“You should smile more.” “You’re beautiful.” “What’s your name?” “I’m talking to you.”
News flash — it’s none of your business.
I would just like to bring that attention to the male population, because it seems as though they have forgotten. We would like to let you know that neither I nor any other woman is required to tolerate or listen to such annoyances while we walk home.
The word “catcalling” itself takes away from the harsh reality of street harassment against women — not only in America, but in countries around the world. It is not a compliment. It is pure objectification and sexual harassment, which women everywhere experience in various settings on a daily basis. We are uncomfortable. Quite frankly, we always have been.
When it comes to catcalling, two-thirds of women reported having a story where they were spoken to, touched, followed or made to feel uncomfortable, according to a 2016 California State University survey. Almost a quarter of them said it led to being inappropriately touched, and 20 percent reported being followed, regardless of whether they responded to or ignored their harassers. Even further, in a recent survey more than 81 percent of women have reported some form of sexual harassment. Others believe that catcalling is somehow complimentary. It never is, because compliments do not incite fear.
However, with the recent trend in women’s empowerment and movements such as #MeToo and Hollaback!, women are taking back the power men feel they are entitled to. More attention is being drawn to the unhealthy, toxic behaviors that society has normalized for centuries.
The trend of writing out catcalls in chalk on the sidewalk originally began in New York City when an NYU senior used catcalling women as the topic for one of her writing assignments. She began an Instagram account for women to share their experiences in NYC; it soon caught media attention and was mirrored by women in other states and countries.
People got too comfortable with knowing that catcalling existed and ignored it… but it is hard to ignore the vulgar, inappropriate words when they are written in neon chalk exactly where they were said to someone.
It is safe to say that a majority of women in every major city in the U.S., and in every country in the world, have experienced some form of street harassment — even girls as young as 12 years old.
The issue of street harassment, or any form of sexual harassment, is not simply a women’s issue. It is vital that men be a part of these conversations because they are the driving force behind such occurrences. Many men have been shocked by the words written in chalk or the stories women share, but others remain ignorant and entitled, brushing the issue under the rug and ignoring its severity.
An even bigger concern regarding street harassment is rejection violence, which perpetuates a cycle of women living and traveling in fear to escape physical violence for standing up for themselves while being harassed. Catcalling is not innocent or flirtatious; it is an aggressive act of male power that feeds into rape culture.
There are bars, dating apps, parties and other settings where men can have their fair chance at flirting or complimenting a woman. Men must take accountability for what they have done and continue to do, and those men who do not engage in such behaviors must be allies for the women, LGBTQ+ and BIPOC individuals who are most commonly victimized by street harassment.
I, for one, am not intimidated anymore. We acknowledge that you are insecure, but we no longer want to be nice about it.