By Jennifer Garcia
Like many women, I’ve experienced many forms of catcalling, from vulgar declarations shouted out of car to explicit undressing with their eyes. Catcalling exists in many different forms of sexualizing a woman, such as yelling out of a car while they walk down the street, a look-over with a suggestive smirk, and/or groping. Regardless of its form, it’s harassment.
While walking along Guadalupe St. I asked various women to share their feelings and thoughts toward catcalling. Their responses described their catcalling experiences as “creepy,” “annoying,” “rude,” and “disgusting.” Almost every woman was in consensus on how catcalling made her feel dirty and unsafe, especially if the vulgarities were shouted at night or while they were walking down the street.
“I hate walking home alone at night because I know I’ll be harassed in some form,” commented one young woman. Despite the fact that catcalling makes women feel unsafe, some insist on categorizing catcalls as compliments and scoff at those who become angered by them. But unlike compliments, catcalls expect something in return. They’re “compliments” that are given maliciously. Catcallers demand attention. They feel that you owe them a response. Some even become angered when you ignore them.
They followed me for around a block, laughing and riling me up, until I finally made it to my apartment. I was honestly scared shitless but I had to keep a brave face so they would leave me alone.
Catcalls generate fear. One girl recalls her experience with a man who drunkenly yelled out of his car for her to “fuck [him]!” This unwanted encounter escalated quickly. “When I ignored him, him and his friends kept yelling at me. They followed me for around a block, laughing and riling me up, until I finally made it to my apartment. I was honestly scared shitless but I had to keep a brave face so they would leave me alone.”
Catcallers take away women’s right to feel safe, to feel as if they can safely walk to their car, to their apartment, or to their home.
Of the women I spoke with, most felt that the best response to catcalls was to ignore them and keep looking forward. “Of course [catcalls] suck. But I just make sure I never travel alone at night, especially on weekends.” Catcallers take away women’s right to feel safe, to feel as if they can safely walk to their car, to their apartment, or to their home. No one responded to catcalling as something easily ignored. Mostly everyone mentioned walking in groups at night and/or walking in populated areas. Catcalling, in itself, may seem not seem harmful, yet it results in women feeling the need to plan ahead for their safety. One counter argument that’s made with regard to the issue of catcalling is, ‘Well, some men are creeps. You just have to learn to live with them and protect yourself.’ The flaw in this argument, however, is that it ignores the root of the problem. Catcalling has become an everyday occurrence many women expect. It’s not a question of whether they will be catcalled on the street but of how to best avoid it and feel safe. Every woman had advice on how to stay safe: have your keys ready and on hand, walk by streetlights at night, stick together with a group, keep looking forward and ignore them, if alone call someone on the phone, and buy pepper spray. It’s absurd that all of these precautions must be taken simply to decrease the amount of scary, unprovoked encounters women will have with men.
I hate it when guys, older men especially, look me up and down as I walk by. It always happens to me at convenience stores at night. When they follow you with their eyes and a look of lust, I’m disgusted with them and with myself.
Along with fear, catcalling causes disgust and feelings of unworthiness. “I hate it when guys, older men especially, look me up and down as I walk by. It always happens to me at convenience stores at night. When they follow you with their eyes and a look of lust, I’m disgusted with them and with myself.” I never understood how catcalls could make a woman feel dirty and unworthy until it happened to me. Any form of catcalling makes women feel like a piece of meat, like we’re on display for someone else’s pleasure. It’s a loss of control over our bodies and our safety. Catcalling gives them the right to judge us and place value on us. When going out, women must pay close attention to their outfit choices. We cannot be too dressed up or exposed because then we’re asking for it and should not complain. Our bodies, it seems, solely exist for the pleasure and viewing of others. Which leads us back to the counter argument. Is catcalling just something women must expect, and thus get used to because ‘boys will be boys’? As a woman, I’m here to tell you: no. It is a problem that needs to be fixed from the ground up.
We don’t owe anyone ANYTHING. We own our bodies and we decide how we want them to be treated and respected. No one has the right to scream profanities at us while we make our way to class or our apartment. No one has the right to make us feel unsafe.