Catcalling – It IS An Issue.

27 Nov

Catcalling Example

Originally written for and published on the blog JAN Trust

Earlier last week I read an article titled “25 Totally Acceptable Ways To Respond To Catcallers” which was a very insightful and funny piece on an experience that MANY women face, some on a daily basis.  If you’re unfamiliar with the term ‘Catcalling’ in this context, it is a combination of both sexual and street harassment in which men (or women) yell out comments of a sexual  nature to an individual as they pass by in order to get their attention, sometimes this will also include some sort of touching or groping.

Although the piece itself was quite humorous the situation being spoken about is not, and we as a society are becoming increasingly indifferent to this behaviour, particular when it comes from men.   Because of society’s normalisation of this kind of street harassment, women feel less inclined to openly take offence and be as vocally disapproving as they would like.  The author of the article relayed her experience of being catcalled one early morning and stated that she felt guilty for not responding to a man’s questions and advances.  She said, “I started questioning my own instincts: Maybe I was too rude. Maybe I should have at least smiled or waved or something”.  This is an all too common feeling for many women who have had the experience of being catcalled.  They worry about their own behaviour when in fact they DO NOT have to respond or be nice to strange men who make them feel uncomfortable.  Catcallers lose their right to kindness the moment they violate your personal space and personal boundaries.  Catcalling also causes real feelings of fear among victims.   Many women feel that if they vocally express their disapproval at being catcalled the perpetrator will suddenly become verbally or physically abusive towards them.  In these instances, some women will start engaging with the perpetrator to remove themselves from the situation, sometimes this will involve lying about having a boyfriend or husband in the hope that the perpetrator will respect their decision to leave.  This is not ok, vocally stating that they do not like the situation they are in should be ENOUGH for a man to apologise and leave her alone and should also be ENOUGH for society to realise this shouldn’t be happening in the first place.

The experience of being catcalled is not only extremely upsetting but can also influence the way women view themselves, each other and wider society.  Some women have been led to believe that a man yelling after them in the street is a compliment because they have internalised the idea of women simply being a sexual object and they therefore should be flattered even if it upsets them, while others have been made to think that a man touching them without their permission is perfectly acceptable and is in fact a part of the experience of being a woman.  Other groups of women become so anxious that they begin to hate themselves and their womanhood.  They avoid going out for fear of being degraded and can even develop a deep rooted hatred and fear for the opposite gender.

The sooner we as a society ACCEPT this the faster we can deal with the problem.  This casual acceptance of street harassment can be viewed as an indicator of how wider society views women in general and what it believes their purpose should be.  Throughout recent history women have been fighting for the right to be seen as equals but it is a movement that has been met with much resistance because it does fit in with the traditional gender narratives.  In order for society as a whole to tackle the issue of street harassment we must open up a dialogue about the current position and the role of women in society today.  There needs to be a discussion on the concept and the social construction of gender and we must begin challenging the mind-set by educating individuals within society on street and sexual harassment by going into schools, universities and the workplace and conducting workshops and seminars on what it is and why it is wrong.  Finally, we must combat the constant objectification and sexualisation of women and girls in the media.  The media has been viewed as the driving force behind these sexist and misogynistic attitudes by many women’s organisations because it causes many to become desensitized to the degradation of women and young girls everywhere.

We as women in society need to understand that we are NOT the problem.  We must begin to challenge this behaviour the moment we experience it and say something about how we can tackle the sexualisation and objectification of women at societal level because it is WRONG and it is a form of SEXUAL HARASSMENT whether the victim or the perpetrator believes it to be or not.  If we continue to ignore it, it will continue and will also progressively get worse.

Ladies, ENOUGH IS ENOUGH!  You have the RIGHT to walk, run, sit, in a public place without receiving unwanted sexual advancements and you have the right to bloody state your disapproval if and when you receive them.  You were not put on this Earth for the mere pleasure of disrespectful men.  CHECK these FOOLS! Women everywhere salute you!

Sheila N.

To read more about Sheila, click here

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