Reclaiming My Femininity

For the past two years, I’ve been focusing on practicality: sublime productivity, getting stuff done. As a university student living abroad, that’s what I ought to do, right? Focus on getting. stuff. done.

And so I did.

Day-in-day-out I’d sloppily slap on some concealer, press in some translucent powder, yank my hair back into a ponytail, slip on my joggers, and head out to the library. I was on a never ending mission of academic success.

In the meantime, I had lost the joy of doing my make-up and dressing up; something I used to enjoy back in high school when life was just a tad bit easier. During these last two years, the only time I’d put effort into my appearance was on weekends. That’s when the complete 180 transformation would take place; when I’d give my eyebrows a little shape, pat in my concealer rather than bludgeon my under eye with my finger, and unveil my mascara wand from the cobwebs in my make up bag. My hair would be unstuck from its usual cowlicked, slicked back ponytail. I’d give it volume – yes, you heard me right, VOLUME – and on good weekends, after an especially productive week, I’d even go as far as curling it as a reward. I’d feel really good and would hi-five myself for investing in my appearance.

As soon as the weekend shenanigans were over, Monday hit me like a bag of bricks and it was go back to the unflattering clothes and shapeless hair. I’d quench my lack of self confidence in my looks by telling myself I was going to school to get my education, NOT to be pretty and cater to the male patriarchy!!! But the truth is, I didn’t feel good about myself – and no amount of telling myself that “beauty comes from the inside” was enough to deflect me from the truth.

It wasn’t just my appearance that was suffering. My mission of living life as a goal-driven, highly efficient woman affected my enjoyment of the little pleasures of life. My appreciation for all five of my senses were diminished.

My room? Bland. Was it a jail cell? A hostel room? You couldn’t tell – it lacked any semblance of personality. “The less I have in my room, the less dusting I have to do!” was my rationale for not decorating my dorm; for not giving it a little sprinkle of me. I couldn’t even justify lighting a candle for some ambiance. 

What I ate was affected by my highly mechanized, robocop mentality as well. I ate not based on my cravings or for taste, but rather for MAXIMAL NUTRIENT INTAKE and what was considered the perfect ‘healthy’ balance. That is, carbs, proteins, fats; rice, boiled chicken, and vegetables. A bodybuilder’s diet; a doctor’s exemplary patient. I was completely numb to my body’s senses and cravings.

I had one perfume (why have more? This one does its job!), no facial or bodily creams besides my SPF-infused moisturizer (2-in-1? Count me in!), and all my scented body creams remained untouched since they were first purchased. They were the remnants of my feminine past.

My mindset had diminished me to a one-dimensional canvas. Although I excelled in academia, this way of life took its gravest toll on my ability to feel. I’d been suppressing my emotions for so long in favor of achievement that I forgot what it was like to feel without restraint. Instead of allowing myself to feel, I’d shun myself and try to get rid of those feelings as soon as possible so I could get back to the “grind.”

 I was constantly in action mode; I felt so uncomfortable when I’d just let myself be. I’d feel the urge to do something – anything –  that would benefit my future employed self. Otherwise, I’d get stuck in a mental rut of feeling everything I’d been avoiding. Living life on the premise of delayed gratification came at the expense of my current self: I was burning out.

The tipping point was when this mentality seeped into the summertime. Instead of enjoying the short time I had back home with my family, I was huddled up on a chair in the living room doing online courses to enrich my CV. That’s when I realized something was off; although it was no medical diagnosis, I arrived at the conclusion that my so called ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ energies were off-balance. I was steadily drowning in my masculine energy.

The masculine archetype, in short, “does.” Masculinity thrives on challenges, logic, achieving, and decisive action. The feminine archetype on the other hand, just “is.” Femininity is creative, intuitive, nurturing, receiving, and emotional. These two forces don’t compete with one another in an individual; they complement each other. 

Until I had discovered the importance of embodying both energies, I thought emotions were to be avoided. I viewed them as a display of weakness representing a person ‘succumbing to the irrational.’ This resulted in me finding it difficult to figure out what I liked and disliked as I was vehemently refusing to sit down and reflect.

I attribute my unhealthy drive for academic/career success to the enforced Westernized definition of achievement. It’s the hustle and bustle, the constant grind, the never ending ‘bop to the top’ that’s celebrated. Masculine endeavors are put on a pedestal while feminine ones are seen as rewards to said hard work. But I, nor you, could function solely on one type of energy. 

