Catcalling: It’s Time for it to Stop

Every woman I know has been catcalled. When they’ve told me their specific stories, it often comes across as a humorous tale, a joking bit about some idiot that made a passing comment on the street, or a moron who rolled down his window to shout something obscene. I’ve definitely played these kinds of things off like that to my own friends when speaking about it. But no matter how we spin these stories, catcalling is never fun. It’s rarely as harmless as we sometimes make it seem, and it can seriously impact the mind when it happens.

I’ve been catcalled numerous times, especially since I now live in a very large city with a lot of different kinds of people roaming around and going about their daily lives, and it can happen anywhere: the subway, the streets, the park. Sometimes these catcalls have been relatively harmless; one time I was walking with a friend and some guy called out, “You two look like best friends!” My friend was surprised and laughed along with me as we continued to walk down the street. But some of the catcalls have made me incredibly uncomfortable and distressed. I was coming back from a party one time, by myself in the Uber back to my dorm room, and when I got out of the car, only a few yards from the door, three men approached me as I walked and made some gross comment about my appearance. It was the approach more than the words that scared me as I hurried past them, my eyes on the ground. But the words stung too. I felt observed and exposed. And I’m far from the only one who feels like this.

No one deserves to be harassed by random men. It doesn’t matter what you’re wearing or what you’re doing, no one has the right to say rude and unwanted things about your body or your clothing. But unfortunately, catcalling is an epidemic that has been around for an eternity, and billions of women face the harsh cries of men cawing and crowing about them. It’s difficult to ignore when the comments are so hurtful. And it’s difficult to overcome when the comments pile up. When I’m walking somewhere and I get catcalled, it has an instant effect on the way I hold myself and the thoughts that run through my head. I fold in on myself, I walk faster, I put my head down. I try not to be noticed. My mind becomes focused on making sure no one is looking at me strangely, that no one is following me too closely. It’s awful, and it makes me feel terrible.

But do men think that it does the opposite? Probably not. Catcalling isn’t necessarily done to actually attract a partner, it’s utilized as a form of power over women. Men don’t expect the woman they’ve catcalled to walk over and ask them for their number, but they do expect the woman to submit to the “compliment” and endure the humiliation. Granted, this isn’t true for all cases. For example, the guy I was addressed by one time in New York City. I’m pretty sure his explanation of, “If you want to fulfill your deepest desires, just sell your soul to me and your dreams will all come true,” wasn’t an attempt at humiliation, but I’m also sure my reply of, “Satan, is that you?” wasn’t necessarily what he was expecting in return either.

But soul-stealing catcaller or regular misogynistic idiot catcaller, no matter the type, catcalling sucks to be on the receiving end of, and it’s well past time for this behavior to stop. So let’s hold men to a higher standard. Make them understand that catcalling is a form of harassment, and it won’t be tolerated under any circumstance. It’s 2020, and women deserve respect when they walk down the street, anywhere and everywhere.