Recently, it seems as though this pandemic known as ‘catcalling’ is grasping women in its clutching hold. I know what you are thinking though, “pandemic, really?” But there is a reason why I compare this form of harassment to a worldwide spread disease.
A week and a half ago, I was walking to meet fellow Demon member, Becca, for the Contour Catwalk. Whilst listening to the soothing sounds of Slipknot and taking a slow walk to campus, a car pulled up beside me. The passenger in this car knocked on his window with such force, his fist could have gone through it, and as I mistakenly looked to my left a sexual gesture was waiting for me upon my eyes arrival.
Until Becca arrived, I questioned the need for this gesture as most women would. Did he think that this was a form of gentlemanly flattery, or was he waiting for me to rise to his inexorable stupidity?
Unfortunately, catcalling doesn’t happen just once or twice to a few women (and men) here and there; it happens to hundreds upon thousands every day, but for what reason? Some might argue that the catcallers are friendly people who are just trying to let someone know their honest opinions on how attractive they think a person is, or their opinion on what he or she is wearing.
But let me break it down for you; if any man shouted something in my direction from a car, building site, outside a public place or even inside a public place, and it was something to do with the way I look, my body or what I was wearing that day or night, I don’t think they would get the reaction they hoped for.
Recently, a woman called Caroline Tompkins got really tired of getting sexual abuse hurled at her every time she left her apartment. But she did something better than ignoring them like I would – she started a photographic series named ‘Hey Baby.’
In this series, Tompkins would pull her camera out and let her catcallers know that she would be taking their picture. In an email she wrote to The Huffington Post about her experiences, Tompkins said, “I eventually realised that simple tasks like going to work or school or just taking the train somewhere became sullied by relentless comments and demands from men on the street.”
Thankfully, women are starting to feel stronger and more as a force with each other with this constant flow of feminism and self-empowerment. They now understand that they have a right to tell someone when they feel harassed or offended.
Tompkins continued by saying, “If they [the catcallers and photographic subjects] ask why I’m doing it, I’ll usually tell them something like, ‘You said something to me, why can’t I take your picture?’ or ‘Your comment made me feel uncomfortable.’ It’s important for me to acknowledge that their comments affected me negatively.”
I spoke to Rebecca Robson about catcalling and I asked her opinions on the matter and whether it should be taken as a compliment. She said: “No, there are better ways to compliment someone, like going up to them and saying ‘hey I really like your top.’ But nowadays it seems as though shouting at someone is seen as more normal.”
She continued by making a parallel on this subject to the current lad culture and building on your identity, ‘How do you express your identity in a world where identity is so fluid?’
It’s clear to see that catcalling is a verbal form of harassment because of the way you are forcing strangely put opinions on someone in a somewhat harsh way. Also, it is important to remember, as Rebecca also mentioned, that catcalling doesn’t just happen to women. It often happens to men as well; ‘there are some occasions where women do it to men,’ she says, ‘it’s not unheard of.’
So know that there are two vocal sides to this tiresome debate on catcalling. Why does it continue? I’d like to think that people, such as Caroline Tompkins, are doing their bit to fight the battle against this verbal harassment.