This year I have made it my mission to embrace the feminine. It’s been a couple of months since I have granted myself the permission to indulge in things that won’t necessarily raise my IQ or skyrocket me into corporate stardom. I now spend time creating, and daydreaming about, outfits and sophisticated make-up looks as a creative outlet. My dorm room’s adorned with countless polaroids of me and my friends, and its window sills display an assortment of scented candles. I even treated myself to my first manicure and, with the help of gel nails, finally overcame my stress-induced, lifelong nail-biting habit!

To beckon my feelings out of the cave of shame they’ve been retreating in, I also started journaling. I write about everything and anything that crosses my mind, particularly the negative emotions that surface from time to time. It’s cathartic. And overwhelming. Finally allowing yourself to feel the buildup of emotions you’ve been repressing for two years makes quite a change. The toughest emotion I’m dealing with is loneliness: the inevitable byproduct of my exhausting workaholism.

Is there a ‘productivity guilt’ that I have yet to overcome when I take time for myself? Of course. But while I may not be productive in the ‘I’m-assuring-my-one-way-ticket-to-the-capitalistic-slaughterhouse’ way, I am grasping a better understanding of myself. I am, for once, cutting myself some slack and getting to know myself outside the mold shaped by external forces.

So, allow me to (re-)introduce myself. Hi, I’m Derya. I love red lipstick; cinnamon-scented things; my morning ritual of coffee, oats, and True Crime videos; personal, non-academic writing; long, aimless walks; and fashion. Oh, also, I’m a final year Business Administration student.

 

Photo by Johanna Bommer.

Is Chivalry Good Sexism?

One night, a fateful one that is, I began lamenting over my history of dating experiences, as I do every so often when I’m in the mood for a self-inflicted emotional rollercoaster. Most were good, some were bad, and some were so unworthy of recognition I struggled to recall them. Picking away at the crusty scabs of my love life I unravelled, to my surprise, minimal-to-no chivalry. This frustrated me, evidently, as here I am aggressively puncturing my keyboard in distress. 

WHERE DID CHIVALRY GO? 

Is it doomed, six-feet under in a sealed coffin? Would it be absolutely, utterly, and undeniably incomprehensible of me to ask to be wooed in a quintessentially romantic way? You know, whisked away on a horse carriage by a man who, ever-so-smoothly, lodges a rose stem between his teeth while somehow still being able to whisper sweet nothings into my ear? I’m not asking for too much am I? (. . . don’t answer, it’s a rhetorical question.)

As I awingly replay movie scenes of knights in shining armor protecting their women at all costs, going above and beyond to ensure their utmost safety and comfort, a pestering feeling of guilt brews inside me. 

Am I — a self-proclaimed warrioress spouting chants of equality — in a position to demand such courteous, self-less, savior-like behavior from a man? I’m not, clearly, if I am an independent woman and the motive behind chivalry comes from the placement of women on a pedestal, RIGHT? 

WRONG! Ish. Wrong-ish. No… but yes. Okay, let me explain. 

Does the age-old saying of “if it’s too good to be true, it probably is” ring a bell? Well lo and behold, gentle reader, chivalry is no exception! A simple Google search reveals that chivalry is, essentially, sexism — benevolent sexism that is. 

Now, I know what this looks like. Here she goes again, a man-hating feminist in her prime, storming her way through the world ready to shred the remaining good things in life to bits — but hear me out.

I likewise initially thought feminism was going too far when it began scrutinizing men’s harmless acts, such as them opening doors for us or pulling out our chair (“UmMm I cAn Do ThAt MySeLf ThAnK yOu VeRy MuCh”). Were we so desperate to seek out faults in male behavior for the sake of feeling oppressed, handpicking instances in life to feed our victim mentality? I considered this angle, as well. But things are often far more complex and multi-faceted than they initially appear, as I will come to unpack here.

Benevolent sexism — unlike the hostile sexism we can inarguably label as being unjust — stereotypes women as affectionate, delicate, sensitive, and in need of protection and provision. 

The bewildering paradox of benevolently sexist behavior is that, instead of despising it for underhandedly promoting the idea that we’re weak and incapable of taking care of ourselves, women often seek it. Exhibit A: me.

