Of course some women are flattered by catcalls, but that doesn't make it ok: A response to Paris Lees

Paris Lees has been busily trying to erase decades of feminist work over at Vice as of late, first promoting prostitution as something sexy, empowered women do, and now encouraging men to catcall women.

Lees, who says she used to be “a boy” (i.e. she is a trans woman) and is “a total attention junkie” is tickled at being “sexually objectified and treated like a piece of meat.”

She enjoys being “eye-fucked on the escalator” and claims that “eye-fuck” is an “age-old mating call.”

Lees admits she doesn’t represent all women but what she fails to do is connect her feelings of flattery to a larger social context. She individualizes her own experience and refuses to look beyond her own personal thrill at properly performing femininity, which prevents her from understanding why she might feel thrilled by catcalls and why that might not be good.

I’m willing to bet that Lees isn’t alone in her feeling. I bet there are plenty of women who have, from time to time, felt flattered by a look or compliment in the street. There are many more who have felt threatened, unsafe, and angered by being yelled at out the window of a passing truck or stared down on public transit. Whatever Lees feelings and experiences are is fine — what isn’t “fine” is to write an entire article about how great being objectified makes her feel without acknowledging that these feelings aren’t about “mating calls” so much as they are about patriarchy.

But maybe Lees doesn’t have a problem with patriarchy. Must be nice.

The reason men “eye-fuck” women or holler at them on the street is not because of a deep, biological drive to reproduce, but because of a learned sense of entitlement, as noted by The Guardian’s Ellie Mae O’Hagan, who points out to Lees that studies “suggest sexual violence is ‘to an extent rooted in ideologies of male sexual entitlement.'”

Also, catcalling is not a historically universal practice. Women manage to reproduce just fine without being “eye-fucked” and even without being raped! (Another practice sexist dumb-dumbs/evolutionary biologists like to chalk up to “age-old” biological drives.)

Lees feels thrilled at being stared at or wolf-whistled on the street because she’s thrilled at properly performing femininity. Women are supposed to be looked at. They are supposed to exist for male pleasure. We are pretty things. That is, we learn, our purpose.

I have no idea what Lees’ history is, but she reminds me a little bit of myself when I was 18 and just starting to get male attention. I was thrilled too. But I was also 18 and I had zero ability to analyze my own feelings of flattery within a larger context. That thrill is quickly muddied by rape culture and by the realization that male attention doesn’t equal respect. In fact, that particular kind of male attention offers little more than a crushing sense powerlessness and insignificance when you learn that many of those men “eye-fucking” you in the bar or on the street see you as disposable or worthless. GUESS WHY? Yep. Objectification and sexualization are completely intertwined with a patriarchal culture that teaches men that women aren’t full human beings and that violence and degradation is sexy. Girls and women learn to please men because they aren’t offered real access to real power and so they think pleasing men is the ticket.

O’Hagen puts it this way:

One of the ways patriarchy sustains itself is by convincing women that their worth is determined by the approval of men along a strict set of terms. Getting wolf-whistled at or whatever is a small confirmation that a woman is meeting the terms patriarchy demands of her.

Lees “struggle[s] to see any real connection between rape and the guy who wolf-whistled at [her]” and I’m not surprised. She seems to struggle to make any real connections between the performance of femininity, learned male entitlement, and the oppression of women.

That she feels flattered instead of threatened is a privilege that doesn’t extend to all women and a privilege that Lees is apparently unaware of (again, must be nice).

The connection between street heckling and rape isn’t always as linear as Lees wants it to be. She writes:

As Nichi puts it: “I think it’s a misnomer to draw a continuum between street heckling and the paltry rape conviction rate. Street hecklers don’t go on to become rapists any more than readers of lads mags do.”

Partly that’s because the problem with street heckling isn’t *just* rape — it’s about the ways in which masculinity and femininity hold up gender hierarchies that empower men and disempower and dehumanize women. Often that disempowerment and dehumanization leads to male violence — sexual or otherwise. Sometimes it simply teaches women they are useless if not sexually desired.

Lees writes that her “problem with the debate around street attention” is that “it’s part of a culture that infantilises women and teaches them to be constantly afraid.” No, Paris. That’s not how this works. Women learn to be constantly afraid because they grow up as women in a patriarchal world. Patriarchy teaches us we are always at risk of being attacked or raped. Victim-blaming (which is something feminists fight against) tells women not to go out alone at night and rape culture tells us we aren’t safe in our homes instead of telling men that they are not entitled to access and abuse the bodies of women and girls.

“I wasn’t brought up that way,” Lees says. “And I don’t feel frightened when some spunky dude comes and talks to me. I hate this idea that all men are rapists-in-waiting and that all women are victims-in-waiting.”

ALL TOGETHER NOW: MUST BE NICE, PARIS. It must be nice to have been brought up completely oblivious to the ways in which girls learn to be afraid. It must be nice that you feel safe and unthreatened by men — many women don’t share your privilege. It must be nice to have been raised free from fear.

Lees writes: “I’m a feminist because I don’t like men telling me how to think or behave or experience the world and I don’t like women doing it, either.”

It’s unsurprising that Paris doesn’t get the point of feminism. She doesn’t understand why it exists and she can’t relate to it. She thinks feminism is about her and her “freedom” to do whatever she likes. But maybe feminism isn’t about you, Paris? Maybe it’s not about your freedom to successfully perform femininity and your freedom to enjoy catcalls, just as it isn’t about women’s “freedom” to self-objectify.

Feminism is about addressing systems of power that oppress women, globally. It isn’t about you feeling cute. It’s about the women and girls who are raped and abused and murdered every single day, around the world, because they are female. It’s about the fact that most of us do feel afraid, despite the fact that you “weren’t raised that way.” It’s about the fact that performing femininity, even though some of us may have learned to enjoy parts of it, isn’t a privilege in a patriarchy.

You have the right to speak for yourself, Paris. Everyone does. You have the right to feel however you like about your experiences, too. But you’re right — you don’t represent all women. And you certainly don’t represent feminism.

