When I was 13 years old, I gained my first dose of independence by being permitted to take the subway home from school alone. I was so excited to have this freedom. The freedom to stay late at school. The freedom to join clubs and sports teams after school. The freedom to hang out with friends when class was over. All without having to wait for my mom (bless her) to pick me up.
I was fortunate enough to go to a private school in Toronto, Ontario, and thus, I wore a kilt to and from school every day. The subway station closest to my home was at the base of a long, steep, hill, on the busiest street in Toronto. My house was in a neighborhood at the top of the same hill. There was a bus, but the service was unreliable, and on beautiful days in Toronto, I love walking. I loved the workout from walking up that hill.
What I didn't love, as a thirteen year old girl in a school uniform, were the cat calls. I remember being shocked, and terrified as men my father's age would honk, yell lewd comments, and slow down to catch my attention as they made crude hand gestures - you can imagine which ones I'm referring to. I once had a car follow me through my neighbourhood until I snuck down a hidden pedestrian alleyway. I was thirteen. In a uniform. I was disgusted. I stopped walking up the hill to my home and started taking the bus.
The trouble, of course, didn't end there. I began relying on the bus to take me to and from my home and the subway station. There was always lots of construction in my neighborhood, including on my street. The bus stop was about 100 meters from my house. Men on the construction sites would stare, whistle, call out and make unbelievably inappropriate suggestions. This took place every day for 8 months, as the house across the street from me was torn down and rebuilt. Every day, as I entered and exited my home, and commenced my walk of 100 meters to and from the bus stop. In my school uniform.
The freedom I had gained in being allowed to roam the city by myself turned into having to constantly run the gauntlet. Since then, not much has changed. In fact, the problem has gotten worse. A man in Texas was beaten for standing up for a woman who was being catcalled. A story in Mic documents 14 women who were brutally attacked for rejecting men.
With this design, I hope to help spread the message that catcatcalling isn't okay. It is not a compliment. Women should be free to walk around as they please, without being verbal harassment, and without fear. I grew up believing that enduring catcalls was just part of the deal, when it comes to being a woman. I ask you to join me in challenging that assumption.