A recent study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin revealed that women, irrespective of whether they identified themselves high or low on the feminist scale, were attracted to benevolently sexist behavior. What’s more is that, although these women understood that a chivalrous man would potentially come at the expense of their independence being dismissed, they still sought out these behaviors.

Hmm.

Perhaps I’m not the only one struggling to wrap my head around this existential crisis-inducing catch-22? You may wonder why, despite its shortcomings, chivalrous (benevolently sexist) behavior is still attractive to women. There’s a variety of reasons, the most obvious being that we perceive these actions as something a nice, decent human being would do! They’re viewed as being nothing more than acts of prosocial behavior, and most of the time, that’s precisely what they are. I highly doubt that a man offering a helping hand to a woman carrying heavy luggage does so with  malicious intent.

The other (much more thrilling) reason emerges from an evolutionary and copulatory standpoint. Let’s plunge — head first 😉 — into some Mating 101. 

One of my favorite papers on this topic is by David M. Buss, wherein he postulates the undeniable truth about sex: women bear far larger consequences for having sex than men do (think internal female fertilization, pregnancy, lactation). So, the costs of making poor sexual decisions are much graver for women than they are for men. As such, women would ideally be choosing a mate of high value. When a man displays acts of benevolent sexism, it alludes to the idea that they are willing to commit to, protect, and invest in us and our potential future offspring. Which, in prehistoric times, was crucial — given the many surrounding predators and our physical weakness during (and after) pregnancy. 

Now let’s say that you, as the strong, empowered, capable woman that you are, decide to — just like I have — submit to your primitive yearning for chivalry. “What are the consequences?” you might ask. Well, apparently “plenty” is the answer.

In the unlikely event that you think I’m full of shit, I have even more research (that’s guaranteed to spiral you into an even deeper identity crisis) to back up my claims! 

Benevolent sexism is bound to affect women’s internal thought processes as claimed by a plethora of research articles. Women holding benevolently sexist beliefs are less ambitious education and career-wise, likely to depend on their future husband for financial support, and more prone to self-objectification. Agonizingly for me, however, these women also self-report greater life satisfaction. 

To further rub salt to your (and my very own) gaping wound, Glick & Fiske’s theory on the subject states that we often rely on benevolent sexism to protect us against other men’s hostile sexism. This is especially the case in highly sexist societies, where sexism is both the threat and the solution. Although, naturally, there’s a pitfall.

It isn’t all women that benefit from benevolent sexism. According to one study, only women who abide by traditional gender roles (e.g. housewives) do so, while those going against these gender norms (e.g. sexually promiscuous women, queer women, etc.) are treated with the healthy, standard dose of hostile sexism.

All that glitters (more like faintly glimmers in this case) isn’t gold, however; by using one form of sexism as a guard against another form of sexism, we perpetuate our own disadvantage in society. Fuck me, right? We can’t seem to win. 

So ladies, given this likely uncalled for amount of information, what will it be? Are we to succumb to chivalry and seek it out for personal satisfaction, or restrain ourselves for the greater good? Savor the blue pill, or gulp down the red pill?

Pick your poison wisely. 

 

 

All photos provided by Derya Yildirim. 

 

Social Media Made Me Grow Up Too Quick

 

In 2012, I stepped foot into the dark, uncharted underworld of Tumblr.com — or what I like to call the black market of social media.

Fresh-faced, 13-year-old me had effortlessly bypassed Tumblr’s Terms & Conditions webpage, and (unbeknownst to me at the time) plunged head-first into content that A) a 13-year-old should be barred from seeing, and B) should probably be tipped off to authorities.

I hadn’t yet received the euphemistic “the-stork-delivers-the-baby” analogy from my parents at the time, but after only a few months on Tumblr, I had become knowledgeable on the consensual agreements required prior to establishing an ethically sound Dominant and Submissive BDSM relationship — talk about kids growing up too fast, eh? (Don’t worry I will, that’s what this essay is about.)

Now, don’t get it twisted HATERS, this is not me kink-shaming. This is me considering the possibility that maybe, just maybe there are some things that a prepubescent child should not be subjected to. Especially given that our teens are formative years, where we’re at the peak of our naiveté. This period of time in our lives is supposed to set the foundation for the way we perceive the world around us, so it’s safe to say that I got a very… questionable head start.

