Catcalling is often normalized in our culture, dismissed with a "boys will be boys" mentality arguing that it's actually harmless and women simply shouldn't be bothered by it. Roughly half of the population doesn't understand what it's like to be catcalled, which likely contributes to the cavalier attitude our culture has regarding it. In reality, catcalling is a form of harassment; and there is nothing harmless, casual, or cute about a stranger demanding your attention, confronting you with sometimes threatening and sexually charged comments, and then frequently insulting you if you ignore or reject them. Street harassment is a serious issue that often escalates past the verbal: In 2015, 40 percent of women in the United States reported having been groped or fondled out on the street, with 77 percent saying they were followed. These are serious threats to our safety and well-being at the hands of people who would probably claim they were "just messing around."
In a recent AskReddit conversation, women shared their experiences with catcalling, which run the gamut from whistling to comments about their breasts to being cornered by strangers in cars. Catcalling, harassment, verbal assault — call it whatever you want. It's real, and it's not OK.
1"The guy drove his car in front of me and blocked my path."
His word choice reminds us of that nauseating sense of entitlement — that this woman owes him something. Also, what would he have done if she wasn't deaf, and really was just ignoring him?
2"I was 11..."
11-year-old girls should be having tea parties and watching cartoons — not fending off sexual harassment. Something's wrong here.
3"You're met with limited options."
This is what we call a lose-lose-lose situation.
4"'Can't wait to put my face in it.'"
Whether these harassers believe it or not, there is a way to compliment a person without coming across as creepy, predatory, or offensive.
5"Incidentally, I got hit on way more aggressively when I was 14-17."
What's worse than getting catcalled as an adult? Getting catcalled as a defenseless child.
6"... I shouldn't have to feel that way..."
Her fear is warranted, because female runners have been targeted more than once. Most recently, it was the young woman who fought with every ounce of energy to escape the man who attacked her in a public bathroom.
7"Catcalling is about power."
When you're on the receiving end, catcalling turns you into an object, a prop. Are we supposed to find this flattering? (No.)
8"... But assuming because YOU said it, it's valid and should be appreciated."
Why do catcallers assume we want to be spoken to in that manner? Why do they assume it's acceptable? When did hollering at strange women who don't know you become OK?
9"It scares me to death."
Rape. Murder. These are legitimate thoughts that enter a woman's mind when she's catcalled and feels threatened and vulnerable.
10"... Could I have prevented it by wearing baggy clothes and no make-up?"
I smell rape culture. This woman, like countless women, feels responsible for her safety and potential acts of harassment lingering outside her home. She knows that even in this day and age, there are people who would hold her responsible for her assault if she chose to look a certain way.