For the past two years I’ve rang in the new year tamely, mostly surrounded by children while playing in the snow. This year, on December 31 I was with friends in Toronto, Ontario. And guess what? Catcalling ensued.
My friend and I were jointly catcalled while walking home from a party that night. I honestly, had forgot what it felt like to be sexually harassed on the street at night. It felt icky, confusing, shitty, annoying and ridiculous.
Catcalling sucks for so many reasons…here are some of those reasons.1
Catcalling is part of rape culture
Catcalling is manifestation of someone feeling entitled to another person’s body, and feeling entitled to comment on certain bodies in public space. Although we can never name whether an experience is consensual or not for someone else, catcalling, by its very essence, is not part of consent culture. Consent culture is about exploring, finding and creating safe (or safer) ways to be with each other. A culture shaped by consent is one that is full of respect, flexibility and honesty, while free from violence, coercion, and entitlement.
Catcalling can be disempowering
Catcalling often silences me, and that wave of silence that comes over me can feel disempowering. Silence is a way for me to retreat, to not engage. I think being silenced can make me feel powerless because it feels like I have no control over the situation, that by ‘shutting up’ I am backing down. This is bullshit; I want to affirm that silence can be a form of resistance, because not engaging is often the most caring thing I can do for myself.
Catcalling upholds cisnormativity and heteronormativity
Ok big words…but seriously! As a non-cisgender (aka non-binary, genderqueer, etc.) queer person, catcalling is another way that strangers assume my gender identity and my sexual preferences/interests (e.g. ‘hey ladies’). This is a total bummer.
Catcalling is normalized by the (hetero)patriarchy
Since the patriarchy centers and privileges masculinity, feminine or feminized folks are devalued, and therefore men and masculine folks feel entitled to shout at/comment on/etc their bodies. This creates social environments where catcalling is regarded as normal masculine behaviour. This normalizing of violence is harmful for a variety of reasons, and affects how we are taught we should respond to catcalling and which bodies are allowed to take up space in public.
So, catcalling blows and now you know why! This is by no means an exhaustive list, indeed there are countless other ways that catcalling harms.2
I think it’s important to care for each other when catcalling happens and to be kind with ourselves when it happens to us. <3 <3
Some rad resources about catcalling
- A Curse For the Cat Callers (3rd poem in list): https://drunkinamidnightchoir.com/2014/04/22/three-poems-sarah-d-lawson/
- 5 Excuses For Cat Calling We Need To Stop Making Now: http://everydayfeminism.com/2012/10/5-excuses-for-street-harassment-we-need-to-stop-making-now/
- At AVP we define rape culture as, “the culture in which we live in that normalizes and glorifies sexualized violence, creating a sense of entitlement to other people’s physical, emotional, and sexual beings without consent” (emphasis is mine). ↩
- Feature image used with consent: By SportsandHistoryReader521 https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Gray_tabby_cat_August_22_2010.JPG ↩