My local news outlet Stoke-on-Trent Live posted an article this week that sparked some debate in the comments.
The article’s headline was ‘Wolf whistling at women could soon be classed as a hate crime’.
Firstly, I would just like to say that ‘at women’ is a little sexist, as women catcalling men is an issue just as much as women being catcalled. The latter however, occurs much more frequently, and the effects can be much more damaging.
The SoT Live article states: “Campaigners say the likes of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements highlight the need to tackle the abuse, harassment and problematic behaviour that many women are subject to.”
This is absolutely true. With Weinstein and Co at the forefront of the media in recent months, now is the perfect time to tackle the issue.
What startled me the most were the comments made on the Facebook post, below the article. I had expected a lot of the comments to be entitled men, saying there’s nothing wrong with it (which there was). However, there was an alarming amount of comments from women.
The following comments were written in relation to the article:
“Load of bullshit. Too many do-gooders who don’t like this and don’t like that. Nothing wrong with it. It’s harmless. Get a grip”
“What a load of rubbish. I am in my 70s and a whistle just makes me feel good about myself. Men won’t dare speak or go near women if this carries on.”
“Everyone is so precious nowadays. I love getting wolf whistled. It’s such a rare occurrence that when it does happen I have a spring in my step.”
I also found that a lot of the women making these kinds of comments were on the older side of 50.
I’m not saying that 30 or so years ago women weren’t getting raped. They were. However the recent highlighting of the issue in the mainstream media has instilled fear into the younger generation. A fear that may seem extreme at times, but we now live in a world where you can never be too careful.
The ignorance of these comments is shameful. Passing off us ‘snowflakes’ as radical feminism, when in reality – we’ve just had enough of being treated like a piece of meat. An object. A dog.
A few comments scoffed at the term ‘hate crime’. I personally believe that the act should come under the same category as sexual harassment, however my friend Nadine made a very valid point on why catcalling could fall under hate crimes:
‘Misogyny is the disliking/hatred towards women so I can see why it’s classed as a hate crime. Some think it should come under anti-social behaviour (causing harm or distress in public). It turns to a hate crime when directed at a specific group of people due to prejudice, for example race, gender, sexuality. In this case, women.’
As someone who’s been catcalled more than once in my time, I can confirm that it can be one of the most uncomfortable and disturbing experiences. And trust me when I say they stick in your mind. Unfortunately, too many women can pinpoint and recite similar experiences – where they were; what was said; even what they were wearing. Too many women have shared a #MeToo experience.
I found a lot of male comments said ‘take it as a compliment’ and ‘it’s only letting someone know you think they’re attractive’.
One particular time I was walking to the bus stop from Jake’s, in a hoodie and jeans, no make-up and a messy bun. As I crossed the street, a Vauxhall Corsa full of lads wound their windows down and shouted ‘get your tits out’.
Trust me. I didn’t look remotely attractive and I’m pretty sure I was suffering from a hangover. I had no skin on show, I wasn’t ‘asking for it’ and I certainly didn’t enjoy it.
Sadly, I have far too many of these stories to recount. One is too many.
The ordeals are humiliating and threatening for a lot of women, perhaps not all. For those that to enjoy a whistle and a wink, you can continue with your day with a spring in your step. For those of us that wince, we have the choice to report it. And I would much prefer to have the choice to do something about it, rather than have men think they have leer all over me without any repercussions.
Luckily, I’m a girl that can hold her own and won’t take shit from strangers. For a lot of young girls subject to this sort of harassment, that’s not that case. They can be vulnerable, scared, and very uncomfortable.
This sort of behaviour is the reason I walk to my car with my keys between my fingers. The reason I take the long way over the road instead of taking the shortcut under the subway. The reason I’ll offer my mates a lift home even if they live 5 miles in the opposite direction just so I don’t have to walk to my car alone, an they don’t have to wait at a bus stop alone.
If you defend catcallers, you become a part of the problem. You accept sexism, mysogony and rape culture. Without fighting against it, nothing will change, and the people defending it are hindering any chance of positive change.
Some might argue ‘but they’re not physically harming you’, ‘it’s just a whistle’ and actually, they’re right. It isn’t the whistle that is distressing – it’s what that whistle can lead to. The fact you rarely find men catcalling when alone (since there’s nobody to impress or laugh with) is the first thing that becomes terrifying. Thoughts race through your mind ‘could I take two on? Could I put up enough of a fight?’
A whistle could seem harmless, but if someone’s mentality is to whistle at someone to show their attraction to you, well that says a lot about themselves for starters, but – if they’re prepared to catcall, what else are they prepared to do?
Shout across the street? Grab your arse? Take an upskirt photo? Rape?
A seemingly innocent act can soon turn dark if it’s not nipped in the bud.
People doing it really need to think ‘would I want someone catcalling my daughter/wife/girlfriend/mother’.
If the answer to that question is no – don’t do it.