A friend and I paused our walk home from Adams Morgan one Friday night to meet up with friends at 17th and U. We weren't standing there for five minutes before one...two...THREE different cars had slowed down, opened their windows, honked their horns, and hollered at us. One group of gentlemen suggested we were "working," standing on the corner, "scantily"-clad so late at night (nice, guys.) My friend and I rolled our eyes and tried to ignore the attention, continuing our conversation about our plans for the rest of the weekend.

As the minutes passed, I realized it wasn't just the 'cat-callers' uncomfortable with our presence on that corner. Several cabs pulled over to the side of the road, and even at our insistence that we were walking and didn't need transport, they repeatedly called at us to ride with them. "Really, NO THANKS." A side note: it's totally unfortunate that women need to take cabs everywhere because these streets are too 'dangerous' for them.

The funniest part of the experience was the man who came to rescue us two 'damsels in distress.' Enjoying an end-of-the-night kebab, the man crossed U St to tell us he'd been watching us in his apartment window and wanted to "make sure we were alright," aka "make sure we were taken care of." I just said yes and stared at my feet. My friend, though, had had enough. She yelled, "WE'RE JUST STANDING HERE, WE'RE FINE, BYE!!!" It might have come off as an overreaction, which caused the man to stumble away down U St, but after some thought I understood her frustration. It's like women need a reason to be out on the corner, a validation for their presence outside. Its like a woman out late, dressed a certain way, without male companions is automatically rendered a 'damsel in distress,' or a whore (to stick to the age-old madonna/whore binary. sorry!) Yes, the cab driver and maybe even the kebab guy were being "helpful," but helpful toward accomplishing what? We were hanging outside in our neighborhood just minding our business. We felt safe until all of this unwanted attention was thrust upon us---just for existing. Constructing women as easy victims, targets, and weak actually contributes to the culture of fear that keeps so many of them marginalized and 'indoors'--rather than making them feel 'safer.'

In retrospect, I really admire my friend's fiery response. Next time I'll holler back, too.

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this is ladies night

washington, dc, United States
Have you ever been walking down the street and been hollered at, or perhaps been beeped at by a car - or whistled at while waiting for your ride? We know what it feels like and we want YOU to know that WE'RE RIGHT THERE WITH YOU. Share your experiences here. Share your stories, your reactions, your reflections... maybe your message will help someone else.