What ensued after Tumblr’s unwarranted sexual awakening was a spark of curiosity that quickly tumbled over into extensive research on the different paraphilias and “means” of reproduction. I dipped my toes into the quicksand of adulthood and ended up getting my leg swallowed whole.

In retrospect, I shouldn’t have immersed myself in the theoretical aspects of looooove makin’ that soon, but there was no way I was going to be able to suppress that curiosity when everything I wanted to know was a few keyboard taps (and “Yes, I am 18” buttons) away. No one could’ve anticipated I would be onto such things so prematurely, and they were never going to find out either — incognito mode is a hell of a drug.

After the realization that I inadvertently stole my own childhood, I went fishing for some more repressed coming-of-age memories exclusively for this blog post.

(Ugh, my bravery. Unparalleled.)

An instance that has reluctantly come to mind is how drastically (and inappropriately) my priorities on Facebook changed. I started off very innocently; my sole reason for signing up being to access their selection of games. A few years later, I — still a 13-year-old — was aboard the insidious (mega)trend of using social media as and for self-promotion and validation.

Naturally, sexually charged portraits yielded the most engagement. Women whose photos flaunted sex appeal were showered with compliments, while those who preferred to share pictures of them sniffing petunias in botanical gardens were in a slight attention drought.

Noticing this pattern as a teen, under no friggin’ circumstance was I willing to be part of the losing team — I had standards for myself, you see. I wanted to bathe in corrosive levels of superficial confidence. I longed to surf waves of abundant digital admiration; buoyed by a king carrier of likes and comments. This need of mine, however, meant I’d have to stop photographing myself vacuuming petals with my nostrils, and instead try emulating grown women’s alluring photographic presence.

All I needed was a confidence boost to propel me to internet success.

That boost came when I did a complete 180 and switched up my unibrow for two distinguishable entities. I felt unstoppable after uncovering the sheer force of tweezers, and was ready to conquer the interwebs. So I marched straight to my mother’s vanity drawer.

Digging through stacks of make-up and piles of face creams, I cherry-picked a concealer that was precisely what I was looking for: thick, pore-suffocating, and the wrong shade. I put that to the side, and continued digging for some more goodies that would age me beyond my years, namely a black eyeliner and red lipstick — which I did not have the skills to apply.

After slapping on my concealer, dragging the eyeliner across my lash line (creating sparks of friction), and carefully tracing my fun-sized lips with my (mom’s) red weapon of seduction, I glanced over at the mirror for the final reveal. The chorus to Sean Kingston’s “Beautiful Girl” began echoing in my mind. That’s when I knew I was ready to show PhotoBooth what I was made of.

The outcome? See for yourself.

macbookselfie

 

I loved this picture — I was in absolute awe at the beauty bestowed upon me. I thought I exuded an air of sensuality and sophistication that not many my age were able to muster and imitate.

My dry puckered lips? Sexy.

The vixen-like squint into my Macbook’s camera? Irresistible.

The close-up, in-your-face shot of my tender facial features? Unprece-fucking-dented.

This was it. This was my peak. And I posted it online for all my Facebook friends to see, admire, and aspire to. All that arduous manual labour for what, you may ask? Fourteen hard-earned likes. Just enough to trigger a dopamine high, but not enough to have me feeling secure for longer than two days. 

The next image I was going to reveal online had to top the previous post –how was I going to do it? How was I going to leech admiration from more than fourteen people? This was in no way shape or form a one-person mission. So I dragged my older sister into it. She ought to have been my stylist, creative director, and photographer.

balk

To take things yet another step further (in order to achieve that fifteen-like hallmark), I was to switch it up and give the public something they hadn’t seen before: a full body picture of me reclining against my balcony wall, romantically eyeing my backdrop’s granulated texture (see third photo).

I even captioned it with a mysterious, femme-fatale quote which read, “I’m only responsible for what I say, not for what you understand.” Truth be told, my vocabulary was too limited to allow for misinterpretations or double entendres. I figured such a quote would give this otherwise bland picture an edge.

The overwhelming positive feedback received on this picture (42 likes and THREE comments!) kick-started my obsession with maintaining an enticing online presence. From then onwards, I had to continuously outdo myself. Whether it was feeling the need to prove myself to others or wanting a little ego boost, posting online became a hobby that I am still trying to shake off today.

