I don’t know one woman who hasn’t been catcalled at some point in her life. Whether that means a simple wolf whistle, a two-syllable “da-yum” or worse, passersby constantly think it is their right to comment on a woman’s appearance.

Picture Courtesy of Anne Jorgenson
Picture Courtesy of Anne Jorgenson

The thing those would-be suitors don’t get, is how demeaning that action is.

“I’m just trying to give you a compliment.”

Frankly, that’s complete and utter garbage. If you want to compliment a woman, there are many more respectful ways you can do that, and yelling at them from your car, following them through stores, or being creepily pushy about it is in no way okay, and certainly doesn’t make women feel flattered.

Not to mention, what do they think is going to come from it? To the men that have yelled at me from car windows, how do you think that’s going to play out? You’re driving by and yell something profane out of the window of your used Honda Accord, what’s the reaction you’re looking for? Am I supposed to tell them how absolutely and utterly thankful I am for that? Really? Or maybe I’m supposed to act like a “Girls Gone Wild” video and flash you? Because that’s definitely realistic.

There is no ideal reaction because there is no realistic way the scenario plays out, which brings me back to my question, what’s the point? Do you feel better after doing it? We don’t feel better after hearing it, I can promise that.

“It’s not hurting anyone.”

Isn’t it? I carry a knife around when I go out the majority of the time, because I don’t know what’s going to happen. Rape culture is so prevalent, and catcalling is something that perpetuates it. Whether or not someone is actually going to do anything sinister based off of a comment or not isn’t the point, the point is that the girls getting catcalled don’t know that intention. We don’t know if it’s just a comment, or if it’s a comment and a slap on the ass, or a comment and a rape.

It doesn’t matter whether or not you are actually physically hurting someone when doing it, because the act itself teaches whoever you’re yelling at that they aren’t safe wherever they are, not to mention that their value is purely based off of how they look that day.

Catcalling sexualizes women and dehumanizes them, turning us into nothing more than playthings. When men do this to young girls, especially when the girls are alone, it’s scary. It’s unsafe and it can genuinely be terrifying.

“Well, wearing that what did she expect?”

Say it with me: A woman’s clothing does not give anyone the right to objectify and demean her, and is no justification for unsolicited comments, or worse. It’s that simple! A woman’s clothing has no relation whatsoever to anything that happens to her, and it does not matter what she is or is not wearing; it is not an open invitation to any unwanted attention. Whatever a woman is doing, whatever a woman is wearing, it’s not for you.

I’m no stranger to catcalling; I’ve been getting yelled at from cars or followed on the bus since middle school, I’ve been followed home when I walk my dog, I’ve even been stalked through a grocery store. My point is that no matter how used to dealing with it I am, I still get scared, and I still think through every self defense maneuver I’ve ever learned when someone harasses me.

I’m tired of living like that. With the constant worry that something could happen simply because I wanted to go for a walk. It’s not fair and it’s not right, and I know life isn’t fair, but maybe, just maybe, we could take a step back and treat everyone like a human being that deserves respect, and then it could be a little better for everyone.

Now, none of this is to say that you can’t compliment a woman, by all means if you think she looks particularly pretty that day you are free to let her know. But there’s a correct and respectful way to do so. You just have to make sure you are complimenting the woman for being herself, and not so you can get your daily power trip by commenting on her body.

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