Meghan Murphy
Meghan Murphy

Founder & Editor

Meghan Murphy is a freelance writer and journalist. She has been podcasting and writing about feminism since 2010 and has published work in numerous national and international publications, including New Statesman, Vice, Al Jazeera, The Globe and Mail, I-D, Truthdig, and more. Meghan completed a Masters degree in the department of Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies at Simon Fraser University in 2012 and lives in Vancouver, B.C. with her dog.

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  • Nice to not have found out that sometimes the guys who eye-fuck you on the escalator are the same guys who grope you on the elevator.

    I don’t think of intercourse as being losing one’s innocence. It happens when you find out you’re not off limits for assault, that it’s not just something that happens to others. After that catcalling quite loses any appeal it might ever have had.

    • Dude

      How about the not so rare cases of women cat calling men? Or whatever it’s called… It is right for women to be giving away their attention to men?

  • That Paris Less article seems to have been written entirely for the male gaze club and in servitude of patriarchy.
    Paris piece is an fine example on how transwomen and women are not experiencing the world around them the same at all.

    • oblivia

      Because it goes without saying that every trans woman experiences the world the same way as every other trans woman, and cis woman experiences the world in the same way as every other cis woman? And the experience of being a woman comes in two, monolithic blocks?

      • Brunhilda

        No. Women are women, and trans women are men.
        Women don’t come in a monolith, but we are told, worldwide, that we are lesser, and that we are the property of men.

        • Bill


          I think what Henke meant to say (if I may) was that there is an experiential difference between growing up a man and becoming a woman later on and growing up a woman from the start. Agreed, neither should be presumed to be a monolothic block of experience.

  • Maria Luisa

    I used to get catcalls a lot when I was younger. It did not stop, even when I was pregnant. I hated it. Hated it. I lived with fear. I thought it was my problem due to being a female. It did not occur to me that it had to do with the patriarchy, until much later, until I started to study feminism. I am still traumatized by all that harrasment.

  • Not Cis, Just Woman

    I’ve literally never met a single woman who is flattered by street harassment so I have some trouble with the premise of this. Paris Lees is a male misogynist.

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t think women are flattered by street harassment, but I don’t think it’s impossible that some women might feel flattered by a catcall. Women learn they are meant to be desired by men and they learn that men’s “desire” is aggressive. I certainly do not enjoy being catcalled, but I don’t think it’s completely impossible that some women might feel like it’s some kind of warped compliment. Regardless, that doesn’t make it ok OR something any woman SHOULD feel flattered by. I’m sure it probably makes most women feel objectified, unsafe, and uncomfortable.

      • Maria

        I think women do feel flattered by male attention. Cat calls are just some crude form of male attention.
        I think especially women of color and native women – we are used to more crude forms of male attention.

        When cat calling exists, it makes every man who talks to you seem to have the intention of sex.
        And that leads more women to believe that their sexual worth is more important than anything else.

        So whether women are, or are not flattered by cat calling – cat calling contributes to male privilege.

  • I am in awe of this entry because, to my knowledge, no one has written about this strange attraction to objectification that some women seem to have. So this is quite ground-breaking to me; the theory that women who feel “rewarded” by objectification see it as being rewarded for following fuckability mandates makes a lot of sense. As for the fact that women on here do not report such an attraction, I think that’s expected: women who want to be objectified wouldn’t end up radfem, I would think. Am I off base?

    • Meghan Murphy

      I don’t think that it’s that women who “want” to be objectified won’t end up as radical feminists. I think they’re just trying very hard to feel happy and powerful and fit into a very oppressive system. Maybe someday they’ll realize that try as they might, objectification will never be empowering. Or maybe they won’t. But people come to radical feminism from all sorts of places, in my opinion. All that aside, I don’t know that you have to be a radical feminist to understand that objectification isn’t empowering…

      As I said, I think Lees enjoyment of being objectified comes from a place of privilege. She feels thrilled she has figured out how to successfully perform femininity in a patriarchal world. It sounds like she’s playing at femininity rather than having had femininity imposed on her since birth. She has the privilege to see objectification and harassment as “fun” — lucky her?

      • Yeah. It’s not that you’re thinking “What fun to be objectified!” It’s more like wanting to belong to the tribe and thinking maybe they’ll let you be if you compromise and put up with a certain amount of crap.

        That’s for women. Paris is playing out a trans fantasy. I wonder whether transwomen who get assaulted/raped are so sanguine.

        • Meghan Murphy

          It’s also worth acknowledging that women learn their whole lives that being objectified IS fun and empowering and sexy. It’s not completely shocking that some women would buy into that or try to buy into it…

      • “I don’t know that you have to be a radical feminist to understand that objectification isn’t empowering…”

        It sure seems that way, though.

        • Meghan Murphy

          I think I know what you mean, but most of my friends wouldn’t identify as radical feminists, yet they would still understand why being objectified or treated like “a piece of meat” isn’t empowering… You know what I mean?

          • I’ll have to take your word for it. My wife is radfem and I only have two other female friends, one of whom is in the pro-objectification camp.

            Incidentally, this friend of mine told me yesterday that drunk sex is not “real rape.” No kidding.

    • amongster

      i don’t know if i can call myself a radfem at this point (i think i don’t know enough about radical feminism yet) but i ended up as a reader and lover of this blog despite the fact that there was a time when i used to feel a kind of satisfaction whenever i got cat-called, eye-fucked etc. to be honest, i mostly felt very uneasy or even threatened at the very same time, but i managed the stunt to tell myself that i was the one in power. as long as you are lucky enough to get out of such a situation you can obviously make yourself believe that.
      i think at first it is very difficult for women like me to give up that illusion of power since to a certaint point it can really help to deal with daily fear or even a trauma. but i really wish that more women become aware and shatter their own illusion before it is shattered by abusive men.

      • Maybe you’re not a radfem, but insofar as understanding radfem you are on the right blog. Please stick around, you’ll like it.

    • Kim

      Well, it’s kind of tricky here, isn’t it? This Paris person is not a female-born person, does not have the experience of being raised as a girl in a world that hates women and girls. So, I would hesitate to talk about how “some women” feel in this instance. Paris is only a “woman” because s/he says so, not because of lived experience.

