Pre-Existing Condition

By Katie Shier

I posted something on my Instagram story a few weeks ago about getting aggressively catcalled. I usually don’t post things like that, but I guess I was pissed off more than usual that day.


It wasn’t even 10 a.m. I was just trying to go to a doctor’s appointment.


I got message after message:


“I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

“I hope you’re okay.”


“That’s so scary.”


I’m not sure what response I was expecting, but I didn’t really think people would care.


I’m so used to this.

We all are.


It wasn’t that big of a deal, right?


I genuinely didn’t think it was a big deal.


This happens to literally every woman on earth.


Everyday.


The only difference is that I said something about it this time.


What about the time I was 12 and I got catcalled while babysitting?

We were on our way to the park.


A group of construction workers whistled at me.

I grabbed her hand way too tightly as we walked past.

I hope she didn’t know what was going on.


What about the time I was on the subway home and a guy was masturbating and staring at me my whole ride home?

I have never felt so violated and the man hadn’t even touched me. I almost threw up in the garbage at St Clair station.


What about the time a guy forced my hand on his crotch at a party and when I tried to get away, he grabbed my wrist so tightly that I thought he broke it?

I was told by a friend that it wasn’t worth reporting because “I didn’t really have anything to report.”


What about the time the guys in my seventh grade class made a hot-or-not list of all the girls solely based on our boobs?


What about all the times I had to order a new drink at a bar because I left mine unattended for half a minute?


What about the time a man old enough to be my father grinded on me and groped me at a bar?

His hands dug into my hip bones like he was trying to dig through me. I couldn’t move. I was trying to celebrate my 18th birthday.


What about all the times that are too insignificant to post about because getting harrassed is the rent I pay to exist in the world as a woman.


What about all the times I thought I would get kidnapped or raped or killed?


Where’s the nearest exit?


Are there any other women around?


Is anyone around?


What’s in my bag?

How fast can I run in these shoes?


Can he grab my ponytail?


Did he look at me weird?


Did she notice him looking at me?


All of these questions go through my head the second I make eye contact with a man.


Even if he’s ‘normal looking’

or a mutual friend


or young and cute.


Every man is a threat when my mere existence is a pre-existing condition.


An invitation for male attention.


What about all the times incidents like this happen on the way to work or class?


We’re expected to function as normal.


Like nothing ever happened.


I’m supposed to take notes during my lecture.


I’m supposed to focus on what my professor is saying.


As if I was not just yelled at by a random man like I was a dog.


Like I am worthless.


Like I am a removable piece of garbage in his way.


After each one of these situations, I’ve just brushed it off and gone on with my day.


I’ve had to and I’ve learned to.


We all have.


Because if we start talking about all the ways we have been violated


there would never be silence.