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Female: Call out the catcallers

April 18, 2018

Harassment. It sounds like a harsh word, and people of the 21 st century flinch at the sound of the word, but it’s the harsh reality people experience everywhere. People of all sexes experience all forms of harassment: from sexual and emotional to street harassment.

Although street harassment seems insignificant compared to the latter, 65% of women and 25% of men experienced some form of street harassment in 2014 (Huffington Post). To make matters worse, women first experience street harassment before the age of 12.

You may ask yourself, what is street harassment? Street harassment “includes unwanted whistling, leering, sexist, homophobic or transphobic slurs, persistent requests for someone’s name, number or destination after they’ve said no, sexual names, comments and demands, following, flashing, groping and/or sexual assault” (Huffington Post). “Catcalling” is another word that’s used to describe this act.

We’ve all seen, heard or known of someone who’s experienced street harassment, or catcalling, and, although anyone can fall victim to catcalling, it is typically women, LGBTQIA people and gender non-conforming people who suffer the most from this form of harassment (Huffington Post).

We all enjoy being complimented. Complimenting someone on their personality, intelligence and looks is completely acceptable and a great self-esteem builder, but that “compliment” can quickly become catcalling when it’s given with all the wrong intentions.

Catcalling is in no way a compliment. It objectifies the individual and has negative effects on its victims. For people who’ve experienced street harassment, 85% under the age of 40 took different routes home, 72% chose different modes of transportation and 70% avoided social events (Huffington Post). Victims change their way of life – routines, habits and style – in order to avoid or “prevent” street harassment.

Some people – 35% to be exact – have resigned from their jobs due to the street harassment they encounter in their work place’s neighborhood (Huffington Post).

It’s not the victim’s fault. They shouldn’t have to change their routines or take the blame for something that’s completely the perpetuator’s wrongdoing.

We all need to take the first step in ending catcalling, because it also has psychological effects. Catcalling has been associated with “self-objectification, depression, eating disorders and anxiety” (Huffington Post). Not only that, but catcalling can quickly escalate and lead to more harmful types of harassment such as stalking, physical attacks, rape, etc.

In 2014, Rob Bliss partnered with Hollaback and created a video that showed Shoshana B. Roberts walk through New York City as she experienced street harassment.

Bliss recorded Roberts, an actress, for 10 hours as she walked the streets of New York City and encountered greetings from strangers, comments on her personal appearance and stalkers (The Washington Post). The video shows clips of Roberts in many neighborhoods and during different times of the day, all of which had no effect on the amount of harassment she received.

Roberts received comments on her body, was whistled at and followed for an extensive period of time.

Roberts said that during her walk, she wasn’t aware of all the comments being made, but instead, she was reliving memories of past sexual assaults, and couldn’t help but want to cry (The Washington Post).

Roberts experienced over 100 counts of street harassment within 10 hours. Catcalling doesn’t just occur in NYC or big cities, it also occurs in rural areas, schools, workplaces and restaurants, to name a few. Now imagine if it was your younger sister, daughter, mother, aunt or significant other. How insignificant is street harassment now?

Ending harassment begins with educating people before they’ve developed false notions that people, more specifically women, are objects. Don’t wait until men are college-aged to tell them their actions are wrong. Don’t tell sexual harassment and assault survivors that they could’ve done something differently. Don’t blame victims for their attacks. Don’t catcall. Don’t rape. Just don’t. It’s time to call out the catcallers.

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