It is so strange living in a society where catcalling is called an epidemic. Everywhere I look, I see women calling out men who give them unwanted attention, whether it is while having lunch with some of my girl friends, reading a status on Facebook while scrolling through my newsfeed, or clicking on an article. Is it weird to say that I sometimes want to be catcalled?
Combating catcalling seems to be an issue that brings many women together from all over the nation, and internationally, forming allies as they fight for the same cause in this case. However, for many disabled women with visible disabilities, this looks to not be the case. While I have been sharing what I am about to share to you all with other visibly disabled women, I have come across similar stories and sentiments that have somewhat put me, and others, in an awkward confused feeling. I am a woman, but I feel as if I am not one because of women. Allow me to explain.
By definition, to “catcall” means “to make a whistle, shout, or comment of a sexual nature to a woman passing by.” As I listen to my friends talk about their experiences with catcalling along with reading articles of the act being deeply tied to “being a woman,” I can’t help but to want to walk outside and try to take a whiff of this social virus just to feel included in this aspect of womanhood. When talking to my able-bodied friends about this issue and my lack of knowledge in how it feels, they would often respond with “well, you’re lucky” and “it’s probably better off that way,” but is it really? When dozens of friends share and repost screenshots of tweets, Tumblr, or Instagram relating being a women to the struggle of being catcalled, I sometimes panic over how I am unable to relate to a vast majority and ask myself “Am I really a woman?”
Before I possibly receive waves of scrutiny for this post, let me tell you where I am, and a lot of other visibly disabled people are, coming from. The closest that I have ever been to catcalling is when passing strangers tell me “You are truly an inspiration” or “You’re an example for all of us!” (real occurrences) when they have zero clue of who I am; all they see is me walking in crutches. One instance in particular that I will never forget is when a man yelled at me “Woohoo! Look at her! She’s fantastic!” 3 meters away while pointing at me in passing. I call this “inspo-calling,” and it’s pretty damn patronizing. Ten more bonus points to those strangers if they come up to me and ask if they could pray for God to “cure” my “disease” when what I have is not a disease at all. In fact, many disabled people don’t have diseases and are completely healthy and functioning with their diagnosis perfectly fine, sometimes even better than their able-bodied counterparts.
That is my reality.
If you need another example to put my thoughts more into a perspective in a way that others would understand easier, imagine this as you’re reading. Picture a bench on the side of a pathway to a park that you’re walking to, and a man standing right in front of it, literally hitting on every woman passing him. Say, you also identify as female with the only blatant difference between you and the women that this man has been catcalling is a pair of crutches coming out of your hands. Now, it’s your turn to pass him. You identify as a woman; you look like a woman; you feel like a woman. Do you necessarily want that attention from a man who is sexualizing women who he knows nothing about? No, but you are expecting the action as he is doing it to all the other women, right? You finally pass him, but he doesn’t say a word; he doesn’t even make eye contact with you. In fact, he turns his head to the side completely as if there was an entire gap between the girl in front and behind you. This is what actually happened, and this isn’t the only instance.
I am, by no means, saying that catcalling is a good thing or that women should be catcalled. I also am not saying that women should want to be catcalled but rather asking you all to think in a different perspective and challenge you all to not create a mold for all women and their struggles.
I am disabled, and I am a woman, too.
Photo Source: Nicole Son