annoyed woman

I need some advice.  I grew up in Oakland, California, which is technically a city but in most parts doesn’t feel like one. It’s just the hood. I recently moved to Philly for college, and while I love it here, I can’t deal with some of the men I encounter. Take note of the “some” in that last sentence, I definitely don’t mean to overgeneralize.

I find myself simultaneously delighted and threatened whenever I get to walk into Center City. On one hand, I’ve never felt so attractive, and the hood vibes give an immense sense of comfort, but on the other hand, the men here are different than the ones I’m used to and I’ve never dealt with this type of assertiveness. I’m generally very quiet and prefer to keep to myself, so when men approach me in crazy ways (running next to me trying to sell themselves like they’re on HSN, grabbing me, asking all types of questions, yelling at me from across the street etc.) I don’t really know how to act. I probably come off as saddity, which is never my intention, I’m just uncomfortable sharing all my business with people I barely know.

I feel like I’ve been dropped into a shark tank. I dress very modestly and I don’t wear any makeup nor am I flashy in any way so I’m not really sure why I’m getting this type of attention, but it’s definitely not the type of attention I want. Now I understand that attention is attention and I’ll probably wish I had some when I’m old and saggy but I constantly feel disrespected and I’m not really sure how to stop it. Did any of you grow up in the city? What was the difference between the women you knew you could step to in any ol typa way, and the women you knew would take some tact?

Your plight is a plight I’ve heard from NYC women, and women from major cities in general for years. Cat calling and hollering at women on the street (or street harassment, 2013) has been going on since Adam ate the forbidden fruit and saw what Eve was really workin’ with behind the bushes. As a big city kid, I can hopefully shed light on your questions and help you understand the inner workings of the men who reside in Philly and other major metropolis.

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On one hand, I’ve never felt so attractive, and the hood vibes give an immense sense of comfort, but on the other hand, the men here are different than the ones I’m used to and I’ve never dealt with this type of assertiveness. 

Men have always been in the business of getting women’s attention. This is why men dress a certain way, are eager to show off any skill they have, and will outwardly express their appreciation of your aesthetic features.  This might also be a regional thing, as I don’t know how many women experience this type of interaction with men in the south/Midwest/west.  Maybe it’s a racial thing? There are many theories.

I could see the culture shock that can occur if you come from a smaller town to a bigger city with more people and more forward men. It’s a conflicting feeling for women – you appreciate the attention and the feeling of being attractive/sexy, but when it’s from unwanted sources, the feeling will be adverse.

I dress very modestly and I don’t wear any makeup nor am I flashy in any way so I’m not really sure why I’m getting this type of attention, but it’s definitely not the type of attention I want.

Honestly, most of the time it doesn’t matter. Whether you’re dressed like a high school teacher or a video vixen, if the general consensus is that you are attractive, men will holler at you. I know women say that putting on a scowl and walking with purpose will decrease the odds of a holla, but it might encourage men to approach you even more. I know it’s backwards logic, but it is relevant. Why do men from these cities do it so audaciously?  Well it goes back to the male camaraderie formed from a younger age. Men will tell tales of their women conquest and their ability to woo the fairer sex. When men makes those claims, they will be pressed to prove their words are fact. So in groups with men, and even 1 on 1, they will vocalize their appreciation for you and see if the feeling is mutual.

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It’s also a sport in a sense. Men will call out to you just to see if you will respond. A smile, a quick retort, or even walking past as if you don’t hear what they are saying. Sometimes, men will want to show their humorous side and will say the most outrageous things just to see if it works. That’s why you’ll hear lines like “psst”, “excuse me miss can I get 5 minutes of your time?”,  and get a polite (or stern) grab of a hand or an arm. I can see how it’s funny for men, and I can also see how it’s disturbing to women, especially when you’re not in the mood.

What was the difference between the women you knew you could step to in any ol typa way, and the women you knew would take some tact? 

The difference was the women themselves. Cat calling women and being a spectacle for all to see isn’t my style, but I was curious as to why men did it in general. My boys would tell me that it was two-fold. 1) They found it funny/comical and would bank that women would agree and indulge them; and 2) It’s worked for them in the past. That’s why I say the women are the difference. Whether explicitly or implicitly, women will let you know how they want to be approached. Men will adjust.

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You’ll still get some men that will be vocal and public and outward with their infatuation with you. Some do it respectfully, some are funny, some are aggressive. In general, if they are really interested, they will figure out how to approach you and will do what’s necessary to adjust behavior, or lose out.

Updated: 10/16/13 @1:18PM

Here is a link to a photo project which captures the faces of Philly men who catcall women on the street. Check it via Buzzfeed HERE!

STREETZ