5 Facts That Prove Catcalling Is A Problem (For Men Who Don't Think So)

by Ariel Julia Hairston

For some strange reason, (too) many men can’t seem to wrap their heads around why street harassment is significantly problematic.

What’s even scarier is that, when the matter of catcalling is thoroughly explained to them, an alarming amount of men proceed to mention how they were catcalled once and didn’t make a big deal out of it, so women should just shut up about it already.

While catcalling is absolutely unacceptable when either gender falls victim, what intensifies its effects on women is how unsafe it makes us feel.

Men constantly mention the fact that males are physically stronger and larger than females in order to argue the “men and women can’t be equal” talking point, so why can’t they use this logic when it is actually beneficial data to the situation at hand?

Men scare women. Plain and simple. It’s why many of us never walk alone at night, or even refrain from going to the bathroom by ourselves in crowded spaces. In far easier attempts than from women, men can overpower us.

So when they acknowledge us in lustful ways, it sends a signal to our brains that there’s a possibility the ordeal could lead to a dangerous encounter. And although it likely won’t, as women, we can’t take our chances.

On the other hand, when a man is catcalled, it isn’t necessary for him to walk faster, or control his gaze, or mentally remember where he put his pepper spray in case of an emergency. He can simply respond or choose not to.

And unlike for men, being whistled at, objectified, stared down or even touched are potential occurrences for women just about everywhere we go. We are perceived as walking male enjoyment, unmistakably undressed with male eyes the moment we walk into a room.

When this happens -- God forbid we show disinterest -- we are then subject to being called ugly, or a bitch, whore, slut or whatever else rolls off the rejectee’s tongue amidst his unwarranted angst.

It also doesn’t matter what we’re wearing; being “fully clothed” only leaves the rest up to the man’s imagination, as he will find a way to picture us naked regardless. And he will likely take his slim chances on "the real thing" by catcalling or groping us, regardless.

But even if clothing was a determining factor in the event of street harassment, who cares? Men should always proceed with caution, because how a woman is dressed does not authorize a man to make her feel violated, or to touch her without her permission. This logic is terrifying, and nauseating at best.

Clothing is not an indicator of the level of respect a person deserves; a decent human being respects everyone who treats him or her with respect.

Therefore, everyone -- male or female -- who takes heed to the illogical, “a woman needs to respect herself in order to be respected,” notion are the ones unworthy of said respect, since they honestly believe they can justify an incoherent relationship between respectability and articles of clothing.

The entire premise of Black Lives Matter partly hinges on the fact that clothing should not determine respectability. How can it be true in the case of police brutality, but not in the case of catcalling? How do people not see the double standard as it glares in their field of view?

If none of this was enough to get you thinking, perhaps the five statistics below will at least turn the gears.

Over 99 percent of American women say they’ve been a victim of street harassment.

No, this isn’t a typo.

A nonprofit organization called Stop Street Harassment revealed in a 2008 study that over 99 percent of women have been catcalled or street harassed at least once in their life. In fact, out of the 811 female respondents of the survey, only three women said they have never been a victim. Three. And perhaps even they were, but never knew.

To dive in a little further, 95 percent of women said they’ve been the target of excessive staring at least once, and over 68 percent said this has happened to them 26 times or more in their life.

Being a persistent target of leering myself, I can contest to this behavior being an absolute invasion of personal space, causing one to feel placed in a perilous position, regardless of how far away the person staring may be.

Moreover, 82 percent of female respondents said they’ve been a target of vulgar gestures, 57 percent said they’ve been sexually touched or grabbed by a stranger and a frightening 37 percent said they’ve had a stranger masturbate in front of them.

Simply chalking this indecency up to what the woman was wearing only legitimizes this behavior and places blame on the victim.

A majority of women, globally, say they first experienced street harassed before the age of 17.

Catcalling seems to first start during puberty, according to an anti-harassment group at Cornell University.

Men, think of your (hypothetical) daughters, and tell me how you’d feel to have your 16-year-old tell you she was street harassed on her way to school. Would you tell her it was her fault? Probably not.

In Tokyo, Japan, 64 percent of women in their 20s and 30s say they have been groped while commuting.

The Japan Times reported in 2009 that groping, which it defines as “a deliberate act of sexual harassment, generally physical, but occasionally verbal,” is a common occurrence for women over 20, and for 30 percent of teenage girls in Tokyo. It is also considered an underreported crime.

In Egypt, wearing a veil does not lessen a woman’s chances of being harassed.

According to BBC News in 2008, The Egyptian Centre of Women’s Rights describes sexual harassment as a “social cancer.”

While a survey in Egypt revealed that 60 percent of respondents -- including both men and women -- believed that wearing less clothing would result in the most street harassment, a study suggested otherwise: majority of catcalling victims (83 percent of women in Egypt) were dressed modestly and wearing a hijab.

To make matters worse, according to a more recent study conducted in 2013, 99.3 percent of Egyptian women said they had experienced sexual harassment, with 96.5 percent saying it was physical.

In France, 100 percent of women say they have been sexually harassed while taking public transportation at least once.

Every single woman who has taken a train, metropolitan or public bus in France say they have fell victim to sexual harassment, according to a French study. This includes catcalling, groping and even rape.

Many anti-feminists claim American women “complain” about issues they perceive as mundane, arguing that there are far greater issues in other countries. However, catcalling isn’t just an American issue; it's a universal issue. And in some countries, catcalling is much worse than it is here.

When a woman cannot enter a public transit without being in fear of violence, there is a greater responsibility here than many men want to own up to.

Héloïse Duché, a French woman who founded an anti-harassment campaign called Stop harcelement de rue, says sexual harassment and catcalling “is a kind of sexism that is extremely anchored in mentalities. Women keep quiet because they think it’s normal. By showing that it is a manifestation of sexism, we can say no, it’s not normal, and we have the tools to fight against it.”

I couldn’t agree more.