Walking outside without any fear is a most extraordinary and liberating experience for a woman.
And yet it is quite rare for any woman to feel like that.
As a young girl, I was the subject of bullying in school with braces and glasses, a short blond curly Afro-do and feet pointing inwards, making me trip a lot. I was also naturally clumsy, good at school and I was too honest for my own good. Needless to say, life outside of class was hell. At 12 I’d lost the braces, the short hair and the x-feet and turned from ugliest to most popular girl for a while. I regularly had to run home to escape from boys pushing me into bushes and grabbing me everywhere inappropriate. It was the other end of the scale and I didn’t quite know how to handle this either.
I soon learned I couldn’t win. I was going to be called something one way or the other, and like the bullying… for a long time it felt I just had to bear it. But I preferred the popularity-run massively over the bullying. It just felt way better to be popular then to be unpopular.
From age 12 till age 24 the catcalling and the harassment never stopped. I felt like a pair of long legs mainly, or a pair of beautiful eyes… but I rarely felt seen as a whole, intelligent and creative human being… and this too had a damaging effect, just as much as the bullying. At some point I started to hide myself from prying eyes and comments, I started to take less care of myself, make myself ‘ugly’ and dress in baggy clothes just to have some peace while being out. I’d started a life in hiding of my true self, but…. a life in fear, a life of imprisonment, is no life at all…
I eventually moved to the countryside and for 10 years I lived a quiet hidden life. The beauty and peace of nature and the unconditional honest love from animals were very healing. I learned to love & be proud of myself and very slowly my fears began to fade. I started to come out of my shell and dress the way I liked. I learned to be ok with having a presence and charisma. My sense of safety, strength and self-esteem kept growing. Self-defence classes definitely added to that.
Walking the street without fear, for the first time at 38, I cannot express how freeing and amazing that it. But… my past has shaped me and made me stronger. I hold no grudges, although that took me a long time, I can forgive and understand, but I am not afraid anymore to confront a wrong or to stand up and defend myself.
The catcalling experiences are now my wisdom and my defence. They’ve pushed me to find a deeper meaning, better boundaries, a more loving approach and more understanding for those who live on the edge for whatever reason. We all are responsible for this world, for men who obviously haven’t had the guidance, support and love they needed to become the honourable men who treat women respectfully.
As far as I have been able to see into and try to understand abusers, cheaters, or catcallers, very often the bad behaviour stems from having been exposed to some form of violence or deprivation in care, starvation from love and harassment in their own younger years. From not having been loved and nurtured or protected enough by their parents, from bad experiences with women who treated them unkind and from peer pressure by their mates, who might have similar problems.
Catcalling is in my opinion a sign that reveals deeper problems present in that man and in their environment. To just address the signal, isn’t going to make the real deeper problem go away. It’s fantastic that the internet has revealed one of women’s major problems, but they have always, always been there… they were just never revealed in the way they have been now.
It’s about seeing that catcalling is the result of an inner problem. Catcalling won’t go away, by just putting a punishment on it, we might be able to control it for a while… but that will only lead to the real problem coming out in a different way. It’s no different from fighting an addiction: you can fight the addiction but if you don’t deal with what is underneath, which has led TO the addiction, another addiction will arise very quickly.
People who are deeply hurting inside, lash out to their environment… Catcalling is one of those ‘lashes’ and until we see that the men who do it have a need for something essential that they have missed out on or are damaged in, be it love, care, trust or loneliness… this disrespectful behaviour will continue.
Very often they focus on what is around them because they cannot bear to look inside, they cannot bear to feel their own pain and shame… there is too much of it, too much damaged pride and disappointment in the world, too much misanthropy in themselves and in their standards and achievements to be able to really connect with their heart and soul. Because they are hurt, they feel it’s ok to hurt others, because they’ve been disrespected, it’s ok to disrespect others, because they’ve lost their inner connection, all sorts of disruptive behaviour comes out. A happy and fulfilled man, is very rarely in need of disrespectful behaviour. He doesn’t need to lash out, control or harass.
Unhappy men have not learned to deal with their deepest pain, so they will act it out in the world and without knowing it adding to that inner pain by doing so. When I work with men, very rarely do they tell me their childhood dreams were to disrespect, catcall, harass or hate women and very rarely do they feel there was any real support system for them to talk about or reveal their innermost feelings, pains and problems to anyone, without being made into the laughing stock or being told to pull together and ‘man-up’. If I were a man, I’d probably struggle to talk about my feelings and hide my pain deep down, just to be ‘safe’. I was a woman and it was difficult for me to share my feelings when I was young.
But, there is only one way out and that is change and heal that inner environment, then we amend that outer environment. When it becomes safe for men to reveal their deepest pains, blames, shame, hurt and fears, only then will these caged, hurt, angry and disappointed men turn back to becoming honourable, and understand how their behaviour damaged others… Then they will see that life pays off and becomes happier, lighter, brighter and better. Learning to care for themselves, and become their own person with their own values. Being responsible for their own actions, traumas and feelings, will add to their courage, self-esteem and respect. Only then can they truly feel great and when they do, they can allow others to be great, to look great and treat them with respect. Because in the end, what comes out, is a reflection of what lies within… and that always works both ways.