      • Yea, that’s true. Not socialized female. Still, objectification-as-reward is a phenomenon that happens, and you gotta wonder why it happens.

  • E.M.

    Starting when I was still in elementary school (I started developing early) I was regularly catcalled, often intimidated, flashed twice and on many occasions sexually groped on the street, public transportation etc. I personally knew girls who’d been dragged into alleyways and raped in broad daylight, and heard of many more in the local news. Some of these stories ended with dead bodies or unsolved disappearances. Accordingly, it always seemed perfectly obvious to me that verbal harassment was a threat of rape or worse and that I could only hope the threat was non-serious. One could never tell in advance which dirty-talker would advance to flashing or groping, and in the moment of being groped there was no way to tell, in the moment, whether it was “just” a grope or an attempt to snatch me off the street to a horrible fate. To encourage or appear to enjoy it in any way would have been unthinkable, mad, suicidal. Men were far from ignorant of the fact that I experienced their harassment as threats – that’s why the peals of contemptuous laughter when I’d break into a panicked sprint after hearing some particularly aggressive suggestion. Despite the development of my body, I doubt that any of these grown men were substantially deceived as to my age, given that this mostly happened in the afternoon immediately after school, with my backpack and age-appropriate clothing, at a time when many children the same age were filtering out into the neighborhood. Terrorizing a child seemed to be part of the thrill. As I grew the harassment intensified but I certainly never reached a point where I thought “well now it’s OK because I’m old enough for it just to be a ‘compliment’ and not creepy.” My experience of how eager men were to attack – or credibly threaten to attack – a ten year old permanently colored my perception of what men are about when they catcall. The range of meanings is between “putting bitches in their place” and “threatening death or serious bodily harm” with no room for compliments or flattery. Now that I am old, fat and butch I don’t have to deal with this any more. I’d largely buried the trauma of being deathly afraid to walk down the street in mid afternoon – and anything that would keep me out past sunset being absolutely out of bounds – that plagued the years between sprouting breasts and my first car. Paris Lees’ smug, unbelievably clueless observation that he “wasn’t raised that way” brought it all rushing back with a vehemence that makes me want to smash my mobile in rage at what I read. Damn straight you weren’t raised that way!!! Weren’t raised with men three times your age and size threatening you every day on your way home from fifth grade!!!!!!!!!!! And to dare tell me I “choose” to be intimidated???? Rot in hell you stupid little man. Yes MAN. This is the article that’s finally brought me off the fence as far as the whole transgender thing. No woman would ever call these threats empowering. Only someone who truly hates women (except as an assumed fetish identity) would ENCOURAGE MEN TO SEXUALLY TERRORIZE FRIGHTENED YOUNG GIRLS. Rot in hell Paris Lees you are not only not one of my kind, you are our mortal enemy.This article has brought me round to the feminist argument that trans are really MRAs in disguise, only an MRA would lecture women AND LITTLE GIRLS on why they should be happy and grateful to be threatened on the street.

    • jo

      Dear E.M, my experience growing up was similar. The harassment started at a very young age. I didn’t even have any real curves; many men simply like to scare girl-children. Easy victims for abusive cowards. Adding to the whole thing was feeling completely alone because no adult ever took it seriously, if I tried to talk about it. It made me feel very alone and like it was my fault. Street harassment wasn’t something I talked to with friends either: It was something to ignore and feel ashamed over. We got sexually harassed by our male classmates everyday anyway. I continued to experience tons of harassments and even physical attacks by men for simply appearing in public – they seem to know who to pick, those who are already weak and afraid. It has been absolutely horrible for my self-esteem. I was afraid of going outside for a while. I’ve never had any positive experiences of catcalling.

      So yes, this adult biological male can go screw himself.

      • Same here. The first time a creeper followed me home, I was in 4th grade.

        And, I totally agree, my first thought when I read Paris Lees’ words is that it’s just another form of mansplaining.

  • Missfit

    It looks to me that this person transitioned especially to become a sex object.

    I just wished they would stop calling themselves feminists. Feminism is not about individuals being able to feel empowered by the patriarchy.

    If your so-called feminism is limited to not liking anybody telling you how to think and behave (something any misogynist could say), call yourself a libertarian or whatever and leave it at that. There is no feminism without connecting the dots when it comes to sex and gender oppression. I think it is C. MacKinnon who said that liberal feminism is liberalism applied to women, marxist feminism is Marx applied to women, and radical feminism is feminism.

    • These are really good points. Thanks.

    • Meghan Murphy

      It is just libertarianism. I have no idea why libertarians have decided to coopt feminism at all.

      • An attempt to make it harmless ? members of the dominant culture, libertarians are good members by the way, don’t won’t change. So much privilege invested in various forms. For us males, we have privileges that no one else gets, white women has privileges women of colour don’t have and to make a long story short, industrialized humans has privileges over every other living human society and living being on this planet, and the core to make this a reality is patriarchy. Smash patriarchy and a lot of industrial privileges might just come to and end.

        It’s interesting, however, to see how deeply rooted male power and male domination is in our culture. Talk about dismantle industrial civilisation and most is like “ok, not my cup of tea but whatever. You have a point regarding destruction of the environment”, talk about destroying cellphone towers people respond “can be cool, I guess, if done correctly” talk about females having spaces free from males, no matter what those males identify as, and watch you get attacked like there is no tomorrow.

    • “MacKinnon who said that liberal feminism is liberalism applied to women, marxist feminism is Marx applied to women, and radical feminism is feminism.”

      I’m a Marxist and I actually see radical feminism as an application of Marxist thinking to gender. That might sound like an attempt to steal credit, but think about it.

      Marxism: In a capitalist world there are two classes of people, workers and capitalists. Capitalists rule over workers because they (the capitalists) own the means of production. This gives capitalists the power to exercise control over workers (who do not own the means of production) and make them (the workers) behave in the capitalists’ interests by working hard in order to generate capital, even if the workers suffer physical pain, experience injury or die as a results. This is obviously a horrid system, which is contrary to the principles of freedom and equality. Therefore the system should be abolished by abolishing private ownership of the means of production, which is the mechanism through which capitalists rule over workers.