But it’s quite difficult.

The thing with social media is that it traps you when you’re young and susceptible. It grooms you, making itself an integral part of your daily life. Because well, you need it. All of your friends are on there! That one ex you’d occasionally lurk on — yet wouldn’t be caught dead messaging — is conveniently there at your viewing disposition. Acquaintances and temporary holiday friends you’d only passively check-in on are right there, too! The larger your online social circle, the more added value these platforms have to you; hence, the gradual establishment of long-term loyalty to said platform(s).

The collateral damages of social media consumption aren’t necessarily caused by a platform’s owners (although their ravenous money-hungry demeanor does not sit well with me!), but rather by how people make use of the platform, and for what reasons. Capitalism’s gruesome wrath has not only taken ahold of social media creators, but it’s extended its grip onto users as well. Now that this godawful era of “influencers” (and companies who are willing to entertain their supposed importance) has emerged, it’s even harder to discern a genuine portrayal of identity from a paid, inauthentic one.

Over the last few years, the cost of using social media has doubled, escalating from the initial issue of users being force-fed unrealistic beauty standards at a young age (as per my situation) to perpetuating that these  beauty standards can only be reached through the purchase of products endorsed by (uninspiring, poisonous, often-times problematic) influencers.

Although there’s speculation on the the future of social media (e.g. having to pay for a premium social media experience, regulation, chatbots, VR integration), the long term effects of social media consumption are still unknown.

Will advertisers begin to groom even younger, more impressionable tweens into buying their products? Will we have to pay for privacy? Will platforms’ algorithms change to further promote business exposure rather than interpersonal relationships? Will social media usage eventually dwindle once newer research cements its detrimental psychological impact… or will it require government intervention once it hits unethical extremes?

What do you think? Post about it on Instagram and tag me! 

 

All photos provided by Derya Yildirim. 

Men & Emotions: A 404 Error

Although I don’t have a lot of experience with being fully emotionally invested in a lot of men… I can say there’s a very prominent pattern that surfaces 80% of the time: they become a somewhat consistent presence in my life.

Whether it’s a lack of empathy, the inability to verbally respond to (mild) conflict without resorting to anger/ghosting, or a plain incapability in dealing with their own emotions — there’s often something that makes you take a step back and shake your head in disappointment when a man is present. 

Now, before any rabid, foam-mouthed screecher aggressively types, “nOt AlL mEn,” through gritted teeth behind their screen, I am not talking about all men. But nonetheless, a CONCERNING AMOUNT of men I’ve encountered have displayed lower levels of emotional intelligence. So let us all, in unison, take a deep breath and prepare ourselves to digest the food for thought I’m about to feed you. 

I’ll begin by saying that I assume partial responsibility for these recurring instances of mild heartbreak and helplessness. Perhaps it’s just the type of men I choose to pursue! If only I could find out which type of men tend to be more dysfunctional then maybe — just maybe — I can start avoiding this specific male subset like the plague! So, jolly and eager to investigate, the time has come to uncover the possible upstanding barrier(s??? yikes) between me and that seemingly impossible healthy courtship.

 

Why are the men I’m attracted to so emotionally handicapped? 

 

A.) Do I subconsciously lust after those bad boy nuances? 

This is an internal phenomenon one can only call self-sabotage. Every single pursuit I’ve had with men of this caliber has failed me, and yet I never seem to learn. My sadomasochistic desire to mutilate my own sanity remains unfaltering. It’s like I actively choose to blind myself whenever incompatibility looks me dead in the eyes; plastering my hands over my sockets whenever red flags attempt to present themselves. 

For whatever reason, I strive to become the saving grace of these men. I daydream about posing heroically on top of a cliff while my starstruck and stunted lover praises me from below, screaming “SHE DID IT! SHE CHANGED ME! I’M A BETTER MAN!” at the top of his lungs. Why?

Do I view “damaged” men as an exciting, esteem-boosting opportunity to showcase my persuasive talents, achieving success when I manage to steer them away from bad behaviors and towards a more enlightened path?

Do I use them to fulfill some deeply repressed maternal need to nurture?

Is this just me trying to prove my “wifey” skills and pet-like “through thick and thin<3<3<3” selflessness, hoping my worth as a life partner will come to light?

