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Saturday, 24 March 2012

The Hidden Danger of Catcalling

By: Malanka Sveta

Content Warning: Depictions of Street Harassment, molestation/groping (including by a family member)

I owe my grandfather a lot.  He was, for a very long time, the only man in my life who was not abusive to me.  When we took our family trips to his farm I knew that I would be safe.  My father wouldn't dare hurt me there.  It was my own private faerie.  No fear, no abuse, no restrictions, just unconditional love and unending support.  I owe my grandfather the happiest and safest moments of my childhood.



I also owe him for teaching me that street harrassment is wrong.  I began to experience street harrassment when I was 9.  I grew breasts, and boys and men would touch me all. the. time.  They would stare.  The men would strike up conversations in line at the corner store, or as I waited for my parents outside the bank.  They would offer rides or alcohol.  At school my bra straps were pulled daily by male classmates, and boys older than I, but still prepubescent, would pinch my ass.  If I went swimming there was sure to be some teenage boy who would remove, or attempt to remove, my bikini top.  By the time I was 12 it was completely normal.  No one ever stepped in.  Even my father had groped my breasts and made crass jokes about them.  It was literally everywhere.

And one day I was with my grandfather.  He was driving me back to my aunts house.  We saw, from behind, hair to the waist, a leather jacket and jeans, and slender legs.  And my grandfather rolled down his window and whistled as loudly as he could.  And the very startled man whipped around, completely shocked, absolutely dumbfounded, beard halfway down his chest.  And my grandfather hit the accelerator and ran a stop sign to get out of there.

It was an awakening.  Not seeing that my grandfather was imperfect, but that catcalling was wrong.  There was something shameful about it, something rancid, something vile.  And it has never been completely normal since.

Thank you, grandpa, for showing me that street harrassment is wrong.  And thank you, slender long haired stranger, for showing my grandfather the hidden dangers of catcalling.  He never did it again because he said he could never be certain anymore.  Win win.





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