      Radical feminism: In a patriarchial world there are two classes of people, women and men. Men rule over women because they (the men) are indoctrinated into masculinity. This gives men the power to exercise control over women (who have been indoctrinated into feminity) and make them (the women) behave in men’s interests by messing with (i.e. prettifying) their bodies in order to generate sexual pleasure (for men), even if the women suffer physical pain, experience injury or die as a result. This is obviously a horrid system, which is contrary to the principles of freedom and equality. There the system should be abolished by abolishing gender (masculinity and femininity), which is the mechanism through which men rule over women.

      I honestly don’t understand why there’s so much antagonism between the two groups. I partially blame mainstream society, the universities and liberal feminism for heaping so much slander onto radical feminism, such that most people aren’t willing to look into it and see as dictatorial and of course Marxists are more concerned about being called dictatorial than most people are so they are particularly scared of being associated with radical feminism.

      The sexual libertarianism of the more recent Marxist movements is also to blame. I have no idea where that comes from. If you reject libertarianism when applied to economics, why accept it with regard to sex? Fredreich Engels certainly didn’t buy into the sexual liberation doctrine. He thought that after capitalism and the oppression of women were abolished, it would be easier to have stable heterosexual relationships. I think he could easily be right (apart from the compulsory heterosexuality part). Why has nobody explored this idea? Why do so many people think communism will be one massive orgy composed of willing females? That vision of communism strikes me as very self-gratifying and greedy. If it’s wrong to want more than one’s fair share of houses, cars and other resources, why is it okay to want a limitless amount of sex? Especially since not all women are eager to provide it. Call me old fashioned, but I think that encouraging people to be less focused on gratifying themselves (in a short-term and ultimately empty way) and more focused on benefiting society and on developing themselves as a people, is an important part of the communist vision.

      • marv

        Engles was as big fool as Marx in relation to women’s oppression. He did not see the original sexual division of labour in itself as unjust. It was natural. Male rule was not a system . It only became exploitation when it was distorted by the rise of political/economic classes. Before classes existed, the sex division of labour was not hierarchical in his mind. Women’s roles were equal to men’s only different. Albeit he did think women would be allowed to take their rightful place in the labour force equal to men after the demise of capitalism . Socialism would abolish the public private split, but women would retain their natural place as wives, mothers and housekeepers though these functions would be socialized among women. It is truthful then to say of Engles that women’s subjugation was one expression of capitalism. It would be abhorrent to him to assert that male dominance was the precursor to other class distinctions. In short he was a sexist prick with a few genuine ideas.

      • C.K. Egbert

        I’m late to this thread, but I think you’re right in a lot of ways. I’d actually call a lot of radical feminism/post-colonialism “post-Marxist” in the sense that they take a similar materialist view and analyze social structures in terms of domination/subjugation. The difference is thinking that race/gender is somehow reducible to the narrower economic-social analysis of Marxism, which is where they diverge. I’m idealistic and I think all genuine liberation projects are complementary and don’t conflict (although I don’t think they are reducible to each other).

        Also, I’ve talked to Marxists (all male) and for some reason they all take a more libertarian view when it comes to sex (“What could possibly be wrong with BDSM?” “Prostitution is just about labor conditions”). Interesting.

  • sporenda

    ” I have no idea why libertarians have decided to coopt feminism at all.”

    To turn it into an empty shell and better undermine it ?
    Paris Lees was born and raised as a man , he still thinks as a man.
    Mtfs are just performing feminity, they are no more a woman that the actor playing the part of a slave in ” 12 years a slave” is a slave.
    They have no right whatsoever to define what it is to be born female, they have no right telling us what’s good for us..

    If one juges from this guy, an mtf is a male rapey libido in a woman’s body.

    • jo

      Agree but please don’t compare this man to the actually female, actually black Lupita Nyong’o – huge difference…

  • Another post regarding Paris piece, this time by a transwoman.
    Personally I found it very thoughtful and well written.

    It’s time for transwomen to step away from femininsm


    • oblivia

      There’s another article on this site, which takes aim at similar targets under the name of “Belle Knox feminism”. Nobody in the comment section there is rattling on about how Belle Knox’s pro-porn position is typical of cis women, or how it shows that cis women need to step away from feminism, or how it shows that cis women don’t get gender oppression, because they never had to cross that gender line. Anyone with two wits to rub together would see that those would be stupid things to say. But stir a little transphobic bigotry into the mix, and everyone’s critical capacities are ground to a pulp.

  • NitroGirl

    “I choose to be empowered by it”–we all know what that shit means, that means the latter,those who do not “choose” to feel empowered by men drooling over and objectifying them are Victims ™,and that’s BAD in libfem, sex-pozzie world . I’m not going to try to interpret shit as rhinestones —I am not going to define my harassment out of existence,as this brand of so called Feminism suggests. “Catcalls” or “Hollas” are disturbing and dehumanizing. Males often don’t use just their words,and often use their bodies as punishment if you refuse to respond to their calls in a kind manner or ignore them altogether. I had a boy in highschool “eye-fuck” me ,daily, and say nasty things about my body, and would seek opportunities to squeeze certain areas of my body (and I swear to god I thought he wanted to do more once he caught me by myself). Any dude huffing and puffing like some kind of dog in heat looking at ,and cat-calling women needs to be put to sleep (in my opinion)–they are NOT flattering. They are perverted,creepy fucks.

    You know all it takes is for one article about how one chick said “It’s ok babe, I like catcalls” for dudes to interpret that as ALL women and girls like catcalls. This is what they fucking do—a minority of women says yes,majority says no, (men) tokenize the minority to justify their sense of entitlement to women and girl’s time,attention,and bodies (because “SOME like it!” Heheh,see? Take that,boner killing feminists!). This is some rape-culture enabling fecal matter. You know I have a bit of fun performing femininity too, but I never interpreted catcalls as being flattering. And what a childish ass reason to become a Feminist (“because I don’t like people telling me what to do”)—sounds like Paris wants to be a teenager.

