LET’S TALK ABOUT STREET HARASSMENT

Hello there and welcome to the 21st Century; a place in time where catcalling is still occurring daily and there’s still no way to safeguard women who deal with it on a constant basis regardless of their age or location. I wanted to talk about this subject following several experiences of my own in which afterwards I was frightened and largely disappointed at the extent of how law enforcement and society continues to approach this issue. Despite the so-called “progressiveness” within our society, I’m alarmed by how in this day and age something so damaging as catcalling / sexual harassment is allowed to be swept under the rug. For those of you unaware as to what a catcall actually is, here is the Oxford Dictionary definition:

Definition of catcall in English:

noun

A loud whistle or a comment of a sexual nature made by a man to a passing woman: women were the objects of catcalls when they walked by the men’s barracks

Essentially, catcalling is purely verbal or phonetic communication from anybody  trying to attract someone’s attention. The dictionary definition states that only a man is capable of objectifying and scaring the opposite sex (?) which I personally find ridiculous as it ingrains the false concept that only men are capable of sexual harassment. Of course, this is too vague a description as it is absolutely essential when describing catcalling to remember that the context of the harasser’s communication is entirely of a sexual nature which – when unsolicited and unwanted – can be a frightening experience for anybody. Why exactly is it then that when several of my friends and I encounter this unwanted attention repeatedly and we report it to the police to try to make it stop, it is dismissed as a waste of time?

“Why are you making such a big deal about a guy giving you attention and complimenting you by saying he’s interested?”

– a quote from an acquaintance of mine who overheard me discussing this topic with fellow friends who had been through similar experiences.

Well my not-so-dear acquaintance who unfortunately had to speak aloud about a subject they were so dreadfully misinformed on, the reason why I am offended is because it is quite simply unacceptable. Every single time a man thinks that it is okay to make a sexist comment about how pleasing a woman’s appearance is on that day, women on the whole are just slightly nudged closer towards complete and utter objectification and inferiority. Not just that, but what comes from the man expressing his interest is followed by the heavy entitlement to receive gratification or attention for such a “selfless” act. The same woman whose body was objectified by that complete stranger has no other option but to hesitantly let her anger, fear or anxiety blow over due to the little recognition out there for such moments, both socially and legally and the risks that arise from speaking out in protest. 
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Art by Tatyana Fazlalizadeh.

Of course when any feminist states their opinion online, there will always be negative backlash from men and women claiming that we are too radical, exaggerated and entirely devoted to detesting the entire male population. The thing is, I have some truly shocking news for you. I don’t. On the other hand, what I do truly detest with all my heart and soul are the men that still think that doing this is okay. The same minority of men that get a rush from doing it regardless of our emotions as it temporarily boosts their deflated ego for just that split second when you are already too far past him for a reaction to be worthy of your time. Let’s not forget about the infuriating, unaware girls whose only piece of advice is to “take it as a compliment”.

Just when you think you’ve had enough of all of the crap that dealing with street harassment throws at you, the final heated, stinking mess of horse manure is directly flung towards your open mouth.

“You weren’t wearing anything provocative, were you?”

Brilliant! You really cracked that enigma, didn’t you? Come to think of it, there must really be no other reason for a man incessantly directing sexually based comments towards me for the fun of it as there is absolutely no currently efficient law preventing it from occurring other than my clothing that I am wearing for my personal comfort or – wildly enough- choice! This same victim-blaming exercise is commonly seen cropping up during conversations about rape culture which closely links to this point in particular. In the same way that rape victims are made to feel as though such a devastatingly tragic event was their fault based entirely on their clothing, women who also face catcalling/street harassment are often questioned on their clothing decisions in a feeble attempt to push the blame off from the perpetrator as opposed to the innocent bystander being harassed. Not only is this such a huge social problem for the women already preoccupied with beginning to understand what had just happened to them, it dangerously encourages a negative stigma towards the innocent person in the entire scenario, which makes me highly doubt it any reprimand will ever be executed on the men in the situation as opposed to the women being thrown the blame instead to avoid facing the obvious social issue in front of their very eyes.

A further example of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh's beautiful art that perfectly illustrates my point about victim-blaming based on clothing choices.
A further example of Tatyana Fazlalizadeh’s beautiful art perfectly illustrating the victim-blaming that frequently occurs based on clothing choices.

All I ask is that the next time the topic of catcalling crops up in your life, that you stop and think for a second about your response. Think about the small bit of good you could do by summarizing everything that I have tried to pour into this article and spoon feed your fellow friend with this knowledge in the hope that they, too, can pass on a more positive message for women in the future. I’m not saying that we should all drop our lives and dedicate our time to protesting and campaigning, just doing those small things which can help break down misogyny as well as promote a healthier attitude towards the way in which women are treated by both sexes.

Linked above is a video which consolidated my opinion towards the matter and – despite the many issues in terms of how the footage has been manipulated to appear more frequent than real time and the dubious portrayal of ethnic minorities- I think it does a perfect job at demonstrating how one can feel dehumanised when subjected to catcalling / street harassment. It illustrates how despite the seemingly kind and flattering comments such as “have a nice day”, there is a constant, clear undertone of expecting something in return. This is then proven by the annoyance when their snappy, half-arsed attempts at squeezing attention from the safety of the pavement go awry. It’s not that every single compliment we receive as women walking down a street has violent, predatory undertones; it’s the fact that when it does happen, we are defenseless due to the stigma that it’s “just a compliment” that we should go out of our ways to accept. What commences as a one-off compliment from a stranger accumulates into a lifetime of tiring rejection walking the tightrope of guarding yourself without being endangered.

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To conclude this article, here are two key links to non-profit organizations for those of you who may want to find out more about current campaigns. I highly recommend having a browse even if out of pure boredom as there is a lot of deeply cherished work currently undergoing that deserve higher recognition. Tatyana Fazlalizadeh has also created some breathtaking artwork that has repeatedly been used throughout this article in conjunction to my words. Not only is it beautiful art, but it drives a hard political punch. Make your mark.

– Words by Camila Florencia.


All art/media credit goes towards Tatyana Fazlalizadeh. You can get more of her incredible activism on the following social media outlets:

TWITTER: @fazlalizadeh | INSTAGRAM: @tlynnfaz

http://stoptellingwomentosmile.com/


ORGANISATIONS FOCUSED ON STREET HARASSMENT TO CHECK OUT:

Stop Street Harassment

Hollaback


 

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