What comes to mind when the word “harassment” is mentioned? Do you think of hate speech? Cyberbullying? Stalking? How about catcalling? Although it may not be the first thing to come to mind, catcalling is a form of harassment and is harming women everywhere.
Although it may seem victimless, catcalling is not only inappropriate, but is perpetuating gender inequality. Catcalling is typically depicted as a man yelling “hey baby,” or “looking good” to an unsuspecting woman walking down the street. Innocent enough, right? Not necessarily.
To some men, it might seem that catcalling is a good thing- a man openly expressing his interest in a woman by shouting out what he believes to be a compliment. However, women don’t see it that way. It’s not a compliment. It’s not funny and most importantly, it’s not a man’s right to catcall a woman as she walks down the street.
Although this might seem crazy, women don’t need to be complimented by men when they go out on the street. Women are not so obsessed with vanity that they need men, especially strangers, to compliment them on their outfit, their looks, or their figure. What women really want is to not be harassed on our way to work, school, or while running errands. Instead, we would like to be spoken to as if we are actual people, instead of sexual objects whose sole purpose is to be gawked at by men we just so happen to pass by. Catcalling and male entitlement degrades women and, unfortunately, puts them in danger.
Even though the dangers of catcalling may not always be highly publicized, they do exist. The woman who recently starred in Hollaback’s viral video (showing how during a ten hour span in New York City she was catcalled 108 times) has already received numerous rape and death threats (Vox, 2014).
In the same fashion, less than a month ago, a woman in Detroit was shot and killed because she refused a man’s advances (Huffington Post, 2014). Upon meeting the man at a club, she refused to give him her phone number because she was engaged. Despite her resistance, the man continued to pursue her and was eventually thrown out of the club, where he killed her later that morning.
Unfortunately, catcalling and other forms of harassment are endangering women’s lives and creating bigger gaps in equality. Women should not have to be afraid of men on the street and shouldn’t have to worry about what strangers may say or do to them while they go about their daily activities. When we join together to educate about catcalling, we must also all make an effort to change the culture that surrounds it. Even though catcalling is only part of the problem, by speaking up we can help women everywhere feel safer and put an end to the harassment.
Maddie Gallegos can be reached at email@example.com.