France and Catcalling

Whilst conversing with a male friend of mine, I told him to recognise how fortunate he was as a man. To be able to wander the streets alone whether it is busy or not, whether it is day or night, and not have the fear of sexual assault at the forefront or back of his mind is a privilege. Most women will probably understand this point of view… that as a woman, you’re always making sure you know who’s around. I tell a lot of my friends that if ever I travel around the world, I’m going to try my best to look like a boy because I’ll feel far safer. It may sound ridiculous, but I’m always far more aware of my female body when traveling or in places that I don’t know. Here are some examples as to why I feel this way. 

Every year, I go to France to visit my family. From the age of 14 though, things started to change. In the streets I would get wolf whistled (of course only if I was not with a male family member - although two 40-something-year olds did come up to my dad and asked if he could ‘share’ in reference to my young looking mum and me). My friend and I came up with a term called ‘eye rape’, which is quite an extreme term looking back on it, but this constituted as men in the streets staring at us up and down for an uncomfortable amount of time. We counted into the double digits just on single outings, despite the fact that she was 13 and I was 14. The worst though, was this summer. I decided to wander into the beautiful old town of Antibes, near Nice. Being 20, I didn’t see the issue of going into a very busy and vibrant part of the town alone. However, as I was about to cross a road, I felt someone come up behind me, grab me, and rub themselves on my bum, whilst saying ‘hello baby’. I was so shocked that I started laughing, assuming that such an outrageous action could only be done by someone I knew. Turning around, the person behind me was not someone I knew, but a pretty repulsive 60 year old looking man. I was horrified, and had no idea what to do, so I just walked on. It’s pretty hard to push something like that out of your mind, which is what women are constantly expected to do. The rest of my walk consisted of outraged thoughts about how the hell someone thinks they are completely entitled to grab another human being in such an intrusive and disrespectful way. Sadly, my experiences are not unique. Many have remarked the rise of catcalling, persistent and unwanted conversations, along with sexual assault in France, which has in fact been addressed in French parliament. Proposals are being discussed about banning cat calling or lecherous behaviour towards women in public. Discussions include what would be defined as so, and how much to fine these individuals. I reckon that this would be a great law to have in place, as it will hopefully make cat callers think twice about their actions. The less cat calls and inappropriate behaviour, the safer women can feel on the streets. The safer women feel on the streets, the more free we are. 


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