    I’m honestly quite tired of the Sex-Pozzie, F aux-Empowerment “Feminist” perspective because it sounds 100% like patriarchy. When I read crap like this, I weep for today’s teen girls…these kinds of people are so knee deep in the ass of patriarchy, that they’ll enforce more conformity and internalizing the male gaze—that of which will only HURT teen girls in the long run.” A boy yelled “nice ass” to you at the bus stop? Girl,that just means you’re a total hottie! Own it. Empower yourself.”. I could barf.

  • ““I wasn’t brought up that way,” Lees says. “And I don’t feel frightened when some spunky dude comes and talks to me.”‘

    You’re right Lees you weren’t raised that way. You were raised the way people with male bodies are raised. Raised to believe that you are big and strong and invincible and no one can hurt you and that if they try to you have the right to resist them. That’s what radical feminists have been trying to tell you (and others in the trans movement.) That’s why you’re not a woman. When women grow up, they are expected to be subordinate and they internalise that expectation. They are raised to be nice and gentle and passive and hope that they don’t piss off the man next to them, because he has the power to beat the shit out of them (and his upbringing has most likely encouraged him to behave that way to some extent.)

    It is the experience of growing up as a woman under patriarchy that makes a vagina-ed human being into a woman. MTF transsexuals don’t have those experiences. This is important because your experiences (especially their early experiences) shape your character. This is why when transsexuals try to “act like women” their behaviour seems more like an immitation of womanhood rather than actual womanhood. Even the porn-loving, “I love being sexy” so-called “feminists” feel disrespected by unwanted sexual comments. They say things like “I like that you think I’m sexy, but I don’t like to be viewed as a sex object”, which really doesn’t make a lot of sense if you think about it. But even porn-lovers understand on some level that theres’s something wrong with that sort of behaviour, while this transsexual evidently doesn’t realise that.

    They also seem totally oblivious to the negative side of feminity. They see women on TV prettifying themselves in the mirror and smiling as they do. In real life, when women prettify themselves it’s often accompanied by intense feelings of self-hate which women don’t express in public (or rather in front of men) because we live in a world that hates people who “whine” and they know men will get annoyed by their “whining”. MTF transsexuals need a serious reality check, feminity isn’t as fun as it looks. If you read between the lines of liberal feminist defences of make up and other prettification rituals, it becomes clear that much of the fun comes from the temporary alleviation of self-hate, which results from the “correction” of perceived “flaws”. Of course if you’re a man you’ll probably only see women smiling in make up ads and think that your wife/girlfriend is spending forever in front of the mirror because she wants to irritate you. So while I don’t claim transsexuals for their ignorance regarding the reality of women’s lives, I don’t really seem them as woman. Transsexuals only know what womanhood looks like. They don’t understand what it really means on any deeper level.

  • Donkey Skin

    It’s very important for trans activists to shut radical feminists up. Judging by the amount of time they spend harassing and stalking any woman who dares to point out the regressiveness of their gender politics, and lobbying for such women to never be allowed to speak in public again, silencing gender-critical women is, in fact, their most pressing political issue.

    Radical feminists, on the other hand, are fully on board with trans activists like Paris Lees being given the opportunity to speak. Every time they do, they reveal how little they actually understand the female experience, and their misogynist contempt for female reality. As women read their words and try to make sense of the bizarre version of ‘womanhood’ transwomen like Lees revel in, more and more light bulbs go off in the heads of those who had previously faithfully repeated the ‘transwomen ARE women’ catechism. So, unlike trans activists, I welcome the free speech of my political opponents. Keep talking, assholes.

  • jo

    The author has also written an article called “How Life Can Improve for Lesbian, Gay, Bi and Trans People in 2014”
    which features the sentence: “(….)if you actually give a shit about people who face gender-based bigotry, you could take your head out of your sphincter and use your voice to help them.”

    Look Paris Lees if you actually give a shit about people who face gender-based oppression, and want life to improve for Lesbian, Bi, and Het women in 2014 – stop writing articles that supports street harassment and prostitution.

  • I remember when I first saw Marilyn Monroe pictures of walking on the streets and smiling when men around catcalled her. it has been always an idea to sell. It’s not even original I would say. I was just a little girl but I disliked those images, I think I sensed what was to come, or what that would mean. Later then I started to be catcalled on the streets, the feeling was the same, because first of all I realised that the changes in my body made me feel really vulnerable and men started to look and treat me in a different and disgusting way. I started to realise that I was not a human being like others (read men) and then started this feeling of revolt inside me.

    Why women don’t like catcalls? Because we know that this is part of this concept that we are not meant to be in everywhere, because we are not “like these other guys”, so we shoud not dare just walk around.

    And when a woman feel flattered by that it’s just because we were raised that we just are meaningful if we are pretty and/or sexy.

    Once a man said something related to my body I told him to fuck off! He punched me on the face and I fainted. I don’t know how much time I remained that way. When I recovered I was bleeding. This means that a man can tell you what he wants and you cannot answer what you want. We have to accept.And this bullshit that women are flattered by catcalls is just to mantain us “where we belong”, or “what we are”, objetcs for the men’s purposes, to have us under control. It’s just to mantain patriarchy ruling the world.

    Have you ever realised that from the hot pretty thing you become an ugly bitch in seconds, when you respond to this shit to a man?

    No, we are not supposed to hear those shit, to be objectified, and “like” this shit. And I also realised that these men rejoice themselves when we feel threaten, when we pass by them in an empty alley they want to make sure we get afraid or vulnerable, its a sick thing, and it’s very difficult for us sometimes to state a difference if it’s “just” a catcall or that someting eles is going to happen. And then sometimes is safer do not respond, and they know it, and you feel humiliated because or this sounds you like it, or you are a coward.

    I’m also very tired of this pozzie/empowerment thing and I think i’ts a huge lack of respect to feminists and to all that have been struggled so far.

