Catcalling in Beloit
It’s late spring, a friend and I are doing homework on the FemCo porch. We’re chatting about something or another, things that felt important I’m sure. Suddenly, our conversation is interrupted by a man in a small brown car slowing down to snap a picture of us. His windows are tinted, drivers side rolled down only slightly to allow for a rather conspicuous phone camera to peek through. He speeds off when we begin to retreat inside, and we are left fearing springtime on our own damn porch. This is the reality of being someone who is female presenting in Beloit.
The man in the car was hardly the first incident to happen to me on or off Beloit campus. Whether it’s walking to commons, the boathouse, or even a friend’s dorm, if you are not at the very heart of campus, you are taking a risk.
Coming from LA, I hardly believed that the seemingly quiet town of Beloit would have much more to offer in its everyday street harassment, but I was dead wrong.
I had to quit my job at the boathouse on account of the constant badgering random men of Beloit felt that they were entitled to. I was followed more than once, and I have felt unsafe more than once. It was shocking, to put it mildly, just how much catcalling I, and others, have experienced in the otherwise innocuous small town of Beloit, Wisconsin.
Senior Emma Stoner recounted one of her many experiences with Beloit street harassment: “I was walking into flying pig, and I was catcalled from a man across the street. It’s just like, unnecessary and disrespectful.”
Many times, those who are susceptible to harassment are fairly blasé about it in passing conversation. We talk about our experiences without really comprehending the depth of the problem, on account of just how commonplace this type of verbal assault has become in our everyday lives.
I was only 11 when I was first catcalled by a man in a passing pick up truck, still hand in hand with my mother while we crossed the street. Catcalling starts early, it starts as children. Sometimes it’s just a passing comment, but we live in constant fear of the inevitable escalation which happens when a man feels he is entitled to our time and our bodies.
`Being followed is not rare, in fact it is expected. No matter how many times it happens though, it is scary. It’s a moment when we fear for our safety, our lives. Every female presenting person I have met has a story where they were followed, sworn at, sometimes physically grabbed at by a man who had started off ‘just catcalling’.
I have been called a whore in the Beloit post office, been told by a man in Walmart I have ‘perky tits’, been followed along the riverside, had my picture taken without my consent on my own front porch, and yelled at more times than I can accurately recall.
I cannot offer a solution, the most I can give to those on this campus is an observation: if you are with a male presenting friend or partner, the chances of street harassment decrease significantly. What this means for society has been discussed time and time again, so I will not attempt to argue one social theory or another. Instead, I will implore those who have the power, even if it’s slight, to do something. If your friend asks you to accompany them somewhere, do it. If they need you to sit with them in a parking lot, do it. If you wonder why, if you hesitate, please just remember that we’re scared, and we’re tired.
Oh, and while I hope this doesn’t even need to be said: don’t catcall. Nobody benefits, I promise you.