It doesn’t matter what she was wearing. This story would be true regardless of her attire. I would've missed her if it weren’t for the chorus of hecklers who announced her presence. First came the men, at least 20 years her senior, to the right.
Then, the two in the black Corolla, slowing traffic to hiss.
“Pssst. Ay, look here! Pssst!”
The driver mumbled “bitch” before speeding to make the light.
And the last, who left his front yard to follow her down the block. He continued to whisper in her ear, as she rounded the corner.
My little cousin and I were returning from the library. With books in hand, he was oblivious to what I was witnessing.
“I think that I’ll read this one first. I don’t want to read the other one,” he explained.
I make him read something of his choosing and something outside of his comfort zone. It’s our subtle game of growth and punishment, depending on which of us you ask.
I stopped at the intersection to make sure the woman was safe—to make sure that she wasn’t harmed. I didn’t account for the harm of a single encounter or the danger in words. I didn’t account for the cumulative effect of what she must experience each day and what that may feel like in a lifetime. They made it halfway down the block before he turned back. She continued on her way, never looking anywhere but forward.
I looked at my cousin and thought about the man that I want him to be. I thought about what I needed to do to ensure that he grows to be better than me. Catcalling isn’t my thing, but I’m far from perfect. I’m learning every day what male privilege means and what safety truly looks like.
I thought about the young woman who, in one block, garnered the unwanted attention of several men. And, I thought about the men who only find value in women’s bodies.
“That was only one block,” I thought. “She just wanted to go home.”
Men, we need to do better. You can start with these reads:
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