John Seven | Hey catcaller: That behavior is ridiculous


NORTH ADAMS -- The first headline of the morning was "U.S. student gets stuck in giant vulva." My first thought was, "Oh, no, an American did a stupid thing that the world noticed," and my second one was, "What?"

Apparently, the exchange student climbed inside a giant statue of a vagina that sits outside a microbiology museum in Germany. It was on a dare.

As I looked at the photo, it seemed to me that it was some sort of amazing symbolism, but probably not the type that many would think about. It looks like a vagina engulfing a male, but it's not. It's an imaginary vagina that the male is allowing himself to be engulfed by in order to impress other people.

That's the thought process I imagine when I read news about "men's rights activists" who have apparently taken to Twitter in disguise as minority feminists in order to create false identity straw women that correspond with their perceived enemy. If the giant vagina statue scenario is a litmus test, no doubt most of these men see themselves as being devoured by dangerous womanhood on the attack. I just see an imaginary scenario that they believe is a real one. Guys, it's neither a real vagina engulfing the exchange student in Germany or you and your rights in America. You're as paranoid as people who fear toxins are everywhere. You are ridiculous.

A friend recently mentioned that with the warm air and open car windows, some guys in North Adams believe that is a license to catcall anyone woman they see walking down the street. My general advice to these guys is if you like what you see, keep it to yourself, but obviously like the exchange student that didn't understand that the vagina statue was there to be looked at but not abused, the guys who scream out of their car obviously have something to prove. To somebody. Themselves? The women they scream at? I have no clue.

In her unscientific study of the situation, my friend noticed that they were always younger guys, and the hooting was so consistent that she could actually map out in North Adams where it was most likely to occur. I know plenty of other women in North Adams who have encountered that behavior. My wife likens the situation to living in Brooklyn in the 1940s. I think that's evocative in the right way.

I have never been a catcaller, even as a teenager. I'm of the generation that was taught to be courteous to women. Is opening the door for a woman outdated? It's my reflex action. Perhaps because I'm Southern. Perhaps because my father was an officer in the Air Force. Perhaps because I just don't see the point in giving people trouble in the little moments of daily life.

As far as courtesy goes, though, not yelling at a woman walking down the street takes no effort whatsoever. Opening a door does. Refraining from catcalling actually gives you additional time in your day to do something else. Not doing something rude is the single easiest form of courtesy in existence.

But now that I've gone and put the imagery out there, any of you guys hooting out of our car window will come off looking ridiculous once you do it. Not cool, not threatening, not attractive. Ridiculous. Why? Because, metaphorically -- and if you understand that word, it will help you understand this sentence -- you are a dumb exchange student shoving yourself inside a giant marble vagina without the slightest idea of how to get out. You are so busy insinuating yourself on it that it outsmarts you. You're trapped by the very thing you're trying to demean and control. And that's just silly looking.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at or at


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