I had a relatively frustrating morning — I haven’t slept properly in almost a week, I woke up about thirty minutes before I wanted to be at work, and when I managed to make it on time, I realized I left my wallet in my apartment. All I wanted was a cup of coffee. Simple, right? I just wanted to walk down the street to my coffeeshop, get a cup of coffee, and go back to my apartment. But walking down the street as a woman in New York, at any time of day, is never simple. Inevitably, we will get spoken to in a derogatory manner by one or more men we do not know trying to bless us as we walk down the street at two in the afternoon with our coffee. And we say nothing.
What’s most frustrating about the catcalling in New York isn’t always what is said. Nine times out of ten all we get is, “God Bless You” or a good old-fashioned, “Have A Nice Day.” It’s the fact that these phrases are dripping with sexual undertones. They are remarks about our bodies disguised as harmless, flippant comments and that is what makes us so uncomfortable. What do we say? Do we berate men in the middle of the street for telling us to have a nice day? We can’t, even though we know they’re not genuinely hoping that we have a nice day. We’ll never say, “Thank you,” because we won’t condone their behavior. We don’t want to give them the satisfaction of getting a rise out of us, so we ignore it; because what else can we do?
I will never not feel nervous walking home at any time of day and seeing a scattering of men between me and my apartment door. Not because I’m scared, but because I know what’s coming. I know the chances of my body being objectified are high. I know that someone will watch me with their entire body as I walk by and wait until they’ve seen the back of me before they tell me to “have a nice day.” Why should we have to anticipate that? Why should we have to brace ourselves for words that make us uncomfortable?
What I don’t think these men understand is that they aren’t paying us a compliment. They aren’t making us feel good about ourselves, they’re degrading us to nothing more than our exterior. I am not so shockingly beautiful (especially today) that you need to stop me on the street to tell me so. You’re not going out of your way to tell me to “have a nice day” for my benefit; you’re doing it for your own. If you are standing on the street at two in the afternoon catcalling women you don’t know, it’s because you’re alone. And you’re inevitably alone because you don’t respect women. If you did, you wouldn’t be standing on the street catcalling women you don’t know — you would be at home with one.
Have a nice day.