equations in the ecology course I help teach. I am lecturing tomorrow, and my students seem to be very gunshy about math, and I don't want to make them terrified of zero isoclines and things, so I'm trying to design a worksheet that will walk them through everything. (For those who are interested, the Lotka-Volterra competition equations model the effects of interspecific competition on populations of different species. It's not very complicated, but there are enough variables that upon first introduction it seems intimidating. It's pretty cool.) I tend to space out while I walk, because my best thinking gets done when I am moving. I have been known to pace in circles around the house while engaged in long phone calls.

Anyway, there's a stoplight at the corner and some cars, none of which I am really looking at. Suddenly I hear a, "hello!" Not sure if that's directed to me, but I'm the only person walking. Because it might be a catcall, I don't turn my head. The voice again: "I said hi, hello!" Yep, definitely a catcall. Put on my poker face where I act oblivious, round the corner and start walking toward my house, "Fuck you, you BITCH!" The thing that got me was how incredulous it was. Like, this guy was just so put off that I wasn't reacting to him. Engine revs loudly, truck guns through the intersection.

A few things. First, I know this kind of thing is incredibly common — lord knows it's happened enough times to me — but it always bugs me when it happens here, because things tend to be slightly more polite here than other places I've lived. In the last town I lived, only an hour away, on my neighborhood running route about every other run at least one person would start honking or yelling or slowing down in their car to be creepy. It was worse if you tried to run on really busy streets.


Second, I am incredibly pleased with my poker face, because clearly nothing could have annoyed this guy more than no response. Hopefully he senses my contempt for him — not even worth flipping off as he drove away.

Third, god, I feel like this is emblematic of how things are right now. I'm in a grad program (hence prepping for lecture) in a field that is moving toward a nice gender balance (my committee is actually exactly 50/50) and by almost all measures doing better, rights-wise and opportunity-wise, then my grandma's and mother's generations. AND YET. This type of assholery is STILL publicly acceptable. No matter how many strides you make, technically speaking, you're still going to come up against the fact that a portion of society sees you only as a body, and a body that exists at the beck and call of male actors above all. Junot Díaz's recent thing about men not being raised to understand female subjectivity is really ringing home for me right now.



ETA: The whole first paragraph happened because I was actually going to write a post about scaring/not scaring ecology/wildlife/botany/range students with mathy things, but then I decided to write about the catcalling instead. If anyone would like I could write a separate post on the Lotka-Volterra equations. ;) (NB: I am sure nobody wants this.)

ETA 2: I realize that it's pretty privileged that this registers as an offense compared to worse things that happen all the time. Just bothered me, is all.

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