The Act of Catcalling is Harassment, Not a Compliment
December 16, 2016
Filed under Opinions
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A young girl proudly walks down the school hallway, unknowingly approaching a potential threat. She stops dead in her tracks when she hears a group of boys directing wolf whistles and vulgar comments at her. The girl nervously quickens her pace, questioning whether she should’ve worn a longer skirt, and above all, whether she is truly safe from the boys who called out to her. This is just one instance of catcalling, and it is an occurrence that happens far too often in our society, especially to women.
The scale at which catcalling occurs is extremely concerning. According to a website about the dangers of catcalling, a survey that consisted of 1,141 women showed that 99 percent of them were catcalled or street harassed (stopstreetharassment.org). Additionally, an article in The New York Times states that a survey revealed 80 percent of 16,000 women from different countries have been catcalled before the age 17 (nytimes.com).
Why should we make such a big deal about catcalling? The “little” comments that men drop when they see women passing by reduce these strong women into sexual objects made for male pleasure. Their self-esteem falters. They feel vulnerable, when just seconds before, they felt secure. Junior Sophia Cook, who has been a victim of catcalling, stated, “It rids a girl of her humanity. She feels really objectified and not human.”
This idea of seeing women as objects has been present in our patriarchal society for centuries. Junior Alex Aguilar stated, “Some guys have strong beliefs of older, traditional ideas of women. Carrying those beliefs through their lives, they objectify women and don’t really think about what they’re actually saying.” It’s 2016, and the outdated mindsets of catcallers need a serious update.
Catcalling can happen to anyone anywhere: out on the streets, in school, at work. It makes women question their safety in places that were supposed to be secure. Perhaps the reason why catcallers are so willing to do what they do is because they aren’t aware of how violated the comments make women feel. Cook explained, “When a girl gets catcalled, she also feels really harassed. It’s really scary.” A lot of the guys that catcall believe the notion that they are actually complimenting the women they’re harassing. In reality, they can be making these women feel like they’ll be the next victim of sexual assault. Because of the possibility of meeting someone like a catcaller in public, girls at times have to be more aware of their surroundings and feel a sense of instability that no person should feel.
The fact that this problem can be present in school should be enough to call for action. What can we do about this issue? One option is to create a law against it. According to The Washington Post, a community in England is the first in the country to define misogyny as a hate crime (washingtonpost.com). If people were aware that it’s not only demeaning to catcall women, but illegal, then they would understand the seriousness of these actions .
What can you do about this issue? You can be the voice for the people who don’t have one. “If you see it, definitely say something and call the person out on it. Girls should also stand up for themselves too,” Cook said.
The next time you hear someone demean someone else, say something and let that person know that what they’re doing is not okay. Don’t be a bystander; be a defender. And if you’re a catcaller, the next time you think about calling out to a girl about how good she looks in those shorts, just know that you’re the reason why girls don’t feel comfortable going outside by themselves.