Catcalling sends the wrong message


According to “Stop Street Harassment” surveys, 99% of female American respondents said they have experienced street harassment.

Most women have experienced getting catcalled at some point in their life. Such as those barks or outburst of noise that comes from men when a woman walk past them in the streets, on public transport or in stores. They like to call them “compliments” but are they really? I think not.

Recently there has been a public debate about catcalling or street harassment as it is also called, brought forward by a video released on Youtube by the organization “Hollaback.” The video features a women walking in jeans and a black t-shirts for 10 hours around in Manhattan, New York. She receives over 100 catcalls and at some point, a man even start to follow her as she walks.

Most women will find this a little too familiar.

According to “Stop Street Harassment” surveys, 99% of female American respondents said they have experienced street harassment. As many as 75% say they have been followed, 62% say a man has blocked their path while walking and 57% reported being touched or grabbed in a sexual way in public.

This doesn’t only happen to women, but the big majority is male harassment towards women.

If its not obvious to some, this is a problem. When a woman walks down the street minding her own business it is not your right to make comments about her and invade her personal space. It is disrespectful and actually quite scary.

The reason why it’s scary is that there are in fact incidences where women do get touched, grabbed, assaulted or raped in public. So when a stranger comes up and invades your space without permission it immediately feels threatening.

This stranger might be violent, delusional, drunk, mentally unstable or all the above for all you know. The fact is you really don’t know what a stranger will or can do.

After reading the opposing arguments that this is just men being men, they argue that sayings like “how are you doing, beautiful?” “God bless you” and “ you have a nice day” are simply compliments that they would happily receive on a daily basis.

Usually this is not meant as a simple compliment when received on a public street. The words themselves might be simple and innocent, but the non-verbal cues are usually not. The tone, volume, eyes fixed on your “behind”, hand gestures and overall body language sends the real message.

Quickly the “God bless you,” turns into a creepy message when you read the non-verbal cues. He will look you up and down (focusing on the female parts), rubbing his hands together while he makes kissing noises.

He might even feel the need to walk with you down the street trying intensely to get your attention. Noises like “Purr”(like a cat) might come up while he is blocking your way, when all you really want to do is get on with your walk to school.

Which brings me to my next point, the objectification. If a man saw the woman walking down the street as intelligent, funny, creative, caring, talented or any other personality trait, they most likely wouldn’t honk, bark or make these unintelligent noises and comments. They would let her be and respect her as a human being.

Street harassment happens almost everywhere, but mostly urban areas. More often than not men think it would be nice to have strangers making comments about them in the streets as they do with women.

CNN features a video on their Youtube channel, where a man dresses as a woman and walks the streets of Cairo in order to better understand what it must be like for women living there. The results are that he gets looked at, called upon, followed and grabbed. He can’t imagine what it must be like having to deal with that every single day.

Being a woman in Cairo might not be the same as any city here in the U.S. but it clearly shows that it is not something you would wish upon anyone.

So next time you see a woman going about her business and there is an urge to say something, whether it’s on the streets, on the bus or in the supermarket, please take a second to stop and think. Show some respect and let it go.