Is this what I feel I have to do/be in order to be seen as “different” and “not like the other girls”?

Do I deliberately seek out these men because I lowkey feel I’m undeserving of anything proper that’ll yield a positive contribution to my life —

I digress.

I’ve tried to rewire my brain to veer away from these toxic cravings, but they are rooted in something beyond my conscious comprehension. The only thing I can do to alleviate the pain I’m putting myself through is to recognize the red flags and hope, for my own well-being, that I have the willpower required to say, “thanks : – ), but NO thanks : – (” to all the emotionally inept men who come my way.

My main problem with this is that self-restraint and internal “pros and cons” analysis have never been a practice of mine. So me saying, “Yes please” in response a devil’s spawn’s request to enter my life wouldn’t come as a surprise. Think of me as Eve and poisonous men as the apple… gobble gobble! That’s all I have say for myself.

 

B.) Is it just their young age?

It’s definitely part of it. But if I were to hypothetically gallop away from the smooth skin and towards the wrinklier flesh, would I be willing to spend the remainder of my youth snorting the scent of wine, swiveling it in my glass until I show symptoms of carpal tunnel — all for the adoration of a man who’s going through his fourth midlife crisis?

Maybe. I’ve really sold this scenario to myself — it’d be quite the experience. But I don’t think I can fake i(n)t(erest) for that long when the “making it” isn’t that fulfilling. I’m sure their life experiences would mean they’re more emotionally adept, but being around these silver-fox-esque activities just isn’t my cup of tea at the moment.

 

C.) Is it related to issues regarding men and hyper-masculinity?

Simply put — yes. It’s something that, for once, I don’t have to blame myself for. This socialization manifests itself in many ways: from some men genuinely being unable to describe/pinpoint what they’re feeling — which is clinically referred to as alexithymia — to difficulty expressing any emotion besides the “understandable” (and oftentimes encouraged) outbursts of Manly, testosterone-fueled anger. These established gender norms affect crucial components of healthy interpersonal relationships, and I’ll tell you why.

The expectations placed on men to “toughen up” and “be a man” will inevitably result in the suppression of anything seen to reflect “vulnerability” (i.e. a traditionally “feminine” trait). However, ladies and gentlemen of the jury, only through honest communication and mutual transparency can a relationship grow. And that honesty and transparency requires vulnerability.

This ongoing problem is heavier and much more worrying than it first appears. If someone has difficulty understanding and interpreting their emotions, it often affects the way they will absorb, perceive, and process events throughout their life, including, for example, trauma. Asking someone with an underdeveloped emotional repertoire to process trauma (of any degree) will likely result in the adoption of unhealthy coping mechanisms, psychopathology, and possible projection onto others via — you guessed it! — anger and aggression. 

Men have to unlearn the ideologies surrounding the acceptability of emotions based on gender, and then relearn how to process emotions in such a way that not only benefits them, but the people around them. This can’t all be done internally; there has to be some external societal change in how we raise and teach boys to express their emotions (not to mention how male peers react to each other’s emotional expression). Because let’s be real, certain masculine social standards are borderline inhumane. No one should have to endure a feeling of anxiety/inadequacy if they fail to fit into our culture’s macho ideal.

Of course, all of this is easier said than done. If the world did indeed revolve around me, I’d do us all a favor and enforce mandatory emotional development classes for men.

 

In conclusion…

As my condensed analysis draws to a close, I’ve realized the answer to why I continually fall for emotionally unintelligent men could be either A or B or C or all of the above. Or maybe this is one of those situations where everything’s intertwined to some extent and I’ll never be able to figure out the dynamics of it all. Nonetheless, I’ve gotten a lot of things off my chest writing this. All that’s left to do now is just: live… and hope that eventually, at some point — fingers crossed it’s in the next few years — the answer will come to me and I will be at peace.

Curiosity really does kill the cat(‘s psyche). Until then, I shall self-medicate by telling myself that nothing is as bad as it seems.

 

All photos by Ashley Armitage

 

 

5(0) Shades Of Cat-Call Responses

 

If you’re like me, endlessly looking to make day-to-day tasks and chores more exciting and full of spice, say no more! I’m here to provide you with an incredibly interesting opportunity to find the silver lining in an otherwise frightening situation: getting cat-called.

