While I was enjoying my break the other day, I decided to check up on TC, and I ran across Chelsea Fagan’s article, “The Uncomfortable Privilege of Being Catcalled.” Upon reading it, what I found was… shocking. The article expressed Chelsea Fagan’s experience of being catcalled by construction workers (blue collar workers). Not a big deal, until I read the way she expressed herself. I’m uncertain whether this was done out of anger and frustration or whether it was sincere. (Apparently, blue collared workers appear to be “below the poverty line” and have a “lack of education.”)
As a blue collar worker and aspiring welder, I was astonished. It left a bitter taste in my mouth but instead of writing something bashing Chelsea, I hope to simply share some knowledge about being a blue collar worker and three things you shouldn’t be afraid to do if you want the catcalling to stop.
First, I think a lot of people don’t understand how the working environment in manual labor differs from an office. It has become clear to me that a good portion of people have no idea what being a blue collar worker is about. We seem to get bundled up with the “rejects,” “minimum wagers,” “nobodys,” etc. I’ve heard it all. Being a blue collar worker isn’t simple. The good construction workers are far from stupid. It involves skill, determination, and hard work, and many of them are making some pretty good money. I generally don’t like to talk finances with people, but for the sake of enlightenment I’ll share a bit.
A couple months ago, I was working with a team of reinforcing ironworkers. My final position was to be determined so I was making “grunt money,” which was $14 dollars an hour and $21 overtime. Overtime was plenty, I was working 50+ hours a week. For many people that might not seem like much, but taking into consideration that I wasn’t holding a skilled position, over $3,000 a month is great money. (By skilled I mean, having a certain task you’re required to do.) The guys holding ‘skilled’ positions on the team were making anywhere from $20-30 an hour straight time (and this was a non-union job.) In my experience, union jobs generally even pay better.
I learned what it meant to get up for the daily grind, I learned values I thought I had already mastered, most importantly, I learned to carry myself with pride. Carrying rebar all day leaves scars on your shoulders, scars I’ll carry for the rest of my life. My respect toward Iron workers and blue collar workers in general grew tremendously. I soon began to understand why these men walked with pride, it comes with the job. It’s a lifestyle you live – you take pride in your work, and while this might not be true for everyone, it is for most.
I understand that catcalling is unprofessional and it must be very frightening to experience some of the vulgarity thrown out there. If you’re around it long enough it begins to stick. Personally, my vocabulary has only gotten worse over the years and I understand how seeing a dirty man with dark colored safety glasses, steel toed boots, and a hard hat hollering obscenities at you could make you feel threatened.
I can’t speak for everyone, but generally, when I’ve been in the presence of someone doing a “cat call,” it’s a bluff. Look at it from the inside: you have a bunch of men packed together all day, every day, working an 8-hour shift and sometimes more. Testosterone levels are high, your sense of awareness is heightened because one wrong move can be catastrophic. You constantly have to watch above for cranes lifting heavy materials, you have to watch around for all the guys working around you, mistakes are made. You scream at the fucker that almost poked your fucking eye out, because he wasn’t watching where he was going and then the foreman comes over and chews your ass out because you didn’t do something properly. It’s stressful because mistakes matter.
So what happens when you see a pretty little lady walking across the street, wearing a short skirt? Nature happens, men holler, you get offended, they don’t know any better. I would say a good portion of the guys on a site have wives/gf’s/side chicks… they have someone in their life. If the women in their life knew they were hollering at another lady, they would get their asses chewed out.
Behind every tough man you see out there, there is an even tougher woman.
Women don’t get enough credit for being tough, they never have. My mother has gotten up at the crack of dawn for years just to pack lunches. (I tell her not to but she gets up anyway, I love that woman.) The guys walk in with their coolers packed by their wives/girlfriends/whoever, early in the morning, ready to take on a challenging day. For every man that gets up at 6 a.m. to get ready for work, there’s often a woman that gets up for him at 5 a.m. to make him lunch. Blue collar work is demanding, it takes a toll on your body (which is another article all on its own). Life is a little easier when you have someone by your side.
So with that in mind, the next time you experience a catcall by a construction worker, here are things you can do:
1. Tell The Man In Charge
Walk right into the construction zone looking for a foreman/supervisor (usually they’re a bit cleaner than the rest of the guys), tell him/her you are displeased and feel threatened by one of their employees.
2. Call The Company!
Look for a sign that displays a companies name (typically the contractors involved) call the number and express your displeasure. Companies take these things seriously. My brother has his own company and if he catches anyone slipping then things get ruthless. Speak up to the companies and let them know you’re displeased.
3. Tell Them To Cut It Out, That You Don’t Like It
If you’re brave enough, stand up to the men and put them in their place.
I’m uncertain as to whether these reasons for catcalling hold true in every case, but from my experience, catcalling really is merely a bluff. It’s a game to the participants to get someone’s attention and blow off steam and stress. They want to see your response. I’ve never seen someone who catcalls get a woman’s number, they know the chances of them meeting up with you are slim to none. They’re not stupid, they do it to amuse themselves. Its simply a crude game that’s played to pump up their egos not cause they’re generally trying to hurt somebody. You go on about your day, and they’ll do the same.