Why catcalling is a problem
Many people believe that catcalling (street harassment) is harmless, and some even see it as a compliment. However, there are many reasons why catcalling is a problem. Here are my thoughts on this topic.
What is catcalling?
Catcalling is the slang term for street harassment. This is a type of sexual harassment and it usually involves things such as unwanted comments, gestures, honking, following or persistent sexual advances. It can also be physical, such as grabbing or touching. Catcalling is done by a stranger or group of strangers, and it happens in public areas such as on the street, in a shopping mall or on public transportation (taxis, busses and trains).
Why is it a problem?
I think this is an obvious one Choma - if a catcaller wouldn’t feel comfortable acting that way in front of their mother or a teacher for example, why do they think it’s appropriate to do it to a stranger? There is an appropriate time and place to compliment someone, however, catcalling is uncalled-for and usually makes the victim feel exposed and uncomfortable.
It’s not impressive.
Catcalling is usually very embarrassing and inappropriate- the victim feels uncomfortable and the person who is catcalling makes themselves look creepy. They may be doing it to impress their friends or their “target” but it’s actually unimpressive and immature. If someone wants to impress a stranger on the street, catcalling is the worst way to do that- don’t you think?
It encourages gender stereotypes.
Often, women and girls are the ones who get catcalled.This happens because of gender stereotypes, which encourage the belief that women are sexual objects and that they are not worthy of respect. This is even worse when you think about how it’s often young girls/ schoolgirls who must deal with catcalling- it’s creepy and inappropriate.
It makes people feel unsafe.
Unfortunately, it's a reality that the rate of sexual violence in our country is very high. On top of that, human trafficking is also prevalent in cities all over South Africa. Unwelcome advances make people who are vulnerable to these crimes (such as women and girls, or members of the LGBTQIA community) feel unsafe when walking down the street, because many cases of sexual assaults and kidnapping occur when a victim is in public.
Compliments and even flirting can be harmless and fun, but catcalling is not a compliment- it is something that makes many people feel unsafe and uncomfortable to walk freely in public spaces which is not acceptable. Let’s make our voices heard and speak up if we feel uncomfortable or disrespected.
How to deal with catcalling
Choma, you may be asking yourself: how do we deal with catcalling?
If you’re the one being harassed:
If you are being harassed on the street, be sure to get to a place of safety (such as a shop) as soon as you can. It’s also good to have the number of your local police station in your phone so you can contact them or SAPS on 10111 if you feel you are in danger.
Avoid directly confronting the harasser or getting angry and violent- I understand it can be aggravating Choma, but your safety is the most important thing.
If you witness harassment:
If you witness harassment, you might be able to do something to help the victim. The more we speak up about harassment, the more we work towards putting a stop to it. Even if it means distracting the harasser or getting the victim to safe place. You can read my article on what to do if you witness harassment here.
What do you think Choma? Do you think that catcalling is an issue? Leave your thoughts in the comments below and share this article if catcalling is a problem in your community.
Remember, if you or a friend need advice or help, you can contact me here on Ask Choma, send me a Facebook Message, a Twitter DM, or a WhatsApp Message (071 172 3657).
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