Calling Out Catcalling

Opinion

By Maya Cornish

ODYSSEY Newsmagazine News Editor Maya Cornish shares her experience about catcalling, and how it has the opposite effect of enticing women by making them feel objectified.

I was at my internship one day, and one of the tasks I had to do was clean the front glass doors. I was wearing a t-shirt and jean shorts, and to reach the lower half of the doors I squatted down. I thought nothing of it.

Behind me there were two guys walking by. They were young, late twenties to early thirties in casual clothes. In the reflection of the glass, I saw them take a small notice of me and continued walking, but then both stopped in their tracks.

It was almost like a cartoon, the two of them walking backwards and craning their necks to get a better look at me. One said to me, “Nice a**!” before he and his friend continued walking away.

I have been catcalled, touched and critiqued for what I wore and how I acted many times before and after that event. And I am not the only one. Girls and women alike share in this experience, being objectified with unnecessary comments in inappropriate situations.

This should not be considered normal in our society.

According to a study by anti-harassment group iHollaback and Cornell University, “85 percent of U.S. women have reported experiencing street harassment for the first time before age 17.”

There are some women who enjoy the attention. As New York Post writer Doree Lewak says, “For me, it’s nothing short of exhilarating yielding an unmatched level of euphoria.”

For most women, though, the unsolicited attention does not provide them a feeling of “euphoria” and instead one of discomfort.

In an email, 23-year-old Sophie Sandberg, who runs Instagram account @catcallsofnyc and has experienced catcalling herself since age 15, says “[women who use catcalling as a form of empowerment] may have internalized certain misogynistic ideas that their worth is tied up with their physical appearance, their body and their sexuality.”

Catcalling certainly won’t stop if women continue to stay silent when it happens. And fighting back (like insulting the aggressor) will only create tension, potentially escalating the situation. What needs to happen is a dialogue between people to educate how street harassment is inappropriate in any circumstance.

Women are not objects for male pleasure. And until men understand this, young girls will continue to equate their body with crude descriptions from strangers on the street.