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What Does Catcalling Mean



How would you, as a man feel, to see your mom, sister, or partner being catcalled by another man? Or would you rather feel comfortable being harassed by another man for catcalling a woman, lady, or girl? It’s absurd men take catcalling as a habitual behavior that makes female embarrassed in public places, and also make them regret being a woman. Men often want to define their gender performance, and then puff out their chest with the use of degrading words just to be the alpha male over the women or young ladies. Catcalling is apparently a vulgar gesture or degrading comments about the body of a woman, inappropriate grabbing, perverse pickup lines, moaning or whistling, beeping horn and stopping the car to ogle a stranger who was only minding her business. (Gomez 2012) The prevalence of street harassment is popular in the urban settings, particularly in states like New York, USA. Catcalling is inappropriate, and perpetuates gender inequality. Even when to some men, it could sound like a good idea or a compliment, it’s not so for the victim. Women feel harassed, stalked, and of course catcalled. Therefore, since women over the age of eighteen have complained bitterly about catcalling, huge public awareness and programs have to be created to stop or reduce catcalling to its minimal.

For this to be successful, there is need to highlight the contexts and situations of catcalling. Catcalling can be regarded as a form of sexual harassment that includes the acts of whistling, shouting, unwanted comments, and any other actions by strangers in public places. It is a powerful act that increases vulnerability to people, women in particular in public areas. It strengthens the ubiquitous objectification of the female gender in their everyday life. (“Hollaback”) To Szyman et al, (2011), catcalling acts are based on sexual objectification, and this theory is postulated as the act of treating women as one object to be valued for its use by every other person. They further explain that sexual objectification is a situation whereby a woman’s body part are picked out and separated from her personality and then viewed basically as a physical object for the desire of the male. (Bartky, 1990; Szyman et al, (2011). It’s an awful experience to see how men treat women in such manner in public. According to Shoshana Roberts on “The Economist,” she complained bitterly that she had been harassed; when she smiles, when she does not, by white, black, and even Latino men. She further says that never a day goes by when she does not experience this. (E.W, 2014) Furthermore, after watching the YouTube video thrown into the social media by an anti-street harassment organization called Hollaback, it was evident that not a woman who looks good can go peacefully on the street without being whistled at, talked to, walked with, admired, spoken to (calmly, seductively, or objectively). It’s highly alarming and unbelieveable to still see and hear men in this generation of literacy and civilization argue constructively and defensively that women should be an audience for their desires and thoughts. It’s weird! In public places, words and statements like “damn!”, “oh! You are lovely,” “you got a bright future behind you,” “hey baby,” “hey beautiful,” “nice!” and more are weird to these women. These women are not flattered in most cases by these statements or words, they are harassed. These are catcalling terms and have to be stopped right away by even the policy makers.

Secondly, women feel intimidated, inferior, and embarrassed when catcalled. There are many views from different women as to what exactly they feel when they are being catcalled. According to an ABC News Staff (2014) she commented on the same video launched out against catcalling and street harassment by Hollaback, and said that was exactly what she goes through everyday. She emphasized that even when she was growing up, through her puberty stage, she was only eleven when a young boy of about 15 years, says “Hey Sexy,” and she froze and didn’t reply or answer him, but he later came closer and said, “F*** you bitch, you’re not even that cute anyway.” And at her maturity stage now, she feels insulted by men’s “compliments,” other times, she feels completely embarrassed, other times with some lousy men, she feels belittled and afraid. Moreover, Gabrielle Moss (2015) pointed out in her articles different ways women reply catcalling. In her own way, she hadn’t been able to deal with street harassment and what she does is to glue her headphones over her ears to help block most of the comments. She also added that if she had the opportunity to beat the guy’s ass while ignoring the catcall, she would have done so. Others never felt the same, some feel good by the catcall and just reply based on the approach brought by the man, meanwhile Britni, 30 says she says it to their face that “it’s not respectful” while many others ignore and just keep mute. Men have to understand this is highly unethical for the women, the majority of women don’t feel as though they are being complimented. They don’t like it and it should be stopped.

Furthermore, women wishes there are appropriate bodies, regulations, and laws to prohibit catcalling and street harassment in public spaces. According to E.W (2014), Laura Beth  Nielsen, a sociology professor and the director of the Centre for Legal Studies at Northwestern University, drafted a legislation proposal on that should prohibit street harassment. Basically, such legislation is supposed to be go along side with the First Amendment principles in relation to other kinds of displeasing speech that frightens or intimidates, perpetuates inequality, and harasses. She also points that since there are laws that protect women from any kind of sexual harassment at the workplace, school, or home, the same should hold for such catcall in public spaces too. The law is expected to see street harassment for exactly what it is: the psychological and physical acts that exclude, intimidates, subordinate, and even reinforce a level of male dominance over the feminine gender. (E.W, 2014) As a matter of fact, it is important that catcalling is formally addressed. Women deal with all sorts of these acts, asides the leering, honking, whistling, sexual explicit comments, they are being followed through long walks, and even grabbed. This goes on for years until their old age. Men see this as fun, and the fault of the person being harassed. It has to change. Realistically, catcalling of any sort is an abuse f power. And can limit harassed victims from visiting or accessing the public areas, since they will begin to feel unsafe when they go to certain areas or locations at night or during the day. There is need for the appropriate bodies to stand firm against catcalling.

Conclusively, catcalling is a bad act that has to stop. Women are not happy about these acts and many report that they change their habits and hobbies, altering routines and routes, staying away from certain bus stops or stores, even missing out important night events. Others in their workplace have to change their jobs because of catcallers and street harassers. This can certainly be stopped by a huge awareness just as Hollaback had strongly started and it can be achieved.

Works Cited:
  • Bliss. “10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman.” YouTube. YouTube, 2014. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • E.W. “Can Decency Be Regulated?” The Economist. The Economist Newspaper, 2014. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • Gomez. C. “Why Men Catcall -.” The Good Men Project. N.p., 2012. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • Hollaback. “Street Harassment.” Hollaback You Have the Power to End Harassment RSS. N.p., n.d. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • Gomez. “Why Men Catcall -.” The Good Men Project. N.p., 2012. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • Staffer, An Abc News. “I Know Exactly How the Catcalled NYC Woman Feels.” ABC News. ABC News Network, 2014. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • Szymanski, D. M., L. B. Moffitt, and E. R. Carr. “Sexual Objectification of Women: Advances to Theory and Research 1 7.” The Counseling Psychologist 39.1 (2010): 6-38. Web. 27 June 2016.
  • Moss, Gabrielle. “Catcalling? 23 Women Reveal How They Reply To Street Harassment.” Bustle. N.p., 2015. Web. 27 June 2016.

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