I wrote this post a month ago, but it is strangely in synch with today’s forecast, at least weather wise.
It was a gorgeous day: sun out, warm, an ever so slight breeze rustling the trees, and it was my day off. But I wasn’t feeling so gorgeous myself, clad in faded 501s, an old bright green t-shirt and my beat up Ugg boots. My outfit was matched to the task of preparing our home for the renovation that was scheduled to start soon: packing, lifting, washing, sweeping, sorting, sweating, recycling, tossing, breaking, cursing and other ing verbs associated with the horrendous task of facing the mounds of stuff you accumulate over time and putting them in places that aren’t part of the renovation.
In between all of these progressive, continuous verbs, I took our son to a play date, picked him back up and ushered him to his yoga lesson. On my walk back, an interesting thing happened at an intersection while I leaned on the post of the traffic signal, waiting for the light to change. A man driving by in a work truck yelled a “whew hew” out the window at me. It was an ogling sort of “whew hew” that made me wonder if I’d forgotten to put my shirt on or ripped an exposing shape in my clothing during all the work. But my clothes were just fine. Two men across the intersection smiled at me, both amused by the situation. I smiled back. All the smiles continued as we passed each other in the sidewalk.
What was that all about? I wondered as I walked back home. What a jerk, to yell out the window at me like that. Yet mixed in with this indignation was another, less righteous sentiment; it was kind of nice to get a whew hew! I hadn’t been “whew hewed” at in a very long time, come to think of it.
Was I experiencing some sort of epic, reverse feminist sexism Pharrel Williams style as explained in this Huffington Post article by Alana Vagianos?
Did my lack of whew hews have something to do with the little boy usually holding my hand, or my lanky husband who is quite often in my company? The layers of clothing often hiding my feminine shapes in a cold climate? My age and status as a married woman? My general avoidance of late night parties, bars and drunken scenes? Or the general reservedness of Dutch culture? I reason its a mix of all of the above.
I remember being in my early twenties, and walking by a construction site in Santa Barbara with a friend. My friend, whom I’ve known since I was six, is sexy by popular standards: a round, pretty face, blonde-haired and blue-eyed, curvy and scantily clad. Usually, among the construction site sounds of drilling, hammering and the beeping of reversing trucks, came the whistling and hooting of the construction workers when presented with two young women within viewing distance. That day, the last two elements of the construction soundtrack were missing.
After a series of complaints from female members of the Santa Barbara population about the sexist and rude cat calling and whistling of construction workers, a whistling ban had been put in place.
“I kind of miss the Mexicans whistling at me,” she openly stated. She got just the rise out of me she wanted; a cocktail of indignation and uncontrolled laughter.
Women are not the only ones to feel the embarrassment and the other accompanying residues of a whistle. In this 2012 Mail Online article, female college students were banned from whistling at male construction workers on campus. What started out as a joke, became an issue of sexual harrassment. But strangely enough, not a single construction worker complained.
I’ve experienced one other whistle in the past few weeks, and here are the overlapping elements:
I was walking alone
I was wearing jeans
It was a hot day
The whistler was male and driving a truck
What is your experience of whistling and catcalling in The Netherlands?