Catcalling Is Not A Compliment

By Lily Batchelor

Posted on December 5, 2017 at 11:40 AM PDT

Street harassment is one of society's more subtle and accepted forms of misogyny we seem unable, or unwilling, to address. According to the organization Stop Street Harassment, 99% of women will be sexually harassed in a public space at least once in their lifetime, and for 65% this happens on a monthly basis.  

Some people may say this form of harassment is merely a compliment, and the women who complain are hysterical, or overreacting. This could not be further from the truth. Street harassment is the sexualization, degradation, and dehumanization of women that contributes to rape culture and limits women’s ability to function in public spaces.

In a survey by Cornell University, after interviewing almost 5,000 people the results, reported by ChangeProgress,  found 85% have taken a different route to avoid harassment, 72% have taken a different mode of transportation, and 70% have decided to not attend a social event due to the fear of being harassed on their way there.

Not only does street harassment leave women feeling scared, ashamed, angry and objectified, but it actually keeps women from going in public spaces in fear of being harassed. Effectively limiting the control they have over their lives due to the comments or actions of these overly entitled men.

For those of you who say that women are overreacting and this insidious form of harassment is nothing but a compliment, you must understand that attraction and sexual desire plays a very small role in the harassment. It is about power, and men trying to exert their power over women by dehumanizing and scaring them, causing women to fear men, second guess themselves, or avoid public spaces. PBS reported that, according to sociologist, lawyer, and Northwestern University Professor Laura Beth Nielsen, “[Street harassment] is often done with the intent to frighten or dominate the targeted individual.”  

If this is such a common and damaging part of our society, why does it continue? Some may ask, why don’t women just stand up for themselves? The answer is splashed across our media headlines. In the Michigan Chronicle: “Shot Down: Mother Of Three Because She said No To A Man’s Advances” and New York Post:  “Woman’s Throat Slashed after Rejecting A Man’s Advances,” are just two recent headlines.

Street harassment is not only minimized, but blamed on women. Women are told to cover up if they don’t want attention, or avoid going out if they don’t want to be harassed. We make it a women’s issue, when it is not. This is a men’s issue, men need to be taught that catcalling is a harassment, and it is up to men not to harass women, not a women’s job to not be harassed.

Cover Photo: Pixabay