My eldest daughter is 14 years old. Whenever she leaves the house, she gets catcalled by men on the street or from cars. We were walking together at the weekend, and within a few minutes, two car-fulls of guys whooped at her. They probably thought it was harmless fun.
She goes to the corner store or for bubble tea, and grown men ask for her number. She says she's 14. Some of them back off. Some of them are excited; they pursue harder. They ask if she's going to make them "catch a case".
This morning she was waiting for the trolley to go to school. One man said, "Good morning, gorgeous, how old are you?" She said "14". He said "Goddamn, 4 more years and then you're all mine".
If it matters, she was wearing sweatpants and a hoodie. So was he, and no woman was doing this to him. As she knows, one of the most horrifying things is the assumption that it's OK to harass women, as long as they are over 18.
Another horrifying element is how this pattern is teaching her to treat all these behaviors as OK. She's not shocked any more. As she says: "What is the world? I've totally normalized it. Like it's just part of my day". This is part of her education.
Another guy at the stop, in his 30's, seemed at first to be supportive of her attempts to shut the conversation down and get away. Then the 2nd, ostensibly kind guy said, "What color are your eyes?", "You're pretty". He was staring as she got on the trolley, not at her eyes.
She called me scared and in tears. She wonders, if anything even worse happened, who would protect her? What is our society? This isn't an unusual incident. Very similar things & much worse have happened many times before, to her & to millions of others.
I wanted to share this because it makes me so angry and upset. It isn't about the Odyssey. But the Odyssey is a powerful text to think about the constraints and tragic frustrations and dangers of being a mortal woman (Penelope, surrounded by guys like this; Melantho, hanged).
The Odyssey goddesses, who can't be controlled, silenced, objectified, constrained or killed by men, are terrifying when they're not on the side of the male protagonist. I wish all that were no longer relevant in our society. I wish this happened never, not every day.
You can follow Emily Wilson.