A vocal form of sexual harrassment, catcalls are an offensive way for men to feel empowered without bothering to follow through on their shouted words.
There is nothing sexy about a hung-over stagger to the bus stop at 10 a.m. Wearing last night’s outfit, sporting greasy hair and smeared makeup, I was certain absolutely no one would find me attractive.
My personal train of thought crashed when, as I headed down the street, a garbage truck cruised past me. The driver, who was probably my father’s age, took his eyes off the road for moment, to shout a slur of sexually fueled comments at my friend and me.
It was at that moment I decided this: I have had it. I am a female, not a feline, and the “catcalls” men make are offensive and a form of sexual harassment.
Even if I had a thing for garbage-truck drivers and decided to hop on the back of that truck, I doubt we would ride off into the sunset toward a happy future. These men openly harass women expecting no consequence.
“What they say is meaningless,” said Laura Levitt, director of the women’s studies program at Temple. “They use the power of the anonymous guy to make comments to you.”
Of course, not all men disrespect women in this manner, but Levitt said some men feel they have a heterosexual masculinity privilege that gives them the right to say offensive things to women.
“It is some sort of entitlement for men,” Levitt said. “It is really not OK.”
After enduring my share of whistles and “I-wanna-get-wit-chu” comments, it was my turn to dish out some harassment.
Working at the Reading Terminal Market served as the perfect place for people watching and prowling.
As men walked by, I held nothing back. I whistled at a middle-aged man, made indecent grunts at teenage boys and even snuck in a “nice butt” to a man in a business suit.
Guess how many positive reactions I received. Zero. Instead, I received looks that screamed, “Are you insane?” And a couple of men even told me I was being rude and immature.
Reverting to my original role as receiver of the catcalls, I decided to take a different approach.
Standing on a sidewalk, chatting with a couple of friends, I watched two men slide past us, pointing out how “sexy” they thought we were. It was a hit-and-run catcall, if you will.
Once I proceeded to ask one of the men where we’d be going for dinner, the confusion on his face was priceless. Is it wrong for a woman to assume that if a man is making advances toward her, he may actually be interested in dating her? Apparently, it is.
After moments of stuttering, the man suggested he’d take me to Olive Garden, a clear indication that he had no intention of asking me out on a real date. Come on, we live in Philadelphia. Saying you’ll take me to Olive Garden is nearly as offensive as talking about my rear end before finding out my first name.
“If you actually wanted to ask someone out,” Levitt said, “you would never do it in this way.”
Lindsay Ward, a junior anthropology major, said she simply ignores men if they make suggestive comments to her in public areas.
Sometimes, the best way to stand up for oneself is to ignore the offender.
“It would be great to think that if you told them the truth, they would stop,” Levitt said. “These things are always situational. We live in a violent culture. It is scary, you never know if someone who says something to you has a gun or not.”
Levitt suggested a new tactic, whistling.
“Don’t say anything, just make noise,” she said.
Maybe blowing a whistle in these guys’ faces will help them realize how annoying their comments are.
Samantha Krotzer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.