***WARNING: This post may contain themes and/or content that is triggering to some readers. Use caution when reading.***
Catcalling is a problem in a lot of countries, especially the U.S. For anyone who doesn’t know, catcalling is defined by The Oxford Dictionary as “A loud whistle or comment of a sexual nature made by a man to a passing woman.” It’s more than just a whistle or comment though, it’s a symbol of male entitlement toward women.
A comic shown in MIC (which you can see here) perfectly sums up what it’s like to be a woman catcalled. Catcalling isn’t so much about wanting to date or sleep with the woman being catcalled (well, it is, but no guy expects a woman to turn around and give him her number after he whistles at her and calls her a fox). Catcalling is a power move; it shows women that men are in charge and
I found an interesting YouTube video on catcalling, called “Male Actor Dresses As Woman to Experience Sexual Harassment” by CNN. In this video (shown below), an Egyptian male actor was disguised as a woman and sent out to walk around Cairo to experience the objectification women in the city face.
There’s also a racial element to catcalling. You may be familiar with the video “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman” by Rob Bliss Creative in partnership with Hollaback (attached below in case you forgot), which is a staged performance of what many women experience when walking around large cities or public places.
Many critics of the video, who do agree with its overall message, have called out the video for using a white woman and showing the majority of the catcallers as black and Latino. Slate is one of these critics. (You can see a tweet below from a critic, Roxane Gay, quoted in the article.)
When asked to respond to the accusations of “racial blindness” (as Slate has named it), Bliss wrote:
“We got a fair amount of white guys, but for whatever reason, a lot of what they said was in passing, or off camera,” or was ruined by a siren or other noise. The final product, he [Bliss] writes, “is not a perfect representation of everything that happened.” (Taken from the Slate article)
It isn’t fair to show catcallers as predominantly PoC and nonwhite, when in reality there are no statistics available (as of now) to support this notion. In my personal experience (and from what I’ve read about) the racial and ethnic identity of the catcaller depends on where a woman is (ex. what neighborhoods she is walking in, what country, what city, etc.). But it appears that all races are just as likely to be catcallers.
If you’re interested in reading more about the video above, I suggest reading these articles from Brooklyn Magazine, CNN, and another post from Slate.
Catcalling is problematic not only because it is used to show women that men deserve their time (regardless of whether they want to give it to them), but it can also lead to violence. Catcalling may seem “innocent” at first (I use that term very loosely here), but it can quickly turn into a physical occurrence that more often than not ends with the woman being the victim of not only catcalling, but sexual assault. Look at the Buzzfeed video below, entitled “What Catcalling Feels Like.”
Holly Kearl, a write for Ms. Magazine, the literary child of renowned feminist Gloria Steinem, describes one of these scenarios in her article “When Street Harassment Is More Deadly Than Catcalls.”
“Recently in Florida, a 14-year-old girl was walking down the street when a man in an SUV pulled up beside her and offered her $200 to have sex with him.
Unfortunately this isn’t the only incident of catcalling turning violent that Kearl writes about. Whether we would like to admit it or not, it’s dangerous to be a woman in the world, regardless of where you live. Catcalling is only one of the many obstacles women face when out in public, even in the U.S.
To any men reading this, don’t catcall women. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying to compliment her or trying to start a conversation. If she wants to talk to you, she will on her own. She doesn’t owe you her time, just like you don’t owe her yours. Recognize that catcalling can make women feel uncomfortable, even if you mean no harm by it.
And, lastly, don’t be THIS guy!
NOTE: We are not affiliated with the YouTube channels or videos featured in this post. We are also not affiliated with any of the articles or writers mentioned, and all quotes were taken from their corresponding links.
If your feminism isn't intersectional we don't want to talk to you.