You Don’t Get To Call Me Cutie, Cutie

The night is oppressive and dark

A tall, muscular man gives me a predatory glance as he drags off his cigarette, “Hey baby”

As natural as clearing his throat

If this were Harvard Square in the middle of the day I’d spit; “My name isn’t baby”

But it’s dark and the streets are empty and I don’t have the luxury of a b-line to the safety of my car

So I grit my teeth and walk on

He stands uncorrected of the fact that he doesn’t get to call me baby

Baby is for my nearest and dearest; my lover, my mother

Not this stranger on this street

On come the teenage boys, three or four of them, fourteen, maybe fifteen at the oldest,

They say it again, “Hey baby”

The skinny one in the stringy boy-beater tank says, “Hey cutie”

I could read their vibe, good kids just messing around, they aren’t bigger than me and don’t seem a threat so I stop and say, “Hey, is that how you talk to women?”

Skinny one is incredulous that I’ve rebuffed his compliment, “I called you cutie, what am I supposed to do? Call you ugly?”

How often do the girls talk back?

I wasn’t supposed to have a voice

The world is your oyster, you’re a boy with a cock

This boy might as well be my student. In fact, I often wonder when a young boy will sexually harass me on the street, look up from my breasts to my face and see I’m his teacher

“First of all, I’m old enough to be your mother, second of all, you should have some more respect for women.”

They walk on.

You don’t get to call me cutie. I should be calling you, cutie.

All 98 pounds of you soaking wet, all of fourteen or 15 years old,

you don’t get to assert your dominance over me, and adult woman.

Women are not objects for your perusal; for you to pick up, comment on and reject at your leisure.

I can take it from some old perv,

but I can’t stand that another generation of young men is growing up learning that any woman

is theirs to comment on, to infantalize, to sample and to toss away.

You don’t get an opinion on whether or not I’m cute.

You are a child.

The bus stop, finally.

A tall, heavyset geek approaches

I brace myself for what he will say

He mashes in his earbuds and ignores me

I fumble for my phone and call Mr. Apple

To tell him I’m at the bus stop. To tell him I’m on my way home,

So if perchance something happens to me he’ll know enough to come looking for me

I hate that I have to do this

Me, “Miss Independence”

That I have to call and tell the benevolent male in my life that I’ll be home in time for curfew

That I drive when I go places at night by myself even though I’d rather ride a bike

That I lock all the doors when I’m home alone

If god forbid something were to happen

“He can’t give you a compliment?”

“What’s wrong with calling you cutie?”

“Well, why were you dressed like that?”

(In a tank top? In the summer? How am I supposed to dress?)

Ever seen that Episode of Buffy, where she temporarily loses her powers?

For one lousy episode she can’t kick the ass of every tool who sexually harasses her

So she just has to ignore it

That’s what it feels to be a chick in the city, every fucking day

If I could get in the personal space of a stranger on the street,

If people had to ignore me starting with them because they weren’t sure if telling me to stuff it would get them beaten up or raped

If I had that power, would I use it?

    • sara b
    • July 13th, 2011

    I HATED that when I lived in Boston. I have never once had a guy to that to me in TX. Granted I’m rarely in downtown proper without my man, but even when I was a teen with only other teen girls hanging out in Houston, I never had men say things like that. I had guy yell stuff like that out of cars as I walked to class! I was not dressed nicely. I have jeans and a hoodie on with no make up. I totally forgot about that happening until I read your post. Honestly, it has got to be something with how they are raised. Guys open doors for women here. I’ll go to the gas station and a little old hispanic man will open the door and stand their waiting as I collect my change. I guess when you are in an area in which men tend to show that sort of care/respect for women vs. when you are raised in an area where you see men get away with calling them “baby” you see it as a norm. I’m not saying all guys in the Northeast are jerks and all Southern men are gentlemen, but I do notice that there is a very big difference between how strangers treat each other in general from my time in Beantown compared to H-town. (And now, because I even wrote this, some Texan will totally harass you the weekend just to prove me wrong!)

      • Apple A Day
      • July 14th, 2011

      Hey Sara B,
      I agree that street harassment happens within a cultural context. When I backpacked in Europe I noticed a marked difference between the unwanted attention I got in places like the Netherlands and Germany (virtually none) and Italy and Sicily where I couldn’t go outside my hotel without physically linking arms with a male companion to avoid catcalls, hissing and obscene gestures. I love Italian culture, but feeling like I had to be escorted everywhere I went in order to avoid being harassed felt very stifling to me.

      I’m not sure what the difference between the American North and South is. People in the South are generally more friendly to strangers, that’s true. I have a theory that because Northerners are so taciturn in public that the only people that talk to strangers are rude or crazy. Please don’t take your experience in Boston to be characteristic of the entire North though! There were places in Boston (the common, cough cough!) where I really couldn’t expect to walk at any time of day without getting yelled at. By comparison, street harassment in the MA suburb I grew in was extremely rare.

      I have a theory that street harassment is more a macho performance that men do for each other than anything else. Those young boys who bothered me were definitely trying to prove to each other that they were macho and cool. This doesn’t explain why men solo harass too though. What’s up with that?

    • Ayelle
    • July 13th, 2011

    That was AWESOME.

      • Apple A Day
      • July 14th, 2011

      Thanks! So are you!

    • TRO
    • July 14th, 2011

    I am sorry that the world is this way! I am sorry that YOU had to endure this!
    These are ignorant, immature people! Unfortunately…. there are too many of them out there!!

  1. ooh, amazing. I know so many people who agree. So happy I have two daughters, and so sad, too, sometimes. For me and for them.

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