The best part of it all? This sort of entertainment is free. All you have to do is rely on the filthy nature of street harassers, and if you elect to do so, choose your means of retaliation.

I’ve tried several different responses to street harassment, treating these men like social experiments and observing their reactions. It’s almost like being a wildlife photographer on Animal Planet, and like animals cat-callers respond to stimulation (e.g. making a sudden movement or noise). It’s mind-blowing, really, that such beasts are still able to function in society even though they lack a basic social understanding of mutual respect and boundaries! The not-so-many options are compiled below:

 

1. The Scream

Scream. Just scream. Preferably in a high-pitched manner to really intensify the male-female dynamic and amplify the shock factor. I have done this on the street and in clubs, too — works like a charm. 

The concerned looks of passersby/party-goers act as an appetite suppressant and will most likely put the animal off from pursuing the unwilling subject (i.e. you), so they’ll retreat. However, as the amount of evidently limited neurons differ from brute to brute, your defense scream may elicit different reactions. It is possible that they may start laughing. This is my personal favorite, not only do you get to laugh with them, but you also get to laugh at them. The best part is they’ll never know the difference!

It usually takes a few seconds for it to hit them, the whole “receiving female attention for once in my pitiful life” thing. So while the effect of your scream will most likely be delayed, trust it’ll work.

 

2. Block them!

There is no greater joy in the world than ignoring men who don’t know how to act in public. A refreshing sense of power overwhelms you once you refuse to give these troglodytes the time of day. No eye contact, no acknowledgement they’ve said/done something, no exchange of words. Nothing. Nada. Walk past them like they don’t exist; like they never have and never will mean anything to a woman for as long as they live and breathe on this planet. Reject them in every sense of the word — ignore, block, unfollow, delete, unfriend, unsubscribe. Eject them from your stream of consciousness. When this response is used, 90 percent of the time the cat-caller will realize their attempts are futile and will return back to whichever cave they found their way out of.

While this is usually the safest reaction of them all, the now-rejected primitive may feel the need to attack. On a rare occasion, the lack of response may ignite some repressed anger within them, causing them to last out and repeatedly call you a whore for everyone to hear. Be careful around these animals, ladies — they may attack even if you don’t rattle their cages or tap on the glass!

 

3. The Face

Pull a face. Make it as wrinkly and layered as possible; allow your facial folds to stack on top of one another. I urge you to be the ugliest version of yourself. Contort your face into something you never deemed human. Become the creature of your wildest nightmares. Pro tip: if you can’t visualize a creature to embody, use your harasser as inspiration! I mean… they’re there for a reason, no? Besides, they’re usually distorted and off-looking anyway, so you might as well use that to your advantage!

This reaction is employed when you only have a limited time available to engage with said animal, like if they’re in a vehicle. If you really want to react, this should be your go-to method: it’s quick, simple, and thought-provoking. 

I’d love to say this option is also 100 percent harmless, but you never really know what to expect when it comes to ogre-resembling sociopaths!

 

4. Cuss them out! 

To be honest, this is something I haven’t done. Untamed animals outside of their cages are a force to be reckoned with, and as much as I’d be thrilled to cuss them out, I physically cannot bring myself to do so. I am petrified of provoking the savages — and for good reasons, too. While I myself lack the balls and the self-defense skills to give them what they deserve, one of my daredevil friends doesn’t. Big up to Yasmin. 

What ensued after telling a Jabba the Hutt on a bike to fuck off was, (un)naturally, Jabba himself started following us around! This is one of the many examples that proves that while humans can interact with animals, inter-species communication is still largely limited.

 

5. Cat call them back (rawr)!

If you’re feeling rather feisty and in the mood for an adventurous and comical exchange with the streets’ anti-Christs, give them a little taste of their own medicine.

Of course, they will not feel the fear and discomfort that you do, but it will take them by surprise and hopefully leave them dumbstruck. Just reciprocate the so-called compliment and add a rather demeaning term at the end to seal the deal (e.g.”You too, baby!”). Personally, I suggest playing around with terms like “butternuts” and “sweet tits.” 

 

This is all I have to offer for now, but do not fear… the never-ending influx of street harassers will continue to compel my quest for the perfect animal-repelling response. Freedom of speech laws are largely impeding my dream of making cat-calling illegal — but one can only hope, right?