In the last few years of my feminist journey, I find that there are many issues within the scope of gender equality that people can pretty quickly get on board with…. Equal pay? Seems reasonable! However, in my experience, some people just aren’t quite willing or able to recognize the degrading nature of catcalling. So often I have heard, “How can cat-calling be rude… Shouldn’t women be flattered to receive a compliment?” Here is my attempt to provide some clarity:
- Not all women try to look good for men.They express themselves through style to look good for themselves and/or to just feel comfortable. When I’m getting ready to go out with friends, I choose an outfit that I feel good in. I am NOT catering my style to try to attract men because (contrary to popular belief) my main goal in life is not to make men happy or to make them feel like they’re wanted. There’s a very high chance that we know how hot we look, we don’t need your validation.
- Even if women DO present themselves to attract others, that in no way provides justification for someone to shout their thoughts about her appearance. Our society is really good at telling men that their opinions about how women look are important. They’re just not. What exactly makes you think that your opinion is so important that it needs to be shouted publicly? Oh, right, our patriarchal society. Just stop.
- Not all women are even interested in men. How dare you assume that we are seeking your approval?
- Women’s bodies are already under such constant scrutiny. We don’t need strangers telling us what they think about how we look. We already receive enough pressure from the media and girl-on-girl criticism (ladies, we’re better than this). We are capable of having a wealth of inner confidence and self-love without your contribution of opinion.
- Cat-calling objectifies women. It supports the notion that women are objects. NEWS FLASH: we are not.
- If you find a woman attractive and want to introduce yourself to her, this can be done appropriately and respectfully. Catcalling is never appropriate or respectful. It is degrading, sexist, and rude.
- When has catcalling ever actually been successful in getting a woman to sleep with someone? Catcalling is simply a tool for someone to project their masculinity and power onto women. Note: If you haven’t already, watch Aziz Ansari’s standup from Madison Square Garden on Netflix that hilariously demonstrates this.
- Catcalling can make women feel unsafe. Because our society teaches “don’t get raped” instead of “don’t rape,” I find myself evaluating my safety based on my surroundings constantly. If a complete stranger comments on my appearance, I will probably experience fear. Yes, I’m aware that not all men are creeps or rapists. I’m aware that many men are well-intentioned. But if men would like me not to jump to the assumption that they are dangerous, we should stop victim blaming and start viewing rape as unacceptable despite perceived justifications. There are no justifications for sexual violence. Ever.
- Women don’t always feel safe to respond to catcalling. I have happily told cat-callers to kindly leave me the eff alone. But this is only when I’m in a public setting or with a group of people. If I am alone, or even in a pair, there is no safe response. If I don’t respond, I risk upsetting the cat-caller and open the opportunity for him to continue demanding a response. If I respond politely, I succumb to patriarchy. If I respond rudely, I fear the cat-caller might harm me. Again, this is why it is important create a culture of treating others with dignity, rather than victim blaming and perpetuating the notion that women are on this Earth to please men.
- Watch this. Note: they begin the video by specifying what she is wearing when she experiences over 100 instances of catcalling within 10 hours. To be clear, nothing that she could have worn/not worn would have justified the harassment she experienced.
So no, I don’t feel complimented when I’m catcalled. I feel harassed. I feel unsafe. I feel threatened. I feel invaded. I feel undignified. I feel objectified.
But luckily, I am empowered. And I know better than to believe the myth that my value lies within the opinion of men.