A Word on Catcalling
Hey Freshers and returners! I remember that when I first came to university the cat calling and street harassment was a bit of a shock as I grew up in a very small town where it was less of a problem. So, I thought I'd do a little piece on street harassment in case anyone of you are in a similar position, or have just moved off campus and will have to deal with Egham hill a bit more often, or just want to read about about why cat calling sucks.
There are so many reasons cat calling is awful and there's also many people who will explain it better than me here, but I'll give if a go. Essentially cat calling is just reminding someone they're a sexual object. It's as if we should think, 'Oh, I was just going about my day to day life. I had forgotten for a second that my sexual appeal was the most important part of my existence, thank you for reminding me kind cat caller.' Not to mention that cat callers often reduce the object of their affection to body parts, boobs and bum being the most popular choices *rolls eyes*. To quote my most recent experience, one man decided to tell me that my 'ass' was so big he could see it from space. Now, no ones actually been to space to check for me, but I'm pretty sure he was exaggerating. All of this gives the same impression that magazines and tabloids do, that women are primarily there for the use of men and for sex objects. This is also part of the reason why boobs are used to sell everything from cars to groceries, but women are told breast feeding in public is disgusting, but thats a whole other thing.
The major reason why I personally hate cat calling is because of how it makes me feel. It makes me feel like I've done something wrong. As much as I know I shouldn't blame myself, I do always end up thinking 'well this dress is short' or 'maybe the heels are giving the wrong impression'. It also makes me feel unsafe, particularly if I'm on my own. It's the reason I spend a lot of my money on taxi's and not walking at night instagramming pictures of at the moon (which I love to do). Cat calling makes me want to hide, and that is a problem. Trust me when I say that is their issue and problem, not yours! I like to say something back, for my own pride I guess. I'll often shout 'no scrubs' as I'm a massive TLC fan. Or I'll sometimes just run after a driver who beeped me shouting something like "I love you too!"- they look terrified. This being said, only do this if it is safe to do so, eg when you're with someone or in a busy location. Cat calling can sometimes lead to more dangerous behaviour such as following, which unfortunately I guess some of you are already aware of. So as much as you shouldn't have to moderate your behaviour because of harassment, do stay safe lovelys! There is no right way to respond, if you shout back then thats fine, and if you put your head down and walk fast away from the situation then thats fine too.
*Serious bit coming up*.
What is also important to note is that this is part of a wider problem. Unofortunately men are kind of taught they have an entitlement to women's bodies everywhere (that being said I have of course met some amazing gents who are more clued up on this than me). This isn't some complex radical feminist or misandrist argument, it's pretty basic stuff. Video games, language, the delightful Robin Thicke all help to make this stuff normal and all contribute to this feeling of entitlement. Even rom-coms do it (and I love my rom-coms). Guys are taught, even in romantic movies, that if she doesn't say yes, chase her or jump on her fayre ground ride (looking at you Gosling, my future husband)! When men are taught that "you know she wants it" and rape jokes are on main stream television shows, shouting at women on the street is seen as no biggy. Also, there's many reasons why most women don't talk about this more. For one, it's often seen as so normal that it doesn't need to be discussed. It happens so much, why even bring it up? It's nearly always treated as just a part of life. Also, alarmingly, if a women talks about cat calling experiences it can feel like bragging, cause all male attention is good right? Male attention is what girls are taught to want and compete for from a young age, with 'female' toys and games being based around makeup, beauty and 'getting the guy'. So why is this male attention bad? This is why you'll often hear the word compliment used in relation to cat calling. No! 'That's a nice dress' is a compliment, so is 'you look nice'. Commenting on body parts and shouting isn't a compliment, ever, it's just really creepy. So, if you do ever experience cat calling please know that you are entitled to feel however you want to about it. You may be told to stop 'humble bragging' when discussing it, or you may get told "well you do look fab tonight', but please know it isn't okay! Also, talk to any of the lovely SU support staff (Sid, the co-president for welfare and diversity is always here to help!), or of course fem-soc if you feel the need too.