In my absence this week, there have been some fabulous (and not so fabulous discussions) around sexual harassment via cat calling on both blogs I follow, and on my personal facebook feed. As this is a topic close to my heart, I feel like I should weigh in. The only way to stop this sort (and any sort of negative behaviours really) is to spread the word/educate. So that's what I'm doing!
Two of my favourite bloggers Katie from Buddle and Squeak, and Annika from the Pine Needle Collective posted about cat calling. (I suggest you read their posts before you read mine, because they have some absolutely brilliant things to say on the subject. Katie's post. Annika's post )
Lets start off with a definition of what exactly a cat call is:
http://www.merriam-webster.com: a sound or noise that someone (such as an audience member) makes toward a speaker, performer, athlete, etc., that he or she does not like
http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/ 1 A shrill whistle or shout of disapproval made at a public meeting or performance: he walked out to jeers and catcalls
"But Jen, how am I as a man supposed to let someone know that I like what their wearing / their physical appearance/ want to let them know they're cool ?" Basically you're not. There are a few main things that factor into making cat calling inappropriate.
1) When I get dressed, the only person I am dressing for is myself. I know I'm not dressed like everyone else. I don't need comments pointing this out to me. don't care if you mean it as a compliment, it's still not appropriate because
2) "Men are afraid women will laugh at them. Women are afraid that men will kill them - Margaret Atwood. This quote was brought to my attention during a feminist debate on facebook and I think it basically sums up the situation beautifully. I, and many of my female friends are scared of men we do not know, especially when travelling alone/ after dark. Literally all of my female friends can tell you storys of when they were cornered by a man/ touched inappropriately/ had obscenities yell at them because they are a woman. I've shared a few of my worst experiences on this very blog. Now, not all men are out to get us, infact, most are probably very nice and do not have a single bad bone in their body, but we don't know that. We can list off countless encounters in which strangers have harrassed us, so to keep ourselves SAFE we have to keep interactions with men we do not know to a minimum, just in case this is the guy that has intentions overpower me/ steal my hand bag/rape me/ murder me. It's a very very very real fear that myself and many others have.
So now you know what cat calling is, and why you shouldn't do it, but you may not know what you can do about it. There's actually quite a bit you can do.
Talk to your friends/family/ social media about your own experiences and how it's made you feel. If something serious/illegal has happened, talk to the police. Tell everyone that will listen that this behaviour is not acceptable, and you will not stand by in silence.
Offer support to those who have experienced harassment. If the event has passed, offer your judgement free shoulder to cry on. Don't comment on what they were wearing/ say they were asking for it, because quite frankly it shouldn't matter what they were wearing. If you see such an event in progress, don't just stand there and watch / ignore it. Go up to the person and give them an out.
And finally, if you practice the disgusting art of cat calling stop. It's not cool, it's not cute, it's not manly, it's not sexy. It is sexual harassment and completely unacceptable, and completely avoidable.
*Please note I am only talking from experiences I am familiar with. This is an extraordinarily brief introduction to sexual harassment in the form cat calling and what you can do about it. I am also not an expert on the subject (but unfortunately I have lots of practical knowledge from my own experiences / stuff my friends have talked about.)