“Looking good, love!”
“Cheer up, it might never happen!”
It's a sad fact, but most women are subjected to some kind of sexual harassment on a regular basis. It can come in many forms, but the one that is doubtless the most common is on-street catcalling.
Most of the time we can just laugh it off, but sometimes being shouted or whistled at in the street can feel more than a little intimidating. Whether you're walking alone or in a group, there is nothing pleasant about being singled out by a stranger while on the street. Far from feeling like a compliment, it can feel downright creepy… as well as just being plain annoying.
Although women really should not be the ones blamed for being harassed in public, one of the questions most commonly asked of someone who complains about being catcalled is, “Well, what were you wearing?”
Yes, it’s a logical question in some ways – if you’ve ever walked to the bus stop while dressed up for a night on the town, you’ve probably braced yourself for whistles and beeps more than you normally would. But making an assumption that a woman was harassed simply because she was wearing a short skirt is not the way to approach the problem.
Blogger Kati Heng was tired of being questioned about her clothes any time she (rightly) complained about unwanted attention from men in public, and so she started a Tumblr page encouraging people to “to get over the question ‘what were you wearing?’ and just listen to our stories.”
Users have used the Tumblr page to share their own experiences of public harassment, along with pictures of what they were wearing at the time. Some of the stories are funny, some are sad, but they all drive home the fact that us women are not the ones to blame for sexual harassment.
Quotes like, "I told him to leave me alone and he told me I 'couldn’t have been ruder to him.'", "I felt beautiful when I put [the dress] on, but by the end of the night, I felt paranoid, nauseous, and filthy." and "I immediately rolled my window down and burst into tears" show that catcalling is far from just a bit of "fun."
While small projects like the But What Was She Wearing page might not be enough to stop sexual harassment, they do a lot to raise awareness and to re-align some of the blame. The problem is not what we look like or what we wear, ladies. The problem is not us – but we can be part of the solution.