THE BLOG

Talking Honestly and Openly About Catcalling Has Unmasked an Ugly Misogyny

04/11/2014 22:39 GMT | Updated 04/01/2015 10:59 GMT

'Hysterical', 'oversensitive', 'man hating', 'privileged', 'fat', 'stupid' and 'a dumb blonde' are just a select few of the labels I've been assigned after writing openly and honestly about my experience of catcalling and street harassment.

In a previous blog post, I detailed how incessant wolf whistles, honking of horns, cries of 'alright darling', 'hello beautiful', and 'look at the ass on that', and an incident in which a man curb crawled along next to me while out running, forced me to hang up my dry-fit and quit jogging altogether.

My experiences are not out of the ordinary, and while there is little research and no clear cut UK statistics, a recent US survey revealed 65% of women have been catcalled and harassed on the street and a number of organisations are working to raise awareness and engage people in conversation around the issue.

Just last week Hollaback released a video, 100 catcalls in 10 hours, which sees actress Shoshana Roberts walk the streets of New York being called out to, stared at and even followed by men.

While I had hoped the video would spark discussion over the alarming frequency of such incidents, and open up the floor to debate around why women are still objectified in public spaces - what I found was an indigent and troubling exchange laced with a misogyny I didn't realise still existed.

So let's just clear a few things up.

Catcalling is not a compliment. I understand how 'positive' comments about someone's appearance could be interpreted as complimentary. However, call me crazy, but I prefer my compliments to be delivered in a sincere and affable manner. This does not consist of said 'compliment' being muttered under the breath as I walk past, shouted out from the other side of the road, breathed down the back of my neck while waiting for a bus, communicated in the form of a car horn. And shockingly, I don't consider being followed as a from of flattery.

When was the last time a 'compliment' left the recipient feeling uncomfortable, uneasy and frightened?

Women are not outside for the entertainment of men. One male commentator advised me to seek solace in my house if I was plagued by the calls from men reminding me that women are under constant surveillance when they set foot in public. He told me I was 'lucky' to be able to remove myself from an uncomfortable situation, I was 'privileged' in my capacity to stay indoors away from what was bothering me.

Because girls, we're the problem. If we don't want our appearances commented on each and every day, if we take issues with our crotches being stared at by strangers on the train, if we find ourselves ashamed and embarrassed by a hail of catcalls then we shouldn't be outside at all. As so many male and female internet commentators have implored 'it's just human nature'. 'Boys will be boys' after all.

Denying it won't make it go away. American comedian Amanda Seales got it in one when she appeared on CNN opposite Steve Santagti who claimed, 'There is nothing more that a woman loves to hear than how pretty she is.'

Seales stated that instead of challenging women who say they don't like catcalls, instead of arguing with them about why it is not harassment, instead of telling them that what they feel is wrong we should be asking how we can change this. How can we stop women feeling uncomfortable and threatened?