Love a Yogi, don’t Catcall

Last weekend led me to a family reunion halfway across the country. Travel can feel un-grounding for me, and so, with yoga mat in tow I prepared to carry deep breaths cross-country via plane.

The slow spring sunshine finally pulled me outside to the lawn to stretch and practice on the second day of the trip. I felt grateful for the fresh air, warm grass and sun. I had convinced my cousin, a “yoga-virgin” to join me in practice. With each breath the sun came out further and I felt my body finding a new sense of grounding and expansion amidst the busyness of a family reunited.

Cars had been driving past our lawn-turned-yoga-studio throughout our practice and so the sound of engines provided more of a consistent sound track than an annoyance. There was one car, however, that stood out from the rest. From the front seats of the indistinguishable black sedan peered two men, presumably college students from the local state university.

First I returned their gaze, becoming aware of their eyes as I melted forward into a seated forward bend. I quickly regretted my decision to look to my right when my eyes were met by the abrasive sounds of catcalls hollering out into the stalled traffic.

I glanced to my right to make sure I was getting this image right. Were these guys for real?

As if looking for some sort of understanding I stifled a groan, turning to my cousin for validation in my disgust. I could feel the frustration bumbling up inside of me. I felt shocked and conflicted. Taking a deep breath in and out I reflected in my forward fold. My practice is about compassion and patience, I reminded myself and yet in the midst of it I had the urge to yell back, to stick up for myself, and reassure these catcalling men that blatant objectification of women is never OK.

Rather than yell back, I breathed another dirgha (three-part yogic) breath and after a second catcall, the light changed and the car pulled forward into the intersection. I felt myself rolling my decision to remain silent over and over again in my mind. This time I chose understanding, I told myself.

My cousin didn’t understand, he had never witnessed or been victim to a similar instance. I wish I could say that this sort of act is an anomaly but unfortunately, it isn’t. Earlier that week my sister had been catcalled and photographed while biking by a passing group of construction workers in their truck—not cool.

I am not trying to suggest that only men are catcalling—I have definitely witnessed women falling guilty of the same act. Nor am I suggesting that only women are victims to the calls or that all guys catcall. But, I am saying that with each utterance of a catcall, hurt is felt. Whether you think we can hear your call or not, take a second and realize what you’re doing by yelling out.

Sure you may think I look pretty awesome in my forward fold but that’s not the point. Please resist the urge to holler and instead send out some love. Yogis and bicyclists alike much appreciate the respect.

First posted at: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2011/06/love-a-yogi-dont-catcall–emma-burrows/

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