Cat-Calling is Not a Compliment

Maddy Renda, Staff Reporter

“Hey baby, what’s your name” followed by “God—- look at that a–”

Then “What’s your number, beautiful?”

Maybe some *Barking Noises* and of course, *Whistling*

“What do I do in this situation? Keep walking. Walk faster. Faster. Don’t look them in the eye. Keep your head down. Pull up your shirt but don’t show your stomach, they like that. Wear different pants. A classier shirt. Less skin?”

What can you really think in these moments. Most girls are terrified, shaking, feeling exposed. Tall, scary men, yelling vulgar things at you. Children begin hearing this at very young age, even younger than 10 years old have to face this traumatic experience.  And young boys are listening too, absorbing this behavior.

Catcalling is a worldwide phenomenon in which (usually) men, yell inappropriate things at (usually) women. This is not only disrespectful, but also contributes to rape culture. Both catcalling and rape have to do with asserting men’s power over women. It’s all about dominance.

A lot of times men who catcall think women should “take it as a compliment”. In 2014 the New York Post published an opinion piece in which the author, Doree Lewak, is talking about how “catcalls are flattering.” She goes on, saying that “isn’t feminism all about self-empowerment, anyway?” and “Enjoying male attention doesn’t make you a traitor to your gender.” That article sparked a debate on whether or not cat-calling is an actual problem. But what happens if the cat-caller wants more than verbal harassment? What about when he follows you? What about when it goes a little further than “Hey baby!” But on the other hand, what about when it doesn’t? What about when you walk past, they say stuff and leave it at that?

To be fair, she isn’t completely wrong. I’ve been cat-called before and did feel noticed, special in a way. Nevertheless, boys in a high school cat-calling me is a lot less strange and ominous than something that happened to me in Boston–6’5 man in all black at 10am in a dark alleyway yelling “How old are you? Nevermind it doesn’t really matter.”

It’s all about opinion. In a recent video by Vox a woman in an average T-Shirt and jeans walks around New York City, while being filmed by a hidden camera for 10 hours. Dozens of men yelling at her, one of which even followed her for some period of time. This video was produced by Hollaback, an organization dedicated to ending street harassment. The comments on this video include more than one threat of rape.

A lot of times people say it depends what you’re wearing. Dress like a slut, get treated like a slut. It’s rather unfair that I can’t get dressed up in a big city because I feel that men will catcall me. Or worse. How I dress should not affect how you see me. Either way, I’ve been in a hoodie and jeans and have been catcalled. Women can wear a hijab (head scarf) and still get catcalled. Most the time, men don’t care what you look like or what you wear. As I said before, it’s all about dominance.

According to Stop Street Harassment, the numbers are shocking. For women, 10% of street harassment begins before the target is 12 years old. 41% of of women reported street harassment began at age 13-17. 40% of women begin noticing street harassment between 18-25 and 9% being at 26 and older. These rates are even worse for WoC (Women of Color) and LGBT women. By the age of 17, 70% of LGBT women report experiencing street harassment, whereas only 49% of heterosexual women. 60% of Hispanic women by the age 17 experience street harassment. 52% of white women, and 42% of black women.

In the end, how I dress, how I walk, and what I wear does not give anyone the right to yell, follow, or touch me.  I am a human being, not an object.