Smile, Sweetheart

Recently I started tweeting every time I get catcalled.

When I get catcalled it does not make me feel good about myself. It does not make me feel beautiful. It makes me feel violated. Even the simplest command of, “hey beautiful, smile,” makes me want to claw my face off and vomit.

Instead of yelling at them in person, I take out my anger via Twitter. I scream internally as my fingers pound away my frustration.

And it is a temporary fix. My irritation, for the moment, is soothed.

I am not naive enough to believe this is actually making a difference. Catcallers are not learning from my little Twitter tirade. I’m just shouting into the void.

And then I get this response:

I am furious.

First of all, I never consider what I’m doing a protest. It is a way of drawing attention to a problem.

Second of all, who is this guy? Why is he trolling me?

To me, the most annoying part about being catcalled is the invasion of my personal space.

So I take to Twitter to give myself some air to breathe.

And all of a sudden I’m feeling suffocated. Yet again I find my personal — albeit virtual — space invaded.

But a part of me is thrilled. This is my chance to confront misogyny face-t0-face. Well, sort of.

So, thinking I’m being clever, I send back a GIF of Leslie Knope from Parks and Recreation shutting down a group of men’s rights activists (as seen to the left). Which, in hindsight, only makes sense if you’ve seen the episode.

@toddamak, whoever he is — yes, I’m assuming he’s male — calls my response “irrelevant and pointless” and asks me how my humble bragging is going.

At this point my boyfriend, Gideon, joins the conversation, confronting @toddamak about trolling random women on the internet. He replies that he, “goes around correcting SLW stupidity from both men and women.” (Side note, SJW means Social Justice Warrior…I had to look it up.)

By now I’ve thoroughly combed through this guy’s Twitter. His tweets are almost exclusively arguments with other users about gender equality and race. He often discredits the BlackLivesMatter movement and complains about how feminism is a direct threat to men.

His views are starting to scare me.

But I also feel invigorated. It’s exciting and nerve-racking.

What baffles me the most is this guy’s ignorance. And his confidence in his ignorance.

Yes, that is correct. @toddamak figured out the feminist agenda. Our goal is to demonize men and undermine civilization.

Feminism is the belief in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.

Here is a reminder from Queen B (and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie):

By now I’m invigorated, as if I’m on some social justice high. If I can just school this guy in feminism, then maybe I am doing something productive. Maybe I am helping the movement.

I’m texting my boyfriend, yelling about how ridiculous @toddamak’s arguments are and how much of an asshole he is. Gideon agrees, but tells me there’s no reasoning with him. He says the best thing to do is just let it go, which is true.

But I can’t. This fight means too much to me to let uneducated bullies win.

Fueled by anger and endorphins, I answer instinctively, my rage building inside of me like a tightly wound coil.

I am a woman. Am I a powerful woman? Maybe. But I should have said “intelligent women.” And I shouldn’t have called him an asshole. Even if he is.

I realize that his beliefs are just as strong as mine. There is no point in arguing because there is no way I will win. Neither of us will budge on our views

And who am I to say he has to?

Yes, his arguments are rooted in stupidity and hate and have no factual evidence, although he claims to have done his research — where he gets his misguided information, I don’t even want to know.

But as long as he isn’t violent, he has a right to his bigoted views. And the First Amendment allows him to express those views publicly.

Nonetheless, I block him and report the user to Twitter.

So how come I still feel threatened? He may be a bully but there is no real threat of danger.

Maybe it’s because as a woman, I feel like there is no sphere in which my rights are not infringed upon.

It also scares me that these types of people are out there. They truly believe that affirmative action is ruining the country and feminism will destroy us all.

For a while I stayed away from Twitter, nervous of other ways I could receive an unwarranted verbal attack.

Until I’m standing at the corner, waiting for the light to change. I glance to my left and make eye contact with a man on a bike. (Eye contact, by the way, is not an invitation to talk to strangers).

Ignoring you, catcaller, does not make me rude. It does not mean I am unhappy.

It means stop talking to me.

I remember why I started tweeting in the first place.

Twitter is the perfect outlet for me to express my anger about how some men think it’s okay to sexualize me without my permission. I get to vent in a concise 140 characters and hope my followers will sympathize with my plight.

I’m also doing this to point out how often it happens, to show that #YesAllWomen is a valid and significant movement.

And yes, it does make me feel self-righteous. I’m calling these men out. And they deserve it.

@toddamak is a representation of many men, and women, who cannot see the thin line between free speech and a catcall.