A Reflection on Catcalling

            It goes without saying; catcalling is bad. Nobody wants unwanted attention—especially when they're alone—and the objectification involved can negatively impact the tone of a woman's entire day. After seeing videos like "10 Hours of Walking in NYC as a Woman" or "Girl Stands on London Street for 1 Hour", it's easy to want to punch every man on the street who looks at you sideways. But is that the best way to respond to catcalling?

via: The Charger Bulletin

            Last weekend, I reflected a lot on catcalling due to an experience I had in downtown Durham. After stopping by a vintage store to Valentine's Day shop, I wanted to go to a local art gallery nearby to see an exhibition. The gallery was on the same street, and only a fifteen-minute walk away; what was the point of getting an Uber there, if I could just walk? I began my journey, and quickly regretted it. I was catcalled by three or four men, and was uncomfortably stared at by as many more. Almost worse, though, I nearly fell off the sidewalk multiple times when passing cars honking at me—scaring the living daylight out of me.

Related: Me, The Virgin

via: Webster Journal

            By the time I got to the gallery, I wasn't sure how to feel about the walk. My first reaction was to blame myself. I had worn a dress that day, because I was excited to see the sun in the middle of a gloomy month. If I had worn pants, would this have happened? I also walked in an area I'm not very familiar with. If I hadn't walked so far, would I not feel this gross right now? After reflection, I realized that I shouldn't be blaming myself at all. It was broad daylight on a busy street; I shouldn't have had to worry about being made uncomfortable. And I certainly shouldn't have let the reactions of others impact my wardrobe choices.

            What I realized, though, was how unaccustomed to catcalling I had become. While I was studying abroad last semester in a major city in Europe—where men catcall just as much if not more than men in America—I was desensitized. Back at school, though, where I mainly stay only on campus, catcalling isn't a thing I experience on a daily, or even weekly, basis. Aside from a fleeting glance here or there, public expressions of attraction between strangers rarely happen. Suddenly being exposed to catcalling again made me re-evaluate my thoughts about it, and brought up a lot of confusion.

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via: Brooklyn Magazine

            While I probably shouldn't have walked through an area I'm not familiar with, I wasn't sure how the catcalling could have been prevented—aside from an overhaul of the patriarchy. But could I have done anything differently? Also, how should I have responded? My general method is making eye contact with people I pass on the street, to assert dominance even before anything is said, and then ignoring if any statements are made. But is that the best way to go about it? Should I feel guilty about not having a stronger response?

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via: Society6

            All of these questions remain unanswered, and I believe will remain unanswered for a long time. The point of this reflection isn't to make a definitive statement about catcalling—rather, to affirm that confusion is okay. Asking questions is the only way to understand the causes and emotional implications of street harassment. Hopefully, as organizations like Hollaback! continue to educate people around the country about the effects of catcalling, women will have less harassment to be confused about in the first place.