You probably know by now that being catcalled or harassed on the street is a common experience for women in any major city. I live in New York City and I’ve had my share of unsolicited attention. Very occasionally, it’s amusing or slightly flattering. Sometimes it seems like a horrifying prelude to an assault. Most of the time, it’s annoying.
That said, I’d really rather walk down the street without having to brace myself for comments on my appearance. I’d really rather wear whatever I want without being concerned about the attention I might attract. I’d like to let my resting bitch face, well, rest. I get comments on my appearance no matter what I look like when I step outside. Makeup or barefaced, tattoos showing or hidden, dress-and-heels or tomboy style. Alone or walking with a guy or girl…or my dog.
It turns out, I get exponentially more street attention when I walk Freenie. I can’t tell if she is getting catcalled, or if the creeps are trying to catcall me through her. Is the old cliche that walking a dog makes someone more attractive, true? In a world where it’s commonly believed that having a cute dog is a way to attract potential dates or flirtations, is me simply having a dog “Asking for it”?
While we’re walking, men make kissy sounds at her, whistle, and motion for her to come to them. They’ll make comments about her attractiveness. I used to smile or laugh, but I recently started thinking about what was really happening.
First of all, I’m trying to get somewhere. I don’t owe you a stop-n-chat with my dog.
Many of the holler-ers will comment on the size or attractiveness of my pup. There’s an undercurrent of power dynamics. People feel the need to tease her size, “Is that a Pit Bull? Huh huh.” They’ll laugh if she barks or acts on her leash aggressive tendencies. “Ooh, you’re a tough guy, huh?”
It’s like, bro. Do you always pick on small and defenseless things? Does it make you feel like more of a man? My dog is beautiful and sweet. Does she need more resting literal bitch face in her life? It’s not just small or cute dogs who get the attention. Women with bigger dogs get unwanted comments, too. There’s “Hey baby”, “You want to lick my face?”, etc. Don’t get me started on “bones.”
She’s an extension of me, so if someone comments on her when we are together they are technically taking the liberty of commenting on my appearance. As a card-carrying Crazy Dog Person, I ogle people’s cute dogs on the street all the time, but I don’t holler at them. Am I just as intrusive as these people I’m complaining about?
It totally sounds like a double standard but I don’t feel violated when women or kids get excited or talk to my dog. I might get annoyed if the person’s annoying. Still, women and kids don’t make the gross kissy noises or use phrases that are possibly interchangeable with something a dude might say to a woman.
I should clarify that not all attention from men regarding my dog is creepy. There are plenty of polite dudes out there who respectfully approach or talk to me with my dog. It’s usually in appropriate contexts, like the DOG PARK. Or if he has a dog, and our dogs greet each other. If it gets creepy, I move on. It usually doesn’t.
Abby from Chicago recounted a cute incident of “Street Respect” on the site Stop Street Harassment:
“I was driving with my little dog in the back seat with the top down in my car. Man pulls up in an SUV and told down his window. I’m tensing up and preparing for the comments to start and he says, ‘That’s the cutest thing I’ve ever seen! What kind of dog is that?!'”
So gentlemen, think twice before you holler at a woman’s dog. You might be making her feel unsafe. And you never know which puppies will bite back.