I know I'm a little behind the times, but I started reading Tina Fey's Bossypants today, and I'm obviously loving it. In it she talks about the moment that a woman knows she is a woman, and that almost all of the women she discussed this with discovered their womanhood via a man yelling at them from a car - that there were no positive experiences of discovering womanhood. My first reaction was that this seemed strange. I don't remember the exact moment that I felt like a woman instead of a little girl, and I am pretty sure it had something to do with being interested in boys, or noting their interest in me, but I think for me it was a positive experience. It certainly had nothing to do with being shouted at from a car window.
As someone who, nowadays, gets shouted at on the fairly regular by boys in cars etc, it seemed weird to realize that this only started about halfway through college for me. Was I not worthy of being shouted at until I was 20? No, I don't think that's it - being shouted at has little to do with one's worthiness, and more to do with the shouter. So what was different about potential shouters before I was 20? I knew them all.
Yup, until I was 20 I lived in quite a small town. I grew up in Glover, VT, where the population is just under 1000. That's right, a number so low I don't even have to put a comma in it if I don't want to. Everyone knew everyone. And for my first 3 semesters of college, I lived in Aurora, NY, which has a population of less than 400. It's almost as if any would-be cat-callers in these towns realized that cat-calling is not a very nice thing to do. It wasn't until I moved to Farmington, ME, with a population almost 8 times bigger than the town I grew up in, that I was lucky enough to be shouted at by strangers - and there is the key. True cat-calling needs to be done by strangers to illicit the proper level of creep-out upon the cat-called.
It follows in kind that fake cat-calling - like when you whistle to a dear friend that you see in the street - doesn't work if it's anonymous. You can't know your friend is being ironic if you don't know it is your friend. One time when I was walking down the street in Farmington, I did hear someone whistle at me, and then a minute later my friend Mark texted me to say that it had been him doing the whistling from his car, and he felt bad when he'd seen my look around uncomfortably afterwards.
In this way, cat calling reminds me of insulting someone behind their back. It's a mean-spirited thing to do. And sometimes I pretend to talk behind my friends' backs, but purposely within their earshot, because what I'm saying is in jest, and what I really mean is "I love you." They get the message if they hear my fake insults, but if they don't hear me even though I meant for them to - well then I am just straight-up being mean behind someone's back, and it doesn't work. In the above scenario, the cat call was taken as mean-spirited until I knew it was really just my friend saying "I love you." Which is kind of fucked up because the insinuation behind a cat-call is usually that the cat-caller is enjoying the existence of the cat-called. That's what they are pretending. But both parties know that it is a creepy thing to do, which is why the cat-caller wants to be anonymous.
On that note, I will leave you with Khaela Maricich's interpretation of boys yelling out of car windows: