I adjusted my dress to make sure that the cloth wasn’t clumping up in the back. Every time I threw my backpack over my shoulder, I managed to pull my dress two inches up, showing my butt. Walking down the street I became wildly aware of my body, adjusting and readjusting my clothes to make myself seem unappealing. Count to fifteen and make a quick glance back, I thought as I attempted to create some safety net of self-security. It was late at night and I was making the trip back home. It was always the same, cross onto 42nd and aggressively power walk your way to your apartment, be inconspicuous and be quick. Every glance at you seems menacing and every smile deadly.
Women everyday dread the walk, the walk towards the parking lot, the walk down the street or even the walk through the subway. During each of these scenarios, women worry about their safety. Being a woman means that you immediately become a subject of the male gaze and thus in constant risk of harassment. Men often argue that “catcalling” is a representation of appreciation and the obnoxious bellows of beauty are meant to be a compliment. We are misinterpreting the comments.
However, catcalling is inherently disrespectful. Compliments are not given to women but rather at women. The attention never truly warrants a response but are instead suppose to solidify a man’s approval. Which hints at the idea that we are only “beautiful” or “attractive” if a man thinks it’s so.
Catcalling is not a gendered phenomenon, in the sense that it affects both females and males. The effect on females is oblivious, one it causes a climate of disrespect and inequality. Females are arguably dehumanized when they are reduced to just their physical attraction. Beauty becomes an aspect of themselves that they begin to value above all others. This causes an endless chase toward superficial goals and failed expectations. And other the other hand it reproduces and justifies aggression and hypermasculinity. These qualities become extremely dangerous when they have to be constantly demonstrated.
So how do we combat this issue? The conversation needs to be addressed at both ends. We need to take certain measures to make sure that we are teaching our girls to value every aspect of themselves. This way they will no longer chalk up the smiles and whistles to compliments, which is another way to perpetuate the behavior, but instead, be an active participator in their own liberation. We also need to teach our boys what it means to be a boy isn’t rooted in aggressiveness and lack of emotion. “Being a man” needs to be a concept that is restricted so that it encompasses respect and restraint. It is an issue that requires the communal responsibility of our entire population.
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