Catcalled Again?

‘I stood outside my workplace waiting for my transport to pick me up after a day’s work. There he came, with the most stray gaze and the most instigative gait, walking towards me. ‘Hey, Beautiful! Hey, yes, I am talking to you!’ I was alarmed and awkwardly acknowledged his creeping presence. He came right in front of me, shook my hand and proceeded to comment on how my eyes make his loins glitter in pain and how he wishes to spoil me if he gets my number. Before leaving after my numerous blunts and ignoring his overpowering advances, he hugged me. My body fell into being a statue, my hands cold and my heart paralyzed from his gruelling touch and his odour of burnt cigarettes ran through my hair, where he placed his voice. I have never felt so helpless as if my legs refused to move and I couldn’t stop tears.’- Anonymous.

 

These are one of the many things womxn go through when the term ‘catcalling’ comes to mind. Where unsafety is at its peak and we are constantly reminded that fear can never leave us. So why is something that affects us so deeply ignored at the legal sphere of civil society? The humiliation, the trauma and the anxiety catcalling induces should never be trivialized as this leaves a feeling of hopelessness and apathy amongst victims. Matters should be taken seriously and legal consequences must follow, as this puts out a loud and clear message that harassment at any level is uninvited and unwelcome. But even before legalities are placed to restrict and regulate such malicious behaviour, there are things we have the capacity to realize and change within our civil domain:

 

1. Guys, take a look

If your female friends or strangers are being harassed or inappropriately behaved within a public space where you can see and notice their discomfort and fright, take action and protect them! Unfortunately, the general consensus amongst us is the apathy and individual pursuit of one’s activities, not knowing what others are going through and what lies ahead for those who fall vulnerable in circumstances that are often harmful to them. Catcalling is not a novice phenomenon and neither was it hidden from our eyes. So guys, please, if you see a womxn in distress because she is being cat-called, do take up your own role in this because you have a part to play.

2. Do not victim shame

What takes away the shame from catcalling from the culprits, is putting the blame on womxn who are victims of it. We do not need to be reminded that it was triggering enough to set apart a million emotions, so to be held accountable for an incident that is NOT of our making makes up for the adverse reality that womxn are not in the position of safety nor justice. By victim blaming womxn who go through catcalling, you belittle their toxic experience, their struggle to regain their indignation and more astoundingly, you take away their space and give approval to the culprits who are the ones to be shamed and punished.

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3. ‘Men will be men’ is NOT the answer

By remaining ignorant on the perpetual issues of harassment, we cannot continue perpetrators relish their guilt and guising it as something ‘men do’. It is their action that we are calling out, not celebrating it. So, by imbibing the culture of acceptance and dogmatizing it as a ritual for men is instilling the toxic masculinity that is already strongly omnipresent. By saying, ‘Men will be Men’, we are not only forgiving the actual harm of catcalling, we are allowing them to be harmful to womxn in all their capacity.

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4. Recognizing catcalling as an actual threat

There is this revolving notion that with other distraught forms of harassment such as molestation, eve-teasing and stalking, trivializing catcalling takes away the importance of addressing its primary aim of violence against women. catcalling is no less violent than other forms of harassment against womxn, and the escalation of such usually leads to more unbearable harm to us. The threat lies not only in ignoring how detrimental catcalling is, it is being passive to the mental trauma victims go through and by intentionally ignoring the gravity of the harassment, we forego the opportunity to rectify the situation.

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5. Womxn are NOT responsible

Reliability and accountability are usually thrown around to notify the presence of involvement when it comes to harassment. It is ignorant and malicious to hold womxn responsible for such incidents; whether it is their choice to go out at certain times, their choice of clothing and their choice of company. To emphasize restrictions on womxn’s lifestyles and agency is to reiterate that perpetrators are allowed to make their actions. The way we dress, where we go, who we go with and what we do SHOULD not persuade other people to force themselves on us. What we are accountable for is our consent; and if consent is not given, it is a crime.

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We do not approve of catcalling, or any form of harassment. Sadly, we live in a world that ignores our plight, our choice, our struggle and our existence. Unfortunately, our disapproval and constant suffering at the hands of harassers does not stop them and neither does anyone else. It is time to start over and keep our actions in tab. There is a limit to tolerance.