A Love Poem To Fragile Masculinity

By Teresa Spencer

Welcome to our series “Love Poems to Cat Callers!” Every week we’ll bring you a new poem by Teresa Spencer, read by a different woman celebrating the joy that is being sexually degraded on the street. This week, Lauren Rosenfield reads her tender homage.

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To the Gender Studies Experts:

A prose poem to a carful of cockstrokes and their fragile masculinity. Maleness and femaleness are, of course, a complex convergence of biology and mores, DNA expression — and social expression. Who is to tell us what makes a woman, and what makes a man? Plato’s Symposium? The Kinsey Institute? RuPaul’s Drag Race? The North Carolina General Assembly? Or, perhaps, the question is best left to you, four bros cruising campus at night. As I walked home after dark, you pulled up alongside me and let loose the standard guy-on-girl litany: the whistles, the hoots, the “Hey babys.”

Gender exists on a slip’n’slide of a continuum, but that night, you were so very firmly on the “male” side, the “puff and bluster” side, the “look at us mightily swinging our giant dicks” side. And how badly you wanted me to know my place in relation to yours. So it was a bit perplexing when, in response to my silence, you revved the engine and peeled away, tossing a final rejoinder out the window into your wake: “You look like a man, bitch.”

In a single sentence, you brought our culture’s deepest discomforts into sharp relief. I could dissect that one sentence in a thousand poems and never come out the other side. One moment my femininity attracts your attention, the next, you rebuke me for masculinity. I was brazen enough to be a woman in public, so you shame me for mannishness. Not to mention, of course, the paralyzing cognitive dissonance of those two opposing epithets in one breath, man and bitch.

And further still, the self-incriminating homophobia of four bros caught catcalling a girl who, in their own estimation, looks like a man. We could fall into the rabbit hole of that one sentence — “You look like a man, bitch” — for an eternity. In fact, a decade later, I am still falling. Just me and you . . . a carful of cockstrokes . . . tumbling, plummeting, frozen forever in perpetual free fall through the abyss.

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Lead Image: Modified from Pixabay

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