  • CD

    I have to say, I’ve tried reading blogs by transpeople (mostly MTF – looks like they’ve got more of an internet presence than FTM) in order to better understand where they’re coming from, and it seems like there’s this idea that the grass is always greener once you transition. For instance, I’ve read articles saying things like “I can’t believe I get paid less now that I’m a woman”, or “I’m surprised I don’t feel beautiful, just insecure about my appearance” – and it’s like, women have been saying this forever, why are you surprised? (And in other news, water is wet.) It goes to show that, however much a biologically male person may want to live as a woman, they’ll always absorb at least some male socialization – and how do you even undo that, when it starts so early?

    Gender roles are so artificial; it’s understandable to want to live according to your own “role” or to adopt the opposite role if it’s a fit with your personality, but… just because Lees likes the female role doesn’t mean that the rest of us do. Writing this sort of essentialist crap is giving the men who read it a free pass to assume that all women enjoy harassment.

    Speaking of harassment, I got groped at work this week, by the supervisor at a workplace I am temporarily visiting. I made a thinly veiled threat to punch him, which I can’t follow up on, because he’s a respected professional in my field and probably none of the higher-ups will believe me (I did report this to my regular supervisor, who is, thankfully, a gay man). But wait! Lees has made me see that I should enjoy this “attention” from a creepy, unattractive man who is twice my age, like a real woman should. It means that some man will chose me to bear his children (it must be because of my wide hips)! Guess I’ll stop being angry now. /sarcasm

    • CD

      Urgh, this was slightly incoherent (it’s very late in my time zone, and I’m stressed from spending half of the day dealing with the groping situation). When I talked about the grass being greener, I meant that Lees is probably caught up in the performance of feminine gender roles as a sign of successfully passing, so even degrading treatment can be overlooked. However, other MTF transpeople do realise that being treated as female isn’t all they thought it would be.

    • “For instance, I’ve read articles saying things like “I can’t believe I get paid less now that I’m a woman”, or “I’m surprised I don’t feel beautiful, just insecure about my appearance”.”

      Welcome to womanhood, suckers!

  • Grackle

    “Lees feels thrilled at being stared at or wolf-whistled on the street because she’s thrilled at properly performing femininity. ”

    Dead on. Excellent article as always.

  • When I was a pretty little girl my father’s favorite compliment for my looks was, “You’re going to need a baseball bat to keep the boys away.” He meant it as a compliment and I took it so.

    When the boys came for me I didn’t have a baseball bat.

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  • While on the topic of objectification, I would just like to point out that this just happened: http://pornostagram.com/ . Because there wasn’t enough porn on the internet. Now all you normal girls can post porny pics of yourselves and it’s ok! We don’t fap-discriminate! Yay!

    • Meghan Murphy

      Ugh. Gross.

  • Laur

    Globally, women are working to end street harassment. You can find campaigns in India, Egypt, many states in the U.S., Mexico, Spain, the U.K.., Japan…really, any place women are able to speak up about this, we will.

    In Japan, groping on public transit is so common they have instituted woman-only public transportation at rush hour.

    I was stunned the first time I met a woman who waved back when she was cat-called. For me, someone who has spent much time on public transportation (and walking outdoors) alone, it is a real safety issue.Looking back, I’m actually SHOCKED I haven’t been raped; I was in so many situations where I very nearly was raped by strangers, and it was pure LUCK that I wasn’t.

    Even posting this, I worry that some readers will think I am exaggerating. But they don’t know the situations I was in…

    The reason men prevent women from driving in Saudia Arabia is so they are totally reliant on men; similarly women who don’t have access to a car, end up being more vulnerable to assault by strangers.

    I find the publication of Lee’s article irresponsible. She is welcome to feel however she likes, but she needs to understand that her feelings take place in a society where women are sexually dominated by men. Of course, some women are going to try to deal the hand their dealt, by accepting and reveling in the inequality imposed on us. I can just see men reading this and similar articles and punishing. women who don’t respond to their liking to public sexual advances.

    I will never see how fighting for equality, liberty, and a world where women are treated as HUMAN BEINGS is “infantilizing” though

  • ToniBe

    My first memories of catcalling where in high school in the 1980’s. Every day I had to walk by high school boys either grabbing their crotches are trying to rub on me. It was completely terrifying. I never told anyone and I know at the age, I thought that was just the way things were. After graduating from college, I moved to Chicago and endured cat calls there but they were nothing like when I moved back to Atlanta, Georgia. I really think the men there thought I was there for their benefit. I was verbally harassed, cornered on the train and bus. When I would try to get up for my stop, men would physically stop me. I remember complaining to one of female co-workers who commented I shouldn’t be out at night. Well, in Atlanta during the winter, if you’ve got a 9-5 job and taking what passes for public transportation, in the morning it’s dark and at night it’s dark. This one particular so-called man would harass me every day on my way home from work. He follow me and say awful things. I never ran because I was always afraid he would chase me and half of my walk home was in very isolated area. One day I just couldn’t take at any more. I stared swinging my bag at home and screaming and yelling. He stood back wide eyed and told me I was a crazy bitch. He actually looked at me surprised that I was finally having what I now knows was an appropriate reaction to his behavior. One time, a guy started following me as I was walking home. He got in a car with some of his friends. They started following me. There words became more threatening. I grabbed a brick and threw it at the car. I heard the window smash and started running. They came after me and told me they were going to rape me. I ended up hiding in the woods for an hour or so. That weekend even though I couldn’t afford it, I bought a car. I remember the first time I drove home from work and parked my car, I cried, I wept with what I now know was relief. I didn’t realize how much tension, fear and terror I held in my body. I began to sleep better. I noticed that the anxiety that had in the morning preparing to go work, etc. disappeared. I was a much happier person. But even at the time (I was in 20s) I still thought that was just shit I had to endure.

    Now that I’m in my 40’s, I find that I go through bouts of being enraged that this fucked up society “says” I don’t have the right to claim my space on this planet. Even the little shit (which isn’t really little pisses me off). For example, I love to go to the movies late at night during the week. It’s less crowded and I consider it reward after long day of work. I live less than 1/2 a mile from a movie theater. If had a dick, I could walk there. But I don’t. I drive the less than 1/2 a mile, pay the $3.00 for parking since I live in L.A.

