With the summer approaching, I, like most girls, will be trading my jeans and fuzzy sweaters for shorts and flowy dresses. Along with this change will come the inevitable catcalls, which I dread, and which I will most likely be told are compliments. But they’re not. They’re offensive and creepy, and this is why.
1. It’s emotionally straining.
On a hot summer day, being called a sl*t or wh*re simply because you dressed for the weather can take a toll on your emotional wellbeing. I’ve actually cried over being cat-called. My choices in clothing are not an invitation to dismiss me as a human being, which I will discuss more in depth later on.
2. It’s not about compliments. It’s about control.
Catcalls very often come in the form of orders. “Show me that ass!” “Smile!” “Show it off!” They assume male ownership of women. They exhibit the entitlement that comes from having male privilege. Catcalls imply that women, by not covering from head to toe (although, you can be completely covered and still be catcalled), do not deserve to have control over their own bodies.
3. It’s embarrassing.
This is somewhat related to the emotional stress that street harassment can cause – and yes, catcalling is harassment. Catcalls are often shouted while others are around, which means that you have to endure other people watching as you are humiliated. Not once has a bystander spoken up for me. Not once has a bystander defended me. Not once have I been relieved from bearing my shame and flushed cheeks on my own.
4. It’s invasive and dehumanizing.
Cat-callers and harassers are inserting themselves into women’s lives without permission in a very unwelcome manner. Ever wonder why a woman that you ran into on the street seemed to be immediately on the defensive? It can most likely be attributed to catcalls that she’s been experiencing her whole life. Street harassment objectifies women and takes away from their status as people. It disregards our right to comfort. Catcalls assume that a woman’s worth is based on her body and how she dresses it, nothing more.
5. It’s scary, and takes away our power.
Street harassment leaves women fearing for their lives. Women have faced violence for ignoring catcalls. Some women have actually been killed. Being catcalled chips away at our power. It leads to the feeling of being threatened, violated and uncomfortable. It should not take violence to bring attention to the fact that catcalls are not okay. Women’s right to comfort should be enough.
Why you should care:
These could be your sisters, mothers, and daughters who have to fear for their lives every time they step outside. More importantly, women are people and individuals, unique and deserving of respect. Society still has a long way to go. When I was researching for this article, I found several sources telling women to “suck it up” and “take a compliment.” I was, quite frankly, disgusted.
So what can we do?
Confront strangers who are harassing women on the street. If your friend catcalls someone, step in. Tell them that it’s wrong. Campaign. Catcalls are street harassment and a crime. Treat them as such. Spread awareness, even if only on your social media. One post can go a long way.
Yes, society has a long way to go. But I believe that if we are active, we can make it happen.