I have a question for you. If you have ever been catcalled, wolf whistled or anything of the kind; how did it make you feel? Even if you haven’t, how would it make you feel? Would you feel confident? Attractive? Safe? Complimented? Or would you feel uncomfortable? Awkward? Unsafe? Demoralised? I certainly know how I feel. And I can tell you, it’s not, and never has been, the former.
In a survey of 225 people, including some men, 99% of them reported that they had been harassed in public. And 65% said they were harassed on at least a monthly basis. I find this saddening and quite frankly sickening. You should too. Public harassment can come under many different things, i.e. verbal comments, honking, whistling, leering/staring, stalking, rude gestures and groping. To me they’re all vile. And they’re all sadly, common occurrences. I have experienced verbal comments and honking countless times. And only a small handful of those times have I not been alone. It unnerves you. I always find myself looking around to see if anybody else saw or heard. And I cannot stress this enough. It doesn’t make me feel good in any sense. I don’t take it as a compliment or a confidence boost. Instead it makes me feel embarrassed and tense. I am 16, and I have experienced it for around 2 years. It can happen to anyone at any age; it’s disturbing how young some people first experience it. It could, and may have happened to your children, or siblings. It’s worth asking the people you know if they’ve ever experienced public harassment, you might be surprised how many say yes.
It’s predominantly women who experience this sort of harassment, and I think that shows heavily when you seek people’s opinion on the subject. That there can sometimes be a very clear gender split on views of cat calling. From asking female friends it’s very apparent to me that they all have a very negative view and idea of it. On the other hand, some, not all, boys don’t seem to be able to understand this. Here’s a little personal encounter, to shed some light. A friend and I during college once had to debate with a whole class of boys about cat calling. Every single one of them thought that it was ok. That it was a compliment and we should take it as one. That we were silly and over dramatic. I was at a loss. I found it disgusting how they laughed and argued. Every single female who I have told about this, has felt the same. Shocked. And I can promise you, they have all agreed that they have never and will never take it as a compliment.
In general, I really can’t see the point in it. I don’t understand what people expect to happen, that we’re going to run after the car so we can give you our number, after you honk your horn and shout something obscene out the window? I can’t imagine public harassment has ever ‘worked’ consensually in getting the girl (or guy). These acts and comments are just unnecessary. People use the excuse it’s just a compliment, and complain that people can’t take a compliment nowadays. Well maybe we don’t want or need your so called ‘compliments’, we just want to be left alone and to go about our day without being taunted. Maybe then girls wouldn’t feel the need to walk with keys in between their fingers when alone or in the dark.
Street harassment is everywhere. You may not see it as a big deal, or something to worry about. But the fact is. It’s unsettling. And I am fed up of it. I am fed up of the countless posts on social media where people are sharing their experiences to raise awareness. They shouldn’t have to. It’s frankly alarming the number of people who have experienced a form of street harassment. Please take a look at @catcallsofnyc for an insight into a movement raising awareness.
And remember street harassment happens here. In Grimsby. In Cleethorpes. In Humberston. In Waltham. In your local area.
Article first appeared in the Grimsby Telegraph on 9th July 2019
Article written by Young Reporter Rachel Coo