Verbal harassment is a very common event that occurs in many women’s lives but happens to be an overlooked aspect of sexism. Excuses are often made for people who catcall women, and the victims are blamed. Many think, “You weren’t physically touched, so it couldn’t have had that big of an effect on you, right?” however the effects it has on women are very real. Some excuse the cat callers’ actions by saying men just can’t help themselves when they see a girl in tight clothing. Women who talk about the effects of their experiences being catcalled commonly find themselves being told they need to learn to take a compliment or to be less serious even though many people fail to realize that catcalling is not a form of a compliment. Because of excuses like these women are often blamed and silenced after being harassed.
After being catcalled many women continue walking, acting as if the words thrown at them didn’t bother them, however, the outcome of catcalling women is often a sense of fear, shame, or embarrassment. As a young woman, this knowledge has been brought to me through personal experience. While walking in the mall alone, a group of men who appeared to be in college catcalled me as l passed them saying things such as, “She thicc!” and, “Oooo, look at that!” (Yes, that, not “her”). As the words left the men’s mouths I made eye contact with one and shot him a slight glare as a way to show I wasn’t interested, but the comments commenced, as though they didn’t care how l felt. My steps quickened as I ran into the first store I saw, and l became too afraid to leave. I stood in the store frozen, unable to continue minding my own business while shopping because of these men who couldn’t do that either. Their actions can spark so much fear in the victims and can lead to women handing the control over to the harassers, as they begin to wear different clothes or they avoiding certain places because of these degrading events. Women should not have to live in fear due to the lack of respect from men, which is their problem, not the victim’s. In addition, women should not have to dress a certain way or change themselves in any way to avoid these impulsive men. However, no matter how many times this occurs, people continue to tell women they’re overreacting and that it couldn’t have had that big of an impact on them.
People who add to the idea that catcalling is not a big deal may also make the event a joke. This is a nonchalant way of portraying catcalling incidents as a meaningless action. They belittle the serious issue of catcalling by making light of the situation, ignoring the impact it has on the victims. Catcalling is not a joke, and it’s not something to be overlooked or made a mockery of. It is a real thing, that creates real problems for everyday women trying to go about their lives.
Just like in many other situations, victim blaming is a reoccurring thing found in cases of catcalls. Some believe catcallers cannot be held accountable if the woman is wearing something tight or “scandalous”, because it’s “teasing” the men. By saying this, it can be concluded that it is appropriate to hold people accountable for someone else’s lack of self control. It’s similar to blaming a man for being mugged because he was to wear a nice watch. It is not hard to silently appreciate a woman’s body, and if you can not restrict yourself from doing this it’s your problem that you don’t know how to respect women, not the woman’s faults.
Some think of this harassment as complimenting women, however yelling at women with profanities or unwanted sexual, suggestive language makes it harassment, not a compliment, so it should not be expected to be taken as one. Continuously it can be heard that women who are upset from being catcalled are overreacting and can’t take a compliment. Being stared down, yelled at, and even followed creates negative emotions, rather than feelings of being flattered. Catcalling is a way of degrading women and making them seem like objects rather than a thinking and feeling person. Fear is a very common feeling that can be sparked from being catcalled which makes it often hard for women to fight back, which gives power and courage to the catcallers to do it again.
When being cat called you can never know what to expect from the harasser or how much it will escalate, and so it’s very normal to be afraid to fight back, and it’s okay not to. I personally stay quiet for my own safety, as you never know what the people catcalling you are capable of, and violence against women is too common. Often when a man feels intimidated by a woman they may begin to feel threatened and are desperate to find a way to feel masculine and this can turn to violent tendencies. Because of this, it may be a factor that contributes to the recent uptake in catcalling. It may be that catcallers are insecure and therefore do their best to belittle the women that intimidate them.
Staying safe while walking alone and with other women is always the priority, but once we accept every woman as our sister we can stand together and fight against the harassment of women. That being said, stand up for those you see being catcalled and keep one another safe.
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