Friday, August 22, 2014

The Discussion About Street Harassment

There has been a recent online discussion regarding the supposed pros and cons of “catcalling”, also known as street harassment. Generally, this refers to men commenting on womens’ appearances by whistling, calling out, or using sexual gestures. Doree Lewak, a writer for the New York Post, wrote an article expressing her love for catcalling, specifically in the summertime. Her main point was that catcalling is validating, as a man is approving of and complimenting your appearance, including your body and chosen outfit. While she does not support all kinds of catcalling, her general view is that it is a positive experience. I take a great deal of issue with Lewak’s stance, as does Hilary Sargent, writer for Her article, “Lighten Up Ladies, Catcalls Are a Fun Part of Summer,” pokes fun at Lewak and explains why her view is concerning. She notes that a lot of women do not want or need that kind of validation and actually find it demeaning. She also explains that “in a world where women are still underpaid, discriminated against, and consistently victimized by sexual violence, discouraging men from yelling across a busy intersection their thoughts on the sexual attractiveness of a female passerby might actually be something worth discouraging.” Street harassment is still harassment.

In my opinion, it is not empowering for women; rather, it empowers men by making them feel like they have the right to objectify womens’ bodies without any consequences. They can say whatever they want, whether it’s on the street or form their car, using sexual language and gestures, and then go on with their day without having to think twice. For many women, though, the comment will stick with them. As Sargent points out, women face the risk of having a man follow or even sexually abuse them. Catcalls can also be triggering to women who have faced such situations in the past. These men do not know the histories of the women and cannot possibly know how a woman feels about catcalling. Many women, myself included, lose any sense of safety when I am harassed on the street. In short, men need to learn to not harass women. Catcalling cannot be disguised as anything else. It doesn’t matter what she is wearing or how “good” she looks: street harassment should never be an acceptable way to engage with a woman.

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by Emily Schacter