Catcalling: Those Are Not Our Names

not our names

Last time I checked we were given a name, a real name. Not one that you get called from some guy on the street, to get your attention. It’s not a compliment; it’s harassment. If it were a compliment, would we tilt our heads down and continue walking? If it were a compliment, would we get a sudden shiver down our spine wishing we had more layers of garments covering us, from head to toe? Harassment is intimidation and aggressive pressure. Most women feel intimidated by this verbal aggression that some men feel is endearing while undressing us with their eyes.

Your name is not Sugar. Baby. Shorty. Pretty thing. Princess. Darling.

I remember walking down the streets of New York and remembering what it felt like to be whistled at, with the aggressor’s attention clearly averting away from my eyes. I felt ashamed of my own body and objectified, wishing I had a couple more layers on.

On Facebook, a point-of-view video of a woman walking around for 10 hours went viral. In this video, she was wearing casual clothes that any women would wear on any given day. As she walks, she got catcalled at every corner she turned and every street she crossed. When I see videos of women being harassed in public, getting catcalled at every corner they turned, I wonder why they don’t say anything. I told myself that they had a voice, so why didn’t these women in the videos, stand up for themselves?

Then it happened to me. It felt like someone took away my voice and I felt scared. The thought of saying something also passed through my mind but quickly vanished with every new guy that had said something to catch my attention.

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Every single woman who has taken a train, metropolitan or public bus in France says she has become a victim to sexual harassment, according to a French study. This includes catcalling, groping and in some cases, rape.

Many anti-feminists claim American women “complain” about issues they perceive as mundane, arguing that there are far greater issues in other countries. However, catcalling isn’t just an American issue; it’s a universal issue. And in some countries, catcalling is worse in some countries than it is in others.

The worst excuse I’ve heard so far is the fact that women ask for it and we deserve it. The clothes that women wear nowadays is modern day fashion and the most updated but also skintight, revealing and short. But why should the women be the ones to limit their clothing options in fear of the attention they draw? Why can’t the people who call us out, keep their thoughts to themselves?

Wearing more clothes hasn’t proven to be a viable solution. According to BBC News in 2008, The Egyptian Centre for Women’s Rights describes sexual harassment as a “social cancer.”

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While a survey in Egypt revealed that 60 percent of respondents — including both men and women — believed that wearing less clothing would result in the most street harassment, another study suggested otherwise: the majority of catcalling victims (83 percent of women in Egypt) were dressed modestly and wearing a hijab.

When a video of a woman who walked the streets of New York City and encountered 10 hours of sexual harassment and catcalling went viral, the only thing more disturbing than the video was the comments that came after, many suggesting that she was “asking for it” or that she should feel lucky to garner such attention. If women found this chastisement respectful, it might be discussed in a more comfortable manner. It’s common for people to feel at ease when they’re treated with respect.

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Catcalling pulls us from our focus and propels us into a spiral of disturbances. Demeaning treatment towards women is a universal issue that does not come in one shape or form. Given the extreme cases of sexual assault that we encounter on the news, it seems that catcalling is an apparently more minor infraction that people from both genders are unwilling to step forward and confront head-on.  And there is often a gender disparity in our understanding of the phenomenon; while some men believe they are using respectful terms of endearment with an unassuming “honey” or “sweetheart,” most women will perceive this as antagonizing or ultimately degrading.

There isn’t a happy medium for all people, as we perceive this treatment differently. The majority of women sees catcalling as a yet-unsolved issue that needs attention from all areas of society. It is critical that we find a solution and establish regulatory norms to raise awareness and improve the lives of women everywhere.

Author: Marie

Marie Anne Patrick is a first-year reporter of The Eye. She is a Junior at SAS. In her free time, she likes to drink bubble tea (which is really just ice milo with no pearls), eat some sushi, and watch new movies. She can be contacted at: patrick19822@sas.edu.sg

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