The excuse that “boys will be boys” is ingrained in girls from youth. When leered at by random men on the street we are told: “Just ignore it”, “Don’t take it so seriously”, “It’s a compliment”.
Catcalling is not a compliment, it’s sexual harassment.
A compliment implies polite admiration. The objectifying and degrading nature of catcalling is anything but. When men comment on our boobs, bum and thighs they are only talking to our body parts. We are stripped of our humanity and told that our only purpose is to be looked at.
Catcalling is a power play where men gain a sense of ownership over our bodies, sexuality, and emotions.
Targeted when alone and vulnerable, there is often no response that doesn’t prompt further harassment, anger, or even violence.
Challenging catcalling is difficult as some women do actually enjoy it. However, most only find it validating until they are put in a more dangerous situation where what they had viewed before as light-hearted flirtation, becomes something threatening and scary.
Due to naivety, women are feeding into the normalisation of catcalling and sending a message to men that it’s acceptable.
At a bus stop in Summer, I was incessantly catcalled by a man who became aggressive and frightening. Whilst sat in tears and breathless from panic, the boys beside me simply looked down at their phones.
I felt humiliated, ridiculous, and pathetic.
Embarrassment is a common theme amongst women who have experienced street harassment. We are ridiculed simply for having a body and are conditioned to believe we are “asking for it” with our outfit choices.
This must stop.
In some countries street harassment is illegal and the murder of Sarah Everard earlier this year sparked discussions in the UK about following suit. Whilst this debate is a progress of some sort, even in countries with laws in place, cases are hardly ever brought to justice and prosecutions rarer still.
Legal change is not the holy grail. We must fight for cultural change.
We need to keep shouting about our experiences and encourage men to call out their peer’s behaviour. We need to educate boys about harassment in the hopes of raising a more respectful generation of men.
This is not a battle we can win by ourselves. Humanity needs to take a look in the mirror.
Feature Image Credit: Grazia