    The shit women have to deal with in what should be our spaces, too, not only cost us emotional energy, but time and money.

    And the transwoman thing – I so, so try to be sympathetic. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be born one gender but really, really feel that is so wrong. I also understand that if I experience violence as woman from men. I get that same men would feel probably more hostile to a person born a man who takes steps to reject that by transitioning. I also know that transwomen are penalized harshly for acting in self-defense against violent men, just like women are (more jail time, etc.).

    But/And I get so enraged, when I hear transactivists try to shut down women for talking about reproductive issues and other things that are specific for women born as women. Or, or being pro-prositution. Some have even gone as far as calling it empowering. I’ve tried to read up on this to try to understand. Transwomen are subjugated to high rates hiring discrimination. There are all kinds of issues with getting identification that matches gender, etc. So, some transwoman “opt” for prostitution to survive and to get money to pay for hormones and/or surgeries. Ok. So, I understand the harsh economic realities. But please don’t call being prostituted by men who probably using your body as a fetish being empowered, particularly when prostituted transwoman of color have some of the highest murder rates by men that for the most part go unpunished. Instead of touting the bullshit of prostitution is empowering why don’t work on ending discrimination against transwoman and transmen so education and job opportunties are more accesible?

    Also, since I am woman who has never been interested in being “pretty,” I hated playing with dolls as a kid. I never played dress up. I tried to walk in mother’s high heels as kid. I hate makeup. It feels suffocating on my face. Plus I figured out early in working life that you have to wake up early to do that shit and I prefer to get the extra sleep. My priority when it comes to clothes is comfort which means sensible shoes. They only thing that I do which might be considered girly are getting facials which falls on basic grooming for me and shaving my legs (it feels better to me, although when I’ve lived in colder climates I keep the fur which makes a big difference) and shave my arm pits. In fact, I think everyone (men included) should shave their pits. I worked as a licensed massage therapist for nine years and there was nothing grosser to me besides back and shoulder hair than a hairy, smelly pit with caked up deodorant. The men where the worse. Sometimes the funk would slap you in the face.

    I have to admit that it bugs me a little that the most visible transwomen are the ones who do what I call “perform” or appear “to put on” or “dress up” femininity. Oddly enough, I first became consciously aware of the “dress up” of femininity after watching a few seasons of RuPaul’s Drag Race which I love. Please don’t think I’m conflating dressing in drag with being a transwoman. I am not. I know the difference. But one of the fascinating things about that show is that all, shapes and sizes and races are appreciated and celebrated. In the straight world, there would never be television show that celebrated the diversity of the female form. Never. Oddly enough and I’m thinking this is something within myself that I might to be unearthed, I don’t have a problem with this show and the “standards of beauty” presented. I think this is because I get, really get that the fake tits and the padding and the makeup is just costuming. In that context, it doesn’t feel oppressive. It doesn’t feel like conformity because it’s clear it’s not real. It’s just play.

    Also after working as massage therapist in Florida and Arizona, I worked on too many who had every type of plastic surgery and body modification imaginable. I saw the results of a botched surgeries. Even when the surgeries supposedly went well the muscles were still tight from the trauma of the surgery, not to mention scar tissues. In the outside world, some of these women would most likely say that got surgery, Botox, fillers, etc. for themselves. But a massage table tends to bring out the truth. There was more than one woman who said they had work done to either get a man or keep a man. These stories were relayed sometimes with sadness, other times with resignation. So, I’ve got to look at these types of surgeries and the resulting conformity as a means of oppression.

    So when I see, transwomen embracing those pretty girl tropes it causes me to pause. It may not be right that it causes me to pause but it does. I wish there were more transwomen who were visible who didn’t embrace the “pretty.”

    • Donkey Skin

      ‘And the transwoman thing – I so, so try to be sympathetic. I can’t imagine what it’s like to be born one gender but really, really feel that is so wrong.’

      Women are brought up to prioritise men’s feelings over our own interests, so of course our automatic response to seeing a male in distress is one of sympathy. At the same time, we internalise the message that women’s lives are the least important, which is why you find liberal feminists prioritising trans issues over women’s issues throughout the movement.

      I was also sympathetic to trans issues until I realised how dangerous the trans agenda is to women’s liberation. Currently trans activists and their liberal feminist allies are trying to make it impossible for women to even talk about female biology in the context of our own oppression. They are mainstreaming the idea that a woman is nothing more than anyone who identifies with feminine gender stereotypes. They are trying to eliminate notion of female human beings as an oppressed political class.

      Women are the largest group of oppressed people on the planet. The urgent need for a strong feminist movement to combat this is not trumped by the fact that a small percentage male people feel physical and emotional distress over their bodies and/or gender roles, and sometimes suffer violence from other males because of this.

      Save your sympathy for the 3.5 billion women and girls whose lives are blighted and destroyed by the male supremacist system that rules the planet. They do not have the option of ‘identifying’ their way out of the unfathomable cruelties and injustices that are inflicted on them just because they are female. If the feminist movement will not put them first, no one will.

    • “I think this is because I get, really get that the fake tits and the padding and the makeup is just costuming. In that context, it doesn’t feel oppressive. It doesn’t feel like conformity because it’s clear it’s not real. It’s just play.”

      But it’s not play, it’s ridicule. Drag is no different than blackface. It’s ridicule of the oppressed through exaggerated stereotype. The only thing illuminating about the entertainment value of drag is that it shows how misogyny permeates every aspect of our culture. It seems everyone has to get their woman-hate on, and claim it’s some form of “natural” self-identifying expression. From rape jokes to drag, any dissent is further ridiculed as infringement on man’s “free” expression (which costs women dearly). That’s how deeply embedded in our collective psyche the misogyny is.

  • Karen Richards

    As A trans-woman who has worked in the building industry for over 30 years I cannot condone Paris , but it is her opinion . I am very proud to say this is no longer acceptable in the industry , however some people thrive on this which dose little for the majority that find it offensive .

