An Open Letter To My Catcallers


“Hey Baby Cakes, don’t worry I don’t bite,” you said. Frankly, I knew that you wouldn’t bite me because mice are afraid of cats. You squealed at me thinking that I would purr back with gratitude for the attention, but I just hung my head and tail and walked away. In retrospect, I regret it; I should have chased after you.

I once worshipped the idiom “Silence is golden” only to realize that it is a fool’s gold; my silence has tarnished the perception of myself. It is my silence that has given you the permission to continue littering the streets of New York with female debasing comments, but it had also made me self-critical as I began to dissect every aspect of myself that could have provoked you.

Was it my ragged four-year-old Chuck Taylor’s that made you exclaim “Hey beautiful!” as I walked by? Or was it my sweater that was two sizes too large that urged you to give me the pet name “Baby Cakes”?

Despite my efforts to hide my body underneath sports bras, baggy sweaters, and sweatpants, you continued. I would want you to know that I have censored my own body for people like you, but you made me realize that doing so was as futile as telling someone not to do something, making them feel a greater urge to do it. However, these failed attempts have led me to one final conclusion: it is not my fault; I am not the tempter, you are just the tempted.

Being a woman does not have to be and should never be this painful, and hiding my body is not a solution. As I lay here licking my wounds, I retrace my paw prints back to you to steal back my final shred of dignity that you have ripped from me. I daydream of myself walking past you again, you reciting those words like an incantation, me wondering how many other “cats” you have called, and even more curious as to how many have obeyed your commands or meowed back in defense. I cannot hide the simple fact that we are different, nor do I ever want to, I just wish there was an elixir to stop it, to stop you.

I mourn for my girlhood everyday,

the time I didn’t have a sense of self-consciousness because I didn’t need one, the time I would run naked throughout my apartment in the sticky summer New York City heat, the time I would have giggle attacks from lifting my shirt and poking my baby blubber, the time “sexy” did not exist; it was a time I did not feel the need to bury my own body. But the second my breasts sprouted and my hips stretched as my waist slimmed, I was meant to control my body, something that you may consider a mousetrap. Just like a kitten, I was born with my eyes shut with innocence and it wasn’t until my body began to develop that they opened. As one in a litter of women, I have been bred to accept what I have been given, even if I don’t want it, even if I say that I don’t want it.

I hope that something I have said here has touched you – not in the literal sense, but in the emotional sense, the sense that hears me when I say we hear you and we want you to hear us too.