8 March 2007, 20:09
“Hey baby!”, wolf whistles & lecherous looks are just something you have to deal with as a woman. Right?
Nobody likes to be yelled at in the street, whistled at, or otherwise ogled. I know that a lot of women are nervous to leave the house wearing a short skirt, high heels, a low-cut top or anything that could be perceived as “slutty”. It really angers me that people aren’t able to dress however they like because of other people’s stunted social prowess.
I have been on the receiving end of all this nonsense myself. It is awful. Really awful. Sometimes it can be quite terrifying — not the yelling itself so much, but more what it says about the people doing it, & the risk it poses to me as a girl.
However, over the past few months I have become far more aware of myself & the impression I give to the world. (I wrote a little bit about this in my article What Does Your Clothing Say About You?) The more I learn, the less negative attention I receive on the street. It’s not because I’m getting ugly or I’m dressing in a more conservative fashion — in fact, these days I am far happier showing more of my body, because I’m actually happy with it for the first time in years. Also, a lot of women find that they get yelled at regardless of what they’re wearing.
The reason the number of incidents has declined is because of how I conduct myself.
I walk in a very assertive, confident way. I have a fast walking pace (I always have; I can’t help it!). I stand up tall, my shoulders back. There is a spring in my step. I give off a very strong message: I’m happy, I’m not scared of you, & I’m not an easy target.
It’s basic self-defence. If you were a predator, or just a generic toss-pot, & wanted someone to hurt, upset or get a rise out of, who would you go for? Someone who looks like they won’t fight back. Someone who looks unsure, nervous, someone who is hunched over, hiding from the world. If you project a strong image, more often than not, people will leave you alone.
But how can you project a strong image when secretly you’re terrified that some guy is going to grab you or yell at you?
Think of someone who walks like they own the pavement — then imitate them. After a while, it will change from imitation to real, actual confidence. I used to use this tactic when I was at a party & feeling introverted — I would think of my friend Jenno Soprano, who is always having a time to remember. I know it sounds overly simplistic, too easy to work. Trust me when I say that it works a charm.
The other thing you can try is a little bit kooky, but bear with me, because in my experience it is pretty much foolproof. Before you leave the house, take a deep breath & imagine there is a zipper running up your body, starting at your pubic bone & finishing just underneath your nose. Visualise yourself zipping it closed, working your way upwards. Then go out, & do whatever you feel like. I cannot begin to tell you how incredibly effective this is in terms of keeping away weirdos, creeps & other undesirable people. Even if this sounds a bit crazy to you, try it & see how you go. You can zip yourself up as often as you like, every minute if it makes you feel more secure.
When I do either of these things (or especially if I do them in tandem), people still look at me; I can still feel their attention. But somehow, it’s like I’ve hit the mute button. They don’t make a peep. They are exceptionally well-behaved. It makes my world a better place. I hope it for works for you, too.