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  • Personally, I hate cat calls because they terrify me. The reason is that I am a trans woman and don’t want to get killed. But my stance is woman’s choice is her own choice. I would think that the majority of women do not like them. But there may also be those who do like them.

    • Thanks for not addressing anything Meghan wrote in her entry, or the fact that transwomen make acceptance of misogyny part of “presenting as a woman.”

      • oblivia

        Francois, I think you will find that, if you sit down and think about it for a bit, you are able to make better contributions to a feminist blog’s comment section than telling women to shut up. Dana’s comment is no more off-topic than any of the others. And that you assume it to be a simple “fact” that “transwomen make acceptance of misogyny part of presenting as a woman” is as bigoted as it is myopic.

        It’s not impossible or at all uncommon for trans women to be feminists, Francois. What is impossible is to consistently call yourself a feminist while policing women’s bodies, assigning things like “acceptance of misogyny” to them on the basis of what you expect to find there, and telling women to shut up when they contradict your narrow and bigotted prejudices.

        • “Francois, I think you will find that, if you sit down and think about it for a bit, you are able to make better contributions to a feminist blog’s comment section than telling women to shut up.”

          Actually, I mostly tell other men to shut up. So, not following you there…

          “And that you assume it to be a simple “fact” that “transwomen make acceptance of misogyny part of presenting as a woman” is as bigoted as it is myopic.”

          How so?

          “It’s not impossible or at all uncommon for trans women to be feminists, Francois.”

          And I said that transgender people can’t be feminists… where??

          “What is impossible is to consistently call yourself a feminist while policing women’s bodies”

          …? I never called myself a feminist. Ever.

          Are you sure you replied to the right comment? Nothing you said applied to me. It’s almost as if you assumed everything about me based on that one comment. A comment which you don’t seem to have understood.

          So, good work I guess??

    • Laur

      Hi Dana,

      Street harassment terrifies me, too, as men who participate in this behavior can be a real threat to women’s safety. (I have been in situations where I have been scared for my personal security, to put it mildly). Women who aren’t trans experience this terror, too, and we don’t want to get killed either.

      Of course, women have the choice to appreciate what other women find intimidating behavior. But it’s not really about women’s choice, is this? Men don’t have to participate in behavior that women find terrifying.

      Some women may say they don’t mind what other women find to be sexual harassment at work or in educational settings. But there are still laws for women who ARE intimidated by men’s behavior.

      I really don’t see how this is an issue of “choice” for anyone besides men.

      • Laur, that is a damned good point. Thanks for taking the time to respond to my comment in such a helpful educational way. Much appreciated.

  • CaoCao

    Paris Lee’s article was infuriating. I can’t walk by a gaggle of boisterous men even now without feeling anxiety. The other day I hung my head down while passing a group of male teens ( particularly filled with entitlement) and picked up my pace. I tried to look smaller somehow, or less visible. I’m an adult, but teen males still always cause me a bit of grief by yelling sexual remarks at me.
    I am someone who has been sexually assaulted by a man on my way home. So I am particularly nervous passing men now, and any kind of cat calls make me feel terribly threatened and unsafe.
    I used to have a friend who was a MTF trans, and did what I could to support them. But little by little over time, she (I’ll call her “she”) started to treat me poorly. Everything was all about her “experience” being female. She would resent me for getting male attention ( which I did not want), and then accuse lesbians as a whole,group “transphobic”. This didn’t make any sense, as all my friends in the lesbian community treated her very well, but in the end, she was mad that they didn’t find her attractive. If they did not want to sleep with her, they must just hate trans people entirely.
    Her resentment of me grew and grew, until she was accusing me every other day of having no idea what discrimination was, because I wasn’t he/her. That I, and every other “cis” woman would never experience true discrimination, and we just had easy lives (being gay women, some of us from Asia and Africa… I find that sentiment very hard to believe that we had not experienced any hardship or discrimination comparable to a transwoman in Canada, who only started the process 2 years ago).
    She would lecture me incessantly about my “cis-privilege”. As someone who has been stalked by men, sexually harassed by men at my job, and sexually assaulted by men, I just could not see how I had been living a life of fanciful “privilege”.

    Then she would quote me statistics, dismissing my past of being a victim of sexual violence, saying as a trans woman she faces a *lot* more. It had not happened yet, but it’s still worse, and cis-women have it easy! My past trauma was just insignificant compared to what she could potentially face.
    In the end, I told her that I couldn’t speak to her anymore. Because it was draining, and I had no interested in being treated poorly every week by a “friend”.
    I realize now upon reading this article, and Paris lee’s “article”, that my ex-friend was a misogynist. He/She really truly, despised and resented women on a very deep level , but at the same time, wanted to be one? Some transwomen seem to keep that sense of entitlement they were born and raised with as men, and when they start transitioning to be female, they can’t stand the loss of anything they believe is rightfully theirs. Meanwhile, natural born women had none of that to even begin with.
    Many of them blame women for that loss. It’s baffling.

    The more I read on trans-women and feminism, the more I really think these should be two separate movements. Every time I tried to discuss women’s issue with this ex-friend, it quickly broke down into how I didn’t know what I was talking about, and squarely focused on HER reality of being female. If it was about me being harassed on the street by men, it would turn into her resenting me for it, saying: ” Oh, poor baby! Everyone thinks your pretty. It must be SO tough.”

    I’m sure there are transwomen out there that have it together, and are objective about these things, but this was my experience. I do NOT want a transwoman like Paris Lee telling men everywhere what it’s like to be a woman, and that it’s “flattering” to make us feel uncomfortable, demeaned, intimidated and objectified every where we go. It’s just wrong.

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  • Brunhilda

    This is exaclty like when a little boy hits, or teases a little girl in play school/kindergarten, and then the adults tell her it must mean that he likes her. Typical that such bullshit comes from a penis-carrier male.

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  • K

    As a teenager living in a small town, I was catcalled a LOT, and I did find it flattering. I didn’t understand why men catcalled, or what it meant, so I just laughed it off as boys being dumb. I wasn’t “empowered,” I just I didn’t know any better.

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