November 08



Over the past couple weeks I’ve seen so many comments about the catcalling video, and I just can’t keep my mouth shut about this anymore.

First, the purpose of the video was to bring awareness to this problem and to show that it is, in fact, a problem. We’re not saying that we need to incarcerate all these non-violent catcallers—men who are doing this now probably won’t change, but if the next generation of men grow up knowing that this is not okay, maybe it will eventually stop. Posting more videos like those encouraged by Hollaback (the non-profit group backing the video) takes the power away from the harassers and gives it to the harassees. Posting videos like this helps people know that they aren’t alone.

There is so much of this: “The majority of guys saying these things quite literally do not realize what they are saying is being taken as a threat.” This is exactly why this video was posted—so men will realize that catcalling is not acceptable, and if they continue to do it even after knowing it’s not okay, then yes, that is harassment.

An article that I will not even acknowledge with a link ridicules Hollaback for thinking that “telling a woman she’s beautiful is more dangerous than ACTUAL street harassment, police brutality, and sexual abuse.” Catcalling IS actual street harassment. Just because it’s not physical doesn’t mean it’s not real. And even if you want to make the idiotic argument that harassment needs to be physical to be considered harassment, I can point you to studies showing the damaging effects of emotional abuse on the brain—actual physical damage.

It doesn’t do any good to say one kind of harassment is “worse” than another kind of harassment. You could go on doing that forever until every kind of harassment is marginalized, minimized, and ignored. Even with the sexual abuse of children, I cannot tell you how many times I’ve heard, “Oh it was just touching, there was no penetration.” Like that makes it okay because it wasn’t the “worse” form of abuse. I understand the power of denial and the great psychological need of a person to believe that what they or their loved ones experienced isn’t that big of a deal or could have been worse—it’s a defense mechanism, but it’s one we need to overcome.

This kind of verbal harassment is just as dangerous as “actual” harassment because it is so pervasive and so repetitive that it shapes a woman’s entire view of herself and the world and her sense of safety and worth in a very foul way, which in turn, affects how she interacts with the world, her children, etc. When you move through your whole life receiving this kind of attention, you may stop putting any good things out there at all. And most people aren’t even consciously aware of how this affects them, which is one of the reasons it’s so dangerous and needs to be addressed. When you aren’t physically assaulted, you are much more likely to go through your whole life with this hidden injury instead of getting help.

There’s a lot of this: “I kinda feel she made that video to boost her own ego.” That is exactly the problem here. People think women want these “compliments.” Catcalls are not compliments. They are not appropriate and they are threatening. It’s about power. Shouting “Hey, beautiful!” at someone who isn’t even looking at you is not appropriate. There is not something wrong with women who “don’t want to be complimented” because it’s not the phrase that’s inappropriate, it’s the situation. You could just spew gibberish or shout “Hey baby, I like turtles” and it would still be harassment if you did it in a derogatory way—it’s the unwanted attention, the threatening body language, and degrading tone of voice that is the real problem, not just the words.

Are we saying that if a man initiates any kind of conversation with us on the street, it’s harassment? No. There are many great ways to interact with people on the street—they usually involve making eye contact first, then saying hello and introducing yourself. Let’s start there.

I don’t know how anybody could argue that “non-violent speech does not directly violate or threaten the rights of any individual.” That is idiotic, and this doesn’t have anything to do with freedom of speech anyway.

And finally, it doesn’t matter that “this doesn’t happen where I live.” It doesn’t happen everywhere, but that doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant. I have never lived in an area where cat-calling is considered common (although it still does happen), but after 10 years of bringing home the things that have happened to me on other city’s streets, I can say that walking down the street at home is no longer as peaceful as it should be. Because even though people may not be shouting at me, I know what they’re thinking: “Oh look at you being beautiful for me today, if you didn’t look like that, I wouldn’t be talking to you. All I care about is your body.” And the ones I get most often: “Why aren’t you smiling? Why don’t you look beautiful for me today?” And my answer to that is: BECAUSE I’M FUCKING PISSED OFF, and I have every right to be angry.

Women don’t need compliments from men. Women are not here to look good for men. Women are not here to smile for men.

The catcalling video: