THE BLOG

Calling Out Catcalling

20/01/2014 12:48 GMT | Updated 19/03/2014 09:59 GMT

"Cheer up love. It might never happen."

Well, you miserable low-life who seems to think that for some reason I should constantly be projecting a façade of joy and serenity to the rest of the world, it just did. But it certainly wasn't the first time.

Every day, without fail, I have my privacy violated by men I've never even met. I'm propositioned, hissed at, shouted at, and generally made to feel like a piece of meat by a very small minority of men who feel the need to remind myself and the rest of the world that they are, in fact, in possession of a penis. And, as the majority of the female population will tell you, I'm not alone. Seriously - just ask one of us. We don't bite (often).

This morning, a builder on my street growled at me before leaning over the fence to comment on my, to paraphrase, shapely behind. Yesterday, a senior citizen on the street whispered in my ear how much he loved blondes, before following me for half a mile. Last week, three teenage boys offered me the princely sum of £5 to "suck their c**ks". And this afternoon, a man I'd never seen before in my life told me I'd be much prettier if I smiled when I walked past him on the street.

But why? I mean, I'm assuming that asking women on the street into the back of your van for 'a good seeing to' is not often a successful tactic. When girlfriends recount when this has happened to them, the usual ending goes more like "so I just kept on walking and tried to ignore him" than "and then I hopped in and he sure as hell sorted me out". So why on Earth does it keep happening?

An extremely idiotic answer to the question goes a little something like this: "Take it as a compliment! You should feel grateful that men shout at you on the street - it means they like you!." No, actually, it doesn't. Men who like and respect me, usually behave a little more like this:

Walks up to me in bar/café etc. Perhaps compliments me on eyes/hair/dress/etc. Flirts whilst engaging me in conversation and talking about mutual interests. Maybe offers to buy me a drink. Respectfully accepts my decision as to whether I would like to talk further and accept said drink.

Men who do not like or respect me, behave like this:

Walks creepily close to me on the street/shouts from across the road. Brazenly shouts something about my tits/ass from across the street. Offers me casual sex down alley/in back of van. Calls me an frigid bitch when I ignore him.

A similarly idiotic answer goes like this: "It's just a bit of harmless fun - they're just messing around. After all, boys will be boys."

Well, firstly it is not a bit of harmless fun, is it? Do you really thing a young woman feels like it's harmless when a man twice as strong as her whispers in her ear on a secluded street? Or do you think in fact she's terrified that she's about to be raped? Or when a woman steps out of her house in a new dress feeling happy and confident, only to be told be a group of boys that she looks like a dirty slut. Is it harmless fun when she goes back home crying to change? That's not boys being boys. That's boys being mysognistic idiots who have absolutely no respect for 50% of the human race.

No, there's only one real reason why certain men catcall. To make women feel like crap. To remind us that they're big and we're small. To reinforce the idea that we're there to be looked up and down and not much else. To make us feel like we only exist to gratify them. To make us feel worthless, degraded and stupid. And it has to stop.

It's not always safe to confront street harassers, but when you feel it is, do it. When you can, call it out. Ask the cocky passerby why he feels you should smile for his gratification. Ask the wolf-whistler whether or not he really thinks what he just did is acceptable. Turn around and ask the bloke who just commented on your ass to repeat what he said. Ok so he might laugh with his mates. But there's a chance, just a chance, that when he gets home and sits alone, he'll realise what a bloody moron he is. Or if you're lucky, you might just encounter the sweet satisfaction of seeing the middle-aged businessman stop in his tracks, turn bright red and, heaven forbid, apologise.