It’s interesting… After reading a link someone had shared on facebook regarding sexual harassment towards women on the street (i.e. mainly cat-calling and lewd verbal comments), I decided to see how women of Toronto felt about the issue. A reddit feed had circulated approximately three months ago with the following title: “Women of r/Toronto, how bad is sexual harassment in public places in this city?” With over 200 comments by women from various areas of the city, a common theme overall was shared; Many women of Toronto have experienced sexual harassment in public which results in feelings of discomfort and/or anger.
It is apparent that many women, especially at night, cannot walk the street alone without having to constantly check their surroundings. Not only this, but also many women refrain from wearing particular clothing that may come across as “provocative” or “sexy” due to past experiences with cat calling. Women have commented that many of the men that approach them are under the influence, and I’m sure we can all agree that this is no excuse. Women should be able to walk the streets in a shorter dress, a plunging neckline or sweatpants for that matter without having to fear potential male commentary or even worse, their own safety.
So why? Why do men (not all men of course, I’m generalizing here) continue to call out “Hey sexy!”, “Nice ass”, “I want some of that” or worse? I can honestly say I don’t know the answer to the question. It still baffles me why men do this, as it certainly doesn’t appear to work. Cat calling does not lead to dates, or sexual encounters. Cat calling leads to situations where women are afraid to wear apparel that may arouse too much attention and situations where women are afraid to walk alone in public.
After reading these posts and thinking about why men cat-call, I decided to ask some of my male friends about female cat-calling. I asked them the following questions:
- Have you ever cat-called a female on the street/in public?
- Would you ever cat-call a female on the street/in public?
- What are your feelings towards cat-calling females on the street/in public?
- Why do you think men cat-call females in the street/in public?
The responses were very similar. The overall shared belief was that no, they hadn’t engaged in cat-calling and no they would never engage in cat-calling, however, many know individuals who have. When asked about their feelings towards it, the men I spoke to touched on ideas suggesting that the men that do engage in this behaviour “have no idea how to talk to women civilly” and they questioned why any woman would enjoy it. When asked about why men do it, themes of dominance arose, as it is the males’ way of suggesting who is in charge and where the power lies. It was also suggest that for some men, it is a way to get a rise out of women and one male who had engaged in cat calling stated that it was “usually as a joke”. Having considered the male perspective (keep in the sample of males I questioned was a very small sample and thus these responses are simply to be viewed as opinions and not as factual data) in addition to my own experiences with cat-calling, I would agree that there is a level of dominance that is involved and I would take this a bit further and suggest that it may also involve a level of peer pressure. Many men who cat-call are in the presence of a group of males and thus their own feelings of inclusion and acceptance may be a factor in why this occurs.
At the end of the day I think most of us can agree that women don’t enjoy cat calling. It makes us feel belittled, womanized and sometimes even disgusted and ashamed. When we wear clothing that flatters our figure, we do it because we want to and because we can, not because we want to be called at from across the street. In most cases, cat calling DOES NOT make us feel sexy. It DOES NOT make us want to give you our number. So please, take your thumb off the horn, roll up that window and refrain from cat calling.
Visit original reddit post at: http://www.reddit.com/r/toronto/comments/1y32qx/women_of_rtoronto_how_bad_is_sexual_harassment_in/
Image from: http://meninsider.com/2012/09/the-hipster-cat-calling/